Monday, 13 February 2017

A Brief Introduction to the Evolution of Washing

Early 13th Century Bathing. Public Domain

Prehistoric man had only water for keeping himself clean, obtained from rivers and streams.  

In Roman times, both bathing and clothes-washing were beginning to evolve and develop. 

There is a legend about how soap was first produced.  It’s claimed that Sapo Hill in Rome was a site for animal sacrifice, and rain washed the animal fat (tallow) and ash down the hill and into the river, soaking into the clay.  The women began washing their clothes using this clay and found it worked.

It is claimed the Chinese were the first to use hot metal to iron their clothes.  One thousand years ago, it is said, they filled pans with hot coals to make rudimentary irons.  In the past, irons were also known as a ‘goose’ or ‘tailor’s goose’ and in Scotland they were known as ‘gusing irons.’  

An Italian town, Savona, 
manufactured large quantities of soap in the ninth century, and as a result, the French word for soap is ‘savon.’  

During the Middle Ages, clothes were washed and beaten in a wooden tub, or sometimes trampled on, then the dirty water was released through a hole in the bottom.

The scrub board, or wash board was invented in 1797. In 1851, James King patented the first machine with a drum in 1851 but it was powered by hand. In 1858, Hamilton Smith patented the rotary washing machine.

So although doing the laundry in the early nineteen hundreds may seem rudimentary to us today, hygiene technology had made considerable progress.

Bagwash and Reckitt's Blue - When Washing Day was a Monday

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