The development of the laundry in private houses has been slow. Now, it is possible to find that department well equipped, a delight to every appreciative beholder, and a source of satisfaction to those whose work lies there. Wherever a laundry of this description may be located, whether on the top of a house or elsewhere, it has sunlight streaming in by day and is flooded with electric light at night. Its ventilation is perfect, and the water-supply, both hot and cold, unfailing. In these respects it is independent of other parts of the house, consequently there is no risk of interruption in the work. The porcelain tubs are set conveniently in height and shape for the women who are to stand before them. A stationary boiler for scalding clothes is automatically filled and emptied, never having to be lifted from the range, waste-water being carried off directly by drain-pipes as easily as that of the stationary tubs. All is well-planned and admirably executed, with labor saving the ever dominant thought. Near at hand is a large steamheated room for drying clothes in wet weather. Abundant space, well-wired for open-air drying, is reserved absolutely for the laundresses, and is "no thoroughfare". This last arrangement, although seldom thought of, is an important precaution for the avoidance of damage to newly washed articles when hung out to dry. Many a hard-working, tired woman has had her "heart almost broke" by seeing her nice work undone in a moment's time through the carelessness of some inconsequent person passing by entirely regardless of spotless clothes on the line. To her it meant double work and resultant loss of time.
In arrangements for heating irons every facility is carefully studied and secured, expense ever made subordinate to perfection of appliances and conveniences for accomplishing the work. In a summer home an airy room for ironing is set apart from, yet suflftciently convenient to, the place where the smoothing-irons are heated. Gas-stoves and electric contrivances for this purpose are found advantageous and labor saving. When not in use the heat may be immediately shut off, whereas a coal fire is slow in dying, and the cooling of the stove and room takes proportionately longer.
None but skilled hands find employment in the laundry of one of these houses. They handle countless expensive and delicate articles of wearing apparel and house linen, and must send all back looking as beautiful as if but just arrived from Paris. Unquestionably the laundresses in an American palace while about their work handle many more foreign than domestic goods. It is noteworthy that while the majority amongst the wealthy classes are "high tariff" folk - protectionists theoretically - for themselves they prefer "free trade," and also prefer to do their own buying at foreign markets, though they are nothing loth (unwilling) to have the duties on their individual purchases reduced, or, if possible, to evade them altogether. They even import household servants when they can.
The under laundress is given the articles of home manufacture, such as servants' table and bed linen, towels, etc. She cleans the laundry, makes fires, and keeps the boilers polished, meanwhile learning by degrees the art of finest laundering, with a view to advancement and higher wages. Nothing, however plain, can be slighted in a well-conducted laundry. Her post now is more desirable than was that of a superior laundress years ago, before inventions awoke people to the possibilities that have led to the admirably appointed laundry of a present-day complete house. Assuredly, humane ideas are becoming more and more influential in arrangements for household and other workers. This, because dawning upon the human consciousness is a realization that better conditions and all possible conveniences insure superior service and more contented servitors. There is also an awakening to, and an acknowledgment of, the fact that merciful methods are more economical from every point of view. It really does not pay to permit human beings to smother and roast while at work or when in their sleeping apartments. It does pay to provide the best possible sanitary environment, comfortable temperature, and every discovered thing to lighten labor and husband the strength of the laborer. In short, charity, in its broadest scriptural sense, is found to be the best policy for all concerned. When manifested in households its radiations will be limitless.
The modern laundry is supplied with a diversity of smoothing-irons - heavy ones for house linen, medium weight for lingerie, and little ones of varied and curious shapes for sleeves and to reach tiny places in the smallest and most fairy-like of baby clothes. No one in this laundry can reasonably plead lack of suitable tools as an excuse for any failure to finish intricate gathers or puflfs or the most elaborate sleeve faultlessly. Skirt, bosom, and sleeve boards, padded and covered with spotless muslin, in some cases mounted for greater convenience when in use, are ever ready. Material for recovering them is always at hand. The laundresses here are never fretted by any stinting in whatsoever they need for work. Tables easily set up and as easily put out of the way when not in use are provided for ironing. One is especially for large dinner table-cloths when they are not sent out to be laundered. They require tubs of extraordinary size, one of them fills an ordinary tub to the top, and is unmanageable in it. Four women iron at a time on one of these giants in linen damask. A woman ironing alone would inevitably be tormented by the larger portion getting rough-dry while she worked on another part. No starch ever enters fine table-linen in our model laundry. The damask falls in folds like those of richest silk, and is as soft to the touch as an ivory satin bridal robe.
The laundry closets are also models of convenience. They have racks for ironing-boards, niches for smoothing-irons, a place for everything, and everything visible and easily reached when in its place and needed again. Fluting-scissors of all sizes hang in rows, suggestive of the beautiful work that, in skilled hands, they promote. A machine for less dainty ruffling stands ever ready to turn fluting off swiftly.
Space is economized and utilized, while the prevailing idea in the entire laundry scheme is convenience. Upon sliding back the closet doors everything is in full sight - no crowding, no piling of one thing upon another, no dark comers. Another closet contains an abundance of well-dried soap starchy - domestic and Swiss, - bluing, ammonia, javelle-water (An aqueous solution of potassium or sodium hypochlorite, used as a disinfectant and bleaching agent.), salts of lemon, gum arable, etc., and oxalic acid for keeping the copper boilers shining. In brief, every known thing considered essential to the fine art of laundering is found here ready to serve its purpose when needed. The laundresses are subjected to no wasteful delays through any deficiency of appliances in their field of labor. Certain it is that no one, except the laundress and a thoughtful housekeeper, can possibly realize the advantages accruing from a considerate planning and furnishing of the laundry and its adjuncts. Therefore the reiterated declaration may be pardoned, that no man architect nor other person ignorant of the amount and quality of labor performed in a laundry can be capable of designing one worthy the adjective complete, without consulting those whose practical experience acquaints them with its needs. The same may with equal truth be said of designing a kitchen, a pantry, or any portion of a house set apart for specialized work. There is one very serious mistake made in many large houses where the excuse of limited means will not hold. This is making no adequate provision for entertainments on a large scale. The result is bedlam let loose below-stairs whenever a large function is in progress. At these times the laundresses are driven almost daft when their nice tubs are transformed into champagne coolers, and the entire laundry is turned into a dressing-room for extra men to use while donning the "family livery." And further the laundresses are immeasurably hindered by the confiscation of their tubs to profane uses, and by their own eviction from the place. To crown all their woes, when the rout is over, further vexatious delay is inevitable, because the entire laundry must be scoured before its legitimate use can be resumed. There are certain houses where this misappropriation could not occur. They have an entire floor designed to meet every detail requisite for giving a large entertainment. It is comforting to know that an average laundry is supplied with rugs placed over the tiled floor wherever the women stand at their work. This is a simple act of common humanity. These women are on their feet from Monday morning until Saturday evening, attending to arduous work with exquisite results. The only respite a laundress can afford besides that which she gets at meals is a few minutes' brief release, mid-morning and mid-afternoon, when she stops for the customary refreshment of a cup of tea or coffee with bread and butter in company with the other house-women. It is true that
But want of thought is only one expression of selfishness - a synonym of thoughtlessness. It is to be hoped that householders generally are more thoughtless than heartless when negligent about ameliorating the wearying conditions to which servants are, at best, commonly subjected while about their work, especially those who stand all day long. A spacious, sun-lighted, finely ventilated laundry, amply furnished for the work to be accomplished in the best manner, with comfort to the workers, speaks eloquently for the character of the ruling, therefore responsible, powers of the establishment. "A thing of beauty is a joy forever." No less a joy is a place thoroughly equipped for its work, and furnished with enough workers to avoid overtaxing any of them. It is a continual source of satisfaction, and a monumental credit to the considerate planner.
Things of beauty, spotless linen, and daintiest lace-trimmed clothing fill the numerous baskets as they leave for their destination. Everything is so beautiful and in such perfection at a single glance they look as if a rose garden had been stripped of all its full blown white blossoms to fill these baskets. All of the table and bed linen, carefully sorted and piled to a nicety in sets, is ready for the shelves or drawers of the linen-room. Embroidered sheets, pillow-cases, and towels, representing a small fortune, pass in and out of this place without intermission; also table-linen of all sorts, sizes, designs, and workmanship, in costliest satin-damask, embroidered or garnished with priceless lace. Each and all of these prove the skill and industry of the laundry force. Innumerable little fringed doilies, beautifully combed and brushed, are fitted together in piles, each set resembling a snowy-white flower with softest fringed border adorning its petals. Last, but by no means least, the baskets of underclothing, fashioned of flnest-textured material, and garnished with delicate ruffles, puffs, and lace, testify again and again the deftness of those patient unseen workers.
Surely it might make the heart of a good laundress ache to know the inevitable fate - the undoing - that always awaits her lovely handiwork as the articles, distributed about the house, encounter the irreverent touch of those who little dream of the toil expended upon them. But her point of view is probably philosophical as well as utilitarian; therefore, so long as everything reaches its destined use safely, she can afford to bear the effacement of her skill - their unavoidable fate. Were it otherwise she might be unable to earn what those who are strangers to such work designate "good wages."
The point of view is apt to determine one's opinion on any and every subject. Of course it goes without saying the laundry force is not composed of perfect characters, any more than can be found elsewhere in the house, whether among other members of the domestic corps or in the family proper. The average human being viewed from the ethical standpoint, still remains in the tadpole state - soul-life only embryonic, - employer and employee alike; there is little to choose between us all. Each, as a class, manifests about the same traits, the difference being mainly that of opportunity for manifestation. Power of any sort is apt to bring into clearer relief the least admirable characteristics of men and women, whether the estate be high or lowly. In this respect history is a continual repetition.
A head laundress presides over her domain, and assigns work to the other women. Ruling as she does in the laundry, she may prove to be as much an autocrat there as the chef is in the kitchen, the butler in the pantry, or the master or mistress of the house over all. Assigning the work of her subordinates necessitates judgment upon her part. If wise she changes the assignment as little as possible, thereby insuring swiftness and perfection in the work of each through constant practise. The finest and most elaborate articles belong to her own portion. Hers is an onerous position. She is responsible for everything sent to the laundry, and must keep a strict account of all that reaches her, and see that everything is returned in good season, without spot or wrinkle. She permits nothing to lie over from one wash to the next "without an excellent reason", always stated, by way of explanation. Thousands of dollars' worth of clothing, house-linen, and household goods pass through her hands bi-weekly. The cost of a single article often exceeds the highest wages paid for a year to any one of the corps of servants.
Considering her enormous responsibility and the high class of work required of her, the wages paid to an experienced laundress are very low - out of all proportion to the hours demanded by the amount and quality of laundering to be done. A superior laundress seldom receives over thirty dollars a month. The wages of her assistants, who are all excellent hands, range lower, in a descending scale, to eighteen dollars monthly. Laundresses must be early at their work. Their hours are very long, especially during the first three or four days of the week. In country houses they are often obliged to work until eight, or even until nine o'clock at night. Fortunately, for them Sunday is a holiday. It is theirs absolutely, to rest or enjoy as they please. No one will be surprised to learn that they often spend the morning of that day in bed, preferring their well-earned rest and sleep to any breakfast. We should all of us probably feel and do likewise if similarly situated. Think of perspiring over boiling soapsuds or hot irons week in and week out, year in and year out! A toilsome life indeed, exhausting to strength, while consuming the best years of a woman's life, and never adequately paid for. The very prudent, saving person, earning the highest wages paid a laundress, would scarcely be able to insure for herself a modest income to retire upon when admonished by waning strength that her days for incessant labor are passed forever.
The laundry establishment consists of a washing-house, an ironing and drying-room, and sometimes a drying-closet heated by furnaces. The washing-house will probably be attached to the kitchen; but it is better that it should be completely detached from it, and of one story, with a funnel or shaft to carry off the steam. It will be of a size proportioned to the extent of the washing to be done. A range of tubs, either round or oblong, opposite to, and sloping towards, the light, narrower at the bottom than the top, for convenience in stooping over, and fixed at a height suited to the convenience of the women using them; each tub having a tap for hot and cold water, and another in the bottom, communicating with the drains, for drawing off foul water. A boiler and furnace, proportioned in size to the wants of the family, should also be fixed. The flooring should be York stone, laid on brick piers, with good drainage, or asphalte, sloping gently towards a gutter connected with the drain.
Adjoining the bleaching-house, a second room, about the same size, is required for ironing, drying, and mangling. The contents of this room should comprise an ironing-board, opposite to the light; a strong white deal table, about twelve or fourteen feet long, and about three and a half feet broad, with drawers for ironing-blankets; a mangle in one corner, and clothes-horses for drying and airing; cupboards for holding the various irons, starch, and other articles used in ironing; a hot-plate built in the chimney, with furnace beneath it for heating the irons; sometimes arranged with a flue for carrying the hot air round the room for drying. Where this is the case, however, there should be a funnel in the ceiling for ventilation and carrying off steam; but a better arrangement is to have a hot-air closet adjoining, heated by hot-air pipes, and lined with iron, with proper arrangements for carrying off steam, and clothes-horses on castors running in grooves, to run into it for drying purposes. This leaves the laundry free from unwholesome vapour.
Sorting of Linen
The laundry-maid is charged with the duty of washing and getting-up the family linen, -- a situation of great importance where the washing is all done at home; but in large towns, where there is little convenience for bleaching and drying, it is chiefly done by professional laundresses and companies, who apply mechanical and chemical processes to the purpose. These processes, however, are supposed to injure the fabric of the linen; and in many families the fine linen, cottons, and muslins, are washed and got-up at home, even where the bulk of the washing is given out. In country and suburban houses, where greater conveniences exist, washing at home is more common, in country places universal.
The laundry-maid should commence her labours on Monday morning by a careful examination of the articles committed to her care, and enter them in the washing-book; separating the white linen and collars, sheets and body-linen, into one heap, fine muslins into another, coloured cotton and linen fabrics into a third, woollens into a fourth, and the coarser kitchen and other greasy cloths into a fifth. Every article should be examined for ink- or grease-spots, or for fruit- or wine-stains. Ink-spots are removed by dipping the part into hot water, and then spreading it smoothly on the hand or on the back of a spoon, pouring a few drops of oxalic acid or salts of sorel over the ink-spot, rubbing and rinsing it in cold water till removed; grease-spots, by rubbing over with yellow soap, and rinsing in hot water; fruit- and wine-spots, by dipping in a solution of sal ammonia or spirits of wine, and rinsing.
Every article having been examined and assorted, the sheets and fine linen should be placed in one of the tubs and just covered with lukewarm water, in which a little soda has been dissolved and mixed, and left there to soak till the morning. The greasy cloths and dirtier things should be laid to soak in another tub, in a liquor composed of 1/2 lb. of unslaked lime to every 6 quarts of water which has been boiled for two hours, then left to settle, and strained off when clear. Each article should be rinsed in this liquor to wet it thoroughly, and left to soak till the morning, just covered by it when the things are pressed together. Coppers and boilers should now be filled, and the fires laid ready to light.
Early on the following morning the fires should be lighted, and as soon as hot water can be procured, washing commenced; the sheets and body-linen being wanted to whiten in the morning, should be taken first; each article being removed in succession from the lye in which it has been soaking, rinsed, rubbed, and wrung, and laid aside until the tub is empty, when the foul water is drawn off. The tub should be again filled with luke-warm water, about 80°, in which the articles should again be plunged, and each gone over carefully with soap, and rubbed. Novices in the art sometimes rub the linen against the skin; more experienced washerwomen rub one linen surface against the other, which saves their hands, and enables them to continue their labour much longer, besides economizing time, two parts being thus cleaned at once.
After this first washing, the linen should be put into a second water as hot as the hand can bear, and again rubbed over in every part, examining every part for spots not yet moved, which require to be again soaped over and rubbed till thoroughly clean; then rinsed and wrung, the larger and stronger articles by two of the women; the smaller and more delicate articles requiring gentler treatment.
In order to remove every particle of soap, and produce a good colour, they should now be placed, and boiled for about an hour and a half in the copper, in which soda, in the proportion of a teaspoonful to every two gallons of water, has been dissolved. Some very careful laundresses put the linen into a canvas bag to protect it from the scum and the sides of the copper. When taken out, it should again be rinsed, first in clean hot water, and then in abundance of cold water slightly tinged with fig-blue, and again wrung dry. It should now be removed from the washing-house and hung up to dry or spread out to bleach, if there are conveniences for it; and the earlier in the day this is done, the clearer and whiter will be the linen.
Coloured muslins, cottons, and linens, require a milder treatment; any application of soda will discharge the colour, and soaking all night, even in pure water, deteriorates the more delicate tints. When ready for washing, if not too dirty, they should be put into cold water and washed very speedily, using the common yellow soap, which should be rinsed off immediately. One article should be washed at a time, and rinsed out immediately before any others are wetted. When washed thoroughly, they should be rinsed in succession in soft water, in which common salt has been dissolved, in the proportion of a handful to three or four gallons, and afterwards wrung gently, as soon as rinsed, with as little twisting as possible, and then hung out to dry. Delicate-coloured articles should not be exposed to the sun, but dried in the shade, using clean lines and wooden pegs.
Woollen articles are liable to shrink, unless the flannel has been well shrunk before making up. This liability is increased where very hot water is used: cold water would thus be the best to wash woollens in; but, as this would not remove the dirt, lukewarm water, about 85°, and yellow soap, are recommended. When thoroughly washed in this, they require a good deal of rinsing in cold water, to remove the soap.
Greasy cloths, which have soaked all night in the liquid described, should be now washed out with soap-and-water as hot as the hands can bear, first in one water, and rinsed out in a second; and afterwards boiled for two hours in water in which a little soda is dissolved. When taken out, they should be rinsed in cold water, and laid out or hung up to dry.
Silks and Stuffs
Silk handkerchiefs require to be washed alone. When they contain snuff, they should be soaked by themselves in lukewarm water two or three hours; they should be rinsed out and put to soak with the others in cold water for an hour or two; then washed in lukewarm water, being soaped as they are washed. If this does not remove all stains, they should be washed a second time in similar water, and, when finished, rinsed in soft water in which a handful of common salt has been dissolved. In washing stuff or woollen dresses, the band at the waist and the lining at the bottom should be removed, and wherever it is gathered into folds; and, in furniture, the hems and gatherings. A black silk dress, if very dirty, must be washed; but, if only soiled, soaking for four-and-twenty hours will do; if old and rusty, a pint of common spirits should be mixed with each gallon of water, which is an improvement under any circumstances. Whether soaked or washed, it should be hung up to drain, and dried without wringing.
Satin and silk ribbons, both white and coloured, may be cleaned in the same manner. Silks, when washed, should be dried in the shade, on a linen-horse, taking care that they are kept smooth and unwrinkled. If black or blue, they will be improved if laid again on the table, when dry, and sponged with gin, or whiskey, or other white spirit.
The operations should be concluded by rinsing the tubs, cleaning the coppers, scrubbing the floors of the washing-house, and restoring everything to order and cleanliness.
Thursday and Friday, in a laundry in full employ, are usually devoted to mangling, starching, and ironing.
The use of machines for washing, wringing and mangling has now become general. They can be had suitable for the smallest as well as the largest family, and materially save labour, and in a short time, their cost. According to the machines used so do the instructions vary, each maker having some specialty. It may, however, be roughly stated that stains should be rubbed out of clothes before they are put into the machines, and that care should be taken in wringing the articles that the buttons be not dragged off. An ordinary family washing machine when opened out occupies a space of about from 4 ft. to 5 ft. square (not more room than tubs would take), but when not in" use it can be greatly reduced. A wringing machine is sometimes attached to a washing one, and is occasionaly a thing apart, which can be fixed to an ordinary tub. It may be said that it is of the greatest use if there is anything like heavy washing to be done, as with very little trouble the clothes are thoroughly wrung, and all the water being squeezed out, time in drying is thus saved. Wringing machines also serve for mangling ones.
Linen, cotton, and other fabrics, after being washed and dried, are made smooth and glossy by mangling and by ironing. The mangling process, which is simply passing them between rollers subjected to a very considerable pressure, produced by weight, is confined to sheets, towels, table linen, and similar articles which are without folds or plaits. Ironing is necessary to smooth body-linen, and made-up articles of delicate texture or gathered into folds.
Starching is a process by which stiffness is communicated to certain parts of linen, as the collars and fronts of shirts, by dipping them in a paste made of starch boiled in water, mixed with a little gum Arabic, where extra stiffness is required. When the "things to be starched" are washed, dried, and taken off the lines, they should be dipped into the hot starch made as directed, squeezed out, and then just dipped into cold water, and immediately squeezed dry. If fine things be wrung, or roughly used, they are very liable to tear, so too much care cannot be exercised in this respect. If the article is lace, clap it between the hands a few times, which will assist to clear it; then have ready laid out on the table a large clean towel or cloth, shake out the starched things, lay them on the cloth, and roll it up tightly, and let it remain for three or four hours, when the things will be ready to iron.
To make starch. Ingredients -- Allow 1/2 pint of cold water and 1 quart of boiling water to every 2 tablespoonfuls of starch.
When the "things to be starched" are washed, dried, and taken off the lines, they should be dipped into the hot starch made as directed, squeezed out of it, and then just dipped into cold water, and immediately squeezed dry. If fine things be wrung, or roughly used, they are very liable to tear; so too much care cannot be exercised in this respect. If the article is lace, clap it between the hands a few times, which will assist to clear it; then have ready laid out on the table a large clean towel or cloth; shake out the starched things, lay them on the cloth, and roll it up tightly, and let it remain for three or fours, when the things will be ready to iron.
Linen, cotton, and other fabrics, after being washed and dried, are made smooth and glossy by mangling and by ironing. The mangling process, which is simply passing them between rollers subjected to a very considerable pressure, produced by weight, is confined to sheets, towels, table-linen, and similar articles, which are without folds or plaits. Ironing is necessary to smooth body-linen, and made-up articles of delicate texture or gathered into folds. The mangle is too well known to need description.
The irons consist of the common flat-iron, which is of different sizes, varying from 4 to 10 inches in length, triangular in form, and from 2-1/2 to 4-1/2 inches in width at the broad end; the oval iron, which is used for more delicate articles; and the box-iron, which is hollow, and heated by a red-hot iron inserted into the box. The Italian iron is a hollow tube, smooth on the outside, and raised on a slender pedestal with a footstalk. Into the hollow cylinder a red-hot iron is pushed, which heats it; and the smooth outside of the latter is used, on which articles such as frills, and plaited articles, are drawn. Crimping- and gauffering-machines are used for a kind of plaiting where much regularity is required, the articles being passed through two iron rollers fluted so as to represent the kind of plait or fold required.
To be able to iron properly requires much practice and experience. Strict cleanliness with all the ironing utensils must be observed, as, if this is not the case, not the most expert ironer will be able to make her things look clear and free from smears, etc. After wiping down her ironing table, the laundry-maid should place a coarse cloth on it, and over that the ironing-blanket, with her stand and iron-rubber; and having ascertained that her irons are quite clean and of the right heat, she proceeds with her work.
It is a good plan to try the heat of the iron on a coarse cloth or apron before ironing anything fine: there is then no danger of scorching. For ironing fine things, such as collars, cuffs, muslins, and laces, there is nothing so clean and nice to use as the box-iron; the bottom being bright, and never placed near the fire, it is always perfectly clean; it should, however, be kept in a dry place, for fear of its rusting. Gauffering-tongs or irons must be placed in a clear fire for a minute, then withdrawn, wiped with a coarse rubber, and the heat of them tried on a piece of paper, as, unless great care is taken, these will very soon scorch.
The skirts of muslin dresses should be ironed on a skirt-board covered with flannel, and the fronts of shirts on a smaller board, also covered with flannel; this board being placed between the back and front.
After things are mangled, they should also be ironed in the folds and gathers; dinner-napkins smoothed over, as also table-cloths, pillow-cases, and sometimes sheets. The bands of flannel petticoats, and shoulder-straps to flannel waistcoats, must also undergo the same process.
|Hover to Exand|
should always use the cinders reserved for her use by the cook, as they will answer equally well with coals; arid when burnt either in the ironing stove or under the copper, will give an intense heat. She will find that by soaking the clothes over night in soft water, that they will wash much more easily; especially if the parts most soiled be slightly rubbed with soap. The best laundresses use a lye made by pouring water upon wood-ashes, and straining through an hair-cloth, this lye not only saves soap, but gives a beautiful whiteness to the linen. In washing flannels, be careful never to pour boiling water upon them, as it will thicken them; but take the flannels, and put them in scalding water, which will keep them thin. Ink-stains, fruit-stains, and iron-mould, are easily removed by using the essential salt of lemons. Spirit of salt may be also used for the same purpose; but if the part is not immediately washed with soap and water, the texture of the linen may be hurt by it. In getting up fine-things, the clear-starchers use gum-water; but as gum-arabic is very dear, its use should be confined to the finest articles.Domestic Economy, By John Farley, 1811.