Why Monday should be fixed upon as washing-day, is often questioned; but, like many other apparently arbitrary arrangements, its foundation is in common-sense. Tuesday has its advantages also, soon to be mentioned; but to any later period than Tuesday there are serious objections. All clothing is naturally changed on Sunday; and, if washed before dirt has had time to harden in the fiber of the cloth, the operation is much easier. The German custom, happily passing away, of washing only annually or semi-annually, is both disgusting, and destructive to health and clothes; the air of whatever room such accumulations are stored in being poisoned, while the clothes themselves are rubbed to pieces in the endeavor to get out the long-seated dirt.
A weekly wash being the necessity if perfect cleanliness exists, the simplest and best method of thoroughly accomplishing it comes up for question. While few women are obliged to use their own hands in such directions, plenty of needy and unskilled workwomen who can earn a living in no other way being ready to relieve us, it is yet quite as necessary to know every detail, in order that the best work may be required, and that where there is ignorance of methods in such work they may be taught.
The advantages of washing on Tuesday are, that it allows Monday for setting in order after the necessary rest of Sunday, gives opportunity to collect and put in soak all the soiled clothing, and so does away with the objection felt by many good people to performing this operation Sunday night.
To avoid such sin, bed-clothing is often changed on Saturday; but it seems only part of the freshness and sweetness which ought always to make Sunday the white-day of the week, that such change should be made on that morning, while the few minutes required for sorting the clothes, and putting them in water, are quite as legitimate as any needed operation.
If Monday be the day, then, Saturday night may be chosen for filling the tubs, supposing the kitchen to be unfurnished with stationary tubs. Sunday night enough hot water can be added to make the whole just warm—not hot. Now put in one tub all fine things,—collars and cuffs, shirts and fine underwear. Bed-linen may be added, or soaked in a separate tub; but table-linen must of course be kept apart. Last, let the coarsest and most soiled articles have another. Do not add soap, as if there is any stain it is likely to set it. If the water is hard, a little borax may be added. And see that the clothes are pressed down, and well covered with water.
Monday morning, and the earlier the better (the morning sun drying and sweetening clothes better than the later), have the boiler full of clean warm suds. Soft soap may be used, or a bar of hard dissolved in hot water, and used like soft soap. All the water in which the clothes have soaked should be drained off, and the hot suds poured on. Begin with the cleanest articles, which when washed carefully are wrung out, and put in a tub of warm water. Rinse out from this; rub soap on all the parts which are most soiled, these parts being bands and sleeves, and put them in the boiler with cold water enough to cover them. To boil up once will be sufficient for fine clothes. Then take them out into a tub of clean cold water; rinse them in this, and then in a tub of water made very slightly blue with the indigo-bag or liquid indigo. From this water they must be wrung out very dry, and hung out, always out of doors if possible. A wringer is much better than wringing by hand, as the latter is more unequal, and also often twists off buttons. The lines must be perfectly clean. A galvanized-iron wire is best of all; as it never rusts, and needs only to be wiped off each week. If rope is used, never leave it exposed to weather, but bring it in after each washing. A dirty, weather-stained line will often ruin a nice garment. Leave clothes on the line till perfectly dry. If any fruit-stains are on napkins or table-cloths, lay the stained part over a bowl, and pour on boiling water till they disappear. Ink can be taken out if the spot is washed while fresh, in cold water, or milk and water; and a little salt will help in taking out wine-stains. Machine-oil must have a little lard or butter rubbed on the spot, which is then to be washed in warm suds. Never rub soap directly on any stain, as it sets it. For iron-rust, spread the garment in the sun, and cover the spot with salt; then squeeze on lemon-juice enough to wet it. This is much safer and quite as sure as the acids sold for this purpose. In bright sunshine the spot will disappear in a few hours.
Remember that long boiling does not improve clothes. If washed clean, simply scalding is all that is required.
If delicate curtains, either lace or muslin, are to be washed, allow a tablespoonful of powdered borax to two gallons of warm water, and soap enough to make a strong suds. Soak the curtains in this all night. In the morning add more warm water, and press every part between the hands, without rubbing. Put them in fresh suds, and, if the water still looks dark after another washing, take still another. Boil and rinse as in directions given for other clothes. Starch with very thick hot starch, and dry, not by hanging out, and then ironing, but by putting a light common mattress in the sun, and pinning the curtain upon it, stretching carefully as you pin. One mattress holds two, which will dry in an hour or two. If there is no sun, lay a sheet on the floor of an unused room, and pin the curtains down upon it.
In washing flannels, remember that it must be done in a sunny day, that they may dry as rapidly as possible. Put them into hot suds. Do not rub them on a washing-board, as this is one means of fulling and ruining them. Press and rub them in the hands, changing them soon to fresh hot suds. Rinse in a pail of clear hot water; wring very dry; shake, and hang at once in the sun. Flannels thus treated, no matter how delicate, retain their softness and smoothness, and do not shrink.
Starch is the next consideration, and is made in two ways,—either raw or boiled. Boiled starch is made by adding cold water to raw starch in the proportion of one cup of water to three-quarters of a cup of starch, and then pouring on boiling water till it has thickened to a smooth mass, constantly stirring as you pour. A bit of butter is added by many excellent laundresses, the bit not to be larger than a filbert. Any thing starched with boiled starch must be dried and sprinkled before ironing, while with raw starch this is not necessary.
To make raw starch, allow four even tablespoonfuls to a half-pint of cold water. Dip collars, cuffs, and shirt-bosoms, or any thing which must be very stiff, into this starch, being careful to have them dry. When wet, clap them well between the hands, as this distributes the starch evenly among the fibers of the cloth. The same rule must be followed in using boiled starch. Roll the articles in a damp cloth, as this makes them iron more smoothly; and in an hour they will be ready for the iron. In using boiled starch, after the articles have been dried, and then dampened by sprinkling water lightly upon them, either by the hand, or by shaking over them a small whisk-broom which is dipped as needed in water, it is better to let them lie ten or twelve hours.
All clothes require this folding and dampening. Sheets and table-cloths should be held by two persons, shaken and "snapped," and then folded carefully, stretching the edges if necessary.
Colored clothing must be rinsed before starching, and the starch should be thin and cool.
For ironing neatly and well, there will be required, half a dozen flat-irons, steel bottoms preferred; a skirt-board and bosom-board, both covered, first with old blanket or carpet, then with thick strong cotton-cloth, and over this a cover of lighter cloth, sewed on so that it may be removed as often as may be necessary to wash it. If a bag the size of each is made, and they are hung up in this as soon as used, such washing need very seldom be. Having these, many dispense with ironing-sheet and blanket; but it is better to use a table for all large articles, and on this the ironing-sheet can be pinned, or tied by tapes, or strips of cloth, sewed to each corner. A stand on which to set the irons, a paper and coarse cloth to rub them off on, and a bit of yellow wax tied in a cloth, and used to remove any roughness from the iron, are the requirements of the ironing-table.
Once a month, while the irons are still slightly warm, wash them in warm water in which a little lard has been melted. Never let them stand day after day on the stove, and never throw cold water on them, as it makes them very rough.
If the starch clings to the irons, put a little Bristol-brick on a board, and rub them up and down till free. If they are too hot for use, put in a current of air a few moments; and in all cases try them on a piece of paper or cloth before putting them on a garment. If through carelessness or accident an article is scorched, lay it in the hottest sunshine to be found. If the fiber is not burned, this will often take the spot entirely out.
Let the ironed clothes hang in the air for at least twenty-four hours after ironing. Unaired sheets have often brought on fatal sickness. Examine all clothes sent up from the wash. If the laundress is sure this inspection will take place, it is a constant spur to working in the best way, and a word of praise for good points is always a stimulus. Mending should be done as the clothes are looked over, before putting away. Place the sheets from each wash at the bottom of the pile, that the same ones may not be used over and over, but all come in rotation; and the same with table-linen. If the table-cloth in use is folded carefully in the creases, and kept under a heavy piece of plank, it will retain a fresh look till soiled. Special hints as to washing blankets and dress-materials will be given in the latter part of the book.
However carefully and neatly a house may be kept, it requires a special putting in order, known as House-cleaning, at least once a year. Spring and fall are both devoted to it in New England; and, if the matter be conducted quietly, there are many advantages in the double cleaning. In a warmer climate, where insect-life is more troublesome and the reign of flies lasts longer, two cleanings are rather a necessity. As generally managed, they are a terror to every one, and above all to gentlemen, who resent it from beginning to end. No wonder, if at the first onslaught all home comfort ends, and regular meals become irregular lunches, and a quiet night's rest something sought but not found.
A few simple rules govern here, and will rob the ordeal of half its terrors.
If coal or wood are to be laid in for the year's supply, let it be done before cleaning begins, as much dust is spread through the house in such work.
Heavy carpets do not require taking up every year; once in two, or even three, being sufficient unless they are in constant use. Take out the tacks, however, each year; fold back the carpet half a yard or so; have the floor washed with a strong suds in which borax has been dissolved,—a tablespoonful to a pail of water; then dust black pepper along the edges, and retack the carpet. By this means moths are kept away; and, as their favorite place is in corners and folds, this laying back enables one to search out and destroy them.
Sapolio is better than sand for scouring paint, and in all cases a little borax in the water makes such work easier.
Closets should be put in order first; all winter clothing packed in trunks, or put in bags made from several thicknesses of newspaper, printers' ink being one of the most effectual protections against moths. Gum-camphor is also excellent; and, if you have no camphor-wood chest or closet, a pound of the gum, sewed into little bags, will last for years. In putting away clothing, blankets, &c., look all over, and brush and shake with the utmost care before folding, in order to get rid of any possible moth-eggs.
If matting is used, wipe it with borax-water, using a cloth wet enough to dampen but not wet.
Window-glass thoroughly washed can be dried and polished with old newspapers; or whiting can be used, and rubbed off with a woolen cloth.
Hard-wood furniture, black walnut, or other varieties, requires oiling lightly with boiled linseed oil, and rubbing dry with a woolen cloth; and varnished furniture, mahogany or rosewood, if kept carefully dusted, requires only an occasional rubbing with chamois-skin or thick flannel to retain its polish perfectly. Soap should never be used on varnish of any sort.
Ingrain and other carpets, after shaking, are brightened in color by sprinkling a pound or two of salt over the surface, and sweeping carefully; and it is also useful to occasionally wipe off a carpet with borax-water, using a thick flannel, and taking care not to wet, but only dampen the carpet. Mirrors can be cleaned with whiting. Never scrub oil-pictures: simply wipe with a damp cloth, and, if picture-cord is used, wipe it off to secure against moths.
It is impossible to cover the whole ground of cleaning in this chapter. Experience is the best teacher. Only remember that a household earthquake is not necessary, and that the whole work can be done so gradually, quietly, and systematically, that only the workers need know much about it. The sense of purity transfused through the air and breathing from every nook and corner should be the only indication that upheaval has existed. The best work is always in silence.
THE EASIEST WAY IN HOUSEKEEPING AND COOKING.
Adapted to Domestic Use or Study in Classes