Think Your Friend's Husband is Dirty? Think Again.

July 31, 2018

How does she let him into her bed?

Have you ever noticed that some folks look like they never have a wash? It may be a member of your family or a friend’s husband even. You may often wonder ‘How does she let him into her bed?”  This got me thinking about people in the past and how they kept themselves and their clothes clean.  By the time I had finished finding out, I realised that my friend’s husband is a washaholic compared to some folks of the yesteryears.

 It’s safe to have a wash because the moon is in Pisces.

During the seventeenth century, folks did not favour a good wash all over.  In fact, baths were mostly public places and visited for health purposes as opposed to getting one’s body clean.  For some strange reason, if you did go to the baths to cleanse yourself there was superstition attached to it and it should only be done when the moon was in Libra or Pisces.

Samuel Pepys believed a good rub down with a cloth was enough to keep clean.

Although Samuel Pepys wrote his diary on a regular basis he did not apply the same amount of drive to washing himself.  He boasted that he sometimes gave himself a vigorous rub down with a cloth which he believed made him clean.  Elizabeth, his wife, however, did visit a public bath house at least once because Samuel sniggered about that too in his diary.

 

Although Elizabeth probably visited the public bath house for health purposes, it would surely have made her smell sweeter than Samuel.  This was what might have put her in a morally advantageous position when she banned him from their shared bed until he had at least ‘cleaned himself with warm water’.  Samuel also had an aversion to washing his feet but he did do it occasionally.  The reason for such behaviour was that flinging off one’s socks and wetting one’s feet could lead to all sorts of health disasters like getting a cold.

A note to washing powder manufacturers – Don’t try to fool the experts.

 

 

If you’d lived in 1909, you may have been tempted by a newspaper advertisement which suggested that you wash the ‘Witch’ way.  Housewives who had probably been tackling the household wash for years were staunchly advised that they should never rub clothes as that would make the dirt worse.  The secret behind proper clothes washing was simply to let clothes soak in Witch and all the dirt would be loosened out.  This promise was backed up by the boast that that was what clothes manufacturers did and of course they all used Witch.  No names were mentioned to back up this testimonial.

 

“Let your clothes soak overnight in the morning they’ll be white” was the sales slogan.  If you still were not convinced of Witches’ magical washing powers the manufacturers added that it was a hard soap dried by a secret scientific process and then powdered.  As an added gesture of selling to everyone who read the advertisement, whether scientifically minded or superstitious, there was a huge caricature of a ghastly looking witch on a broomstick on it.  It is really surprising that we are not still using that product today.

He couldn’t wash his clothes because he hadn’t done an apprenticeship in washing.

Washing clothes is obviously a lot more complicated than can be imagined.  In 1916, a meeting took place of the Camelford Board of Directors for the workhouse to determine if the number of staff could be reduced.  A Mr Boney suggested that they should do their own clothes washing during the war and this would save them the cost of paying a char lady to do it for them.

 

Mr Uglow, the Master, stated that he would not wash his own collars; neither would he go without wearing a collar.  When questioned why he would not consider washing his own clothes he wiped his brow and shuddered.  He informed the gathered party that it was out of the question as he had never undergone an apprenticeship to wash clothes.

Hair washing became a luxury.

For folks who lived during World War II, food rationing began in 1940 with clothes rationing closely followed in 1941.  Within just eight months, soap rationing meant that having a good soak became something to daydream about.  Even hair washing became a luxury.  Magazines at that time advised their readers to wash greasy hair every ten days but dry hair could go for three weeks before needing a shampoo.  No wonder Marlene Dietrich took three months’ supply of dry shampoo with her when entertaining the troops in Europe.

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