This section is from the book "Elements Of The Theory And Practice Of Cookery", by Mary E. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Elements Of The Theory And Practice Of Cookery; A Textbook Of Domestic Science For Use In Schools.
This chapter gives an outline of such laundry-work as may be taught in two or three lessons, incident to the work in cookery. It may provide a review of what the pupils have learned about water (Chap. I, Sec. 2), cleaning, soaps, alkalies, disinfection (Chap. I, Sec. 3), and starch (Chap. II, Sec. 2). Dish-pans with small washboards may be used for tubs, and a demonstration lesson given in ironing, if the equipment is not sufficient for practice work.
We depend chiefly upon soap and water to make soiled clothing clean. Sunlight and air are desirable aids. Chemicals may be needed: alkalies, borax, ammonia, and washing soda, to remove dirt, or soften hard water; either acid or other chemicals for removing stains. Heat, friction, and pressure may also be employed.
A good white soap is best for laundry use. Yellow soap contains much resin, which makes the clothes yellow and is hard to rinse out. A little resin helps poor soap to make suds, but in a large quantity it is an adulterant. Borax soap is good to use with hard water. Naphtha soap is good to use with cold or lukewarm water. Hot water drives off the naphtha.
We blue white clothes to overcome the yellowing effect of wearing and washing. Bluing is not meant to hide carelessness in washing and rinsing. We starch certain pieces to fill spaces between the threads, to stiffen them, and to enable them to be finished smoothly with the iron. We iron to remove wrinkles, and to give to the fabric the smooth finish which makes it look better and keep clean longer.
Not all the ironing commonly done is necessary. Stockings, soft underwear, and Turkish towels do not need ironing. In hot weather, or when the ironing must be done by a woman burdened with other work, towels and even bed-linen may be used unironed.
Wash colored clothes separately from white ones, table-linen and dish-towels separately from other pieces. Wash woollens by themselves in lukewarm suds and rinse in lukewarm water.
Soaking saves rubbing. If clothes are to be soaked, put them into enough soapy warm water to cover them.
The clothes may be rubbed out once in the water they have been soaked in, but they must be washed once besides in clean suds.
Spread one piece at a time on the washboard, soap it, and rub it on the board, dipping it now and then. Look for the most soiled places, and rub them hardest. Rub delicate fabrics and trimmings between the hands, not on the board.
Rubbing clothes on a board tires the worker and wears the clothes. A washing-machine saves time, strength, and fabrics. There are several kinds. They may be run by hand, water-power, or electricity. A good hand-washer consists of a metal cone with a straight handle. When pressed down, it forces suds through the clothes, and when raised, sucks it back. With its aid, large, heavy pieces may be washed quickly.
Wring out and drop into rinsing water or into the boiler. Watch some one who knows the right twist, in order to learn how to wring by hand. Hand-wringing tends to wrench the fabric. For anything more than a few small pieces, a wringer is a necessity.
Boiling with soap cleanses and sterilizes clothes. It is especially important for underwear and much soiled pieces of any kind. It is not always necessary for other pieces if they can be dried in the sun. Colored pieces must not be boiled. Cut the soap into small pieces and be sure it is dissolved before putting in the clothes. It is best to use a soap solution, which can be kept on hand, and added to the water in the boiler. To make this, dissolve one pound of cut-up soap or "soap-chips" in one gallon of water. It will jelly when cold.
Clothes to be boiled are put into the boiler after being wrung from the wash-water. Boil three to ten minutes according to how soiled the clothes are. Stir with a clothes stick to let steam escape. Remove with the stick, and drop into rinsing-water.
Clothes should be rinsed at least twice. If you lack a plentiful supply of water, or if water must be carried, save on the wash-water rather than on the rinsing-water.
Bluing goes in the last rinse-water. The safest bluing is the kind that comes in balls or squares. Tie it in a woollen or cotton flannel cloth, and squeeze it into a bowl of hot water. Add this to the rinse-water until it shows a light sky-blue when taken up in the hand. As this kind of bluing settles, the water must be stirred with the hand frequently, and clothes must not lie in it, but be dipped and wrung out at once.1
Laundry starch is commonly corn-starch. Wheat-starch is better. Rice-starch is used for lace and very fine fabrics. To make starch for medium fabrics, allow two tablespoonfuls of starch to one quart of boiling water. (One teaspoonful of borax improves the starch.) Mix the starch with enough cold water to form a cream. Add the boiling water and boil till clear. Strain and cool till the hand can be borne in it. If clothing is liked rather stiff, use two and a half to three tablespoonfuls of starch ; for shirt bosoms, five. For delicate waists and underwear, use only one. Dipping the damp clothes in the starch thins it, so that fairly thick starch may do for things to be lightly starched, if they are dipped last. Thick close fabrics should be dipped in thin starch.
Dry clothes in the air if possible. Sunlight whitens and helps to sterilize them.
Sprinkle clothes several hours before they are to be ironed, roll up tight. A clean whisk-broom makes a good sprinkler.
1 Some people prefer liquid bluing. But all liquid bluing contains iron, which with soap forms rust. This makes little rust-spots on clothing, which many people think come from the board or the wringer. If you use liquid blue, rinse the clothes very thoroughly to get all the soap out before you blue them. Even then a rust-spot may appear the next time they are put into soapy water.
Irons must be kept clean and smooth. If rough, rub them on salt sprinkled on a paper. Experience is needed to enable one to know how hot an iron should be for a given fabric. Spread out the piece. Iron with the threads; with the long thread (warp) as much as possible, keeping the fabric stretched and flat with the left hand. One must learn how to iron by watching a good ironer. If you have much ironing to do, use a high chair or stool while ironing simple pieces, and save yourself fatigue.
An electric iron is well worth what it costs. Remember that it grows hotter, not cooler, and may scorch.
To remove fresh fruit or coffee stains, stretch the fabric over a bowl, and pour boiling water through the stain. Cocoa and chocolate stains should be washed in cold water with soap or borax before being put into hot water. Peach stains require Javelle water.