How To's 1880s

How To Do Laundry, Circa 1880

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.

–from The Easiest Way in Housekeeping and Cooking,
by Helen Stuart Campbell, 1880

One Test of a Good Cook, Circa 1880

“To be able to boil a potato perfectly is one of the tests of a good cook, there being nothing in the whole range of vegetables which is apparently so difficult to accomplish. Like the making of good bread, nothing is simpler when once learned. A good boiled potato should be white, mealy, and served very hot. If the potatoes are old, peel thinly with a sharp knife; cut out all spots, and let them lie in cold water some hours before using. It is more economical to boil before peeling, as the best part of the potato lies next the skin; but most prefer them peeled. Put on in boiling water, allowing a teaspoonful of salt to every quart of water. Medium-sized potatoes will boil in half an hour. Let them be as nearly of a size as possible, and if small and large are cooked at the same time, put on the large ones ten or fifteen minutes before the small. When done, pour off every drop of water; cover with a clean towel, and set on the back of the range to dry for a few minutes before serving. The poorest potato can be made tolerable by this treatment. Never let them wait for other things, but time the preparation of dinner so that they will be ready at the moment needed. New potatoes require no peeling, but should merely be well washed and rubbed.”

–from the book The Easiest Way in Housekeeping and Cooking,
written by Helen Stuart Campbell (published in 1880)

How To Take a Bath, Circa 1884

For a person in good health, a daily cold bath is advisable. To this should be added occasionally a warm bath with soap, water alone not being sufficient to remove impurities of a greasy nature. Soap facilitates this by forming with such substances a chemical mixture which is taken up by water and by it removed from the body. Most persons experience the best results when the water is about the temperature of the body — “blood heat.”

A person in sound health may take a bath at almost any time except directly after a full meal. The most appropriate time is about three hours after a meal, the noon hour being probably the best. For the cold bath, taken rapidly, no time is better than immediately after rising. Those beginning the use of cold baths should first try them at 70°F and gradually use those of a lower temperature. From five to twenty minutes may be considered the proper limit of time to remain in a bath, but a sensation of chilliness is a signal to withdraw instantly.

The body should be warm rather than cold when stepping into the bath, and after it the skin should be thoroughly dried with a coarse towel. It is best to continue friction until there is a sensation of warmth or “glow” throughout the entire surface. This reaction is the test of the good effects of the bath. It is very congenial both to health and comfort to rest for a short time after bathing, or to take some light refreshment.

–from Hutchison’s Physiology and Hygiene, 1884

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