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Marian Perera
12-03-2013, 05:52 AM
Hi guys,

My usual search for maritime information. I tried to Google this, but all the information has to do with modern vessels and in the WIP, there's a steamship. No washing machine.

Is it likely the sailors would have used lye on the whites and near-whites? And what about the colored clothes? I read somewhere that all the clothes might be put into some sort of sealed container with ammonia (from urine?) and trailed behind the ship to allow the motion of the waves to wash the clothes, but I thought I'd better check that with everyone here. Because this is a fantasy romance and the urine detail is likely to be a buzzkill.

Thanks, all. :)

ULTRAGOTHA
12-03-2013, 06:00 AM
Stale urine was used as a de-greasing agent for centuries--ammonia.

Lye by itself is likely to eat holes in clothes. Lye heated with fat will form soap.

Fresh water was not to be wasted. One needs a different type of soap to work well with salt water.

I'm not clear on what time period you're basing your work on. It's a mix of early medieval, Grecian and age of steam, yes? Which time period's technology are you going to use for the laundry?

Marian Perera
12-03-2013, 06:03 AM
Stale urine was used as a de-greasing agent for centuries--ammonia.

I was half afraid of that. But I'll work around it.


Fresh water was not to be wasted. One needs a different type of soap to work well with salt water.Do you know what kind of soap? ETA : Just Googled "sailors' soap".


I'm not clear on what time period you're basing your work on. It's a mix of early medieval, Grecian and age of steam, yes? Which time period's technology are you going to use for the laundry?Well, the ship in question is a steamship with cannons and Greek fire. I'll go with whatever sounds most realistic for the laundry - I just finished a scene where this world's version of the Sargasso Sea tried to ensnare the ship's propellers with sentient weeds, so it's not like I have to hew rigidly to realism.

PorterStarrByrd
12-03-2013, 06:26 AM
Sailors either washed them with Lye Soap and salt water on deck, then rinsed them in another bucket of salt water. Then they either put them back on or hung them to dry someplace they could secure them.

There was no sorting of clothing by color

An alternate method of washing was to tie a line around the clothing and drag it behind the ship for a few minutes.

Washdays were usually Sunday, maybe every week.

ULTRAGOTHA
12-03-2013, 06:30 AM
Here, I'll give you this that I found on Google (http://www.oldandinteresting.com/sitemap.htm).

Lye water, as opposed to lye, was used but you get it by running fresh water through hard wood ashes so how much they'd have had on a ship, I don't know. It also wasn't used every week.

I'll add that the washing would have been done on underclothing. The wool uniforms would not have been washed the same way. They'd have been brushed a lot. This is true right through the widespread use of dry cleaning. The underclothes and overclothes were washed. But the main clothes were not washed, they were brushed, and hung out and spot cleaned.

PorterStarrByrd
12-03-2013, 06:36 AM
Here, I'll give you this that I found on Google (http://www.oldandinteresting.com/sitemap.htm).

Lye water, as opposed to lye, was used but you get it by running fresh water through hard wood ashes so how much they'd have had on a ship, I don't know. It also wasn't used every week.


Lye soap is milder than lye ... Lye water is mainly salt water with Lye soap watered down in it. Sailors would never use fresh water for washing or bathing on a sailing ship.

As late as Viet Nam sailors on some aircraft carriers took salt water showers to save fresh water for washing airplanes :). Thank Dawg it wasn't an every day event.

Marian Perera
12-03-2013, 06:42 AM
Thanks for the feedback!


An alternate method of washing was to tie a line around the clothing and drag it behind the ship for a few minutes.

A few minutes is all it took? I was having a romantic scene where the hero was in his cabin mostly naked because the clothes were all being washed and the heroine needed to speak with him urgently.


Sailors would never use fresh water for washing or bathing on a sailing ship.

I bend over backwards, no pun intended, to find sources of fresh water for these people to at least sponge off before the sex scenes.

Marian Perera
12-03-2013, 06:44 AM
Here, I'll give you this that I found on Google (http://www.oldandinteresting.com/sitemap.htm).

Bookmarking that link!


I'll add that the washing would have been done on underclothing. The wool uniforms would not have been washed the same way. They'd have been brushed a lot. This is true right through the widespread use of dry cleaning. The underclothes and overclothes were washed. But the main clothes were not washed, they were brushed, and hung out and spot cleaned.Thanks! Something to keep in mind for the next book, which is going to be set in the north, in winter.

ULTRAGOTHA
12-03-2013, 06:47 AM
Lye-based soap, once cured, is quite mild. Milder than some of our modern detergent-based soaps. Lye-based soap of the early 19th century could be either in harder bar form (achieved by adding salt) or softer form. If the harder sort was used it would often be grated into smaller bits for laundry. (At least on land.)

Lye water isn't water with lye soap dissolved in it. Or at least that's not the only thing it is. It's water that's been filtered through ashes. It feels a bit slippery and will make your skin quite dry but it won't burn the way, say, Red Devil lye (sodium hydroxide) will if it gets wet. It's very mild in comparison.

Sailors would use fresh water whenever they could get it. During or just after a rain storm or while close to a source of fresh water on land for example. But yes, in general they'd use salt water and put up with all the damp.

Alessandra Kelley
12-03-2013, 06:48 AM
Whites were mostly bleached in the sun and brushed, but not especially washed.

I gather the Hessian army that came to fight the American colonists circa. 1776 carried barrels of flour to "whiten" their white clothes. Yuck.

ULTRAGOTHA
12-03-2013, 06:59 AM
Whites were mostly bleached in the sun and brushed, but not especially washed.

Really? All the research I've done shows that the linens (sheets, towels, table cloths, underwear, aprons, etc.) were boiled and blued and agitated and scrubbed, then rinsed and wrung out and laid out to dry and whiten in the sun. They were then ironed.

It was the main clothes--the silks and wools--that were brushed and aired and spot treated with various substances depending on the time period. Also dedicates like lace-trimmed petticoats.

PorterStarrByrd
12-03-2013, 07:00 AM
Sailors would use fresh water whenever they could get it. During or just after a rain storm or while close to a source of fresh water on land for example. But yes, in general they'd use salt water and put up with all the damp.

In port, usually at anchor, they'd do as you say. At sea rain usually came with heavy weather. It'd be a rare time they would be washing clothes in that. Laundry wasn't something they paid a lot of attention to.

White was pretty much just another color for at sea clothing. Many sailors has a set of clean, more or less fresh, clothing they broke out just for going ashore.

ULTRAGOTHA
12-03-2013, 07:09 AM
Laundry wasn't something they paid a lot of attention to.

That depends on the time period and even the Captain. During the height of the Age of Sail in the British Royal Navy, frex, many Captains required weekly laundry. There's even a complaint against Captain Baynham of the HMS Reunion (http://books.google.com/books?id=uH--DfZKzE4C&pg=PA204&lpg=PA204&dq=Captain+Baynham+also+obliges+us+to+wash+our+lin en+twice+a+week&source=bl&ots=AVXF7wbQpl&sig=NmI2LTG6QxnWWZzbh6UU2gU_pbs&hl=en&sa=X&ei=yUqdUqn0KOmtsATRp4GIDQ&ved=0CCsQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Captain%20Baynham%20also%20obliges%20us%20to%20w ash%20our%20linen%20twice%20a%20week&f=false) by his crew in 1796 for requiring twice-weekly laundry.


Captain Baynham also obliges us to wash our linen twice a week in salt water and to put two shirts on every week, and if they do not look as clean as if they were washed in fresh water he stops the person's grog.

Alessandra Kelley
12-03-2013, 07:12 AM
Really? All the research I've done shows that the linens (sheets, towels, table cloths, underwear, aprons, etc.) were boiled and blued and agitated and scrubbed, then rinsed and wrung out and laid out to dry and whiten in the sun. They were then ironed.

It was the main clothes--the silks and wools--that were brushed and aired and spot treated with various substances depending on the time period. Also dedicates like lace-trimmed petticoats.

You are right. Don't know what I was thinking.

PorterStarrByrd
12-03-2013, 07:41 AM
That depends on the time period and even the Captain. During the height of the Age of Sail in the British Royal Navy, frex, many Captains required weekly laundry. There's even a complaint against Captain Baynham of the HMS Reunion (http://books.google.com/books?id=uH--DfZKzE4C&pg=PA204&lpg=PA204&dq=Captain+Baynham+also+obliges+us+to+wash+our+lin en+twice+a+week&source=bl&ots=AVXF7wbQpl&sig=NmI2LTG6QxnWWZzbh6UU2gU_pbs&hl=en&sa=X&ei=yUqdUqn0KOmtsATRp4GIDQ&ved=0CCsQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Captain%20Baynham%20also%20obliges%20us%20to%20w ash%20our%20linen%20twice%20a%20week&f=false) by his crew in 1796 for requiring twice-weekly laundry.


Absolutely right .. but Naval officer and crew were different than common sailors.

oakbark
12-03-2013, 02:13 PM
---
Because this is a fantasy romance and the urine detail is likely to be a buzzkill.
--
Thanks, all. :)

If it is a fantasy you could always invent a soapy substance gathered from a fantasy aquatic animal.

Compare with Ambergris, a substance produced in the gut of spermwhales. Smells like crap when fresh but is highly valued by perfume makers when aged. Can sometimes be found on beaches if I remember right.

You could invent any type of similarity.

Who knows, maybe the real Ambergris actually does work like soap but nobody has tried it because it smells awful when fresh. Sooo..

your clothes get cleaned by the mucky stuff but it takes a while (how about a week) for them to smell good enough to wear :D

Marian Perera
12-03-2013, 08:11 PM
There's even a complaint against Captain Baynham of the HMS Reunion (http://books.google.com/books?id=uH--DfZKzE4C&pg=PA204&lpg=PA204&dq=Captain+Baynham+also+obliges+us+to+wash+our+lin en+twice+a+week&source=bl&ots=AVXF7wbQpl&sig=NmI2LTG6QxnWWZzbh6UU2gU_pbs&hl=en&sa=X&ei=yUqdUqn0KOmtsATRp4GIDQ&ved=0CCsQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Captain%20Baynham%20also%20obliges%20us%20to%20w ash%20our%20linen%20twice%20a%20week&f=false) by his crew in 1796 for requiring twice-weekly laundry.

I love that detail. Consider it adapted for the book. :)

King Neptune
12-04-2013, 12:17 AM
I was half afraid of that. But I'll work around it.

Do you know what kind of soap? ETA : Just Googled "sailors' soap".

Well, the ship in question is a steamship with cannons and Greek fire. I'll go with whatever sounds most realistic for the laundry - I just finished a scene where this world's version of the Sargasso Sea tried to ensnare the ship's propellers with sentient weeds, so it's not like I have to hew rigidly to realism.

On a steamship they would have lots of fresh water, and it would be easy to take some from the engines to wash clothes. Give them modern washing machines and modern cleaning chemicals. It you were writing about pre-industrial, then you would have to go with pre-industrial washing.

Orianna2000
12-04-2013, 11:28 AM
Clothes do take awhile to dry, so perhaps your MC is naked because his clothes are all hanging to dry after laundry was done? (In my experience, fabric takes about 24 hours to fully dry. Longer for thicker fabrics, like sweater knits. Shorter for very lightweight fabrics.)

ECathers
12-08-2013, 10:16 PM
Clothes do take awhile to dry, so perhaps your MC is naked because his clothes are all hanging to dry after laundry was done? (In my experience, fabric takes about 24 hours to fully dry. Longer for thicker fabrics, like sweater knits. Shorter for very lightweight fabrics.)

Yup, this is what I was going to suggest.

Just finished reading a novel set in the Revolutionary War where the redcoats were using chalk to whiten their breeches.

And yeah, on a steamship, all they have to do is rig something to any leaking steam and they've got fresh water.