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  • Category: Miscellaneous

    What cleaning agents were used for washing clothes before invention of soap?

    We use soaps and detergent powders for washing clothes nowadays. As a matter of fact there is fierce competition between various brands of soap and detergents.

    It is said that soap was discovered long back but I am curious to know as to how clothes were cleaned before invention of soap as the history of mankind is bound to be older than the history of the soap.

    Also, while discussing about the washing soaps, we have may the subject of bathing soaps also.
  • #633152
    Castic Soda was used to clean the clothes. Seekakai powder was used to clean the body.
    No life without Sun

  • #633174
    Before the invention of soap, soil and ash were used to clean the body. But as far as clothes are the concern I cannot say what they used to clean the clothes. I think they were used only water to clean the clothes. Utensils are cleaned by soil and ash in present day also in villages or when we go to the party at the field of a farmer.
    Honesty is the best policy.

  • #633176
    #633152 - The synthetic chemical caustic soda also got invented much later. Moreover, caustic soda alone cannot be used as a cleaning agent as it is too strong and likely to damage the clothes.
    Let us encourage each other in sharing knowledge.

  • #633181
    Before the soaps were invented, people used nuts to clean the body as well as clothes. There was a dark brown or blackish kind of nut available in shops. This nut is soapy and it has to be a crushed a bit and soaked for few hours in water. It would clean the clothes well, especially the woollen clothes too were washed with this nut. This is called the soap berry and is found in the Himalayas.
    Now a days this may not be easily available, moreover new detergents and soaps available.

  • #633182
    In villages I know dhobis cleaning the clothes by boiling them with water Then the clothes are bombarded on a stone. Then they used to wash again with water. They used to carry these clothes to the pond in the village end and used to have stoves with firewood and very big vessels. This is the procedure they were using.so etime the starch liquid seperated from rice while cooking rice was also used to soften the clothes. In many villages these days using this starch liquid is in practice. Those days usage of synthetic materials was very rare and there were no stains on the clothes which cannot be removed by this process. If there are ink stains they used to apply lime water to remove those stains.
    Soapnuts( kumkudu in Telugu) we're being used for body wash and head wash. Chennaflourwetted with water was also being used before the invention of soaps. I know people applying oil to the body and then the Chenna flour wetted with water was being applied. Then the flour was removed by rubbing with hands on the skin. Then they used to have bath.

    drrao
    always confident

  • #633187
    In those days big vessel used to taken and pour sufficient water and then put them on fire with fire wood and adding caustic soda which was the best cleansing agent. In Tamil there is a saying, "Kuzhaanalum kulithu kudi, Kandhaianaalum kasaki kattu." meaning for that even it is a paste made out of over cooked rice, one has to eat it after having bath, like wise even the worn cloth is torn one has to wash it simply by rinsing with hand and wear. That means there is no question washing soap or any other cleansing agents. Even today the washerman would use the caustic soda for regular and hard stains.
    K Mohan
    'Idhuvum Kadandhu Pogum "
    Even this challenging situation would ease

  • #633208
    In golden days,sorry olden days,they have limited number of cloths,that too had a habit of daily washing which could be possible without any detergent etc., Moreover they wash the cloths by beating on the stone. Later an yellow color soap was introduced. To catch the market the producer of the soap hide one to three paise coin inside the soap whereas the cost of soap cake was 5 paise. When the soap dissolves one can find the coin inside.

  • #633422
    Historically only by the 18th century people started using soap in routine for washing clothes. Prior to that perhaps only water was used and the clothes used to be soaked in water and then processes like rubbing with hands, stamping with feet or using washing bats or scrubbing boards etc. were used to remove the dust/dirt etc
    Let us encourage each other in sharing knowledge.

  • #633456
    In villages, at our homes, as a youngster, along with cousins we would get a head bath with seekakai powder (brown) and arappu (green powder) to keep the hair clean. Grandparents would use gram flour for the body and have a smooth stone to rub the skin (except the face) and coconut fiber to scrub, women would use turmeric in TamilNadu.
    People who could afford would use incense and fragrance body oil in baths.
    As far as clothes are concerned it would be soaked and 'stone washed'.

  • #633482
    Oil stains became prevalent since industrialization due to increased machinery usage. The grease stains urged the invention of soap and detergents.

    Water cannot remove stains. And pre-industrialization clothes were cotton mostly and were stained easily. So no wonder the ancients had some type of stain remover and odor inducer. Soaps are salts of fatty acids. Which means they have a hydrophilic end and an hydrophobic one. The cleaning action takes place as these ends break out and interact with any oil or organic stains.
    When you think such way, even butter and milk containing lactic acid prove to be good agents to clean. Romans used urine at times as urine too has urea, with a hydrophobic and a hydrophilic end. Silicon in sand was used to neutralize organic stains. Clay and brick was used along with coconut hair for a long time.
    Powdered chalk can remove stains too.

    These are the possible ways ancients must have cleaned themselves and their clothes.

    The stronger a light shines the darker are the shadows around it.

  • #633508
    I think the kings and nobility used to wear new clothes daily instead wearing the same clothes again after washing.

    Moreover perhaps in the prehistoric era, there were no clothes at all.

    Even, nowadays poorest people in remotely located villages are not able to wear sparkling clothes like their urban counterparts.

    Let us encourage each other in sharing knowledge.

  • #633510
    Kailash. Imagine you are in 12th century AD or something. You are the king of Tanjore . You insist you have privilege to wear new clothes daily and discard your old ones. What you're insisting is not only utterly impossible in your time but also can cause civil unrest.
    Kings old clothes? Where do they go? Will you give them away? To who? Won't your clothes be fought for? Will there be a man enough worthy to wear kings one day old-clothes?
    Who is going to spin New clothes for you daily.?

    Will the silkworm be ready ? Will mulberry grow enough ? Are there enough weavers? Can you get your clothes donned in just a day?

    No matter how properous you are, achieving such a priviledge will always be a dream.

    And the statement of prehistoric people roaming naked is equally baseless too. Humans lack fur. So clothes are as necessary as food and water to keep you alive. Homo Erectus, Neanderthals and us (the Cro-magnons) all wore clothes atleast 2 lakh years before.
    So no wonder we washed clothes. No matter what our birth was, our clothes were washed.

    The stronger a light shines the darker are the shadows around it.


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