Wednesday, 7 September 2005

Washing clothes Roman-style

Folks, don't try this at home!
The ancient Romans used urine to get their white tunics clean and bleached. Of course, the ammonia contained in urine was what did the trick. Fullers collected urine for this purpose. Clothing was immersed in the repugnant liquid and bleached white. Needless to say, the smell of urine didn't just leave the clothes once washed out with water and one can only imagine how even the most wealthy and notable Romans smelt truly 'pissy'. Combine that with the charming smell of fish sauce (a favourite with the Romans) and the stench would be unbearable to the contemporary nose.

4 comments:

Light said...

Heh. So no different to a Saturday night in the Bigg Market in terms of smell then?

k o w said...

Well isn't that a real pisser.

media scum said...

there is a parallel with alum making in NE England (where i live) It was discovered in the middle ages that if locally mined alum shale was boiled for a long time in a solution made up of water and human urine, a liquor could be produced that 'fixed' dyestuffs into material. Problem was that there were not enough people living in the Teesside area then (it was still mainly moorland) and so the first sea tankers came about, bringing bulk wee from London to the mouth of the River Tees. Apparently the Londoners who donated their wee were paid for this. I gather the proces stunk to high heaven, and thankfully thise industry died out in the 1800's

media scum said...

there is a parallel with alum making in NE England (where i live) It was discovered in the middle ages that if locally mined alum shale was boiled for a long time in a solution made up of water and human urine, a liquor could be produced that 'fixed' dyestuffs into material. Problem was that there were not enough people living in the Teesside area then (it was still mainly moorland) and so the first sea tankers came about, bringing bulk wee from London to the mouth of the River Tees. Apparently the Londoners who donated their wee were paid for this. I gather the proces stunk to high heaven, and thankfully thise industry died out in the 1800's