Anonymous asked in Arts & HumanitiesHistory · 1 decade ago

What did Victorian maids use for washing dishes?

In a story I'm writing at the moment, one of the characters is a Victorian scullery maid in the 1880s and one of her many jobs is to wash the dishes. But I know that they didn't have washing up liquid back then, so I was wondering what they used instead of washing up liquid, and if they still used sponges.

4 Answers

  • Bilbo
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago
    Favourite answer

    Soap flakes and washing soda - dish cloths and occaisionally brushes - sometimes paper for glassware - although decanters and the like would be the responsibility of the butler. Washing up was an activity reserved for the scullery - a separate area away from the cooking and food preparation areas. By 1880's most areas would have had running water - although water would have had to be heated (possibly in a copper) or on the range. The dishwasher was actually invented by this time but early models were only available in the US.

    A mixture of soda and soft soap was used for general washing up. Whiting made a mild, creamy cleaner that would remove grease. Stronger abrasives such as bath brick and emery powder were used for cleaning knives and iron utensils. Rottenstone was mixed with rape oil to make a paste for cleaning brass and tin. Washing-up cloths were boiled in water to which a little vinegar had been added. Drains were disinfected with chloride of lime.

    Sunlight Soap a natural soap product was introduced by Lever Brothers in the Victorian period (c 1880's). Sponges were far too expensive to use in the kitchen. See Mrs Beeton's Guide to Household Management available on-line and the advice published by the Victorian Society.

  • 1 decade ago

    In my town there is a museum called Scaplen's Court which is a Tudor house. It was the home of a wealthy merchant and when I was teaching we took children of Primary age there on trips and they would experience what life was like as a domestic servant in the 18th Century (a little earlier than you're researching.) The washing up was done in a stone sink with cold water from the pump in the yard. The servant would use a knife or grater to shave off flakes of soap from a large bar of yellow soap and wash up with this and scrub the wooden dining table. The children soon discovered, in a small way how hard life was for women back then!

  • 1 decade ago

    Well they'd definetly start with pumping water. Maybe they'd use a dish rag and soap? Like bars of soap. I don't think that's very unreasonable.

  • Ron S
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago

    They would have used soap (probably made at home or locally) and soda powder to soften the water.

    Then they would dry the dishes and spit on the cutlery and polish it.

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