How did medieval people wash their clothes? For once, the historical myths are medieval facts.

Yes, medieval people washed their clothes, and the historical myths are the real medieval facts. Time for a fashion history rant! Get $20 off any Brooklinen purchase over $100 using my code SNAPPYDRAGON20. Link here! ! This video is kindly sponsored by Brooklinen.

Whatever we think about medieval hygiene, medieval people did do laundry. I love historical myth busting and medieval history myths are rarely true, but the history of doing laundry will make you very grateful you are not washing clothes in medieval times! Medieval laundry day was nowhere near as easy as it is today. Laundry in the middle ages was a complicated process, and historical laundry was done with the same methods for centuries afterwards. Medieval laundry involved intense physical labor, making your own laundry soap, some pretty frightening cleaning products, and literally beating the dirt out of your clothes. This is one of the few middle ages myths that is almost every bit as bad as bad as you think it is.

The history of doing the laundry is, predictably, pretty dirty. Washing machines, and even old-fashioned mangles hadn’t been invented, so the history of washing clothes is full of little tasks that had to be done by hand. Most people in Medieval Europe wore linen undergarments that covered their whole bodies to keep their outer layers cleaner, and only laundered their linens. There was no medieval laundry room, instead you had to take your clothes to a stream, river, fountain, or communal city wash-house and do them there. The history of laundry soap isn’t any more pleasant, with most people using home-made lye solutions made from ashes or harsh black liquid soap, and gentle Castille soap being much more expensive. Sometimes clothes had to be soaked for hours at a time in lye or ammonia to bleach stains and grayness out, before being taken to the river and rinsed, beaten with a paddle, and rinsed again. Finally, after washing, a medieval laundress had to rely on the weather and spread the wet clothes out on the fields to dry, hoping and praying that it didn’t rain.

It’s very rare for me to talk about historical myths that are true instead of busting them, but medieval washing clothes was almost every bit as awful of a job as we picture it. Are you feeling more appreciative of your laundry machine now? I know I am!

About agogo22

Director of Manchester School of Samba at
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