I’ve written a couple of times before about the exhaustive lists of how in former times people removed marks and stains from clothing, footwear and household items. These days not only do we have an amazing array of products specially designed and scientifically developed to remove dirt and grime, but also our fabrics and materials are similarly specially designed and scientifically developed to resist marks!

In Modern Practical Cookery there is a section of household hints in the back, and obviously there are nearly a dozen pages devoted to cleaning and removing stains. Some would be useful now, hand hints clever tips, coffee, blood, ink – specifically from leather, milk, mud and mildew; some are particular to the time – candle grease when many people used candles not just as decoration, and instructions for cleaning fur, gloves, knife handles and net dance dresses and net veils. Some of them are just – to us, rather strange.

  • custard – does custard make a very particular sort of stain, different from other milk and egg sauces?
  • ginger wine – a complete mystery! is there a special compound in ginger which stains?
  • sea water stains on leather – I wonder how often that was a problem?
  • tea stains on mahogany

Here is a rather nice instruction for cleaning your soiled umbrella:

Umbrellas can be cleaned with a soft brush and a nice soapy lather. The lather must be tepid. Open  out the umbrella and protect the silk from the frame with rolls of paper. Moisten the soiled part with methylated spirit, and then brush gently with soap and water. Rinse well, and dry in the open air in a good wind.

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