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  1. #1
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    Historic Kilt Laundering

    I have seen a lot of images of Highland regiments kilted at war. Even with the protective apron that was worn at times, I assume the kilts got rather dirty. Does anyone know how the kilts were laundered historically?

    Isaac
    Vestis virum reddit

  2. #2
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    I'm not an expert on the military of WW1, but I know the troops were rotated from front line to the rear quite regularly.
    I doubt whether any real cleaning was achieved while on the front line, just a brush off of the mud if they ever got it dry.

    But in the rear there were the full facilities of the time, I'm betting the Officers, had their staff clean the kilts.
    But the men will have had to clean the kilts themselves or put them through the primitive systems they had, which may have included boiling! (to kill the lice). Breweries , sugar factories and the like were commandeered, as they had heat and clean water to fumigate / clean the men and uniforms which were often ironed from the inside to kill more lice. Note an Iron of the time was a hot lump of metal heated on a fire which I can still remember being around though no longer used in the 1960s.
    There were also "mobile bath units" where other facilities were not available.
    A minor point is that the men did not have baths at home and a once a week bath was probably all many had, if that!.
    "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give"
    Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill

  3. #3
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    There were also irons which had small cavities and grills to let in air which were heated with charcoal or glowing embers from the fire. The most sophisticated had a screw at the back of the handle to open or close the airways to various degrees so as to regulate the temperature.

    My mother's mother had one as a doorstop at the old house.

    Body lice often hid away in the seams or folds of garments, surviving washing unless in a garment which could be boiled, so to kill them a sheet of brown paper was placed over the seam and the iron applied. Apparently the lice exploded with a popping sound.

    Woollen garments would be hosed down on a sloping surface, usually outside, and then beaten to get the worst of the dirt off, hung up on rails to dry off then deloused and finally given a proper wash.

    Anne the Pleater :ootd:
    I presume to dictate to no man what he shall eat or drink or wherewithal he shall be clothed."
    -- The Hon. Stuart Ruaidri Erskine, The Kilt & How to Wear It, 1901.

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  5. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pleater View Post
    TBody lice often hid away in the seams or folds of garments, surviving washing unless in a garment which could be boiled, so to kill them a sheet of brown paper was placed over the seam and the iron applied. Apparently the lice exploded with a popping sound.
    The brown paper was probably used in lieu of a pressing cloth to prevent the hot iron from making the cloth shiny. When I was a naval officer cadet in the 1960s, we used to use the brown paper towels in the washrooms for the same purpose. These worked much better and gave a much sharper and longer-lasting crease in the trousers than any pressing cloth could. Alas, the powers that be at one point became concerned about the quantity of paper towels being used and forbade their use in pressing uniforms. We still used them, but made sure to reuse the same pieces a couple of times.
    Last edited by imrichmond; 23rd June 15 at 02:03 PM.

  6. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by imrichmond View Post
    The brown paper was probably used in lieu of a pressing cloth to prevent the hot iron from making the cloth shiny. When I was a naval officer cadet in the 1960s, we used to use the brown paper towels in the washrooms for the same purpose. These worked much better and gave a much sharper and longer-lasting crease in the trousers than any pressing cloth could. Alas, the powers that be at one point became concerned about the quantity of paper towels being used and forbade their use in pressing uniforms. We still used them, but made sure to reuse the same pieces a couple of times.
    In the early 60s I learned to press Dad's army uniforms using brown paper bags. I reused the bags because I trimmed them to fit his uniform. The crease was beautiful! Paper bags are almost obsolete. But wood works well and will last a lifetime.
    Now I use wooden tools made for me by a friend. They are used like one would use a clapper. Press with steam then hold the wood against the fabric to set the crease. Sharp!

    I also have a 6 foot - 2" dowel, split in half; with one side cut into various lengths 6", 12", 18" and 36" along with the other side which is still 6', so that I can press open seams without marking the outside of the fabric with the impression of the seam allowance. Just slide the curved wood surface under the seam, lay on the press cloth and press. No impressions on the outer side! With constant use, I can whip these things around and press very quickly. Like everything else, practice makes perfect.

    Thank goodness I never ironed over any lice or I probably wouldn't be pressing or sewing today. Very few things bother me, but earwigs, if I can kill them, fine. But lice! - I'm out of there.

    I'm itchy just reading about them!

  7. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by imrichmond View Post
    The brown paper was probably used in lieu of a pressing cloth to prevent the hot iron from making the cloth shiny. When I was a naval officer cadet in the 1960s, we used to use the brown paper towels in the washrooms for the same purpose. These worked much better and gave a much sharper and longer-lasting crease in the trousers than any pressing cloth could. Alas, the powers that be at one point became concerned about the quantity of paper towels being used and forbade their use in pressing uniforms. We still used them, but made sure to reuse the same pieces a couple of times.
    Similar to when I was in the RAF they introduced soft toilet paper for all ranks instead of the "medicated Izal" "grease proof?" paper, shortly after we got notices about using too much of the new rolls, and that they weren't to be taken away. We weren't taking them away people just stopped buying their own! (and no we didn't reuse the paper!)

    Oh and yes Brown paper pressing was much in use while I was in the RAF as well, but we were quite partial to taking the uniform to a private laundry and getting "Stay Press" creases put in!.
    "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give"
    Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill

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