The History of Carpet Cleaning
Updated: Nov 26, 2018
Carpet cleaning today looks incredibly different from carpet cleaning 100, 150, or even 200 years ago. The first evidence of carpet cleaning procedures goes back to the Industrial Revolution, or about 1870. Until then, it was fashionable to protect carpets and rugs with "druggets"...woolen pieces spread under tables and areas of heavy wear. This would give protection against spills and debris. The wealthiest classes in Europe used to cover all carpets with canvas cloth during major in house events or long absences. But what's the point of having rugs if they were just covered up?
Due to the lack of proper ventilation in homes at that time homes were often filled with dust and soot which lead to more innovation in home cleaning. At the time, people were adorning their homes with carpet as a sign of affluence so wanting to keep them in good condition was important. The most common technique was to beat the carpet with corn booms to remove the dust and soot. But what about stains? You can't beat a stain out of a carpet!
In home maintenance journals dating back to the 1830s one of the most common methods for stain removal involved scrubbing the carpet with lemon juice and a hot loaf of crusty white bread. The carpet was then rinsed thoroughly with fresh water and left outside to dry. By the 1880s more sophisticated advice on carpet cleaning was being published, like mixing water and bull's gall (or the gallbladder of a bull), scrubbing with a flannel cloth then finally rinsing it with fresh water.
As time went on people started using refined oil products like Naphtha both for removing stains and also as a pesticide. Another method that was popular for a short time was the repainting of carpets. This, unfortunately, often led to shrinkage. Other recommended techniques included making a clay paste which would be left on the carpets overnight to dry. Once the paste was swept off stains and soil would be removed. An alternative to this paste , which sometimes caused fading, was chloroform. However, since chloroform has a paralyzing effect on the central nervous system this technique was too dangerous to gain popularity.
Up next, the history of the vacuum cleaner...