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CLEANING

Houses in the past were not as clean as they are now, nor were they expected to be as clean. The invention of a multiplicity of 'labour saving' devices in fact has lead to higher standards of cleanliness now being expected from the house wife. But paradoxically no longer is housework seen as a satisfying and fulfilling role for women, women are now also expected to work outside the home to help create the wealth to buy ever more 'labour saving' gadgets. Until the end of the nineteenth century most women cleaned their homes with homemade mops, brooms and brushes. The mops were made from woollen rags, the brushes from hogs' bristles and the brooms from birch or heather. The same period saw the majority of women using the same cleaning agents. Sand was widely used to clean surfaces as it absorbed grease and dirt and a thick layer was often left on the floor all week to be swept out and renewed on Saturday. Sand or straw was also used to scour cooking pots. As all water had to be carried it didn't feature largely in any of the cleaning techniques until the advent of piped water and drains in the cities during the middle of the nineteenth century. Soap wasn't used until then either as previously it had been taxed and was regarded as a luxury, soda being more commonly used to remove grease. The first invention that really did revolutionise cleaning methods was the invention of the vacuum cleaner by Cecil Booth in 1901 which worked on the principal of suction. These were so successful that despite their expense 40% of families with electricity had one by 1948. It was the coming of the National Grid, which brought electricity to all but the remoter parts of Wales, which really changed lives. But these changes took a long time to be assimilated, lack of money to buy the new appliances was one reason but women were also loath to give up tried and tested ways of doing things. This meant that they continued to make the house dirty cooking with coal while also using an electric vacuum cleaner to clean it up!

VACUUM CLEANERS

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