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Early Carpet Cleaning History and Facts!

The history of carpet cleaning is not as extensive as the history of carpeting, mainly because carpeting was considered a luxury item until the middle of the 19th century.  It was the Industrial Revolution that fueled the need for carpet cleaning, as dust and grit from factories settled into carpeting. In the early 1800’s, areas of carpets prone to spills (such as under tables) or excessive dirt (in front of fireplaces) were covered with heavy woolen goods called druggets or crumb clothes. Carpet cleaning was accomplished by beating the back of the carpet with corn brooms, carpet rods, or rattan beaters while being hung outside.  During the early 1800’s, housewives used lemon juice to remove ink stains, and a half a loaf of white bread rubbed on the carpet to remove greasy stains.

By 1863, tea leaves were being brushed into carpeting to remove dirt and odors, but these often left stains.  Some housewives turned to fresh cut grass for the same process.  Straw brooms or wisk brooms and dust pans were the normal method for removing dirt and dust.  By the 1880’s, carpet cleaning was becoming more extensive.  A mixture of water and bull’s gall (which contained oxalic acid) was being scrubbed into rugs with flannel clothes.  It was then rinsed with clean water and the damp carpet hung outside to dry. Most carpeting was wool, so moths and moth worms could be a concern.  This led to the use of naphtha to remove stains and as an insecticide.  Carpet restoration by re-painting was known, but the process usually caused shrinkage of the carpet.  Housewives turned to using a clay paste which was left on the carpet overnight, and then swept off the next day.

During the 1870’s, the first manual cleaner was invented.  A hand crank was turned while pushing the machine, causing suction.  The machine was unwieldy for most housewives.  In 1901, in England, the first vacuum cleaner was patented by Hubert Cecil Booth.  It was large enough that it had to be pulled on a horse drawn wagon and parked outside of the building to be cleaned.  It was called Puffing Bill, and was originally driven by an oil engine which later was replaced by an electric motor.During the 1920’s and 1930’s, carpet shampooing became more the norm.  Soap jelly and a small amount of water were hand whipped with an egg beater and hand scrubbed into the carpet.  After thoroughly rinsing, carpets were hung to dry outside.

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