“Husch-Husch” washing stomp (plunger)︎

“Husch-Husch” washing stomp (plunger), inventory No. MIM 777/IX/44; created: approx. 1900; manufacturer: unknown; location: Germany; materials: brass, wood; dimensions [mm]: H 1290, Dia. 195.

The washing stomp named “Husch-Husch” was manufactured in Germany around 1900. This device is variously referred to as a “laundry bell”, “chalice” (due to its shape), “stump” or “kneader” (due to the action made when using it). It is most commonly referred to as a “washing bell” (German Wäscheglocke) or a “washing stomp” (German Wäschestampfer). Washing stomps began to be made at the end of the 19th century, initially from wood, and later from metal. We know that these devices were manufactured in Germany by, among others, Karl Louis Krauß (1862–1927).

The item consists of two parts: a wood shank and a brass bell-shaped element, which is made from two overlapping round flairs linked with a spring. Wooden shanks broke easily, which is why plungers with metal shanks were also made. Washing with the use of a stomp involved kneading fabrics in a tub or basin. This required two types of movement - up and down. The downward motion caused the lower basket to slide out, which resulted in suds penetrating the fabric. Next, the upward motion led to air being sucked in with water and dirt, thus cleaning the material. An advantage of a washing stomp was that using it did not damage the fabrics to the same extent, as when washing with a washboard. Nevertheless, stomps were probably not in common use since they were quite expensive (#manual_work).

A common practice in the average household of the past was to have a “little laundry” every week and a “great laundry” every month, which was one of the most time-consuming domestic chores. The authors of a domestic servant handbook from 1909 called the “great laundry” a “great household fear”, since it consumed a lot of time and energy. As a result, it recommended that maids segregated and washed clothing on a regular basis, in order to avoid an often situation where the “great laundry” would be necessary. Based on a well-known poem by Maria Konopnicka, one can surmise that washing activities constituted a factor strengthening neighbourhood ties, owing to mutual neighbourhood cooperation. It should be added that the term “great laundry” probably used to function within the Polish language as a synonym for turmoil, disarray, rumpus, or a peculiar situation that did not happen too often. Washing could often be hasty, especially when certain clothing items became suddenly needed, and weather conditions did not favour rapid drying (#reproduction_work #work_segregation_due_to_gender #sense_of_community #labour_intensity #exertion).

It also happened that washing entailed a health risk, primarily due to the use of harmful substances as cleaning agents, such as white liquor (lye). “On the first floor – bankruptcy, debt collector. On the second floor/the maid is poisoned with white liquor” – says a poem Ulica Miła by Władysław Broniewski. Turpentine was also used as an auxiliary washing agent. Kazimiera Iłłakowiczówna recalled that skin lesions appeared on the hands of a servant she hired due to using this liquid (#harmful_factors #accidents_at_work).
Besides the sense of touch, washing would involve the sense of smell the most. A scent of soap and other cleaning substances spread around the area. This is illustrated by an excerpt from the memoirs of Paweł Hulka-Laskowski – a writer from Żyrardów:

On Mondays, the washing day at home, I had to carry much more water. Monday was a disgusting day. After a Sunday, which glimmered with sun in summer and snow in winter, after a rest and a feeling of freedom, you had to carry water, smell the repellent scent of suds and experience this unpleasant tightness of your apartment, with a tub with a bucket and pail suddenly in the centre.

For the author of the memoirs, a laundry day was therefore an exceptionally painful and burdensome day, especially on a Monday (#smells of work).