Nov 9, 2002
Hello All,
How would they clean the rooms onboard? Would they Vacuum? What were the procedures at night? Also, would someone clean the Staterooms daily? Change the sheets etc. Thanks.


Noel F. Jones

May 14, 2002

On the cleaning of ships' accommodation etc. ....

I can't speak specific to Titanic. Cleaning routines vary between companies, individual ships and runs but I can give you a general idea of the cleaning regime in passenger vessels.

Vacuum cleaners had been produced by the Hoover company since 1908. The devices in production at that time were without the familiar beater bar which did not come in until about 1928. As for carpet sweepers:

"A major name in home cleaning world-wide, BISSELL has an unrivalled heritage spanning over 125 years! When our founder Melville Bissell patented the world's first carpet sweeper during the 1870s, in the USA, he revolutionised home cleaning."

Carpet sweepers may well have been in use but these may not have been supplied by the shipowner. It was certainly later the practise for bedroom stewards on north Atlantic vessels to buy their own (Bissells?) on the US side.

As to whether vacuum cleaners and carpet sweepers were supplied by the owners, perhaps someone with access to the victualling department inventory could confirm.

Cleaning of staterooms and connecting alleyways, bedmaking and linen changing is the work of the bedroom stewards (BR's) and stewardesses. Washrooms and WC's are cleaned by the bathroom stewards rated as such.

Cleanliness of passenger lounges, smokerooms and libraries etc. is the responsibility of the respective public room stewards. There are also stairhead stewards, rated as such and with commensurate cleaning responsibilities. In the restaurants each waiter would be responsible for his 'range'.

Kitchens, galleys and pantries are wiped and washed down by the scullions and pantrymen, crew messrooms by the messmen allocated.

There is also the stores flat to consider with its drystores, chill and freezer compartments. The ship's storekeepers would generally look after this but the tradesmen (butchers and bakers), assistant cooks and fruitmen are all involved in this area.

The captain's suite is cared for by the 'tiger' who generally is an experienced steward with developed social skills (a sort of butler/valet). The duties of officers' and engineer's stewards obviously include the necessary cleaning, bedmaking and linen changing.

Catering staff accommodation is looked after by the glory hole stewards rated as such. Firemen's and seamen's accommodation and messing is looked after by junior ratings, known as 'peggies'. By law there can be no boy ratings in the engine room department and the 'fireman peggy' is generally an old hand.

There is generally a 'night gang' for routine and contingency heavy cleaning. This is run by an assistant catering officer. The night gang's work would include buffing of dance floors and machine polishing of squares and alleyways giving access to public rooms.

Promenade decks and other passenger deckspaces come under the deck department and are generally holystoned and washed down by the non-watchkeeping sailors ('dayworkers') either overnight or early in the morning.

It may be that on large modern cruise vessels contract cleaners are permanently carried for specialist jobs such as general and spot cleaning of carpets and the fireproof synthetic fabrics etc. now in use.

A ship is particularly vulnerable to dirt when in port and working bunkers, cargo, stores and baggage and having repair gangs aboard. Shoreside cleaning gangs, usually female, are put aboard to counter this. Chimney sweeps also attend to scavenge galley flues, airconditioning ducts and, yes, even the uptakes from any real fireplaces installed in public rooms (I doubt these would be allowed nowadays for safety reasons).

Bartenders, shopkeepers, hairdressers, florists etc. are supposed to look after their own compartments but usually have the means to pay a willing steward to do the donkey work.

All this by no means complete or definitive. As I have said, staff deployment varies between companies, ships and runs. Also the terminology has changed over the years, for instance 'victualling' has become 'catering' or 'hotel services'; scullions and plate pantryment (dishwashers) would later become known as utility stewards.


João Carlos Pereira Martins

Did the personal servants have any relevant role in the cleaning of staterooms? I mean, they could help the stewards in the morning, while their employers didn't need their services. And is there any report of a wash machine in the Titanic's laundry? What were the changing linen procedures? Did the stewards had that kind of "portable wardrobes" to transport the dirty clothes (I don't know the name for it in English)?

Thanks everyone, João

Bob Godfrey

Nov 22, 2002
Joao, a lady's maid or valet was not expected to perform menial tasks like cleaning, for which housemaids were employed. This distinction didn't change on board ship, where the stewards and stewardesses performed the role of the housemaids. Use the keyword 'laundry' in the search engine (link at bottom of page) to find detailed answers to your second question in other threads, but briefly there was no laundry on board. The ship carried enough linen (and the passengers enough clothes) to see them through the few days of the voyage.
Jul 9, 2000
Easley South Carolina
>>And is there any report of a wash machine in the Titanic's laundry?<<

As Bob indicated, the Titanic didn't have a laundry and few if any of the liners of the period did. The problem here is that there was only so much fresh water to go around, and even if you do a salt water wash (Absolutely brutal on fabrics) you still have to do a final rinse with fresh water. Forget doing any passengers clothing with salt water, especially with the fabrics used in the expensive clothing by the well-to-do.

Typically, any soiled ships laundry was consigned to shoreside facilities, with dirty linen being exchanged for clean.

Peter Barr

Nov 7, 2006
Hi Everyone. I am quite new here on ET. Sorry if this question is already answered, but I don't think I have seen any questions about it. How did you clean your clothes on board? Were did they wash their clothes? As I said before, I am sorry if someone has asked this before.
Thanks in advance

[Moderator's note: This post, originally posted in another subtopic has been moved to the pre-existing thread addressing the same subject. JDT]

Bastian Busse

Dec 18, 2018
Howere the cabins and saloons cleaned?

Were the passengers' cabins cleaned daily by the crew?

how were the large carpets cleaned, such as the one in the dining room of the first class passengers?

did they haver vacuum cleaners on the ship?

Were hard floors still cleaned with a broom?

Were the public spaces cleaned only at the port or also during the vojage?