Housekeeping


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Jun 11, 2000
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It took a week to cross. Miles of carpet, but did they have electric vacuum cleaners on board? I think they were invented in the early 1900s but until the 1920s were only adaptations of the bellows/pump variety which two people to operate; one thrashing the pump back and forth, and the other hopefully holding the nozzle over a dirty bit. Coaling must have got dust everywhere, never mind 7 days of people tramping around - so what did they do?
 

Dave Gittins

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For a start, they used very little carpet. Almost all the floors (decks to be pedantic) were covered in linoleum or other compositions. Almost everything could be swept and scrubbed. Carpet was generally avoided on ships of the period because of the mess made by flying food, not all of which came from plates.

You are right about the coaling. It made a prize mess and the ship had to be closed up as much as possible while it was going on. When it was finished, out came the hoses and brooms. Ever heard of "housemaid's knee"? Domestic workers in those days had.
 

Bob Godfrey

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There was a machine for cleaning and disinfecting carpets at the White Star laundry in Southampton, but whether the machine was taken to the ships or the carpets to the laundry is not clear. The laundry never, of course, received a load of dirty linen from the Titanic but the Olympic delivered up to 75,000 items after every return trip.
 

Dave Gittins

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Note the "disinfecting". I think I'm right in saying that carpet was not used in places where eating or drinking took place. The carpets may have gone to the machine. I know that in some ships carpets were removable, to protect them in foul weather.

We tend to get a sanitised idea of voyaging on the North Atlantic from movies and stories of Titanic. The North Atlantic is a very nasty ocean and fine ships were often reduced to floating pigsties and their passengers to gibbering wrecks. Talk about "Heave together!"
 
Jun 11, 2000
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Well, this is certainly taking the gloss off the movies. Reminds me of a very turbulent trip of mine across the North Sea in the 1960s when, at breakfast, there was a vast banquet, a dozen waiters, and just me and one man 'seated' expectantly at 8.30. We two had a good time. I can't believe they achieved what they did in 1912, in terms of housekeeping. People must have worked so hard, but it explains the longevity of the generations between WW1 and now. All that physical work - no need for the gym. Lucky they didn't have our Health & Safety regs in 1912. Imagine trying to turn round 75,000 items in three days with an Inspector ticking boxes over your shoulder? But Titanic did have deep carpet in the first class areas .... they must have been confident they could clean it.
 
Dec 7, 2000
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All,

While the 2nd and 3rd class areas had very little carpet (I can only think of the 2nd class Lounge on C deck, and some 2nd class cabins on E deck), Titanic and Olympic's first class areas had enough carpet that would require cleaning. All first class cabins were carpeted; the Reading and Writing Room and the Lounge on A deck were also carpeted, as well as the Restaurant on B deck. The D deck reception room was perhaps the largest room to have carpet, which also extended into the elevator foyer. In addition to that there were various rugs in the staircase foyers, Reading and Writing room and both reception rooms. All would requite attention.

Here's a vacuum cleaner ad from 1911:

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In those days, as is visible, one couldn't just own a vacuum cleaner, so special services had to be hired. I can't imagine a machine as seen above to be kept aboard the Olympic and Titanic. So it would be very interesting to know just exactly what they did to clean carpet.

From photos it is evident that carpet was laid in sections which possibly could have been removed. But imagine the task of pulling off all the large quantities of carpet from the public rooms, which would require rearranging furniture and then putting it all back again once the carpet was replaced.

Daniel.
 

Bill Sauder

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Nov 14, 2000
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Hi Dan,

For day-to-day clean up, they used carpet sweepers, which looked just as they do today.

Bill Sauder
 
Jun 11, 2000
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Bill's right! I'd forgotten carpet sweepers. My mother had a Bex Bissell in the 1950s, fairly useless as I recall, but certainly better than hand sweeping. Not too much good for the flying food maybe. What a wonderful machine Daniel found, obviously needed its own engineer. I wonder if it ever blew up. Well, that's solved that one. What else can I puzzle about? Hair dryers. Yards of hair in first class that had to look good in the evening. There was a salon, but how did they get it dry in under 3 hours? And washing hair in salt water? Possibly not of great interest to men, this one ...
 
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