Recipe for Disaster


Let’s hope she’s well-ventilated.

It’s so much fun to read housekeeping manuals and other domestic how-to books from days gone by. You come across many strange things in cookery, cosmetics, and cures: some fun, some funny, and some frightening. I found this delightful mixture in an old book on my shelf, The Complete Dressmaker, 1907.

A very highly recommended cleansing fluid may be made from the following:

Gasoline . . . . . . . . . . . . .1 gallon

Ether . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1 teaspoonful

Chloroform . . . . . . . . ..1 teaspoonful

Ammonia . . . . . . . . . . . .2 teaspoonfuls

 Alcohol . . . . . . . . . . . . ..1 gill

Mix well and do not use near a fire or light, or in a closed room. (Seriously?) This fluid cleans silks and woolen materials, leaves a new finish and does not shrink the fabric or give white goods a yellow tinge. It may be used on the most delicate colors and fabrics and is very inexpensive.

Pour into a china washbowl sufficient of the fluid to cover the material or article to be cleaned; wash as you would in water, rub the soiled spots with an old, soft brush; a toothbrush will answer this purpose on a flat surface. Wring the material out of this fluid and rinse in a second portion. Wring out again and hang out in the air until the fluid evaporates.

Or the haz-mat team arrives.

In all fairness I should admit that the contents, if I knew them, of many products we use today would be just as shocking to a non-chemist like myself.  Still, this is one recipe I’ll let pass.



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