If you’ve ever performed the time-honoured practice of the travellers’ “sniff” to see whether a piece of clothing can acceptably be worn more than twice, you have more in common with travellers from 150 years ago than you may think.
The Victorian period was an era of unprecedented mobility. This was the age of steam travel, railways, the rise of package tourism and the first commercial guidebook.
At the same time, the Victorians had experienced a marked change in attitudes and ‘smell’ had become an indicator of class, health, and social status.
Yet doing laundry remained of the most labour-intensive chores. Victorian soap (which could take months to make) did not activate in cold water and all water for washing had to be heated. Clothes were washed two or three times, often with lye and ash, then dried over bushes or clotheslines, if available. It often took days.
Added to this was the fact that Victorian women wore an extraordinary amount of underwear. The basic items comprised a chemise, drawers, corset cover and several petticoats. This made the idea of travelling ‘light’ a difficult one.
However a well-travelled woman named August Salisbury Prescott came up with a novel solution in the late 1800s. She suggested that women travelling by ship should get over the ‘abomination’ of wearing old underclothes and embrace the benefits of doing so.
You will find it is very difficult to get washing done aboard ship. The prices are high and you have to wait a long time for your work. Your state-room is too small, and you do not care to keep soiled clothes lying around, and so before you know it you find yourself ‘chucking’ your soiled clothes out of the port-hole into the briny deep and forever afterward mourn the loss of that lovely set you threw overboard.
Now, tell me, why isn’t it better to take along six or seven complete suits of almost worn-out underclothing that you can wear once, and then conscientiously throw overboard to the sharks and whales?
While we don’t condone the ‘tossing’ of soiled clothing overboard, Ms Salisbury Prescott’s concerns are equally true today.
We’ve done our own research and found that not all cruise liners provide any laundry service at all. Most provide a full service or have self-service laundries. Some provide dry cleaning.
The going rate seems to be around $5.00AUD per load of washing and the same again for drying in a self-serve laundry. The down-side apart from the cost is that one washing machine or dryer is provided for approximately every 300 passengers. That can only mean long queues waiting for your turn.
Instead of tossing clothes overboard, we suggest that light lycra clothing that can be easily hand-washed in your cabin is the way to go, and to avoid white clothing as much as possible.
The Laundress Sport detergent will launder your swim-wear and clothing, preserving the colours and shape of the garments far longer than regular detergents. Ainslie Laundrette sells 15ml sachets of Sports detergent for $2.95 each.