Bed sheets and under-wear had to be white. That was the rule. But simple washing with the soap products available in the 1950s fell short of creating true whiteness. Worse still, whites became duller at each wash.
Soft virgin whites would soon be harsh used greys. The proud housewife had to go further than a rudimentary wash and rinse. She had to excel in the pursuit of whiteness.
The Monday morning wash was serious stuff. It was serious because the results would be hung out on the line for all to see. And the neighbours would cast a critical eye.
For bedsheets and undies to be found wanting in the whiteness stakes could bring shame upon a family. Washday was judgment day.
To come top of the laundry league called for a sequence of treatments: a soak in soda, a soapy wash in the Hotpoint, rinse and wring, steep in Dolly Blue, final mingle.
It was the Dolly Blue that did the trick. The whites could then be hung out on the line with pride. They’d blow in the breeze and signal a job well done. It was hard graft but folk stood by the saying: No pain, no gain.
But times were changing. Technology was making inroads to ease the burden of household chores. Washing machines were improved and spin dryers were introduced.
Soap powders were changed to detergent powders and soda crystals became a thing of the past. The blue hue essential for boosting whiteness was now to come from optical brightening agents. It was bye-bye to Dolly Blue.
New products meant new ideas in marketing. One of the new washing powders claimed to remove unmentionable stains. Many folk were curious as to what was to be included in this blanket statement. Kids joked among themselves about the stains.
Most people had a pretty good idea but, of course, were too polite to mention it. Unmentionable stains were certainly one up on BO when it came to euphemisms for embarrassing excretions.
The arrival of commercial TV worked wonders in promoting new products. Detergent washing powders almost entirely replaced soap powders and brought with them many advantages. But, you don’t get something for nothing. With the advantages came disadvantages. A new form of pollution had arrived.
The detergents could not be removed at the sewage works. The problem was made worse by the textile industry also changing from soap products to detergents. At Salterhebble sewage works you could see large volumes of brownish foam building up.
On a windy day the foam would take off and be carried for miles and carrying dangerous bacteria. It was yet another form of pollution which industrial towns like Halifax had to contend with.
The environment was that bit dirtier but the whites were washed whiter than white.
nTony Hargreaves (pictured, left), formerly of Rastrick, lives at Lindley, Hud-dersfield.
Persil was based upon perborate-silicate.
Surf swapped soap for new surfactant.
Daz had flecks of blue to make the whites dazzle.
Oxydol used oxygen to dissolve stains.