Have you ever wondered how people cleaned their household before the help of Mr Muscle et al? From what I can see it seems that abrasion was a tried and trusted method, with pots and pans getting a scrub with sand and floors, like wooden decking, with a scrubbing stone – either natural or manufactured from a mixture of sand, pulverised stone and clay.
Branded scrubbing stones remained popular in northern England well into the 20th century. Well-scrubbed doorsteps were a proud sign of good housekeeping in rows of small terraced houses in smoky industrial towns. Stones manufactured in the 19th and 20th centuries often had some colouring added. Earlier, simpler versions had no colour except perhaps a touch of white chalk or pale clay. Steps and windowsills were not only scoured but also tinted and/or outlined in white. A donkey picture on one well-known brand gave its name to this type of scrubbing stone, even though there was plenty of competition. Other stones on sale were marked with lions, ponies, or a kneeling woman for the Kitchen brand. The following film shows how it was done – skip the first two minutes, you’ll see where the action begins – makes you appreciative of living in different times!