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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Bathtubs and Cleaning Solutions

I'm a modern woman. I'm so modern, in fact, that el husband cleans the bathroom more often than not, and is usually responsible for scrubbing the floors, too. I go shopping for household cleaners by name brand and more often than not I go with whatever it is my parents used growing up, because well, it worked then, didn't it? But even with my short foray into chemistry on my way to a wildlife biology degree (I was waylaid by Classics and I don't regret it), I didn't absorb enough to really understand what chemicals do what, and which solutions are in which  cleaner, outside of "oh, this says it has bleach." I've got a pretty firm grasp on acids and bases, and I enjoyed drawing out molecules just because it was kind of fun to give shape to something beyond what we can see on our own, but that's about everything I carried forward.

So when I research the bronze age, I find myself asking a lot of questions I wish I didn't have to think about: how does bronze react to water? And how did Bronze Age heroes keep their bronze armor, swords, and spear tips from oxidizing? What's the proper and historically accurate cleaning solution for frescoes? What about limestone set into plaster? Did they use glazed or unglazed terracotta, because it looks pretty unglazed to me now, but how did that work out for their bathtubs, exactly? Did they paint terracotta? If it's painted, will the paint stick even if the finished product is submerged in water? What about dyes?

Bathtub of Nestor
Basically what it comes down to is: How does it all work? And when we live in a society today that is so specialized we don't really even have the working knowledge for the things we use everyday, it makes it all that much more complicated. And the stuff I do know and understand -- most of the time, the mechanics do not apply to the bronze age.

I mean, honestly. How would you go about cleaning a terracotta tub? Don't forget, we're living in the land without artificially produced scouring sponges, too.

Frankly, I'm just glad that it isn't my character who has to worry about the details of how to scrub it. Yet. But it doesn't stop me from wanting to know.

Although, it's entirely possible that the time I spend researching the answers is just one more way I can excuse myself from mopping the bathroom floor...


  1. Great post! You bring up many questions I've wondered about myself, lol.

    1. it's incredible to realize how much even about what we do NOW in our OWN times we don't pay attention to, or understand.