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Fuller in Roman world

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Roman stone "bathtub" in which fullers worked. Located in Pompeii
Roman stone bathtub in which fullers worked. Located in Pompeii

In the ancient Greco-Roman world, fulling machines were involved in both the production and washing of fabrics. During the excavations at Pompeii destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE several great fulling workshops were discovered, and the best-preserved and located at the so-called Abundance Street belonged to a certain Stefanus.

Fullers whitened and cleaned the materials in special pools into which they poured urine mixed with probably soda and sand. Large amphorae were often displayed in front of fulling factories, asking passers-by to donate urine there.

After a few days, ammonia, useful in bleaching and cleaning textiles, appeared in the decomposing urine. The fabrics were first soaked in urine fluid, and then the fuller (in a terrible stench) kneaded the sheets of fabric with their feet, trying to remove the dirt from them. The washed textiles were placed on flat roofs and dried in the sun.

  • Duda Sebastian, Od moczu w basenie do proszku w pralce, "Gazeta Wyborcza", 9 czerwca 2014

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