Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, December 2018, The Wisdom of Butlers Past

Steven FerryThe Wisdom of Butlers Past

by Steven Ferry

Part 19— Brushing Clothes

(Continued from the November MBJ) For removing grease from coats (or other items), the author suggests the butler remove it with his fingernails! Failing that, he should place thick brown paper on top of the stain and apply a hot (but not scorchingly hot, which will burn the paper and change the color of the coat) iron to it. The grease will migrate to the brown paper. The butler simply continues to apply a fresh patch of the brown paper to the area, until the brown paper absorbs no more oil. For any residue, dip a cloth in rubbing alcohol and rub the spot while the coat is still hot from the earlier step.

After this seemingly satisfactory outcome, the author then talks about when to apply or not apply Fuller’s Earth to a garment, when to darken it with “rotten stone” or lighten it with “pipe clay,” and when to use boiling water. Thank goodness for dry cleaners!

Talking of which, the author then describes how to (dry) clean a white coat using pipe clay, whitening, and bran. For any white coats worn in towns where smoke makes them very dirty, the author suggests wet cleaning the white coats with pipe clay, whitening, and stone blue (bluing?) mixed with a small amount of (non alcoholic) beer or vinegar, with optional Fuller’s Earth. As Fuller’s Earth is (bentonite) clay that is still used today to absorb oil, grease, animal waste, etc., it should be known that it also removes color, so as with the advice two centuries ago, do not apply it to colored fabrics.


Extracted from the 1823 book, The Footman’s Directory and Butler’s Remembrancer, re-published in hardback by Pryor Publications.

You may obtain your discounted copy (with free s&h) by emailing the publisher: Mr. Pryor (


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