Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » “If There Is No Laundry Tub Then Take a Swim in the Wash Basin”

“If There Is No Laundry Tub Then Take a Swim in the Wash Basin”

By: Ardis E. Parshall - September 28, 2010

The Relief Society sisters were treated to a lesson on health and hygiene in July 1914 that suggests a few ways their world and ours are different:


Reference has been made to the internal cleansing of the body by the elimination of waste products. The external care of our earthly tabernacle must not be overlooked. Bathing should be given frequent attention. It is important not only as to our health but from an ethical standpoint. The Bath is most essential. Have you ever experienced the discomfort of sitting in public assemblies near some one who did not bathe or change underwear with sufficient frequency?

The Bath should be taken more with the idea of keeping clean than with the idea of getting clean.

The temperature of the bath should be according to the habit, desire, or need of the individual. There is also much in the purpose for which it is taken. Warm baths are more for cleansing, while cold baths are for purposes of stimulation. A little baking soda or ammonia added to the warm bath softens the water and makes it more cleansing. Care should be taken that children or old people do not suffer from chilliness after bathing. In such a case rubbing the skin or taking exercise should follow, to restore circulation. A warm soda bath followed by good and gentle rubbing of body with olive oil is excellent treatment for fevered children.

Every home that can afford it should have a bathroom. When there is no better way an end of a room with comfortable temperature may be screened off for the occasion and a wash tub may be used. If there is no laundry tub then take a swim in the wash basin.

The Foot Bath.

A foot bath at least should be taken every day; not only for the sake of health and cleanliness, but to promote the comfort of the feet and discourage the growth of corns.

Towel, Soap, Brush and Comb.

It is well for each member of the family to have his individual towel, soap, brush and comb. Strict sanitation requires it. The towels may be marked with needle work or indelible ink.

When circumstances make needful a common use of towels, be sure, in case of illness, to supply the patient with individual articles. Diseases, and particularly skin troubles, are very readily communicated by general use of towels.

Conscience and common sense are our best guides in daily life.


Further knowledge may be obtained from local physicians or available text-books on the subjects. Also, members learn much from each other in discussing the subjects.


How should health be valued?
Name some of the essentials of health?
What is the underlying principle of maintaining health?
What can you say of the use of water?
Methods of elimination of waste products.
Give some methods that are helpful.
Discuss bathing from standpoint given, and from your own viewpoint.


Living in an older house that hasn’t been converted to indoor plumbing? No problem. Here’s a tub for you, also from 1914:



  1. “…cold baths are for purposes of stimulation.”

    Any takers?

    Comment by reed russell — September 28, 2010 @ 7:54 am

  2. Naw, I opted for “cleansing” this morning. Very, very, VERY cleansing.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 28, 2010 @ 8:41 am

  3. Wait, it drains “in the usual way” but no plumbing required? Where’d the water go?

    Comment by jeans — September 28, 2010 @ 10:28 am

  4. It’s funny to think that “bath” rooms originally didn’t have toilet facilities.

    Articles like this help me realize the blessings I have living in the modern age. Truly, in my modest suburban home I sleep, bathe, and cook with more ease than any king or royalty did.

    (I appreciate it even more, having served a mission in Mexico in the mid 1990’s where the water heaters were wood-fired. Like the Phibo tub, about 35 minutes later there were a few gallons of lukewarm water, if your companion didn’t use it all…)

    I know my grandparents got homes with full indoor plumbing in the mid-1940s. Was that about average?

    Comment by Clark — September 28, 2010 @ 10:30 am

  5. Maybe into that dresser that had to be moved before the tub could be lowered. (Really, I’m guessing it drained “in the usual way” through a hole in the bottom — “no bailing required” — but that it would drain into basins that you would have to haul outside just the same as you had to haul in water by the bucket to fill the tank in the first place.)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 28, 2010 @ 10:32 am

  6. Cold water baths during this period where viewed as therapeutic in extension of the hydrotherapy (or hydropathy) movement of the nineteenth century.

    The point about rubbing with olive oil is also cool. In many cases that I have seen even a couple of decades ofter this, it was consecrated oil that was used.

    Comment by J. Stapley — September 28, 2010 @ 10:58 am

  7. Interesting!

    The towels may be marked with needle work or indelible ink.

    When circumstances make needful a common use of towels, be sure, in case of illness, to supply the patient with individual articles. Diseases, and particularly skin troubles, are very readily communicated by general use of towels.

    To each its own… towel.

    Comment by Manuel — September 28, 2010 @ 11:27 am

  8. The advertizing image is a nice touch. I assume the article and the advertisement were not paired together originally.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — September 28, 2010 @ 12:22 pm

  9. Nope. The article was from the RS Magazine, and the advertisement from the Juvenile Instructor. I have to admit that the article was just an excuse to print the ad, which I’ve had in my files for a long time and couldn’t figure out how to use. But something that weird was too good not to use!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 28, 2010 @ 12:26 pm

  10. Ammonia added to the bath? That sounds like a bad idea.

    Comment by Researcher — September 28, 2010 @ 12:57 pm

  11. I have neither bath nor washing tub. I refuse point blank, to bathe in the washing machine; the shower will have to suffice!

    Comment by Anne (UK) — September 28, 2010 @ 1:00 pm

  12. I don’t know what was normal, but my grandparents in rural Iowa got their first indoor bathroom just before I was born (mid 1960s). They raised 5 children with an outhouse for the necessary, and a kitchen sink for the hairwashing.

    Comment by Coffinberry — September 28, 2010 @ 1:11 pm

  13. I should add that the 1870s vintage house I lived in as a teenager in Tennessee didn’t have a bathroom either until we put one in, late 1979. The house did have a two-seater up between the tobacco-drying barn and the car shed, and a platform with a hose and circular curtain rod out back.

    Comment by Coffinberry — September 28, 2010 @ 1:13 pm

  14. My grandparents in Idaho didn’t have indoor plumbing when my mom’s older siblings were born. I estimate the indoor loo arrived between 1952-1960. So, 1950s Idaho was like 1915’s New York, I expect 😉

    Comment by Moniker Challenged — September 30, 2010 @ 8:29 pm

  15. My great-grandfather, William Henry Streeper, was a pony express rider, but instead of the fast mail, he took the slow mail between Salt Lake City and Carson City, Nevada. In a newspaper interview in 1928, he said,

    “The winters were so cold then and the snow so deep that often I have spent 2 or 3 hours digging snow so me and the mule could go just a few feet. The other boys wondered why I didn’t get cold. Two men froze to death on Shell Creek once. Before I started out with mail I always rubbed my feet and legs with snow and washed in cold water. That is why I never got cold. Used to bring in a tub of snow and let it melt. Then I would hop in. A bath is the best thing in the world for anyone. No one never lost nothin’ by taking a good bath ever, no siree.”

    Comment by Maurine — October 1, 2010 @ 7:29 pm

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