“Of such establishments there were great numbers in Rome, for the Roman’s do not appear to have washed at home even their linen clothes.”   – Martial, XIV.51.

The clothing business was an important part of ancient Roman commerce. By the beginning of the first century, homespun wool tunics and togas gave way to cheaply produced garments sold in stores and by street merchants.  Throughout their cities and provinces, facilities and shops existed to maintain and clean their garments.

One interesting service was the “dry cleaners”, or Fullonica.  The typical fullo needed tanks for washing, dyeing, and rinsing the clothing, as well as space to dry and finish them.

Materials used for cleaning were urine, ash, sulphur and fuller’s earth.  Many city shops set out urinal jars in the street outside their stores as a public convenience, thereby collecting some of their supplies free of charge.

Vast quantities generated from public restrooms were utilized, as well as animal urine.   Much of the substance was imported from the farms to the cities.

Pliny reports that camel urine was especially prized; therefore, foreign urine must have entered into an extensive trade pattern.  Urine was a taxable commodity.

Copyright © 2009-2024 Peter’s Shadow, LLC
All Rights Reserved
Excerpt from Ancient Minutus