Carpet-washing in Helsinki – a seaside activity

One summer tradition in Finland is apparently to hand-wash your carpets in the sea, using the “mattolaiturit” (= carpet piers”). There are many lovely photo’s of this custom online (e.g. here and here, and even a comic here), and we’re adding some of our own too:

Brigitte exploring one of the floating carpet-washing platforms near Töölö

Carpets hung out to dry along the shore

 

The environmental impacts of this old custom are currently under review (see here, here and here), with some suggestions being made about moving the washing stations inland, so that the soapy water can be diverted into the city’s sewerage system. As the Helsingin Sanomat article points out, while the soap used for mat-scrubbing is not particularly harmful it creates an impression that it is ok for dumping anything into the Baltic sea – and that can obviously make for big problems. Well, I hope that a solution can be found that allows this cool tradition to continue (and, judging from the number of pro-mattolaiturit FaceBook pages, I think others agree). Maybe we’ll add this to our spring cleaning next year.

But carpet cleaning is not an exclusively summer time activity here either. I was very surprised to find this photo online:

"Fresh" winter rugs (from: i-cdn.apartmenttherapy.com)

 

Apparently the snow helps to trap the dirt that gets knocked out of the mats – so it makes the carpet cleaning much more effective (and gives them a fresh smell… I’ll have to wait for winter to confirm this). I guess your mat comes back a little damp, but in dry indoor air will probably always take care of that moisture pretty quickly – one website suggest that you need to let you carpet cool down before placing it in the snow (ah… that makes good sense). It also turns out the all the strange hollow-tubing stands that I’d thought were futuristic bike racks, are actually for carpet beating (and is good for getting any remaining snow off your carpets). Some websites suggest you should do this once a week – I guess it’s a pretty good way to make use of snow?

Ah... so that's a stand for beating carpets! (from: vastavalo.fi)

 

I don’t suppose anybody in South Africa used the latest snow for carpet-cleaning?

UPDATE: I found this picture in the Kallio Worker Housing Museum. It seems that in the early twentieth century (and I guess even earlier), the Helsinki ladies would use thes platforms to do everyday washing.

Apicture I took of a picture in the Worker Housing Museum in Kallio.

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