Dyeing and Bleaching
The linen and the wool from the local sheep had a distinctive nettle-like natural colour. Work clothing was therefore dyed using different coloured plants and oak leaves. Linen had to be bleached to keep it really white. This was done on sunny spring days. Once it was dried it was spread out on the meadow by the River Aller on the Bleachfield and sprayed over and over again with water. The sun then bleached the linen white.
The Big Washday
Until the start of the 20th century washing was only done once a month on many Lüneburg Heath farms. This was only possible, however, if the farmer’s wife had sufficient linen in her dowry to last that long. Washdays needed several women. They had to leave their day to day work and this was impossible during harvest time or on days when animals were to be slaughtered.
Hot water with potash as a washing agent was a great advance. The wood ash softened the water. They used a large wooden tub known as a Büketäber for the suds. The washing was roughly prewashed then put into the tub. A large sheet called a Bükelaken
Mangling and Ironing
Smoothing the stiff linen fabric was tiring work but there were gadgets to make it easier. Stone presses were used for the large pieces of cloth which gave them a silky appearance. The rest of the washing was wrapped round a wooden pole then rolled back and forward on a very smooth board until it was more or less crease-free.