CHAPTER XXII. Cleaning the Navaho Blanket


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[page 174]

TO THE housewife it sometimes becomes a serious matter how to direct the cleaning of blankets that she knows are valuable and highly prized without injuring them.

The Navahos themselves have two methods of cleaning them. One is to take the soiled blanket out into the sand of the cornfield, and then shovel damp sand upon it and allow it to remain buried for a day or so (see Fig.254). It is then well scrubbed with the sand, thoroughly beaten and shaken and allowed to fully dry and air in the sun.

Where a more thorough cleansing is required the saponaceous roots of the amole are taken, macerated into shredded fibre, beaten up and down in a bowl of water until a rich lather is produced. With this suds and a rude brush made of shredded cedar bark the blanket is soaked and scrubbed on both sides, after which it is rinsed with as much water as these desert-dwellers can spare. If the colors are not well-mordanted this process naturally makes them ‘‘„run„’’ and commingle, and this often spoils a blanket, but where the colors are fast, or the wool of the blanket is the native white, black, gray, or brown, no injury can result, and there is no soap known to modern civilization that equals this natural soap used for so long by these Bedouins of the Painted Desert.

The Mexicans use the same amole root for the purpose of cleaning their brilliantly-colored serapes and the ChimayÓ blankets of their own weave.

Of course, since the modern vacuum cleaner has come into use it will solve the problem for all but extreme cases, and, perhaps, in such cases, the unaware would better consult an expert before running any risks.

Fig.229. ‘‘„Extra„’’ Blanket in Gray, White, and Black. (Courtesy of J. A. Molohon & Co.)

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