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It seems that the Romans would dry clean their laundry with ammonia derived from urine. Considering the source of the ammonia, and the smell of pure ammonia, I find it hard to believe that this connection was ever made. How did one come to the conclusion that soaking clothes in a stinky fluid derived from urine would make it cleaner?

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up vote 15 down vote accepted

Urine was also widely used for improvement of leather. It was quite natural to try and put in it something else. Hmm... But I wouldn't call it "dry clean" :-)

Ancient cultures had so few chemical reagents to try, that they tried everything on everything. For example, they hardened steel in urine, too. Tried multiple materials to see what urine is the best for - old, new, that of a goat or of a man? What man? young or old? And so on.

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Thank you, that does make sense! – dotancohen Feb 1 '12 at 14:41
In our modern world of developments in months, one forgets that there were hundreds of years for "new fads" to catch on... hey tersius, haven't you heard? it's the IN thing this year to piss on your toga! – CGCampbell Oct 21 '15 at 18:30

The Romans didn'y have "dry cleaners"but their politicians discover that a clean white toga helped make them the center of attention in ant gathering. Rome did have fullers, the specialists who added bodyand stability to newly woven fabric. Given time, the fullers could get the pale grey of newly woven wool favric. This could make up into the "toga candida"which announced an aspiring office holder's ambition and helped him stand out in the sea of somber togaewhich were much more command to

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