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urine-uses-msg - 4/15/15


Period uses of animal and human urine.


NOTE: See also the files: lea-tanning-msg, dyeing-msg, p-privies-msg, ear-wax-msg, p-medicine-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I  have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done  a limited amount  of  editing. Messages having to do  with separate topics  were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the  message IDs  were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make  no claims  as  to the accuracy  of  the information  given  by the individual authors.


Please respect the time  and  efforts of  those who have written  these messages. The copyright status  of these messages  is  unclear  at this time. If information  is  published  from  these  messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

   Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                         Stefan at florilegium.org



From: 6790753%356_WEST_58TH_5TH_FL%NEW_YORK_NY%WNET_6790753 at mcimail.COM ("KATMAN.WNETS385")

Date: 4 Dec 91 15:28:00 GMT


A while back someone asked about the results of my dyeing with indigo via a

urine bath at Pennsic. It sort of worked. I had only a gallon of urine (I

didn't go advertising, and the crew of folks I camped with was not interested

in contributing. It was left to me, Ottar and the valiant-and-pregnant

Orianna). Because this was in an 8 gallon pot, it evaporated quickly and was

too shallow for my purposes.

The fabric did get blue, but I could not do the repeated dips needed to get it

to be a rich, deep blue (dipping in such a shallow pool of liquid disturbed the

sediment at the bottom which then changed the chemical balance in the bath,

rendering it useless for dyeing). When I have an outdoor place to do this

again, I will attempt it again. Next year I'll save up urine in advance.

The fabric smells really bad (I only washed it in Ivory liquid and vinegar). I

can't imagine wearing a garment that smelled like that. Maybe I'll try the

non-urine alkalai vats they used ("take ashes of lees..." lye anyone?) and see

if that smells better.


Winifred de Schyppewallebotham

(that's Middle English for "From the valley with the stream where the sheep in

their pretty blue fleeces were washed")(Nolite Secundo Flumine Natare)

Lee Katman == Thirteen/WNET == New York, NY



From: corliss at hal.PHysics.wayne.EDU (David J. Corliss)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Ammonia and dyes

Date: 1 Sep 1994 12:40:15 -0400


Greetings to all, and especially Mistress Gwennis, from Beorthwine-


Well do I know that a number of dyes, especially the orchil of which I am so

fond, were made by fermentation in urine. I have seen gentles travel great

distances with purple dye soaking in well-sealed containers, and Heaven help

them if this should ever come open in transit. All this is done for the sake of

the ammonia that the urine provides, without which the color can not be



I also understand that ammonia was long known as essence of Hartshorn, for it

was prepared from this material.


Has anyone tried preparing Hartshorn and using it in orchil or indigo? I have

made Hartshorn, but not for this purpose. Is there evidence that hartshorn

might be substituted for urine for turning _cloth_ blue (as opposed to the

alchemist's job of preparing a litmus solution for orchil-bearing lichen and

hartshorn)? This might make the job less troublesome than using urine.


Beorthwine of Grafham Wood



Date: Sat, 12 Dec 1998 22:12:14 -0500

From: Carol Thomas <scbooks at neca.com>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Re: Tanning?


>Don't do this to good leather.  While urine is used in some tanning

>processes, it is *stale* urine, not fresh - the goal is to get the urine to

>decompose, creating urea compounds that act as a natural bleaching agent.


The _Forgotten English_ calendar had a recent day devoted to the uses of

stale urine.  The one that I cannot forget is its use in flavoring 17th c.




Date: Sun, 13 Dec 1998 17:03:19 EST

From: <BastetKat at aol.com>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Re: Urine Tanning...Is it worth the risk?


   Urine is sterile, unless the organism has a urinary tract infection. We

use gloves around urine in the hospital because we are in contact with

infected individuals. It is not normally a particularly hazardous fluid. The

major carriers of infection (including HIV and viral hepatitis) are _blood_,

semen, vaginal secretions, and respiratory secretions.





Date: Thu, 9 Sep 1999 22:39:34 EDT

From: <SigridPW at aol.com>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Re:Bleach?


>Does anyone have a documentation source for bleach?


Vikings used cow's urine both as an antiseptic and to whiten fabric.  In the

middle ages, a vessel was kept in the guarderobe (latrine) to collect the

human version. This was allowed to evaporate or was boiled, and the resulting

substance (very high ammonia content, you can imagine) was used.





Date: Mon, 26 Sep 2005 02:47:13 -0400

From: ranvaig at columbus.rr.com

Subject: [Sca-cooks] Leavening

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


This is a gem from another list, which I thought

this group would enjoy.  It came in the middle of

a thread about using urine for cleaning.  "In the

old days" does not necessarily mean in period, of








> I spent 3 months in the Galway Gaeltacht in the 1950s and had access to a

> very old woman who delighted in teaching/scandalizing the young 'Dub'.

> Among other things she told me that 'in the old days' human urine was

> collected, allowed to go stale in a loosely covered vessel and then "nuair a

> bhí an boladh méith" (when the odor had ripened) the liquid was used in

> bread making.  She hastened to point out that the advent of baking soda put

> an end to this use of stale urine.  (Heating, as in baking, of ammonium

> bicarbonate releases both ammonia and carbon dioxide, both of which would

> help to leaven the dough.  They would also largely escape during the

> baking.)  Some years ago I tested the efficacy of ammonium bicarbonate in

> place of sodium bicarbonate in making both white and wholemeal bread.  It

> worked, but some (not all) tasters thought the taste was 'a bit different',

> not bad, just different.



From: Susan McMahill <sueorintx at hotmail.com>

Date: February 17, 2010 10:42:32 PM CST

To: <ansteorra at lists.ansteorra.org>

Subject: Re: [Ansteorra] Shenanigans II: Electric Boogaloo


BTW, as we were taught in nursing school, unless someone is suffering from a urinary tract infection, urine is actually sterile until it leaves the body and is exposed to bacteria from the exterior of the body, etc. It isn't the 'unhygenic' quality of urine that makes it unpleasant to work with, it is the fact that it breaks down rather rapidly into ammonia which is a pretty nasty smelling substance. It is the ammonia that was what made it a valuable mordant for the dyeing industry.





Date: November 10, 2014 at 9:37:06 AM CST

From: al Thaalibi <thaalibi at gmail.com>

To: the-triskele-tavern at googlegroups.com

Subject: Re: {TheTriskeleTavern} fulling of cloth


In general, most of the medieval industrial uses for stale urine was for the ammonia (it's a urea breakdown product) content.   Nowadays, to "scour" wool, you just use a solution of non-sudsing ammonia, and not have to worry with the unpleasant organic components that the urine would have (that had to be rinsed out of the material when the scouring was done).


It was a cheap and readily available source of a chemical that could would otherwise require a more labor intensive distillation process to get.  But there's a reason that cloth-processing, tanning, and the like were usually downstream and downwind...


On 11/8/2014 12:15 AM, Stefan li Rous wrote:

<<< If you get over your aversion to using urine, there are apparently many things that were done with it in the Middle Ages. >>>


al Thaalibi -- An Crosaire, Trimaris

Ron Charlotte -- Gainesville, FL

thaalibi at gmail.com OR ronch2 at bellsouth.net


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org