gimme dat old-timey toilet water

I think I mentioned a while back that I was ready to start wearing perfume again after a long hiatus? Well, Walgreen’s has been pushing Florida Water with a vengeance — like, giant card tables stacked with hundreds of bottles right at the front of the store — since the start of summer. And the quaint-looking label aroused my curiosity, so I Googled it.

It’s an old cologne water that’s being made virtually unchanged from the original 1808 recipe, and the height of its popularity was smack in the middle of the Victorian era. It was acceptable for both men and women; and like most other fragrances of the time, was used more as a grooming/household cleaning/laundry product than a perfume. It’s mostly alcohol, so people used it in their hair and their clothes and as a rub down after tossing medicine balls around with burly men in unitards and handlebar moustaches, apparently. VICTORIANS!

This guy knows what I'm talkin' 'bout.

Anyway, here is a list of some of the uses for this product, as approved of by the makers Lanman & Kemp Barclay (note the old-timey Random Caps):

  • Added to the Bath or wash-basin, Florida Water refreshes delightfully and leaves the skin with a soft, delicate fragrance.
  • After a Shower, Florida Water provides an exhilarating rubdown, giving a healthy glow to the skin, toning muscles and nerves.
  • When used an Astringent and Skin Lotion, Florida Water effectively contracts the pores and tones-up the skin; leaving it with a feeling of freshness and free a buildup of oils on the skin.
  • You can use Florida Water as a Personal Deodorant, as it is indispensable to the fastidious woman. Its delightful fragrance is faint and elusive, making it invaluable for this purpose.
  • In a room where someone is recuperating from an illness, a few drops sprinkled around the room perfumes the air and overcomes stale odors.
  • Many find that Florida Water is more beneficial for a rub down for the sick than alcohol as it has a more pleasant and less offensive odor-wise than an alcohol rub.
  • Before Shaving, Florida Water can soften even the most stubborn of beards and prepares the skin for a smooth, luxurious shave. After Shaving, it contracts the pores of the skin, as its mildly astringent action soothes skin abrasions caused by shaving.
  • For Headaches due to nervousness or over-stimulation, are relieved by simply applying the cooling and refreshing Florida Water to the temples and forehead or sprinkle a few drops on a clean, wet washcloth.
  • For Insect Bites, apply of Florida Water on the bite.
  • When the Weather is Hot, applying Florida Water to the forehead gives a feeling of cooling.
  • As a Perfume, there is no more delightful of a scent than Florida Water. A subtle reminder of a flower-garden, it can be used in an spray atomizer, a handkerchief, or as a body splash.
  • After Exercise, a rubdown with Florida Water produces a warm tingling glow – delightful and invigorating to the muscles and the nerves.
  • For Nervousness, produced by excitement or shock, Florida Water applied to the forehead and used as a rubdown, usually relieves nervous tension and relaxes the muscles.
  • As a Hair Tonic, a sprinkling of Florida Water gives an enchanting fragrance delightful for social engagements. It soothes a burning and itching scalp.
  • In the Bedroom or Dressing Room, a few drops sprinkled in your lingerie drawer and clothes closets is lovely and long-lasting.
  • To Freshen Rooms that need a lift or to freshen the air from smoking, cooking, or the smell of new paint, sweeten the air by wetting your fingertips and flicking the room with a sprinkling of Florida Water.
  • Head Colds will be less bothersome if a little Florida Water is sprinkled on a handkerchief and the aroma inhaled frequently.
  • For Tired, Achy Feet, add some Florida Water to a basin of warm water and soak those tired tootsies. The soothing, refreshing effect is relaxing and refreshing.
  • For Skin Care, it never fails to massage the skin with Florida Water after removing your make-up, especially before going to bed.

To which I add some of my own: spray on your bedsheets, use as a room freshener, and dampen clothes with it when you’re ironing them. I keep some in a little spray bottle. BTW, putting some on your forehead when it’s hot really is aces… at least until the alcohol evaporates.

Interestingly, Florida Water is also commonly used in Voudoun, Hoodoo, and Santería cleansing rituals. The fresh, clean scent is thought to banish negative energies or thoughts and be pleasing to the loa (spirits). Can’t hurt to hedge my bets. I mean, I did move to Louisiana.