Carpet beater

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A carpet beater

A carpet beater or carpetbeater (also referred to as a rug beater or rugbeater, mattenklopper, carpet whip, rug whip, clothes-beater, dust beater or dustbeater, carpet duster, rug duster, or pillow fluffer, and formerly also as a carpet cleaner or rug cleaner) is a housecleaning tool that was in common use until the vacuum cleaner became affordable during the early 20th century. Carpets, rugs, clothes, cushions, and bedding were hung over a clothesline or railing and the dust and dirt was beat out of them. Typically made of wood, rattan, cane, wicker, spring steel or coiled wire, antique rug beaters have become very collectible. Modern mass-production versions can also be in plastic or wire.

In The Netherlands and parts of Belgium the carpet beater was a common tool for housemothers to discipline their children, by making them bend over and spanking them on their behinds, leaving a distinctive pattern on the child's (bare) buttocks. Like the actual beating of the rugs these punishments mostly took place in the backyards, turning the beating into a somewhat public event. This form of punishment nowadays is almost extinct in The Netherlands but was very common up until the mid-1980s; since then the use of instruments such as wooden spoons and carpet beaters in spanking has rapidly grown out of fashion.

This 'secondary use' earned the carpet beater a special place in Dutch folklore, as a symbol for good housecleaning, conservative family values and childrearing, as well as a symbol for the dominant position of the housemother in traditional Dutch families.

Its use in cleaning has been largely replaced since the 1950s by the carpet sweeper and then the vacuum cleaner. They are, however, still sold in most household stores and up until the 1980s were present in almost every household. This can be attributed to both the late introduction (1970s) of the vacuum cleaner in some rural parts of the country and, as mentioned, to its secondary use as an instrument for corporal punishment, which quite frequently was the carpet beaters' only use in Dutch households since the early 1970s.


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