What Is a Boilery?

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

In the manufacturing industry, a boilery is a place designed for boiling large quantities of liquid. Also known as boiling houses, these buildings were once commonly found in factories. The actual mechanism used to boil fluids is also known as a boilery.


One of the most common examples of this term is a brine boilery. Brine boileries have long been used to evaporate brine water in order to manufacture salt. Most boileries today, however, are used to boil industrial products rather than food items. Some soaps are also manufactured in boiling houses.

Traditional boileries were originally built from cut stone or brick. These sturdy structures were often used for the mass production of manufactured foods, such as sugar. Sugar was typically made in a boilery from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Sugarcane juice was treated with lime in large clarifying vats, before it was heated in copper kettles over individual furnaces. The boilery was so important to the sugar making process that most Western sugar plantations had their own boileries attached to them.

Each individual furnace was also built from stone or brick, arranged in a box shape. The furnaces all had bottom openings where workers could keep fires going as well as clean out any ashes or droppings from production. Each furnace was large enough to heat up to seven boilers, or copper kettles. After the heating process, many liquids were diverted from the boilery into wooden troughs, or flats, in order to cool and become safe for storing, packaging, or sale. Many products from boileries were stored in large barrels known as hogsheads.

During the time that boileries were used, slaves typically performed the labor in them. This was particularly true on sugar plantations. The working conditions were considered harsh and dangerous, with people skimming liquid from a hot copper kettle into a smaller, hotter kettle over and over again, until the process was complete. Slaves often suffered injuries or death from working there. People who worked in a boilery were known as strikers, and were among some of the most highly skilled and sought after workers.

People once encountered boileries regularly in life, much like they might encounter a bakery or other specialized factory today. Modern means of boiling in large vats or other apparatuses, however, have replaced the the boilery. These devices are considered more efficient and less costly. In some cases, they may also be considered more environmentally-friendly and safer as well.

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, Sara has a Master’s Degree in English, which she puts to use writing for wiseGEEK and several magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She has published her own novella, and has other literary projects currently in progress. Sara’s varied interests have also led her to teach children in Spain, tutor college students, run CPR and first aid classes, and organize student retreats.

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