Spring Cleaning, Yesterday and Today: Purging the House of a Winters Worth of Grit and Grime


During the nineteenth century, a long winter of burning, coal oil lamps and wood or coal fires often left walls stained and carpets and drapery sooty.

Spring Cleaning In the Nineteenth Century

In those days, spring-cleaning consisted mainly of throwing windows and doors open and dragging rugs outside to be beaten on the clothesline. In fact, the whole house was given a good dusting and sweeping.

Heavy, broadcloth bedding and drapes were also taken out for a thorough pounding and airing. And not to be forgotten, the outhouse was washed down with a strong solution of chlorine or lye.

Woods floors, mainly in the kitchen, were either washed in a lye solution or repainted. Even in Victorian times, some cleaning products such as Gillett’s lye were considered toxic and needed an open window to release the fumes.

Often walls in the kitchen and parlor were either repainted or walls stripped and new wall paper applied. Wainscotting which covered about one-third of the walls was also repainted to match the new wall covering.



Modern Methods of Spring House Cleaning

Spring-cleaning in today’s households, if it is done at all, is usually done by a residential cleaning service. But there are still those who either can’t afford a cleaning service or prefer to do it themselves.

It’s best to start at the top (ceilings) and work downward toward walls and floors. As Grandma did, upholstery cushions should be aired outside and the house given a thorough dusting. Today’s high powered, vacuum cleaners certainly do a much more efficient job of ridding the house of dust and airborne fibres.

Removing all window coverings usually reveals a myriad of places where grit and grime have accumulated. Ceiling fans, wall recesses, tops or door casings and baseboards all need vacuuming or washing with a mild soap solution.

Most modern curtains and draperies can be easily washed in a washing machine or by hand. Wipe wooden, window blinds down with a mild, dish washing solution. Plastic blinds can be laid flat and washed in the bathtub. Simply give them a rinse under the shower and they are ready to hang.


Make House Cleaning Less Overwhelming By Breaking Tasks Down

If cleaning the whole house seems too daunting a task, try tackling the job one room at a time. The kitchen and bathroom may be the most in need of a good scrubbing. But to avoid house-cleaning burn out, it may be better to start with the living room or a bedroom.

In the kitchen, day-to-day maintenance such as cleaning up spills and splashes from stoves; fridges and counter tops can greatly ease the spring-cleaning burden. Make a spring-cleaning check off list and try each day to reach that goal. Also, lay in a good supply of cleaning cloths, mops and environmentally, friendly cleaning products.

Whether the work is done by professionals or by the home owner, both family and friends will enjoy sitting back and savoring the satisfaction of having a sparkling clean, sweet smelling home.