Spring Housecleaning

This is the fourth article in March of the School for Housewives 1905 series published on Mar 26, 1905, and is a nice article on spring cleaning. One of my favourite things to do after winter is to go through my possessions and see what I can get rid of in order to make room for the new.

School for Housewives – Spring Housecleaning

An Expert’s Advise on the Most Important of Subjects

Readers will find in another section of this page – in the “Housemothers’ Exchange” – a helpful note from an experiences homemaker which might be headed “The Week Before Housecleaning.”

Referring to one branch of her subject, let me emphasize her exhortation to clean decks for action before settling down to business. Where rubbish comes from in orderly careful families is a mystery past finding out. TO quote from sapient George Sampson in “Our Mutual Friend” “We all know it’s there!” There in quantities that amaze and shame us! Things that are of no earthly – or unearthly – use to us now, and which are not likely to be of us to us ever hereafter – yet too good to throw away – all that is superfluous is rubbish! Give yourself the benefit of the doubt and let them go; the old coat which John has fattened out of; the stained gown you cannot clean or make over; battered toys; reports of patent offices and orphan asylums and quack medicines; letters whose end is to be burned sooner or later; broken plates and cracked tumblers and leaky kettles – extract them from pantry, wardrobe and attic before you begin to scrub and polish – and get them out of the house at once and for all time. Set abut housecleaning on Wednesday, when washing and ironing are out of the way, and begin in the attic – if, as our wise “Grandma” put it, you have one If should have been swept and dusted on Saturday. Scrub woodwork and windows before touching the floor, having first of all brushed down the walls with a peticoated broom. For paint, use a firm, not harsh, brush, sapolio and suds, afterward wiping with a dry cloth. Stir a little kerosene into the water used for the windows, beginning with the uppermost panes, cleaning one at a time and wiping it dry before proceeding to another. Polish with newspaper, rubbed soft between the hands. If properly applied it lends a luster nothing else imparts.


After the scouring is done, move boxes, barrel, and trunks invalided chairs and unused bedding into the middle of the garret. Have ready a gallon of gasoline into which were stirred two days ago three ounces of gum camphor, broken small. Keep this mixture in a can with a tight top. With a large syringe, used for this purpose alone, inject this into every crack, around baseboards of the floor. Spray the edges and tufts of mattresses, and do not overlook old furniture. Shut the place up and leave it for twenty-four hours before airing it. Enter, then, without a light, and let not so much as a match be struck in the room until the windows have been opened.

If you have no attic, observe the same precautions against moths and other insect life in cleaning the trunk room or closets where are stored articles not in frequent use. The odor of camphor will soon pass away, and that of gasoline almost as quickly as it evaporates. If there directions be faithfully followed, the danger of summer visitation from nocturnal marauders – “red rovers,” roaches and even mosquitos – will be greatly lessened. The powerful antiseptic kills their eggs with those of moths.


Go about the work in hand diligently, by systematically, and do not make unwise haste to get it done. Take one room at a time, working steadily downward if you live in a cottage. If John be away all day, content yourself and co-laborers with a cold luncheon, enlivened by a cup of tea or chocolate, at noon. Contrive to have a hot breakfast for him before he goes away in the morning and a hot dinner at night. Make soup in advance for several days, warming it each evening, and study economy of labor in other culinary tasks. By finishing each room before you attack the next, you will never be turned out of your living rooms. A little ingenuity in this respect will life much of the odium from housecleaning justly dreaded by masculine mankind. The average John, having enacted the role of seeking dove for ix nights in returning from the waste of his working world to the domestic ark, is but human if her elect to pay raven on the seventh, and tries his luck abroad.

Set steadfastly before you the purpose of making your quarter comfortable in spite of the semi-annual upheaval and resist, as an unlawful temptation, the disposition to overtire yourself and disgust everybody about you by making a point of “finishing up” by Saturday night. The world will be none the worse if a room or two be left over for next Wednesday.

One part of the formidable job will require nice calculation and adroit management. I refer to the “treatment” of your hardwood floors. After forty years’ experience with these, I have come to the deliberate conclusion that the one and only satisfactory way to keep them in order is to put them into the hands of “the profession.” They must not be touched until the rest of the cleaning is done. Wash off the dust overnight, have your household astir betimes next morning, bed made, etc., s that they men engaged to “Treat” the floors may get at them early. If they understand their business, they will use a preparation warranted to dry hard in five or six hours. Of course, you will have the floors of the living rooms treated earliest in the day. If any must be done so late hat the furniture cannot be set back in place until the morrow, let it be drawing room and guest chamber. A draft of fresh air sweeping through the apartments facilitates the business. If there be any trace of “tackiness” about the floors do not relay rugs until the next day, and treat lightly upon the polished surface. A footprint is more easily removed from it than the pattern pressed into them by the underside of the heavy rugs.

From first to last study prayerfully to keep temper and nerves in hard. Make the inevitable endurable by a cheerful spirit. At the worst it is never so bad in the doing as in the dreading.

Our next week’s talk will be headed: “When John Brings a Friend Home to Dinner.”

Marion Harland

Council-Table Talks with Up-To-Date Housewives
Housecleaning Hints

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