From Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson
The Art & Science of Keeping House (1999)
The custom of seasonal 'housecleaning' in the spring arose because after two seasons of heating and lighting with wood, oil, gas, kerosene, and candles, the condition of the house made it essential. By winter's end, everything in the house was coated with a malodorous layer of black grease and grime, the ugliness of which would become ever more apparent as the days became longer and sunnier.
So people cleaned everything - literally everything - as soon as the heating season was over and as soon as it was warm enough to do chores that cold weather made too inconvenient, such as beating rugs, taking mattresses and pillows outside for airing, or going into frigid areas of the home (the cellar or attic). They emptied every drawer, shelf, cabinet, closet and room; cleaned them; and cleaned, washed, polished or shined all their contents (drapes, mattresses, pillows, rugs, carpets, upholstery,
crystal and china,
silver, brass, and copper, and so on); and then put everything back. Walls were washed or painted and cellars whitewashed. Because people often used separate furnishings for the warm and cold seasons, during spring cleaning they would also remove the winter furnishings
and put out the warm-weather rugs, draperies,and bedclothes.
Most of the rationale for doing spring cleaning has now gone by the wayside... And many people despise as heartily as our ancestors did the disruption of home life that spring cleaning causes... But spring cleaning still has a place for anyone who can find time for it or who rather likes the feeling of renewal that follows the major upheaval of turning your home inside out. Try it once before you rule it out. It is delightful to begin the new season with a home that has been scoured top to bottom, every drawer emptied, every piece of china washed,
every bit of metal polished, every fabric washed,
every square inch of all surfaces washed, polished, scoured, waxed, or otherwise brought to its finest state.
I may be gone some time.