Thursday 4 March 2010

Spring cleaning

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.


  1. I love a bit of Spring cleaning! The trouble is that I only love it a bit, and only for a day or two, after which it gets quietly forgotten. Then what didn't get done doesn't get looked at again until it reaches a critical stage of filthiness and/or disorganisation and can no longer be ignored. But if I had servants, then oh, what a sparklingly clean house I would have by April!

  2. major project but bet it feels good when it is all done ...

  3. I do deep cleaning -- January finds me going through closets, cabinets and drawers (and keeps me from getting the January blahs -- there is always something to look forward to to do) and then I start in with deep cleaning. A bit earlier than spring b ut there is nothing that smells better than a house that smells clean and that shines in every corner!

    It's a shame that that ritual is lost.

    Great post!

  4. What a lovely set of photographs to accompany your post. I must admit I have been looking at my curtains recently and willing a sunny, blowy day to happen soon. We have sun at least, so must not complain. Re the bottom picture: I have always thought it a great shame that the liquid that comes from Bombay Sappire is not blue... . . I felt somewhat cheated when I opened my first bottle of it.....