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Home Front: Spring Cleaning, B.V.

(Before Vacuums)


Spring arrived early this year, and with the early blooms came thoughts of spring cleaning. These days, the process is as simple as vacuuming, dusting and Windexing. But in Victorian times (see the Date Book), weighty household manuals prescribed a more rigorous course of action.

From "Housekeeping in Old Virginia," courtesy of Maymont's manager of historical programs, Carol Harris:

The spring cleaning section begins with some common sense, "Do not clean but one room at a time, as it is a bad plan to have the whole house in confusion at once."

Then it describes a curious routine: "With a broom and dust-pan remove all dust from the floor. Then with a wall-brush thoroughly sweep and dust the ceiling and side-walls…. Then go over the floor again, removing the dust that has fallen from the ceiling and walls."

On to the marble and gold: "Then with a soft flannel rag and a cake of sapolio [a brand of soap], clean every piece of marble in the room. Next wipe the mirrors carefully with a flannel rag. ... The gilding must be merely dusted, as the least dampness or a drop or water will injure it."

Wash the carpets: "Shake, beat and sweep well. Tack firmly on the floor. Mix three quarts soft, cold water with one quart beef's gall. Wash with a flannel, rub off with a clean flannel, immediately after putting it on each strip of carpet."

And then, put them away: "The carpets should then be rolled up smoothly, with tobacco sprinkled between the folds, sewed up in coarse linen cloths, and put away till autumn."

And then, there was Swiffer. HS


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