Thursday, March 23, 2023

Spring Cleaning - Tips & Tricks from the Mid-1800's by Jo-Ann Roberts

How do you feel about Spring cleaning? For some it's an opportunity to freshen the home; for others it's not worth something to be bothered about. For years, when I'd return home from school to find the house topsy-turvy, I knew my mother had started spring cleaning. Windows devoid of curtains would be wide open, the beds stripped, the vacuum in middle of the hall, and the combine scents of furniture polish and vinegar hung in the air.

As much as I like an orderly house, I don't go crazy for spring cleaning. 

Except when I'm on a deadline (which is presently the case), I daily dry sweep the floors, clean the kitchen counters, straighten things up, do a load or two or laundry, and make the bed. And whenever my husband pitches in, I consider it a bonus.

Spring arrives this week. So, let's spare a thought for 19th century housekeepers who spent considerable time, elbow grease, and disruption on Spring cleaning. From my research, it appears that many households in the mid-1800s had mixed feelings.

"Spring cleaning! Oh misery! Ceilings to be whitewashed walls to be cleaned, paint to be scoured, carpets to be taken up, shaken, and put down again...I might spring my feet off and not get all that done."                                                                                                                               - Sara Willis Parton

"It must be confessed, however, that after the great turmoil is over, whether it be a week, fortnight, or three weeks of scrubbing, scouring, there is a moment of delightful repose in the family...This is very pleasant, but it is a pity that it should be purchased at the cost of so much confusion --so many petty annoyances."                                                 - Susan Fenimore Cooper

Yet, while you think that Victorians were strict about cleanliness, it was noted in one handbook published in 1899 reminding readers that while cleanliness is important, one should maintain a laid-back attitude about it.

A sentiment I highly embrace.

Here, in no particular order of importance are a few methods our great-great-grandparents used for spring cleaning.

Gilded Frames

Freshen up the shine of gilt picture frames by going over them with a soft brush dipped in water in which three or four onions have been boiled for about an hour." The expert cleaner



"While sweeping, keep all doors shut, that the dust may not spread. And let those who are not active assist in the operations know as little as possible of what is going on. Keep all brooms, brushes, water pails and dust out of the way so as not to endanger people's shins."  The Expert Cleaner 


"If a good wallpaper is soiled, it may be refreshed by rubbing it lightly with a piece of breadcrumb; this is best done by straight long strokes."   The Expert Cleaner.


"...a feather bed put in the sun for a day will have received almost as much benefit as if it had been sent to be cleaned and steamed. A feather should be put into all the screw holes and crevices of a bedstead, to rid it of dust; and if there is a suspicion of any unwelcome visitors, the feather should be dipped in turpentine."     The Expert Cleaner

The stove

"...moisten some black-lead with a little stale beer, if there is any; if not, water will do. Then with the small round blacking brush, put the lead over every part that is to be blacked...."


"...Dry whiting will polish the glass panes nicely. Weak black tea with some alcohol is the best liquid to wash the glass. Save all the tea grounds then when needed, boil them in a tin pail with two quarts water, and us the liquid on the windows. It takes off all the dust and fly specks. If applied with a newspaper, and rubbed off with another paper, they will look far better than if cloth is used."

P.S. Today, many people still used newspapers to clean windows.


"...Take a flannel cloth and saturate it in sweet unskimmed milk; wipe over the floor whenever it needs cleaning or brightening."      - The Expert Cleaner

Intrigue by these methods, I did some additional research. And, yes indeed, the use of black tea is currently a bonafide way to clean glass surfaces, and skim milk is often used on wood and stone floors in some ancestral homes in England.

So, once you try one or more of these methods, especially the tea and milk, you will not only have sparkling windows and clean floors, but you can relax with a soothing drink!


19th-Century Cleaning Tips for the Modern Era - The New York Times (

Victorian spring-cleaning tips and tricks - Recollections Blog

Spring Cleaning in the 19th Century - Shannon Selin

Spring Cleaning the Old-Fashioned Way | English Heritage (

DIY Black Tea Window Cleaner | Apartment Therapy

Coming soon!


She was branded as a traitor to the Union.
He was her sworn enemy.
A marriage of convenience would be perilous…wouldn’t it?

In the summer of 1864 in Roswell, Georgia, widow Sofie Bishop struggles to manage the small family vineyard on her own. The War Between the States took her husband and her way of life. Now, with her home in ruins her only option was working at the Ivy Woolen Mill. Her woes go from bad to worse when the Yankees arrive on Roswell’s doorstep.
Courteous and kind, Captain Seth Ramsey is not what Sofie expects from a Union officer. However charming he might be, she’s determined to keep her distance. Even when she finds herself branded as a traitor, arrested, and transported north to an uncertain destiny, she didn’t think she could lose much more to the Yankees.
But she was wrong.
Will his vow of love mend her wounded heart? Or would a marriage of convenience be the best she can offer?




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