Most of our homes today are climate controlled and sealed tight. We pump the air in, filter it, cool it or heat it, and pump it out. We have electric appliances like vacuums and washers and dryers. We have no need to rely on the outdoors to accomplish our cleaning. But before the inventions of washers and dryers and central air, people waited excitedly for those first sunny and warm spring days.
During the winter, the windows were closed tight with no fresh air. Their homes would get smoky and sooty from their wood fires. Ashes would collect in the chimney and around the fireplace. After living off grid for over a year and a half and experiencing all the seasons, I know what spring meant to people over a century ago! My family has the benefit of a modern woodstove that is very efficient and doesn’t allow smoke inside our home, so I don’t have to worry about scrubbing soot off my walls in the spring. But when spring comes, I’m grateful to clean the woodstove for the season and finally get all the dirty firewood out of the house.
Spring cleaning also means opening windows and airing out your home. It means getting all those dirty blankets and bedsheets off your bed that haven’t been washed all winter, and getting them on the line to hang in the warm sun. Often just blowing in a good spring breeze with the sun directly on blankets and quilts, is enough to make them cleaner and fresher. Coats and sweaters can finally be washed, hung on the line, and put away. Area rugs are hauled outside and hung from fences. Remember, they didn’t have vacuums. The best they could do in the winter was sweep the dirt and debris off the top. I don’t have area rugs in my home, but I do have floor mats. I love a nice rainy spring day for cleaning these! I just lay them out on our gravel walkway and let the rain wash them. After they are dried by the sun, I can bring them back inside.
I LOVE the sun! I really believe that it is nature’s bleach. A while in direct sunlight on a warm day can whiten and disinfect anything, even cotton diapers! Before central air, people used to haul their mattresses outside to sit in the sun. The sun would do its work. Any mildew was gone. It even killed bacteria and dust mites. It seems to me that we could still benefit from this practice.
While blankets, beds, curtains, and rugs were outside, walls and floors could be scrubbed. The whole house was now airy and fresh. The cold, dark days of winter were gone. This is what they really did when spring cleaning. Maybe they found some broken things that needed to be thrown away, but it wasn’t about getting rid of stuff. It was about actually cleaning their homes. This was one of the rewards of spring and now it’s part of why I look forward to it too!