Sitting room, Manship House Museum.

Before the days of air conditioning, homes were transformed to survive the hot summer months.  The first step was a spring house cleaning of gigantic proportions.  The Home and Farm Manual, published in 1884, provided the following instructions:

XXI. Spring House-Cleaning.

     Now is the time that tries women’s souls, and no sound is heard o’er the house save the scrub-brush, the mop and the broom.  The spring cleaning is at hand.

     Blankets and Furs. – And first, there are all the woolens, blankets, etc., to be washed, and all that can be spared (for we dare not put them all out of sight, lest we provoke another snow-storm), are to be packed away in deep chests, and plenty of cedar boughs strewn over them, or else powdered camphor gum.  The fortunate possessor of a cedar-wood trunk need have no apprehensions, but without that, the moth-millers will make sad havoc among your furs, woolens, etc., unless you guard them carefully.

     The Carpets. – All carpets do not need to be taken up; those which do not, can be loosened at the edges, the dust-brush pushed under a piece, and a clean sweep of all the dust can be made.  Then, wash the floor thus swept, with strong soap-suds, and spirits of turpentine after.  Then, tack the carpet down.  The odor is soon gone, if you open your windows, and you can feel safe for this summer, at least.  Upholstered furniture can be treated to the same bath, if applied with a soft, clean cloth, and the colors will receive no injury.  But before using it, brush the cushions with a stiff hand-brush and a damp cloth, so as to take away all the dust.

     A good way to clean straw matting after it is laid, is to sprinkle corn-meal over it, or damp sand, and sweep it thoroughly out.

     Windows Washed. – Windows are hard to wash, so as to leave them clear and polished.  First, take a wooden knife, sharp-pointed and narrow-bladed, and pick out all the dirt that adheres to the sash; dry whiting makes the glass shine nicely.  I have read somewhere, that weak black tea and alcohol is a splendid preparation for cleaning the window-glass, and an economical way to use it would be to save the tea-grounds for a few days, and then boil them over in two quarts of water and add a little alcohol when cold.  Apply with a newspaper and rub well off with another paper, and the glass will look far nicer than when cloth is used.

     The Beds. – When mattresses and feather-beds become soiled, make a paste of soft-soap and starch, and cover the spots.  As soon as it dries, scrape off the paste and wash with a damp sponge,  If the spots have not disappeared, try the paste again.


Periam, Johnathan.  The Home and Farm Manual.  New York: Greenwich House, 1984.  (Reprint of the 1884 edition.)