Early in his life Abraham Lincoln lived in a rough hewn log cabin with one glass window. For his family and thousands of Americans living in similar cabins or sod houses, seasonal cleaning chores included repacking the dirt floor, and then covering it with sawdust or sand. Vinegar and water was used to clean coal soot, smoke from wood fires, and grease from animal fat candles that accumulated on the glass.
Spring and summer cleaning often included removing the chinking from between logs. This allowed for ventilation during warmer months. And then during the fall chinking would be made from mud or clay mixed with straw or small stones and packed into the cracks.
In homes with windows and floors, the beating of rugs hung on a line was a seasonal ritual. A home cleaning guide published in 1869 noted, “The first thing to be done in a room is to remove any drapery and carpets, to be carried out, and brushed and shaken; and if for this purpose they are put into a charwoman’s hands, it may be well to see that they are not thrown down in the yard or doorway, to be trampled upon until it suits her to attend to them.”
And for the affluent, the cleaning of clocks at least twice a year was also a part of the seasonal ritual. They would also be adjusted and inspected by clock makers. Pictures, mirrors and ornaments were taken outside for spring cleaning and in the fall to prepare for winter. The glass and frames would be cleaned of soot, and then the wood would be oiled.
A crucial spring cleaning job was the removing soot, creosote, and coal dust from chimneys, flues, ducts, furnaces, and the wood or coal stove. To prepare for winter the process was repeated to remove nests, pests, and to ensure that there were no blockages. Before stoves were stored for the summer they needed to be rubbed down with with kerosene or a layer of stove varnish to prevent rust.
And there was the all important airing of the mattress, a chore to be performed each fall and spring. The then bedsteads were to be washed with vinegar and ammonia derived from urine to keep bed bugs at bay. Onions were rubbed on doorways and window sills to keep out flies, gnats and mosquitoes. And sheets of paper sprinkled with turpentine were added to trunks to keep months from the seasonal clothes that were being packed.
Seasonal cleaning rituals were a dreaded chore. In April 1848, Susan Fennimore Cooper, daughter of James Fennimore Cooper, author of the Last of the Mohicans wrote, “The great spring house-cleaning [is] going on in the village just now, and a formidable time it is in most families, second only as regards discomfort, to the troubles of moving. Scarce an object about a house seems in its proper place – topsy-turvy is the order of the day: curtains and carpets are seen hanging out of doors, windows are sashless, beds are found in passages, chairs are upside down, the ceiling is in possession of the white-wash brush, and the mop ‘has the floor,’ as reporters say of Hon. M.C.’s. Meanwhile, the cleaners, relentless as Furies, pursue the family from room to room, until the last stronghold is invaded, and the very cats and dogs look wretched.”
Seasonal cleaning today is just as important as was in the time of Abraham Lincoln. So is the depth of cleaning to ensure a healthy household. But unlike in the time of Abraham Lincoln, today you need not spend weeks on the endeavor. You simple need to contact the Colorado River Valley and western Arizona’s cleaning specialist Coit, Mohave County’s cleaning and restoration specialist.
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