By Rick Palsgrove
That urge you have to tackle spring house cleaning is rooted in our past.
“Our modern concept of spring cleaning dates from our pioneer era,” said Stephanie Reiner of Metro Parks’ Slate Run Historical Farm.
She said the arrival of spring in pioneer times meant it was time to move the stove from the house kitchen to the detached summer kitchen, which provided the opportunity to do a thorough cleaning and airing out of the house.
“It was a chance to clean the smokey film from the inside walls of the house that built up over the winter from burning coal, wood or kerosene for cooking and lighting,” said Reiner. “Can you imagine the smokey smell there must have been from a winter’s worth of residue? The soot would have been all over the house.”
Removing the soot was a big task.
Reiner said our ancestors would use stale bread as a sort of rough sponge to scrub the smoke smell from wallpaper. However, sometimes the leftover smoke odor was so bad that people would have to repaint or re-wallpaper their walls.
In addition, furniture, curtains, and rugs were taken outside to be beaten and aired out to rid them of built up dust and soot.
Some cleaning solutions and mixtures 19th century Ohioans may have used in their spring cleaning, according to Slate Run Historical Farm, include:
•vinegar for cleaning windows, lamps, brass, and stove;
•lime as an odor eliminator for sinks;
•linseed oil to prevent stovepipe rust;
•ash to scour tins, prime iron cook pots, clean coffee and tea pots, to help purify hard water, and to drive rats from holes;
•soda to scrub tinware and clean silver; and
•sulphur to drive away red ants and to disinfect rooms after someone had died of cholera.
Reiner said cleaning the Slate Run farmhouse and summer kitchen are satisfying experiences and that spring cleaning one’s own house can also be a way of bringing families closer together.
“While you’re cleaning is a good time for family and friends to talk,” said Reiner. “You can laugh together or work out problems together or just be together while you work.”
Slate Run Historical Farm is located at 1375 State Route 674 North, Canal Winchester.