Housecleaning 1900’s Style

victorian lady cleaning 2

Travel back in time and attempt to clean your house. (I dare you).

One of my favorite books, was received from my mother who I’m sure got it from her mother.  It’s called, Household Discoveries and Mrs. Curtis’s cookbook.  This weighty tome was published in the 1903 and contains 261 pages of recipes and tips  for the modern housewife.  The following is the first of several installments gleaned from this highly informative publication.

Sweeping Day: Carpets

Before Sweeping dip the broom in hot soapsuds and have at hand a pailful of soapsuds in which to rinse the broom when it becomes dusty.  Squeeze out the water so that the broom is damp but not wet.  This practice toughens the straw, makes the broom last much longer and softens it so it does not cut the carpet.  To prevent dust when sweeping wet a newspaper, tear it in small pieces and scatter the paper so that it will not drip.  Or sprinkle the carpet with moist tea leaves which may be saved daily for this purpose.

Blogger’s note – I’m not exactly sure, and am unwilling to experiment on my own carpets, but with all the soapy water and newspaper shreds and tea leaves it seems like the carpet would be more of a mess after sweeping then before. (?) But let me be the first to say I’ve learned a lot from this chapter. For instance:

cleaningSweeping Day: Techniques

To sweep well with a broom is an art that calls for quite a little skill and intelligence. There are wrong ways in sweeping as well as right ways.  The former are perhaps more often practiced than the latter.

1. It is wrong to lean on the broom or dig into the floor with great force, as if trying to gouge the dirt from the surface. All the dust and dirt which can be removed lies directly on top.

2. It is wrong to sweep the whole length of the room toward the door in order to sweep the dirt into the next room as this carries dirt over a larger space of the floor than necessary.

3.It is wrong to push the broom forward so as to drive a cloud of dust in the air.

4.It is wrong to sweep always on one side of the broom so that it will get lopsided and have to be thrown away.

The right way to use a broom is to keep the handle always inclining forward and never allow it to come to the perpendicular; much less incline backward. The stroke should be rather long, the sweeper standing on the soiled portion of the floor, reaching back and drawing the dust and dirt forward as if pulling or dragging it. A skillful sweeper will lift the broom before it becomes perpendicular so as not to raise dust, and will tap it gently to shake the dirt out  before reaching back for another stroke.

Bloggers note:  Who knew? Apparently I’ve been wildly careless and ineffective in my own sweeping habits, and will endeavor to do better in the future. I sincerely hope these post Victorian household hints have enlightened you all as well.

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38 thoughts on “Housecleaning 1900’s Style

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  7. Oh, holy cow! And THAT is why I do not have major carpeting anywhere in my house. I also do not have a vacuum cleaner… or a dog. But I do have four young kids… Hmm. Perhaps I should see if I can get the kids to try the tea leaves/newspaper thing? (And thank you for the time travel. I often think that if I lived a hundred years ago with these four young kids at hand, life would be a whole different ball game.)

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  10. Thank you for this! I know what to do now, and golly gee, I can’t believe I had been doing it wrong. No wonder my carpets were so dusty. haha. 😀 Great post!

    • Wait – please do not try this at home. I actually picked up my broom and tried to replicate the instructions on how to properly sweep . . . it could result in serious bodily injury.

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  14. We have tiles everywhere and just a few floor rugs, mainly for our feet in winter. To save my back, I sweep the rugs (the quick clean) and someone else does a serious vacuum (once a week), and this describes the sweeping technique perfectly, I have to admit that we’ve never used a wet broom, teabags or little bits of soggy newspaper, though. It seems to defeat the purpose, but I guess they didn’t have the follow-up of a vacuum cleaner. We also had a carpet sweeper when I was a kid, and they were really good for the light, every day quick clean.

      • I would love to find a carpet sweeper. I think my mum threw hers out when she moved house 20 years ago to a house with no carpets. She uses the old-fashioned dry-mop for her daily sweep now.

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