Speaking of Antiquing – April 2016

Ah, April…typically the most beautiful month of the year. With the sun having warmed- up the air, windows fly open and stay open all day and into the night. We emerge from our cabin fever and feel renewed and refreshed with the spring air. We open the windows and doors fully and we see….darn dust everywhere, and cobwebs forming Irish lace in the corners and pillow fluffing sending dust particles to dance in the sunshine. Indeed, it’s time for spring cleaning!

Transport yourself back to the early 1900’s, when, for a full family, spring cleaning was literally an “everybody-in” type of job. In those days, spring cleaning usually took a good week to do.

To achieve a thorough cleaning, furniture was hauled outside, carpets were rolled-up and laid over heavy ropes or fences and beaten to release the year’s accumulation of dirt and dust. Draperies, heavy fabric that cut sunlight, were taken down and shaken to release the dust, as well. These jobs were typically done by the men as the rugs and curtains were heavy.

The women and girls got to scrubbing floors, walls, windows, light fixtures and hearths.

Think of the tools employed for such a monumental task. Rug beaters, made of wood splints twisted and curled to form a fanciful design, were about 4-feet long, and they did the trick. To prepare a carpet before it was rolled-up, it would be sprinkled with bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and left overnight. The powder would seep into the rug, absorbing the dust and dirt that would later be beaten out with a rug beater. The rug would later come back into the house fresh and clean.

Likewise, wood floors would be swept and mopped and then polished with a mixture of olive oil or a vegetable oil and soda, forming a paste that would be buffed-off to create a high-gloss shine. This treatment would also be used on the wainscoting and doors.

Window screens would be removed and the children would sweep them down. The glass in the windows would be washed inside and out with water and vinegar and buffed dry with linen or cotton cloth.

The tick mattresses would be thrown-out upper story windows and children would be allowed to jump on them, releasing the dust and dander.

Outside, the furniture would be polished and shined before being allowed back inside. Upholstery was swept or beaten as needed.

Wooden kitchen surfaces were scrubbed-down with bicarbonate of soda and coarse salt, then rinsed with vinegar and polished with the oil mixture.

Feather dusters were used on the light fixtures that could not be taken down and washed. And of course, with a feather duster, since the dust is just spread around and not removed, dusting was a daily chore.

With the house devoid of furniture and carpets, it was also a time for painting and/or wall papering.

Moving back into the house with everything spic and span must have felt like heaven, until the hell started the following April!

I haven’t even mentioned the laundry chores, which also seems daunting before the invention of the washing machine.

So, let me conclude by simply saying, “Thank goodness for the Vacuum!