Reading this list of what spring cleaning meant in the well-run Victorian household makes me plenty glad to not live then with those standards. It’s from Country Gentlemen and apparently not the whole list, but the dizzying load of work gives the general idea. Also, I have no staff.
Now comes the season of general cleaning, when all the corners and closets are overturned and hidden things are brought to light. Early in the months before the moths-millers show themselves all the woolen sheets, blankets, etc., are to be washed, and the extra ones packed carefully away in deep chests, and cedar boughs strewn over them, or camphor gum.
If you possess a camphor-wood trunk, you can defy the moths, but without that convenience, special heed must be paid to their dislikes, or you may have your blankets destroyed.
Carpets that do not require to be taken up should be loosened at the edges, and with a dustpan and brush, all the dust can be removed; if there are any traces of moths, wash the floor with spirits of turpentine or benzine, put the carpet down quickly and the moths will have had their quietus. The disagreeable odor will soon disappear, if the windows are opened widely, and you can be certain that your carpets will not be ruined this summer. This same burning fluid will drive out and keep away the moths from upholstered furniture. It can be put on with a cloth, and if pure will leave no stain, but brighten the colors. Before applying it, brush out the cushions with a hand-brush and a damp cloth, to remove all the dust. Straw matting should be washed with a cloths dampened with salt water. Take care to wet it but little, for if the matting is soaked through it becomes brittle. If Indian meal is sprinkled over it, or damp sand, and then thoroughly swept out, it will also cleanse it finely.
In washing windows, a narrow-bladed wooden knife, sharply pointed, will take out the dust that hardens in the corners of the sash. Dry whiting will polish the glass panes nicely; and we find weak black tea with some alcohol the best liquid to wash the glasses. For a few days before the cleansing takes place, save all the tea grounds; then when needed, boil them in a tin pail with two quarts of water, and use the liquid on the windows. It takes off all dust and fly specks. If applied with a newspaper, and rubbed off with another paper, they look far better than if cloth is used.
If there are old feather beds in the house, and no steam renovator at hand, put them out in the first heavy, drenching rain that falls. Let them become thoroughly wet, and turn the bed several times; then dry them in the sun, and when one side is perfectly dry, beat it with sticks to lighten up the feathers, and turn up the other side to dry; either placing boards under it, or putting the beds on the piazza roof, if one is at hand.
To take out stains from either mattresses or feather beds, make a paste of soft soap and starch, and spread over the spots; when dry, scrape it off with a knife, washing it with a damp sponge, as it falls off if not clean, put on another paste. This application, if repeated frequently, until all discolorations are gone, will purify any bedding. Cockroaches can be kept away with powdered borax. Keep it in a tin pepper box and sprinkle it wherever they go. Paris green is recommended, but it is a poison; while borax is harmless. Sprigs of wintergreen, or ground ivy, will drive away small red ants, and branches of wormwood will make black ants ?vamose the ranch.? Scald your bedsteads in the hottest soap-suds you can apply; if there are traces of bugs apply kerosene with a small paint brush. It is a sure cure. Tenants of city houses are often annoyed by bugs, and can not tell whence they came. Perhaps the border of the wall-paper might divulge their source, or the cornices of the windows disclose their haunts. Again apply kerosene and they will no longer trouble you. Carbolic acid may be applied; if pure the odor is not as disagreeable as that of coal oil. Papering and painting are best done in cold weather, especially the latter, for the wood absorbs the oil of paint much more than in warm weather, while in cold weather it hardens on the outside, making a coat, which will protect the wood instead of soaking into it.
In papering walls, be sure to remove all the old paper and paste, and scrape them perfectly smooth. Dampen the old paper with cloths wet in saleratus water, and it will come off easily; fill up the cracks with plaster of Paris, and if there are any traces of bugs, wash the wall all over with a weak solution of carbolic acid and water; this will purify the air and destroy all mold and vermin. The best paste is made out of rye flour, with two ounces of glue dissolved in each quart of paste; half an ounce of powdered borax will snake the paste better. People now generally understand how dangerous it is to paper a wall over old paper and paste. Many deaths have arisen from this cause; the air of many sleeping-rooms has been thus poisoned. In some old houses three or four layers of paper have been found upon the walls of the rooms, and their inmates have died, and no doctor could tell whence came the disease.
In whitewashing, a pound of glue dissolved in hot water and diluted with four gallons of cold water, to which is added six pounds of whiting, will be found to answer a better purpose titan common lime. Woodwork can be washed with this glue size, and one coat of paint on it would last for years. A little chrome yellow will give a light lemon-colored tint to the wash. A cheap paint for the floor can be made, which a strong, smart woman could apply to any floor: five pounds of French ochre; one fourth of a pound of glue, and a gallon of hot water. Dissolve the glue in a small quantity of hot water; when wholly melted add the rest of it, stirring it slowly until well mixed. Then stir in the ochre, and apply while hot, with a good-sized paint-brush. When well dried apply one or two coats of boiled linseed-oil. This paint dries very quickly, hardening in fifteen to twenty-four hours. It is very cheap; the glue is about twenty-five cents per pound, the ochre ten cents, the oil about seventy-five cents per gallon. So it is within the reach of any woman. An oaken hue can be given to new pine floors and tables by washing them in a solution of copperas dissolved in strong lye, a pound of the former to a gallon of the latter.
When dry this should be oiled, and it will look well for a year or two; then renew the oiling. Grease can be extracted from floors by applying a paste of wood ashes and quicklime, to be kept on for several days and then washed off. Stains on wall paper can be cut out with a sharp penknife, and a piece of paper so nicely inserted that no one can see the patch.
Ink stains on wood can be removed by a solution of oxalic acid. Cover the spots with bits of the acid, turn on a spoonful of water and place a heated flat-iron over it; when the hissing ceases the ink will have disappeared.
Kerosene and powdered lime whiting, or wood ashes, will scour tin with the least labor. Kerosene and whiting will also cleanse silver-ware, door-knobs, hinges, etc. Wet the flannel slightly in oil, dip in the whiting, and rub hard; wash off with a chamois skin or newspaper. Wash the glasses of pictures with a damp newspaper, dipped in whiting, then rub with a dry paper. Spots can be taken out of marble with finely powdered pumice-stone. Mix it with verjuice, cover the spots with it, and let it remain for twelve hours; then rub clean with a damp sponge; rinse with clean water, and wipe dry, with a cloth. Soapstone hearths are first washed in pure water and then rubbed with powdered marble or soapstone, put on with a piece of the same stone. Gray marble hearths can be rubbed with linseed-oil and no spots will show.
If gilt frames are varnished with copal varnish, they can be washed with cold water without injury. Lace curtains should never be ironed. Wash and starch them, using in the rinsing water a tablespoonful of powdered borax. This makes them very stiff. When wet spread on a sheet, either on the floor or bed, and pin down every two or three inches. Let them dry for several-days and they will look very nice ~ Country Gentlemen
Taken from The Manufacturer and Builder May 1872