Spring Cleaning 102: Tread Lightly

Tread lightly as you disturb spider’s webs, for they have dreams, too.

In all likelihood the spiders have departed outdoors but once the space has been tidied up enough you can now actually dust, sweep, vacuum and mop the cleared decks.

We don’t need a lot of fancy, chemical enhanced cleansers to get our houses clean. Our Grandmothers did not have them, and it would seem that they kept their homes far cleaner than we do now with all our labour saving devices. They may have had the advantage in some cases of paid help ‘to do the rough’, but that was not universally true and homes shone.

You will need:

1.    Plenty of old rags including flannel or terry towelling as well as cotton
2.    Vinegar
3.    Lemons for juicing plus the rinds for scouring
4.    Baking soda and washing soda crystals
5.    Liquid or plain soap flakes
6.    Pine oil, tea tree oil or other essential oil you like
7.    Rubber gloves
8.    Beeswax and linseed oil furniture feeder
9.    Newspaper
10.   Elbow grease

Acid and bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) interact and bubble to create a dirt busting combination when added to a bucket of hot water with a splash of liquid soap. (Alternatively, you can grate soap flakes from a bar.
This is often the more economic option but you will need to grate finely and use boiling water to dissolve them.)

The Naturally Clean Home Book

The Naturally Clean Home Book

During World War II in England they didn’t have nice bottles of Ivory liquid to wash up the dishes. Instead they grated Sunshine soap and added washing soda crystals to boiling hot water to the soaking dishes. Lemons were not to be had but the acid from malt vinegar (the breweries never stopped during the war!) provided both a grease cutting agent as well as a mild disinfectant. Bicarbonate of soda soaked up the bad smells.

You can load the rind of a lemon with baking soda and scour out your sinks and tub. Use lemon juice and baking soda on an old toothbrush to clean the grout of mildew. Use vinegar down the toilet bowl with a bit of baking soda to give it a brisk scour. Add your favourite or ‘household signature’ essential oil after flushing the loo.

The baking soda and lemon combination will sanitize the refrigerator.
You may want to add some tea tree oil to the rinse water if you have left some items that have begun to decompose in the corner of the fridge. We all do it!

Tea tree oil is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral.  So if there have been a lot of viruses in the family over the winter you may want to add some to warm water and wipe down all the surfaces that little fingers like to touch.

These are jobs for a sunny day. Open the windows. Wash the curtains and line dry them to let them soak up the sunshine, fresh air and the scents of spring in the wind.

Get a long handled fluffy duster or a broom with a flannel duster and sweep out the corners, dust the walls. Vacuum up the fallen dust, first using the nozzle attachment. Then brandish the sweeper to banish the dust bunny colony that has propagated under the bed. Wash the base boards with a solution of soap, baking soda and lemon juice. Use the lemon rind if you have to scour stubborn stains.

Sprinkle baking soda onto the carpets to get rid of any stale odors.
Add a couple drops of your favourite essential oil the soda before you cast it upon the rugs if you want a particular scent in your house.

If you have ‘real’ wood rather than modern furniture made from compressed MDF then you will need to have a beeswax and linseed oil combination that is right for the particular age and condition of the furniture.  Either the relative who gave you the piece or the seller will have advised you on the best way to care for your vintage piece.

Rubber gloves are essential if you have hairy pets that shed. They act like a magnet. Just run your gloved hands over upholstery and be appalled. I wonder why my pets aren’t bald, they shed so much!

Play some energising music while you tackle the clean room by room.
Once the room is done, shut the door. Put a little ornament on the
door- a card with a gold star for example to give yourself the ‘Good Job’ reward. Or, in keeping with the season’s theme of renewal, put up something that represents that the room is now transformed and renewed for use – that could be a corn dolly, an Easter chick, a shamrock – use your imagination.

The last part of the spring clean is to pack away the winter clothes and bring out the spring and summer wardrobe.  So I end with my all natural recipe for Protecting your Winter Woolies from Critters.
Mothballs or Camphor infused Tussy Mussies are one line of protection, but this one is for those humans who really are repelled by the smell of camphor.

Wardrobe Insect Repellant

½ cup cedar shavings (but pine can substitute) ¼ cup each of dried tansy, mint, rosemary and lavender
2 Tbsp  each of cloves and bay leaves
5 –10 drops of essential oil of pine or lavender
2 Tbsps of orris root (from pharmacies or online)

Mix up the contents and place in muslin bags to be tied to hangers or put away in drawers for the summer season. Cedar chests naturally repel insects so Grandma was on to a good thing.

You can feel smugly virtuous when you are finished. And reward yourself room by room.

About BeeSmith

I was born in Queens, N.Y, reared in Pennsylvania, did university in Washington, D.C. Then I moved to England for nineteen years. I lived first in London and then in Leeds. After my partner's sister died of cancer in 2000, we decided to take the leap of faith and move to Ireland to be nearer his family. Despite our friends thinking we were mad and feckless, it has worked out. The angels really do look after fools! We have a cottage on an acre and a quarter three miles from where the River Shannon rises. We have a polytunnel to grow vegetables and fruit organically, a small orchard of apple trees and plans to create a sacred space on the land over the rest of our lifetimes. We share our home with two tortoiseshell cats, Zelda and her daughter Zymina, and three dogs, Murphy, Pippin and Cara.

2 thoughts on “Spring Cleaning 102: Tread Lightly

  1. I love the idea of using a lemon rind filled with soda to scrub – what a fresh alternative to typical scouring powder! I’m definitely in the mood to throw open the windows to let in Spring freshness. Thanks for these great tips!

  2. Nice…my hubby & I have already started our spring cleaning….thank God too, because my allergies are taking over! Good article! :) xo