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Published April 17, 2009, 12:00 AM

Spring cleaning 101

A hundred years ago, spring clean-up habits were a bit different than today.

By: By Kathryn Liesemeyer, Historical society, Alexandria Echo Press

With graduations and other springtime events approaching, cleaning and preparing the home take on a whole new meaning and there seems to be a frenzy of “to do” lists.

It’s not unheard of that some even remodel their home in time for a big event. Surely prepping the home for parties in simpler times wasn’t this harried or complicated or costly? Or was it?

Today we have so much at our disposal to help us clean and prepare. But shortly after the turn of the century, resources were not as prevalent and folks needed to use what was at hand. The tried and true methods our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents used may even still apply today.

The following is from the Woman’s Favorite Cookbook, published in 1906:

There are many directions in which economy can be displayed about the home, but one of the surest is to take such care of every article as to ensure the longest amount of service.

To Clean Silver, Gold Lace and Gold Braid: Take a piece of woolen cloth, place the lace on this, free it of all dust with a brush, and then apply some alum (which has been burnt, powdered and sifted through a fine sieve) with a soft brush. This will remove the tarnish and restore it to its former brightness if it has not been worn threadbare.

To Rub up Woodwork: The oak and hard woods so much used in furniture often take on a dark, stained appearance. A fine cleanser is made by adding one-half pint of boiled oil to one-half pint of turpentine. This will remove all dirt, but will not polish.

Nuisances About the House: When rats and mice are troublesome and “puss” is not on duty, they may be soon disposed of by the following strategy: put a barrel with a little meal in it, in a place where they “most do congregate.” After having been fed long enough to relieve the “oldest and most experienced rat” of his suspicions, fill the barrel one-third or one-half full with water, and sprinkle the meal two or three inches deep on top of it. In some cases a dozen or more are thus caught in a night.”

Now that the house is all spruced up and pest free, some turn their thoughts to what to wear for the occasion. Thankfully, we don’t need to concern ourselves with how to keep our corsets clean:

To keep a pair of corsets perfectly fresh and clean they should be washed every two or three weeks. Make warm suds into which a few drops of ammonia have been put. Spread the corset on a flat table, taking out the laces, but not the bones and steels. Scrub it with a clean brush and the hot suds, then rinse quickly in clear, warm water. Lay flat on a board in the sun or near the fire so that it may dry quickly. Do not iron.

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