As you emerge from hibernation, you may be eager to tackle spring cleaning chores, making your home shine as brightly as the sun that’s just around the corner. If so, you’re not alone: according to a spring cleaning survey from the American Cleaning Institute, 72 percent of households engage in some form of spring cleaning, with the bedroom, kitchen and bathroom topping the list of rooms that need attention.
In addition, they are apt to tackle projects that typically fall to the bottom of the list, such as windows (79%), blinds and curtains (73%), closets and drawers (71%) and ceiling fans (68%).
Nearly half even give the trashcan a much-needed scrub.
Nearly half even give the trash can a much-needed scrub. But how many of those people actually think twice about the origin of spring cleaning?
The practice is actually rooted in a number of different ancient traditions from around the world, as well as a few practical reasons for it in America’s more recent history.
The History of Spring Cleaning
The tradition of spring cleaning dates back centuries and is a hallmark of Jewish, Iranian and Chinese cultures.
In ancient Jewish tradition, they would clean their home to prepare for Passover, in part to remove any bread that wan’t unleavened. That’s because the Jewish slaves in Egypt survived by eating only unleavened bread, so having any yeast-made bread in the house during Passover isn’t allowed. By thoroughly cleaning the entire house, including all crumbs, they could be ensured no non-Kosher remnants remained.
Spring cleaning is also ritual part of some Christian faiths as well. Members of the Greek Orthodox Church for example typically clean on the first day of lent, which they call Clean Monday. Catholic churches conduct a through cleaning of their altars on the day before Good Friday.
In the Iranian culture, the Persian new year, known as Nowruz, falls on the first day of spring and includes a ritual known as “khooneh takouni” which means “shaking the house,” entailing a thorough house cleaning.
Chinese New Year preparations incorporate a spring housecleaning called Little New Year, or Xiaonian, designed to symbolically rid their home of any negativity and any lingering spirits.
Closer to home, Pablo Solomon, who is active with the Texas Historic Commission, share that spring cleaning was important in frontier homes to remove the accumulation of soot from winter fires that built up on poor quality window glass.
“To be able to see out after a long winter, you had to clean off the soot,” Solomon said.
In addition most log homes in Texas and parts of the southern United States were “chinked” for the winter, which entailed filling the spaces between logs with mud. As summer approached, the chinking was removed to allow air to circulate, a modern-day “screen” of sorts.
Housekeepers would finish the process by disinfecting and refreshing their homes with vinegar and herbs, which are great choices still today as natural alternatives to harsh household disinfectants. Another reason to wait until spring is because its finally warm enough to open windows and doors to let the place air out.
The Dirt on Spring Cleaning
Despite the the rewarding results of spring cleaning, the task remains a burden for many homeowners. A survey by Merry Maids found that more than two-thirds of consumers view spring cleaning as an overwhelming and time-consuming chore. Least favored tasks?
Nearly one-half skip scrubbing baseboards; 44 percent neglect their appliances by not cleaning inside or behind, and an additional 37 percent avoid cleaning the window sills.
Put A “Spring” in Your Cleaning
Just over 40 percent of consumers spend several days on spring cleaning, and they may be on to something.
“Spreading out your cleaning allows you to better complete all your tasks more efficiently and effectively,” said Nancy Bock, senior vice president of education for the American Cleaning Institute.
Spring cleaning doesn’t have to be a daunting project when you tackle it with a plan in mind, adds Debra Johnson, home cleaning expert for Merry Maids. Here are some tips to make your home – and your mood – sparkle.
- Make a plan. Create a to-do list and take it one activity at a time, instead of trying to accomplish the whole house in one day. Make the process manageable by listing out the chores, along with a realistic time frame. That way you can make sure you tackle all the nooks and crannies that are often otherwise ignored, without getting overwhelmed.
- Get your bottles in a row. Peruse your cleaning supply stash to see what you have, and shop for what you need before you get started. Bock advises considering multi-purpose cleaning products that effectively clean a variety of surfaces. Make sure you use the right product on the right surfaces, since some chemicals can harm surfaces they aren’t designed for.
- DIY cleaners. Consider using rubbing alcohol, vinegar and baking soda, common household ingredients that can make natural, DIY cleaners. Once you have all your products assembled, organize them in an easy-to-carry caddy so you aren’t running from room to room.
- Do the worst first. Pick your least favorite cleaning task and start there. “You’ll likely feel good about your accomplishment when you’re finished and be motivated to tackle the next project,” Johnson said.
- Use products sparingly. Read the label to ensure you’re using the right amount of product. “There’s no need to overdo it, especially with more concentrated products that pack more power into smaller doses,” said Bock. When you use too much, it also takes that much longer to get the product off.
- Attack each room top to bottom. Dust and grime settle so start with the ceiling fans and end with your floors. Otherwise, you might find yourself redusting a surface as the ceiling cobwebs settle on it when you knock them down.
“People have been inside all winter and are ready for a fresh start,” Johnson said. “By taking on spring cleaning one task at a time, tackling those activities that often get ignored, and finding ways to make clean up fun for the whole family, you’ll have a cleaner home in no time and can turn your attention to enjoying the warmer weather days.”