THE summer is over and gone ; cold nights and mornings have so frightened and subdued the flies, that it is easy to hunt them from the house, and by a little extra watchfulness prevent their gaining possession again. The sun, still quite warm and summer-like in the middle of the day, tempts them out from their hiding-places, and they will swarm in at open doors and windows, if unprotected by wire and net frames, in great numbers. Take care that these safeguards are doing duty whenever windows or doors are opened for ventilation or comfort, else the skillful little maneuverers will soon gain access. Drive them out toward night into the cool evening air. A few really cold nights will free you from these vexatious intruders, and enable you to commence fall cleaning in peace and safety. The danger always is, that this part of fall labor will be undertaken too early.
The first ten or twelve days of September are usually raw and cold. The flies, crawling into warm nooks and corners, pretend to be asleep. The housekeeper, forgetting the experience of former years, hastens to get out scrub-cloths, brushes, and all the implements of house-cleaning. Those whose homes are in the city hurry back with the first puff of cold air, believing that flies and heat have both alike departed for the season. But they soon learn that this is a great mistake. These chilly, cold days are usually followed by ten days or a fortnight as warm as midsummer, and generally quite unhealthy. Nothing but real necessity should tempt any to leave the country before they have fully enjoyed the most perfect month of the whole year, — October.
But whether in city or country, those who attempt to do their fall cleaning in September will have short-lived satisfaction compared with the comfort derived from the same work in October. Flies, spiders, and wasps, if not harmless then, are at least so far disabled as to be easily conquered, and until that is accomplished, house-cleaning on a large scale is wasted labor.
The first thing to be done, preparatory to house-cleaning, is to have all the chimneys thoroughly swept, and the furnace, range, and grate flues, not only perfectly cleaned from soot, but examined by a competent workman ; especially is this needful if the house has been closed or only partially used during the summer. Before real winter weather comes, everything of this kind should be in perfect order.
Have the furnace-grate examined, as it may have been corroded by rust while unused, or so far burned out that, if neglected, some cold morning when a bright glowing fire is most needed it may break down and let your fire out. It will not be pleasant to sit shivering while the old grate is being mended or a new one fitted. The range-grate and firebricks must also be looked after and repaired for winter use. A little attention now will save much expense and discomfort later in the season.
If carpenters’ or masons’ work, whitewashing, painting, glazing, or plumbing is needed, it should all be done before any leaning is attempted. If left till afterward, this kind of work is a great terror to housekeepers. To secure seasonable attention to all these matters, it is essential that the mechanics who are needed should be engaged some weeks in advance.
While repairs are going on, bring down all the woolen garments, blankets, furs, or pieces of carpeting that have been stored away for the summer. Take them out on the grassplat under your clothesline, before removing the wrappers, for the preparation in which they have been put away is not very pleasant to the smell, particularly if it is Poole’s powder, which we think the safest as well as the most disagreeable. If it is a windy day, hang all on the clothes-line for a good snapping before you attempt to brush them, and most of the powder will blow off. After an hour or two in sun and wind, brush them well with a nice whisk-broom, and, when done, the garments and blankets may be put in their proper places and the pieces of carpeting sewed up in bagging or canvas or put into a spare trunk. They will need no more powder till spring, if carefully stored and occasionally aired through the winter.
The coal, of course, you had put into the cellar last spring, as it is usually cheaper about May than in the fall. The ashes and soot having been removed, the flues, furnace, and grates all in order, the house should now be swept from the attic to the cellar. Ingrain and three-ply carpets ought to be taken up every year, unless in rooms but little used, and after being well shaken or taken to the carpet-shaking mill, they should be laid out of the way till the room from which they were taken is cleaned. Brussels, Wiltons, Axministers, and all the heavier carpets should not be raised oftener than every three years. Very little dust sifts through such fabrics, and careful sweeping and the use of a good ” carpet sweeper ” will preserve them from all harm. In sweeping, preparatory to cleaning, it is well to draw the tacks in the corners and turn such heavy carpets back, so that with a whisk-broom any dirt that may have settled there can be easily removed. It is but little work, and the corners can be readily tacked down again.
When the sweeping is all done, a most thorough dusting is the next operation, so that wood-work, walls, and gas brackets may be free from loose dirt before water is used.
The paint is much easier cleaned after this than if the dust were allowed to remain and be washed off. Some recommend the latter to save time. We think it wastes time.
The walls should be dusted with a long-handled featherduster, then with a clean dry cloth pinned smoothly over a clean broom ; wipe them down evenly, beginning at the top and passing in a straight line, ” by a thread ” as a seamstress would say, to the bottom, changing the cloth as it becomes soiled. Next remove all chimneys and shades from the chandeliers and gas-burners ; wash clean, dry and polish with a soft linen towel, and then with chamois-skin, and put them into a closet till the room is cleaned. Now with a cloth, wrung from weak, hot suds, wipe off the brackets and chandeliers, and rub dry with chamois-skin. Draw a coarse linen thread, double, through the opening in the tip of all the gas-burners to remove any dust that may have settled in them while unused. This done, if you have two or three hands at work, the cleaning may be so divided as to be done quite expeditiously ; let one wash the windows while another cleans the paint. The windows, if long unused, need to be well washed in warm suds, into which a little spirits of ammonia have been poured, — two teaspoonfuls to half a bucket of suds ; then well rinsed in clear water, wiped dry, and polished with chamois-skin. This same proportion of suds and ammonia will also clean paint very easily, and without injury to the hands. It is good for cleaning marble slabs and mantles. The plated door-handles, bell-pulls, etc., come next in order for cleaning ; and here, if a piece of oil-cloth is cut to slip over each, so that the walls may not be tarnished, the hot suds and ammonia will prove very effective. A piece of old carpet or drugget should be laid down as you clean windows, paint, or plated ware, if the carpet is down, and moved from one spot to another as you go on.
Now all is ready to put the last touch to the room. Wring a clean cloth from some warm, clear water, in which a little alum or salt has been dissolved, and wipe hard each breadth of the carpet, rubbing straight down the nap.
Wring out the cloth often, to rinse off all the dust, and change the water if it looks very dingy. This brings up the nap and gives a new and fresh look to carpets of all kinds ; only be sure that the cloth is not so wet as to drip. Leave the windows open when the carpet is finished, and shut the doors till it is thoroughly dried before bringing in what furniture was moved out to clean the room.
Source: Motherly talks with young housekeepers 1873