Spring cleaning may have originated with the Persian New Year, which falls on the first day of spring. Iranians continue the practice of “khooneh tekouni” which means “shaking the house” just before the New Year. Everything in the house is thoroughly cleaned, from the drapes to the furniture. Another possibility can be traced to the ancient Jewish practice of thoroughly cleansing the home in anticipation of the springtime feast of Passover. In remembrance of the Jews’ hasty flight from Egypt, during the seven-day observance of Passover there are strict prohibitions against eating or drinking anything that may have been leavened or fermented with yeast. Observant Jewish people are not only supposed to refrain from leavened foodstuffs (known in Hebrew as chametz), they are expressly commanded to rid their homes of even small remnants of chametz for the length of the holiday. This constituted a thorough “spring cleaning” of the house.
China has its own longstanding tradition of spring cleaning. Like Iranians, the Chinese people clean their homes in anticipation of the New Year (which occurs shortly after the Western new year). Tradition is to sweep their floors and clean their homes to get rid of bad luck and misfortune that may have accumulated during the previous year. Once the house is a clean slate, good fortune is welcomed by observing a prohibition against sweeping for the few days following the new year in order to prevent sweeping away any good fortune that comes with the turn of the year.
In our modern American culture, and I’m pretty sure most others, spring brings out the need to clean house and freshen up everything from the winter doldrums. Spring’s fresh air outside makes me want to bring that inside, open up the windows and air out! In honor of this tradition, I’d like to share a few of my favorite tricks and products.
- A homemade window cleaning solution: mix 1 16 oz. bottle of rubbing alcohol, 1/4 cup of ammonia, 1 or 2 drops of dishwashing liquid (no more!) to a gallon of water. Your windows will positively sparkle with no streaks. I also use this to clean countertops, and to get rid of mold growth on my grout. It cleans plastic, and is a good general overall cleaner, and cuts grease… I can’t say enough about this solution! Be careful though around colors and porous finishes, and definitely NOT on wood, although it works great on the outside painted wood around my windows.
- One thing I can’t do without either, especially on job sites: the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser sponges. No matter how careful everyone is on the site, there are always scuff marks on the new paint job…and a lightly dampened Mr. Clean does the trick! The sponge is also great for getting up paint drips that are not too old.
- Cleaning stainless steel. I found out from a very particular client’s cleaning lady that good ole Windex does the job. She also recommended using the recycled brown paper towels when wiping the Windex off the stainless steel surface, as this paper towel doesn’t leave lint. Windex leaves a film so that it inhibits fingerprints. I now clean all my clients’ appliances with this when we are finishing up a job and there are lots of contractors’ fingerprints everywhere.. Works like a charm!
- And finally, for all those people with yellowed silk: I learned that adding white vinegar to your wash takes out the yellow! I can say that I have five white silk blouses that look like new. What I did was to wash the blouses in the regular manner with soap, let the wash finish, and rinse. Then I ran the machine again, just with water and the white vinegar. Voila… white blouses!
There, now don’t we all feel cleaner already? Don’t forget to treat yourself with some fresh flowers!