Why is it that there is a frenzy of activity at this time of year in our homes? It is an age-old tradition which has its roots in cultural and religious traditions and is also linked to our physical make up.
Spring cleaning in the Jewish religion is an integral part of the Passover in March and April. The Passover marks the liberation of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. A deep cleansing of people’s homes takes place to remove any yeast bread, chametz, or any foods with leavening agents.
In the 1800s people felt the need to spring clean because winter, which precedes spring, in the calendar leaves “a layer of soot and grime” in every room. This deep cleaning required windows and doors to be thrown open and this of course could only be done as the days grew longer and the weather was not so cold.
The Catholics clean their altar the day before Good Friday and the Greek Orthodox clean their churches for the week leading up to the beginning of Lent. The Persians have a holiday called Nowruz which is essentially the Persian new year. Iranians practice “Khooneh Tekouni” or “shaking the house” prior to Norouz. This coincides with the first day of spring. This tradition of cleaning takes thirteen days and involves buying new clothes and spending time with their families. Carpets are also deep cleaned.
The Chinese do not sweep clean their homes for the first three days of their new year as they do not want to sweep away any of the good luck that they received at this time.
We actually do not have the same amount of energy to deep clean in the colder months, nor the inclination. But once the days are longer and brighter we become more energised by longer hours of sunshine and the production of melatonin is less. Also, the sunlight streaming through windows makes us see the dust and cobwebs more readily.
Before the industrial revolution, housekeepers and maids relied on heavy scrubbing and household solutions that were created in the home. The most common solutions were lime juice, tea leaves, vinegar and salt. Gin was used as a method of cleaning mirrors (rather a waste!)
Some interesting facts about cleaning:
- The first ever electricity-powered, mechanical vacuum cleaner was released in the early 20th century.
- The famous Lysol detergent was released in the late 19th century. It became known as a clever solution for restricting the Spanish flu.
- Good old DIY soap stepped down in sales to pave the way for synthetic products in 1953. Fat and oil scarcity was the reason for this after the first and second world wars