The melancholy days that come,
The saddest of the year, When scrubbing-brushes, mops, and brooms
Are flying far and near, - When carpets, curtains, rugs, and beds
Are streched on fence and line, And everything is upside down -
O, sad, unhappy time.
At this cheerful time of year, a few hints to the newly-initiated may prove helpful. They are not written for the veterans in the service, although such may possibly be benefited somewhat by glancing at them. It is a good plan to regulate and renovate all bureau-drawers and closets before the general siege. Then have the washing and ironing finished and put away. Wash up everything that is soiled. Bake enough bread, cookies, and cake to last several days. Boil a large ham, if possible, and bake a big pot of beans. These, with preserved fruits, will make a good meal with hot tea or coffee.
The general rule to begin at the garret and finish with the cellar is a good one in the main. But sometimes, with a large house and insufficient help, the cellar gets but an indifferent cleaning if left till all hands are tired out. It is, in reality, the most important part of the whole house. There can be no health, with foul, disease-breeding gases escaping into the living rooms above, to be breathed into the system. Malarial diseases are often traced to a cellar of decayed vegetables. Typhus und typhoid fevers, cutting down whole families, can be traced directly to the fearful emanations from a filthy cellar.
After removing all rubbish from each nook and corner, and giving it a thorough airing, give it a good coat of white-wash, yellowed with copperas. Wash the windows and steps.
Next, go to the upper story and begin in good earnest the cleaning and putting things to rights after an accumulated disorder of six months or a year. Even with constant watchcare, things will get out of place, and house-renovating is just as sure to be a necessity, as is the cleaning necessary to health.
First and foremost, let in the air. Give things a systematic sorting over, putting articles of a kind together in boxes or sacks, and labeling them. Sweep the ceiling and walls down. Wash the windows and the floor. Wipe up dry. If there are any signs of moths, make sure that there is no fire or light in the room, and sprinkle benzine plentifully around the cracks and crevices. Have but little in the dish you use. Exercise great caution in its use. It will be death to the moths. The odor is disagreeable, but of short duration. Wash the steps down, and you are ready for the chambers.
A good step-ladder is one of the indispensables in every house. Be careful, however, and see that it stands securely before ascending it. I have a lady acquaintance who fell from one that stood insecurely, and has been made almost helpless for life, from the effects of the fall.
Before beginning the general cleaning, take everything from the walls. Dust and wipe off and put into the closets, which are already cleaned. Shut the doors. Take one room at a time. Move everything out; take up the carpet. Have it folded and carried right out into the yard and spread upon the grass, or hung on the line. After it is beaten well on the wrong side with whips or canes, sweep it very particularly on the right side, with a good, firm broom. Do not sweep against the pile in velvet or Brussels. Use the preparation for "Renovating Carpets and Rugs," on page 438, for removing grease-spots. It will brighten a very badly-soiled carpet.
Sweep the bare floor, and get the dirt up before opening the windows. If sawdust can be gotten, dampen it and sprinkle the floor with it. Wash hard-finished walls, and wipe dry. Paper walls should be wiped off with a broom wrapped in old flannel. Change the cloth for a clean one when it gets soiled. Of course, a wall-brush with an extension handle is the best of anything for this purpose, but the broom is a good substitute.
Next, wash the windows; then the woodwork. Put ammonia in each pail of water to soften it, and half the labor is saved. Change the water often. Use strong suds for the floor, and change the water often. Wash but a square yard at a time and wipe it dry.
Take the next room the same way. By the time that is cleaned, the first one will be ready for the carpet to go down. Sprinkle salt entirely around the room under the edge of the carpet. It is a very sure preventive of moths. If kalsomin-ing has to be done, of course the labor of house-cleaning is greatly increased. A good recipe will be found for kal-somine in this chapter, which, if closely followed, will give excellent results. For those who prefer white-wash, I give also the famous "White House" recipe.
It is poor economy to try to put down a carpet alone. The better it is put down, the better it will wear. I think it pays to hire a man who makes carpet-laying his business, They furnish their own tacks, which alone is quite an item, and it is much more satisfactory when done. Laying a heavy carpet is a piece of work that no woman ought ever to attempt. Many persons still use straw under their carpets, and it is certainly clean and sweet. In cities and towns it is more customary to use the regular carpet-lining paper, which is heavy and durable. For stairs be sure and use either padding or lining, and have the carpet a yard extra in length to allow you to change its position occasionally, and so save the wear where the edges of the steps come.
Replacing the furniture in the room is comparatively easy. The pieces should be well dusted and polished. If not convenient to polish the same day, it can be done any other day. A good recipe for polish will be found in this chapter. For cleaning marble I have found sapolio to be very good.
Broken marble may be mended by the use of the crockery cement given further on in this chapter. I knew of a broken tomb-stone being mended with this simple preparation that has stood the wind and weather of many years.
Dining-room floors are better uncarpeted in families having young children. In fact, they are better in summer, in any family. Have the floor stained or painted, and it is always easy to keep it clean and sweet. If carpeted, have a crumb-cloth that can be taken up and shaken at will, and thus protect the main carpet.
When the kitchen is reached by the attacking party, gather up all of the lamp-burners and put into strong soda-water and boil up in some convenient vessel. Into a boiler, put all of the baking-tins, dripping-pans, waffle-irons, gem-irons, etc., and boil them 15 or 20 minutes in suds or soda-water. If you use either of the washing preparations given in the "Laundry" chapter, put some of it in the water. The fluid is excellent for this purpose. Don't scour your life away on tinware. Wash clean, wipe dry, and let that suffice.
While the tins and pans are cleaning themselves in the boiler, get the pantry ready to place them back. Use enameled cloth for shelves, instead of paper. It costs but little, and is so easily cleaned that it pays a good interest on the investment. Clean the walls either by washing, kalsomining, or white-washing.
See that the sinks and drains are thoroughly disinfected. Copperas is the cheapest, and one of the very best for this purpose. Make a solution of it in water and sprinkle in the places needing it, besides putting a small vessel containing it in the same places.
When the stoves are put away, rub each length of pipe with kerosene, wrap a paper around it and number it; so that it can be put up in the fall according to the numbering. The kerosene will keep it from rusting.
Be sure and clean the soot out of the stove-pipe holes in the chimneys before they are covered for the summer.
Have the doors and windows sereened after the cleaning is done. Put mats and scrapers at the doors.
If it is a possible thing, do your cleaning on bright, sunny days. Polish the grates about the last thing, using recipe given farther on.
Look bed-steads over in March. Apply Persian insect powder, or the poison mentioned in the latter part of this chapter. Even after the general house-cleaning, they should be looked after once a week. Bed-bugs can never get the mastery if fought in this manner.
When winter clothes are put away for the summer, examine carefully, shake well, and wrap each article in paper and tie up securely. I always put my furs and fur-trimmed cloak in an old linen pillow-case and baste it up, being sure there are no holes through which the moth-miller can crawl to lay her eggs. Blankets can be wrapped in old sheets or large papers.