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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spring is here, it’s time to get cleaning

Allen Norwood The Charlotte Observer

There’s something almost primal about spring cleaning. On a pretty weekend, many of us feel tugged to grab buckets and rags and attack our floors and windows. We can blame the powerful pull of history — and bedbugs.

Centuries ago, people heated with wood and coal, often in cabins without functioning chimneys, and soot seeped into every cranny.

Many floors were dirt. On simple homesteads, farm animals were sometimes brought inside during bitter cold. And even those with highfalutin’ wood floors tracked the barnyard in all winter. When spring finally arrived, it was time to fling the house open, to air it out and scrape away the winter’s grime.

“If the floors were in dire need of cleaning, they actually brought sand in and scrubbed the floors with the sand,” said Kristen Toler, education director at Latta Place, the restored house at historic Latta Plantation in Huntersville, N.C.

Mattresses were “ticks,” filled with straw, feathers or corn shucks. Ticks had to be restuffed when the shucks and straw crumbled — or when the critters bit too aggressively. “They did have trouble with bedbugs,” Toler said.

A little perspective, please, as you tackle your spring cleaning.

As you try to decide which spray cleaner to use on your windows, or which toss-away wipe to use on your floors, consider what life was like on Latta Plantation, circa 1800, and at the Hezekiah Alexander home, which was built in 1774.

After homeowners scrubbed their unfinished wood floors with sand and a corn-shuck broom in the late 1700s and early 1800s, they had to sweep all that grit back out.

If they were going to use the sand again, they had to wash it, and the soap of the day was homemade with lye and lard. Cleaning the fireplaces was a spring chore, and the ashes were saved to make the lye that went into the soap. (The lard, of course, didn’t come in a handy tub.)

Windows were cleaned with water and vinegar, just as today. But the solution smelled like vinegar. There were no spray bottles or faux-springtime perfumes. When you finally got through spring cleaning your home 200 years ago, it just smelled, well, cleaner.

So, as you respond to that primal tug to clean, consider your blessings. No bedbugs. No lye soap. And, thanks to the electric vacuum cleaner that began to emerge after the turn of the 20th century, no corn shuck brooms.

Guide to cleaning kitchen

Microwave: To steam-clean the microwave, add 4 tablespoons of lemon juice to a cup of water in a large microwave-safe bowl. Boil in microwave for five minutes, then wipe away the moisture that condenses on the microwave interior.

Oven: To make oven-cleaning easier, spray it the night before. It’ll be ready to wipe in the morning. Cleaners designed for cold ovens are stronger than those for warm ovens. Never use cleaner in self- or continuous-cleaning ovens.

Refrigerator: Pull it out and vacuum the coils. If you can’t reach the dust, try a sock on a yardstick. Clean the inside of the refrigerator with three tablespoons of baking soda in a quart or warm water, or with a nonabrasive all-purpose cleaner.

Countertop: Don’t use products that contain acids — lemon or vinegar, for instance — on marble or limestone. Use special stone cleaners or a mild detergent in water. Rinse thoroughly and dry with a soft cloth. When in doubt about using abrasives — don’t. Even mild abrasives can damage today’s fine kitchen finishes. Scrub laminate countertops with nylon brush and household cleaner.


Open the windows as you clean.

When dusting, don’t forget the tops of fan blades, picture frames, and door and window frames. Be sure to follow ladder safety precautions.

To clean lighting crystals and bulbs, spray cleaner on a soft cloth, not directly on the glass.

An art gum eraser will quickly remove many scuffs marks on painted or papered walls.

The new disposable dusters are terrific for blinds and shutters. But you don’t need disposable cleaning cloths for every chore. Washable microfiber cloths — such as those from Scotch-Brite — create an electrostatic charge that captures dust.

Take dusty plants outside and spray with fine mist from the hose.

Avoid liquid detergents with lanolin when removing stains from fabric or carpet.

Always pretest solutions in an inconspicuous spot when cleaning carpet or upholstery. Be sure to check for color transfer to cleaning cloth.

For the care and cleaning of modern upholstery fabrics, including popular microfiber, visit Microfiber is not a specific synthetic, but a tightly woven fabric available in acrylic, nylon, polyester and rayon.


Follow safety precautions when using potent cleaning products, especially chlorine bleach. Ventilate properly and protect your eyes.

Scrub dirty tile and grout with a stiff brush — not metal — and tub and tile cleaner.

For badly mildewed grout, soak paper towels in chlorine bleach and place on tile. Wet towels will stay in place on shower walls. Sealing the grout after it’s clean and dry will keep it looking good longer.

To avoid chlorine bleach, try peroxide or one of the new oxygen bleaches.

Don’t use bleach on rust stains. Instead, scrub with salt and lemon juice or try one of the cleaners designed to remove rust.

Spray foams are good on fiberglass shower surrounds because the foams don’t run. Don’t use abrasive cleaners on fiberglass.

Try oven cleaner or mineral spirits to remove balky soap scum from glass showers and shower doors. Other cleaners include KRC-7, W-14 Soap Scum Plus and Kaboom.

Polish faucets with a used dryer sheet.

While you’re cleaning in the bathroom, consider installing grab bars, nonslip decals and other safety improvements.

Tuck a spray bottle of all-purpose surface cleaner and a roll of paper towels under the sink. Use regularly to cut work next year.

You can also reduce cleaning next spring if you wipe or squeegee after showering, or use a shower mister. Turn on the exhaust fan before showering, and leave the shower door ajar between showers.


We do windows, and so can you — here’s how to make ‘em sparkle

The average new American home has 19 windows — but it can seem like more when it’s time to attack smudges and fingerprints. Here’s how:

Add a cup each of ammonia and white vinegar to a bucket of warm water. Add two tablespoons of rubbing alcohol. Fill another bucket with clean water.

Wipe the window with the solution, then wipe with clear water.

Squeegee the window, drying the squeegee with a rag after each pass.

You can use a soft cloth instead of a squeegee, but a quality squeegee with soft rubber makes fast work of cleaning the exterior of windows. Spring for a good one.

Wash on a cloudy but dry day, working in one direction on the outside and the other inside.

If you want to try one of the professional window cleaning solutions, try CRL Sparkle Cleaner and Stain Remover, which has a polish in it, and CRL Sprayway Glass Cleaner.

There’s nothing wrong with cleaning windows with old newspaper, a tip you often see, but inks can stain today’s white vinyl frames. Don’t use paper towels with lanolin or aloe, which can leave smudges.

If your double-pane windows seem to have a haze in direct sunlight but look clean at other times, it could be the low-e coating between the panes. You can’t clean that.

When cleaning paint off a window, don’t jam a razor blade between the glazing and glass. Moisture will get into the crack you create. The paint film should just touch the glass for the best seal.

If your home has storm windows, make sure the weep holes at the bottom are open. Remove the winter’s dust and debris, so water won’t be trapped and damage the windowsill or leak inside the home.

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