Spring Cleaning – Straw’s style

Spring Cleaning at Mr Straws House

Now that spring is here, many of us may be thinking about giving the house a good clean to clear away the cobwebs... and it's no different at Mr Straw's House.

Spring cleaning was a necessity in the days when houses were almost exclusively heated by coal fires.

The dust and soot created meant that by the end of the winter the house was dirty and ready for a thorough airing. Before the advent of the electrical gadgets we take for granted today, cleaning a house was a long and exhausting business.

Carpets would be taken up, walls and ceilings painted and furniture polished, chimneys swept, curtains washed and windows cleaned. In the early 20th century, much of this was done by hand, with good old fashioned ‘elbow grease’. A large house like No.7 Blyth Grove would have taken a considerable time to thoroughly clean, and with little or no outside help, Florence Straw, and later William junior would have had their hands full.

By the time the Straw family moved into the house in 1923, there were some labour saving household cleaning appliances on the market.

In the Lumber Room, there is Florence’s ‘Baby Daisy’ vacuum cleaner – a huge heavy wooden contraption with a bellows mechanism for creating the vacuum, and a metal pipe with cleaning head on the end. Although it was designed to be less exhausting than using a carpet beater to knock the dust out of carpets, it required two people to operate it – one to work the bellows and the other to wield the cleaning head!

Fortunately, there is evidence that the family moved on from this, as there is also a Hotpoint Junior upright electric vacuum cleaner in the collection, dating from the 1950s.

Around the house and under the kitchen sink, there are a variety of cleaning products, including Goddard’s Silver Polish which is still in production today, and ‘Ronuk’ wax polish which was a popular brand, seen in many a household cupboard. Alternatively, some people made their own – there were many recipes available for homemade polish, including this one dating from 1948, which alarmingly included petrol! An added bonus to this one was the fact that ‘flies do not stay in a room where this polish has been used’.

“Inexpensive Floor Polish –

2oz beeswax, ¾ pint petrol

Shred beeswax finely into a bottle, add petrol, shake until the wax is dissolved.”

Cleaning materials of the time often contained ingredients that we would not use today. In the Straw’s cupboard is a bottle of Scrubb’s Cloudy Ammonia, an apparently miraculous fluid that ‘cleans anything and everything’ including laundry, crockery, floors, tiles, marble, silk, silver and jewellery, and could be used as shampoo, for insect stings, for shaving,  to relieve tired feet and clean dentures!

Today’s spring cleaning by comparison, is certainly a lot easier, and probably safer, than it was in the Straw’s day, although probably no less unpopular!