What are the Origins of Spring Cleaning? (with pictures)

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Spring cleaning is a term for cleaning the entire house from top to bottom once the winter season has ended.
Spring cleaning is a term for cleaning the entire house from top to bottom once the winter season has ended.

Spring cleaning is the process of thoroughly cleaning a house from top to bottom once the weather has lost its winter chill. In the past, inadequate heating in homes and small living spaces often meant that certain types of cleaning had to wait for spring. For example, pioneers who used straw tick mattresses, tended to wait till spring to refill these, so that they could use fresh dry hay for filling. Before modern dryers, washing drapes or comforters was complicated by cold weather and tight living quarters. Those in cold climates and had no other choice but to wait for warm weather to hang laundry outdoors to dry.

Grout needs cleaning regularly.
Grout needs cleaning regularly.

There are several suggested origins for spring cleaning based on religious practices. One of these is traced to the Jewish celebration of Pesach or Passover, which occurs in March or April each year. Prior to the celebration, the home is usually completely cleaned, and people also get rid of any leavened bread, called chametz, which are forbidden foods during the Passover days. Even crumbs of chametz or a few leftover specks of leftover grains from forbidden flours need to be removed from the home, and typically, Jewish families hunt for any possible chametz crumbs the night before Passover begins.

Sorting through a closet is a common part of spring cleaning.
Sorting through a closet is a common part of spring cleaning.

Another origin for spring cleaning is dated to the Persian New Year celebration, called Nouroz, which occurs at the onset of spring. Traditionally, Persian women clean everything in the house right before Nouroz begins, including floors, drapery, furniture, and ceilings. This is called khooneh takouni which translates to “shaking the house.” Twice a year in Saudi Arabia, a thorough cleaning of the Ka’aba is conducted too, which may relate to the khooneh takouni practice.

Vacuuming is usually part of spring cleaning.
Vacuuming is usually part of spring cleaning.

Later in history, many Eastern Orthodox Churches conducted a week long spring cleaning right before or during the first week of Lent. Other Christians may also use this time to clean the house from floor to roof. Obviously, anyone of any religion, inspired by warmer weather may want to take the time to get a house in order after the winter months.

Spring cleaning origins probably most date back to prehistory, and represent the time when it was easiest to conduct a good cleaning of living spaces. Extra light allowed people additional time to truly see the messy state of their caves, huts, or teepees. Warmer weather also meant that people could get things thoroughly dry. In agrarian societies, spring cleaning usually coincided with the beginning of planting. It could be an ideal time to organize seeds and get the home ready for the busy months ahead.

Some groups also conducted a winter cleaning right before the dreary cold of winter sets in. This is often the last opportunity to clean things like quilts, mattresses and furniture before cold weather makes it challenging to dry wet clothing. Today many Americans may also conduct a spring cleaning or organizing of their tax materials before the federal tax deadline of April 15th. If receipts or tax documents have been scattered through the house, people may want to organize and clean the home at the same time they organize and file their taxes.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent HomeQuestionsAnswered contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent HomeQuestionsAnswered contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

Scrbblchick

@Lostnfound -- Yeah, spring cleaning is always so much fun (sarcasm here). I know some people who actually like to clean, but for the life of me, I don't know why! It's a necessary evil. Has to be done, but that doesn't mean I have to enjoy it.

There is a certain feeling of accomplishment, I suppose, when I get through, but I'm usually too tired to enjoy it.

Lostnfound

I'd probably do more spring cleaning if it didn't aggravate my allergies so much. I have to wear a mask to do any kind of heavy cleaning because the dust bothers me.

I remember reading in "Farmer Boy" by Laura Ingalls Wilder that Almanzo's family always had to help with spring cleaning. Almanzo's job was to beat the carpets until all the dust was out. Wilder writes about how that was also the time to paint the henhouse, whitewash the cellar, scrub the floors and, in short, do everything around the house that needed to be done.

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    • Spring cleaning is a term for cleaning the entire house from top to bottom once the winter season has ended.
      Spring cleaning is a term for cleaning the entire house from top to bottom once the winter season has ended.
    • Grout needs cleaning regularly.
      Grout needs cleaning regularly.
    • Sorting through a closet is a common part of spring cleaning.
      Sorting through a closet is a common part of spring cleaning.
    • Vacuuming is usually part of spring cleaning.
      Vacuuming is usually part of spring cleaning.