We here at Maids by Trade are such nerds about clean that we’ve decided to start a Maids by Trade Bookclub! Yep, you read that right. We’re starting a series in which we blurb books we’ve read that are about cleaning, cleanliness, or that relate in some way to our mission and values. We hope that by doing this we can start a conversation about what clean means to you and explore ideas together. Please tell us if you’ve read any of the books we mention or if you picked one up after seeing our post!

“Housecleaning Made Easier”

For the first installment, we’re not featuring an actual book. Instead we’re taking a look at historical booklets about cleaning released by the US government (this is more fun than it sounds, we promise).

The first is a publication from 1921 called “Housecleaning Made Easier.” It was one of hundreds of publications made by the US Department of Agriculture as part of a series of Farmers’ Bulletins. We’ve included a copy for you to glace through, but you don’t have to read the whole thing because we’ve covered the highlights below.

  • The use of the word “bugbear,” as in “Housecleaning need not be the bugbear it has long been regarded in many households” (page 3). We’re thinking this word should make a comeback. We can see the hashtags now…
  • Apparently people used to have to oil the roads as a way to prevent so much dirt from coming into their homes. Oil them or make sure they were “at least regularly sprinkled.” Maybe the vocabulary was more fun back then, but at least now cleaning your house doesn’t involve road maintenance as well. (page 4)
  • News flash: water is “by far the most common cleaning material.” (page 7)
  • Technically speaking, lye is caustic potash. Why would anyone say “lye” when they could use the way more fun phrase caustic potash?! (page 8)
  • If you’ve been wondering how to clean your kerosene lamp, you’ve finally found a place to give you answers (page 24).
  • Aside from a couple of minor things, house cleaning hasn’t changed that much since 1921! Lots of the advice in the book is still as valid today as it was then.

“When to Do House Cleaning Jobs”

Now let’s fast-forward a few years and look at a publication from 1972. “When to Do Housecleaning Jobs” was also released by the US Department of Agriculture.

This publication is horribly boring by itself, but interesting when compared to our first example. One might guess that people had become much less focused on housekeeping by the seventies. Cleaning went from being presented as something complicated and worthy of lots of explanation to something very basic and simple. Also, in the first example many generic products were mentioned, but in the second none were, maybe signaling a change in the marketing landscape. We’re not historians, but we’re still fascinated by these booklets, the differences between them, and how they differ from our present-day perspective on cleaning.

Like this first installment of our new series? Share your thoughts in the comments or by telling us on social media!