Spring Cleaning Windows

Spring Cleaning Windows

There was a day when spring cleaning was a real chore with a capital “C.” Let's start with the windows. After the house had been shut up all winter and the wood stove in the parlor and the cooking range in the kitchen spewing out smoke and soot all winter, the windows really needed attention.

First, the storm windows came off. They were glass within a wooden frame. There was no insulated glass back in the day. Everything was single pane. That was why you needed the storm windows on the outside. That gave a dead air space to insulate the windows. If you had the newer storm windows, they would be replaced after you washed the outside of the primary windows and the top sash of the storm windows. The screen insert in the bottom section would be needed in the hot sultry summer days to freshen the house. If you didn't, then you placed a screen insert in place when you raised the lower sash. Do you get the picture?

We had storm windows. Dad would remove them. Mother would wash the outside of both sections of the window. They might be hard to open after being stuck together all winter. They were painted, of course. Mother washed the panes with vinegar and dried them with crumpled up newspaper. OK, the outside was done.

Now to the inside. Mother would have removed the draperies to be washed and stored until autumn. She rolled up the shades and set them aside while she washed the windows on the inside. That was more of a chore than washing the outside. After a winter of wood burning, the soot hung heavy on the glass panes, but they sparkled after Mother got through with them.

Now, what to do with the windows. They needed curtains, of course. There were two ways to go. One, was with ruffled tie-backs or with straight lace curtains. I liked the looks of the sheer ruffled tie-backs but the lace curtains required less care.

If Mother had the ruffled ones and she usually did, they had to be washed, starched and ironed before being hung on the curtain rods. You probably have never done that. It is not easy. First, you gently wash the curtains by hand. Then you prepare the starch on the stove. You did that every time you washed clothes anyway. Shirts and dresses needed to be starched and ironed. Argo clothes starch came in a dry lump form. When cold water was added, it melted like cornstarch did. Cooked until thickened and thinned to the desired consistency, the wet curtains were dipped in it, wrung out and placed on the clothes rack placed outside the kitchen door to dry. When dry, they were sprinkled with water, rolled up and allowed to sit until ready to iron.

Now that was a real chore. (Chore is not a nice word and it applies here.) First, you heated the iron on the cookstove. (We didn't have electricity.) I am talking about sad irons. You had two or three heating as you ironed. Mother ironed the ruffle first, then the straight body of the curtain. It was strung on the rod and hung. When both sides were done, Mother ironed the tie-backs. She carefully formed loose pleats in the curtain and tied it in place.

Lace panels were easier to do. Mother washed them and fitted them on a wooden frame set with tiny nails all around the edges to hold the curtain in place as it dried. They needed to be stretched. After all, if you tried to iron them, they wouldn't hang straight.

This was only part of getting the house ready for summer. The floors and walls needed attention, too. That will be another story. Woman's work is never done. Nowadays, when we meet someone, we ask “What do you do?” We all work outside the home. Back in the day, she would have replied, “I am a housewife.” Yes-er-ree-bob, she really was married to the house.

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