Ah, the joys of spring… when daffodils bloom, lambs frolic, trees regrow their leafy jackets – and everybody schedules a mammoth housework marathon.
At least, they used to. These days, the annual spring clean is a tradition that, like many others, is on the wane – which actually sort of makes sense when you consider the origins of the domestic springtime blitz.
Spring cleaning has roots across a number of cultures. In the UK, the practice largely evolved as a means of refreshing rooms after a long, stuffy winter.
Wipe away winter
“Spring cleaning comes from the days when homes were heated by fireplaces, and efforts were made to prevent heat from escaping. The coming of spring and warm weather was an opportunity to air the house and clean it of soot and all the grime accumulated over the winter months,” explains Yvonne Manomano, cleaning operations manager at DIY and cleaning services company Handy.
“Now, many of us still enjoy the opportunity provided by spring to let in fresh air, clean our windows and wash the floor under the refrigerator – as well as other difficult-to-reach places. Another reason for cleaning taking place in spring is that warmer weather and longer days work as a stimulant for a lot of people to become more active.”
Habits have changed
As our homes and lifestyles have changed, so too have our cleaning habits. With central heating now more the norm, and the fact many of us spend more time outside the home, we don’t spend winters hibernating in quite the same way, our homes accumulating months of dust, soot and stale air. So, the need for the big spring clean may not feel so great.
A survey last year revealed that 85% of Brits think the tradition could soon be a thing of the past. Less than half of the 2,000 adults quizzed said they still do a yearly spring clean, while 37% said they do it every few years, and one-in-five confessed they never bother.
That’s not to say we’ve become a nation of dirty slobs. Of course, it is now far more usual for people to hire cleaners, plus most people now use more of a clean-as-you-go approach, just focussing on regular speedy cleaning sessions.
“The way we carry out our spring cleaning has changed dramatically compared to how it was done back in the 1940s.
Developments in technology mean that very little housework is now carried out without a cleaning gadget or piece of technology, compared to when everything was done by hand with materials that could be found around the home,” says Charlotte Farrow, product manager at leading UK homecare brand, Minky.
“In the 1940s it was much more common to adopt a regular cleaning schedule, dedicating a specific day to different chores. For example, Mondays were spent washing clothes, and there’d be separate days for ironing, baking, haberdashery and other tasks.
“Our busy lifestyles mean that it’s now much more common for people to devote one day a week, or an hour each day, to carry out general cleaning tasks.”
Spring to it
The tradition hasn’t disappeared just yet, however, and there are still plenty of advocates for the annual deep domestic de-grime.
“After a cold winter, a thorough spring clean can give the home a total refresh,” notes Farrow - and this could be beneficial both on practical and psychological terms, reviving spirits as well as rooms after a long, gloomy winter.
While a good spring clean doesn’t let us off the hook with household chores the rest of the year, it is also a good chance to do those jobs that we simply don’t need – or have time – to do regularly, like washing curtains and clearing out dust and dirt from rarely accessed nooks and crannies.