What's the History of Spring Cleaning?

Here's why we use this time to refresh our homes.

<p>EKIN KIZILKAYA/Getty Images</p>


We hear the phrase “spring cleaning” every year around this time. It's a big umbrella term for all kinds of home cleaning and decluttering projects—and we're big fans. But what does it really mean and how is spring cleaning any different from, well, other types of cleaning? And how did the tradition begin? We're breaking down what we know about spring cleaning and how it got started below.

Related: Our 20 Best Spring Cleaning Tips of All Time

What is Spring Cleaning?

According to Alessandro Gazzo at Emily Maids, spring cleaning is what we commonly call deep cleaning the entire house from top to bottom. “This usually includes areas that you only clean either once a year—each spring—or once a quarter.  However, Gazzo tells us that you don’t need to wait until spring to refresh your home. “Nowadays we just use the term ‘spring cleaning’ whenever you deep clean your home, usually along with decluttering and organizing as well.”

Natalie D’Apolito, the communications and outreach coordinator at the American Cleaning Institute, tells us that spring cleaning has effects on more than just our homes. “Spring cleaning is a time-honored household tradition promoting a boosted mood, better focus, and overall relaxation due to the practice of deep cleaning a home or other space,” she says.

To Tyler Moore, teacher and writer behind the page Tidy Dad, it just feels right to clean your home in the spring. “After a long, dark, cold winter, it always feels incredible to open up the windows for the first time and welcome in the warm(ish) breeze of early spring,” he says. The other side of this, Moore says, is that the extra light and the circulating breeze can expose the dirty truth of winter hibernation.

“In the cold winter months, we spend more time at home than average, and this puts an inherent stress on our spaces.” So, after this period of wintertime hibernation, he says spring cleaning is a natural occurrence. “The goal with spring cleaning is to freshen up the living space after a long winter, remove accumulated dust, clutter, signs of wear, and create a clean and organized environment,” Moore adds.

To this end, Moore explains that spring cleaning tasks typically go beyond regular day-to-day cleaning routines. “During spring cleaning, you might be inspired to clean windows, dust and wash curtains, vacuum and clean carpets, mop underneath rugs, declutter and organize closets, and scrub surfaces that may not be regularly cleaned,” Moore says.

That’s a lot, and both Moore and D’Apolito acknowledge that spring cleaning can be overwhelming. “You can clean a little at a time or clean everything at once, that’s up to you,” D’Apolito says. However, she recommends that you start with a plan so that you can stay on track with your cleaning goals.

Related: Your 5-Day Spring Cleaning Plan, According to a Microbiologist

What’s the History of Spring Cleaning?

So, where and how did spring cleaning originate? While it's hard to pinpoint the exact beginnings of this tradition or just one singular reason behind it, there are plenty of ideas about why the tradition of spring cleaning began—and there are several versions of it practiced around the world.

D’Apolito notes that spring cleaning dates back to biblical times. “Cleansing the home, particularly the kitchen, is part of the Jewish celebration of Passover involving removing any traces of leavened bread products,” she explains. “Many cultures have long celebrated this season with tidying up, including Catholics cleaning the church altar and their homes as part of Holy Week.”

D'Apolito tells us that springtime has traditionally been a time of renewal, when the home as well as the mind can be reduced of clutter, allowing people to start again with a clean slate.

She adds that cleaning in springtime also has a practical history. “When homes were lit with oil or heated with wood or coal, spring was an opportunity to remove soot from the home that had collected over the winter,” D’Apolito says. “In addition, given that spring often brings with it nicer weather, it continues to be a good time to leave windows open for dusting and airing out the indoors.”

Spring cleaning is also practiced in several other cultures, regions, and religions. Nowruz, the Persian New Year, for example, is celebrated on the first day of spring and includes a tradition of deep cleaning in the home prior to the holiday celebrations and festivities. Similarly, Songkran (a festival marking the Thai new year, which is celebrated in April) is centered around the concept of washing away the previous year and preparing for the next—and a big part of that involves the cleaning of houses, schools, offices, and public spaces.

Related: 10 Brilliant Spring Cleaning Shortcuts

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