Our first task after moving in was deep cleaning the entire house. The house was very well-maintained over the years, but we are clean freaks! Also, most people don’t walk around a museum or office in their socks! You need a totally different level of clean for a home.
Our biggest concern was the preservation of the original elements of the house. We decided not to use any harsh chemicals, and spent hours researching gentle/natural alternatives.
We learned that a lot of natural cleaning solutions are just modern adaptations of old-school cleaning techniques (from the pre-readily-available-chemical-cleaner days). White vinegar quickly became our best friend.
As part of the initial deep-clean, we wiped down every single surface with a mixture of water and vinegar. This was particularly tedious because of the insane amount of beautiful woodwork in the house!
Every window surround, every panel of wainscoting, every inch of baseboard, and every part of the intricately carved details throughout the house were all in need of a deep-clean.
We delicately cleaned all the wood with the vinegar mixture and immediately dried with a clean cotton rag. All of these wood surfaces had been previously painted, which helped a lot. It’s much easier to clean dirt off painted wood than unfinished wood!
The floors were (and still are) much trickier. A handful of rooms in the house have a (deteriorating) polyurethane finish, but most of the wood floors are unfinished.
Unfinished floors are tremendously fickle. They are easy to stain, easy to abrate (items dragged over dusty floors can easily scratch) and require delicate cleaning… not a good combination. They are beautiful, but cannot be mopped with your trusty ole’ mop and bucket. That’s too much water, which can cause the floorboards to warp or rot.
Anyway, we were terrified to clean the floors. First, we tried using a spray-mop with water. The spray-mop helped make sure we didn’t get too much liquid on the floors. The water didn’t do much, so we added some vinegar into the mix. Bingo!
The pads were filthy after cleaning just a small corner! So, we worked our way through the first room, corner to corner. We started on the second pass, and found that the pads were still coming up filthy. After the 5th or 6th time going around the room, we realized this method wasn’t going to cut it.
After some more trial and error, we finally figured out that Cinderella was right, all along!
This was the only method that worked! We were finally able to walk around the house without ruining white socks!
Room by room, we worked our way through the house, on our hands and knees, scrubbing. We had a big bucket filled with about a gallon of water and a splash of vinegar. Working together, one person would scrub the floor with the water/vinegar mixture, and the other person followed close behind with a clean, dry rag to soak up all the dirty water.
This method was super exhausting and extremely tedious. After a day of scrubbing the floors, we were hurting. Also, we didn’t have a washing machine at that point, so all of our dirty rags had to go to the laundromat!
Now that the initial deep-cleaning is finished (well, almost) it takes a lot less to keep the house clean. With a bulk of the dirt gone, it’s mostly just maintenance now.
The floors are vacuumed several times per week to help reduce the amount of surface dust. They are mopped about once every other week using the spray-mop with water and a splash of vinegar.
Our plan is to refinish the floors eventually, but only after the rest of the work is finished (which may be never… ha) so we don’t damage them during a subsequent project. Because they’re so old (220 years!), they can’t be refinished too many more times, so we’re holding out until it’s absolutely necessary.
The other wood elements don’t see water at all. Everything else is dry-dusted using a Swiffer 360 duster. Occasionally, something needs a deeper touch-up, and then we’ll use water/vinegar.
The only thing we haven’t fully cleaned is the dining room. The wallpaper in that room is dirty (they used to allow smoking inside the museum!) and damaged (we believe from a leak in the bathroom c. 1980), but incredibly beautiful and valuable! That plan is to have it restored… someday 🙂
Click here to find out more about the wallpaper!