Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Cleaning through the ages

By Marjorie Ingall, Chelsea Renad and Sarah Stebbins, Real Simple
updated 2:40 PM EDT, Tue March 26, 2013
Real Simple culled the smartest strategies and products from all possible eras, so you can be as scrappy as a Colonial settler and as high-tech as Jane Jetson—and make your cleaning routine faster, easier, and more effective than ever before. Real Simple culled the smartest strategies and products from all possible eras, so you can be as scrappy as a Colonial settler and as high-tech as Jane Jetson—and make your cleaning routine faster, easier, and more effective than ever before.
HIDE CAPTION
Cleaning ideas: Past, present and future
Cleaning ideas: Past, present and future
Cleaning ideas: Past, present and future
Cleaning ideas: Past, present and future
Cleaning ideas: Past, present and future
Cleaning ideas: Past, present and future
Cleaning ideas: Past, present and future
Cleaning ideas: Past, present and future
Cleaning ideas: Past, present and future
Cleaning ideas: Past, present and future
Cleaning ideas: Past, present and future
Cleaning ideas: Past, present and future
Cleaning ideas: Past, present and future
Cleaning ideas: Past, present and future
Cleaning ideas: Past, present and future
Cleaning ideas: Past, present and future
Cleaning ideas: Past, present and future
Cleaning ideas: Past, present and future
Cleaning ideas: Past, present and future
Cleaning ideas: Past, present and future
The best cleaning ideas: Past, present and future
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Based on ancient pottery, the Babylonians used soap
  • Before vacuum cleaners, grass was used to sweep carpets
  • Lysol was once advertised as a birth control method

(Real Simple) -- 2800 B.C.: Soaplike residue found clinging to the insides of clay vessels dating from this era proves that the ancient Babylonians had soap. And soap scum.

1500s: In Scotland, stale human urine is used as a cleaning agent for laundry. (They don't tell you that in all those Scottish Highlander romance novels.)

Real Simple: Organizing secrets of the pros

1782: Henry Sidgier is awarded the first British patent for a washing machine that uses a rotating drum. It features a cage with a handle for turning clothes. Inside, wooden rods toss the laundry to and fro.

1856: The how-to book "Enquire Within Upon Everything" advises: "Persons who are accustomed to use tea leaves for sweeping their carpets, and find that they leave stains, will do well to employ fresh cut grass instead."

1886: A typical day for an American housewife includes 8 to 10 trips to the local water source. (It takes 50 gallons to do a single load of laundry!) That's nearly 11 tons of water hauled per year.

Real Simple: Easy clean up solutions for every room

1886: Josephine Cochran of Shelbyville, Illinois, irked that the servants chip her fine china in the sink (darn servants!), designs the first dishwasher, a motorized machine with racks that hold dishes in place as soapy water shoots from below. It later makes a splash at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.

1907: The Scott Paper Company introduces the first paper towels, designed to help prevent the spread of cold germs from cloth towels in public restrooms (eek!).

Real Simple: Surprising cleaning new uses

1912: Lysol comes to America from Germany. It's soon advertised as a way to halt the Spanish-influenza epidemic. It's also promoted as a birth-control method and a feminine-hygiene product. Handy!

1913: Five California businessmen invest $100 each to found America's first commercial liquid-bleach factory, using brine extracted from salt ponds. With sodium hypochlorite as its main ingredient, the product is dubbed Clorox. The business takes off when one investor's wife starts giving away free samples at her family's Oakland grocery store to cultivate customer loyalty.

Real Simple: The top 6 excuses for clutter

1918: The Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog advertises "Aids That Every Woman Appreciates," featuring a home motor that can operate a fan, a sewing machine, a mixer, and even a vibrator (OMG).

1933: Proctor & Gamble advertises Oxydol soap powder with the then-innovative strategy of sponsoring a radio drama. The genre soon becomes known as—you guessed it—"soap operas."

Stay in touch!
Don't miss out on the conversation we're having at CNN Living. Follow us on Twitter @CNNLiving or "like" us on Facebook to have your say! Get the latest stories and tell us what's influencing your life.

Real Simple: 12 organizing solutions for any home

1937: Betty Boop sings, "I've got those housecleaning blues," in a cartoon. Her Grampy rigs up a Zamboni-esque bicycle-mop (right), plus a player piano that presses laundry. Then Grampy makes her a frothy soda-fountain drink. We want a Grampy.

1965: Studies from this decade show that despite advances in technology, women spend slightly more time on house-work—an average of 55 hours a week—than their grandmothers did.

Real Simple: Conquer your biggest clutter challenges

1980s: The maker of Dawn begins donating dish soap to help clean oil-covered wildlife. Rescue workers find that washing birds with dish soap gets the best results. (In the 1970s, some rescuers had tried mineral oil, sopped up by cornmeal.) Since then, Dawn has helped save more than 75,000 animals.

1998: Executive Order No. 13101 mandates that "environmentally preferable" (a.k.a. green) cleaning products be used in all federal facilities. Because the president says so, that's why.

2012: Washing machines are 98 percent and dishwashers 101 percent more energy-efficient than they were 20 years ago.

Get a FREE TRIAL issue of Real Simple - CLICK HERE!

Copyright © 2011 Time Inc. All rights reserved.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
CNN Living reflects your life. From advice for modern parents to the freshest news in food: It's all here.
Summer is practically synonymous with cooking food over the fire and sharing it with friends and family. Here's how to grill great food, step-by-step.
updated 9:16 AM EDT, Mon July 14, 2014
Do you wish you could outsource the summer cooking, cleaning and camp planning associated with kids? You can.
updated 8:08 AM EDT, Wed July 9, 2014
In April, Carol Rossetti began a personal project to continue practicing her drawing technique, "while saying something worthy."
updated 8:49 AM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
"Obvious Child" has all the story arcs for romantic-comedy gold, but one of the film's major topics isn't often broached in theaters: abortion.
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Tue May 27, 2014
A teen planned to build a tiny house with her parents for a school project, but after her father's sudden death, more powerful lessons emerged.
updated 12:15 PM EDT, Thu May 8, 2014
Our mothers and the women we look up to offer our first lessons in beauty and personal maintenance. What do they tell us about loving our gray hair?
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Fri May 23, 2014
rings matrimony
When a partner is terminally ill, do you still go through with the wedding? Meet people who said 'I do' with a future in doubt.
updated 5:40 PM EDT, Wed April 2, 2014
You have a new home or your first apartment and dozens of crazy ideas to make it look the way you want. But what's your decorating style?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT