By wisdom a house is built,This is our last post for a time regarding the physical air in our home. The bulk of this material comes from an article by Mrs. Stanley Sherman about Homemaking for the older woman. However, her ideas apply to even the newest home manager who is concerned about the quality of air in her home. (Note: Home keeping does change with ages and stages, so keep revising your plans accordingly. Older women who have passed through the state you are currently experiencing are a great source of information about how to handle certain homemaking problems. There are specific home keeping principles, however, that apply to every stage of home keeping.)
And by understanding it is established;
And by knowledge the rooms are filled
With all precious and pleasant riches.
And by understanding it is established;
And by knowledge the rooms are filled
With all precious and pleasant riches.
A trailer living room from Better Homes and Gardens
Mrs. Sherman writes, "As my children grew up and moved to homes of their own, I was horrified to notice the "old lady" smell creeping into my home. Job's famous quote, "What I feared the most, has come upon me!" rang in my ears. When I was younger, this smell made me determined never to let it happen in my own home, and yet, here it was!
"My daughter lent me her copy of Cheryl Mendollsen's book, Home Comforts, and after reading something about airing out bedding and moving furniture, I think I've discovered where the problem lies.
"When our home was full of children and we were an active family, many things were picked up, moved, used, and put back on the shelves. The pantry and the fridge were cleaned often in order to make room for new groceries. Clothes that were outgrown were taken out of the house. Bedding was washed regularly and hung on the line to air out.
"Furniture was moved around to accommodate the different seasons or the changes in our lives. Floors were mopped more frequently out of pure necessity, and carpets finally had to be shampooed after a muddy spring. Every few years, some rooms were given fresh coats of paint, old curtains were washed and replaced. New mattresses were purchased as the children outgrew their old ones.
"Rooms that were regularly filled with children now stay empty until I have overnight company. Although the bedding is clean, it can develop musty smells just from being unused. To alleviate this, you can turn the sheets and blankets halfway down the bed and open the window a crack to let fresh air circulate. If you don't plan to use the bed for a while, you still may have to exchange the sheets for fresh ones when it comes time to use the bed again, even if the old ones have not been used. How long have you had those mattresses? They may need to be replaced and could be a hidden source of dust or mold.
"The same goes for those "guest towels" in the bathroom. Guests are often reluctant to use them, and though clean, they may hang in the bathroom for ages. These need to be refreshed by laundering even if they aren't soiled."
Mrs. Sherman reminds us that rooms which are not lived in as much as others can develop a stale smell, so we will need to regularly clean them. We may not give much attention to these areas, because they tend to stay neater. However, they need regular cleaning just as any other area of the home does. Even if you have an active, full family at home, I would apply this to areas such as a bonus room, an attic, a walk-in storage closet, a basement room, etc. -- any place that your family uses but does not regularly inhabit.
According to Mrs. Sherman, some of the musty smell in homes is due to the way modern housing is constructed. We've already discussed that homes today are sealed so tightly that there is not air circulating through them, and mold begins to grow. Many times, the ceilings are so low that the air cannot rise very far and it gets very stagnant. (I have the opposite problem of an entry way ceiling being two stories high, and the upper ledges and light fixtures are very hard to clean. It's good to know that the height does at least let more air circulate.) Wall-to-wall carpets contribute to the problem, as it is next o impossible to sanitize them enough. They can collect smells, Mrs. Sherman says, for years and years.
I have to second her on this one. To my mother-in-law, who started home keeping when wall to wall carpeting was a big thing, such carpeting seems homey to her. I, however, have a lot of carpeting (though I do have a few hardwooded areas), and I would rather have more hardwood. I agree with Mrs. Sherman that it's difficult to keep carpets clean and sanitized. Even if they appear clean on the surface, dust and other particles stay trapped near the bottom.
In my opinion, area rugs are an entirely different matter, as these can be transported to a cleaner's for a thorough and effective cleaning. I enjoy a wooden floor with area rugs.
Mrs. Sherman advocates the airings we talked about yesterday. She also says, "To prevent mold from growing on the walls, use your air duct system (heating, cooling, and fan, that comes from the ceiling, and is controlled by your thermostat on the wall). Don't push furniture up next to a wall where mold can form, but keep it a few inches away from outside walls so that air can move around it. The more fabric you have hanging (heavy drapes, upholstered furniture, etc.), the more musty smells your house may collect. Launder your curtains within six months to a year, if possible."
Closet from Closits.com
Here's a tip from Mrs. Sherman that applies to all of us: "It may be necessary to empty your closet and get rid of some things, because clothing can also collect musty odors."
She says, "Shoes of all types collect odors and must be replaced. Put cedar shapes in new shoes to keep them fresh. When you've worn a garment a full day, put it in the wash. Always wear absolutely clean underwear and stockings--anything worn next to the body--and do not use more than one day. Many "old people" hang their clothing back in the closet unwashed, not realizing that the odors are clinging to the garments and causing a musty smell in the closet. Some fabrics, such as nylon, synthetic knits, and others, collect smells that simply can't be removed. For this reason, cotton and other natural fabrics are my favorites to wash and wear."
Trailer living room from Better Homes and Gardens
Here's a good point: "The fewer things you have stuffed in cabinets, drawers, and closets, the more air will circulate around them and the fresher smelling it will all be. I've noticed that homes that have that "old" smell also have old collections, such as spoons and other things, that haven't been washed or dusted in years."
Check your hall coat closet as well, says Mrs. Sherman. "It may be stuffed to the seams with old coats that haven't been worn or cleaned in years. Old jackets, hats, gloves and scarves can be hung in the garage until you are ready to use them. If you are blessed to have an attic, seasonal things can be stored and kept dry there."
I found that when my children were still living at home and having friends from church and school over, coats, scarves, sweatshirts, etc., would turn up and sit in our closets and we could not always find their original owners. I was reluctant to just give them away, as I knew they belonged to someone who was probably looking for them -- or, at least someone's mother was looking for said items. Yet, time would pass, and moving these things out of our home became a necessity.
Mrs. Sherman talks about the necessity of bathing often. Our own personal hygiene adds or detracts from the freshness of our home. Of course, a morning shower is the most popular choice for staying clean. For those of us who are no longer as young as we once were, a warm bath before bedtime eases aches and pains and helps us sleep well at night. Bathing before bedtime will also keep your sheets fresher smelling. It's also important to dry off well, too -- being especially attentive to the spaces between fingers and toes. This not only helps us stay fresh and sweet, it is also good for our health, as well. If we leave wetness in these areas, we may experience chafing and cracking. Using body oil or a moisturizing lotion after bathing seals the moisture into our skin in a beneficial way, so that's a great time to apply these lotions.
Guest room from Better Homes and Gardens
Mrs. Sherman says, "In extremely hot weather, there is no harm in taking more than one shower a day or even in the night. If you tend to have dry skin, there are now many beautiful bath products that have rich emolients in them. Stores now carry various items made for bathrooms to make it easy and safe to get in and out of the bath. It is good to have several nightgowns and wear a clean one each night."
Mrs. Sherman points out that hair also collects odors and must be washed regularly. To that, I would add that hair collects dust and pollen, as well. Keeping the hair clean helps avoid allergy symptoms. I believe that there was a reason why our foremothers tied a kerchief or wore a pretty house cap on their heads when working around the home -- It was kept dust from falling into the hair and collecting there. Investigate some pretty ways to protect your hair when you tackle dusty chores.
Now, I might also point out that if you have very long hair or very dry hair or thinning hair, it's not necessary to wash your hair every day. In fact, for some people, daily washings are too much for their hair type. Find out what works for you. If you have very long hair, you might want to take up the old tradition of brushing it out at night. Be very gentle.
Some ways to freshen your hair without washing it all are to sprinkle a little baby power in your hair and brush it out or to tie your hair back and wash near the scalp only. Some women with very curly hair benefit from cleaning the hair with conditioner only. We'll talk more about hair care later on, but, in the meantime, investigate ways to keep your hair fresh and yet not overtax it with too frequent or too harsh cleanings. Our hair is one of our most feminine adornments, and it pays to keep it fresh.
Mrs. Sherman reminds us to launder our wet bath towels and kitchen towels frequently.
Bathrooms sometimes don't get cleaned as often if there are only one or two people using them, but appliances and fixtures need to be cleaned with an effective cleansing agent. Water itself can develop a stale scent if left lying around the bathroom in puddles and spots.
Fresh country kitchen from Better Homes and Gardens
"And now," she says, "we come to the garbage. Because there isn't a lively, active family here, our trash can doesn't fill up every other day like it used to. It takes a whole week or more, and by then, it smells terrible! You can alleviate this by using a smaller kitchen trash can with smaller bags, and emptying it more often. Always use trash can liners (or plastic grocery bags) in every trash container throughout the house to keep the containers from collecting permanent odors from the trash."
Even in an active family, I think garbage odors can build up. One thing that is necessary is to keep inside garbage cans and trash cans clean. Do this regularly.
Back to Mrs. Sherman: "It may be necessary to go through drawers and cupboards in the kitchen and get rid of things you haven't used in years. When my children were small, there were many things we used only once, and then we moved on to other learning projects. I found that the old things began to clutter the desk drawers and cabinets, and contribute to that "old" smell. Papers, especially, can create an unpleasant odor in the house. I also discovered that transferring things like spices and dried grains from their cardboard boxes to glass containers improved the smell of the inside of the cabinets.
Wiping cabinet tops and mopping floors with a solution of vinegar and water will get rid of smoke and food odors. Put a sachet of lavender or rose inside of the drawer where you keep your dish towels. When I used a dozen dish towels a day (we didn't have a dishwasher), I found that drawer was always fresh-smelling, but with fewer people around, the drawer, though filled with clean towels, developed a musty smell."
Here's something I need to work on: The refrigerator needs to be cleaned regularly, says Mrs. Sherman. Like her, I find that I am having to relearn to cook for two people instead of for a family. Like her, I find that I do not use leftovers as frequently, and I stick things in the fridge that go stale quickly.
Whether you are living alone or you have twenty people in your immediate family, go through the side compartments on your refrigerator door and check your condiments. Be sure to dispose of any remnants that are past their usable date.
Mrs. Sherman says, "During the years that my home was full of family and very busy, we wore out several stoves, refrigerators, washers and dryers. Replacing them gave me a chance to clean the debris that collects underneath these things. Now that there is just two of us in the house most of the time, we do not wear out our appliances. It is hard to remember to move them out from the walls and clean the floor underneath, but it is necessary if we want to keep the house smelling fresh."
Mrs. Sherman also says, "If you've got a stack of linens, (bedding, tablecloths, and other household fabrics), you may need to give some away, or tuck scented sachets in between the items. Hang blocks of cedar in closets and tuck bags of cedar shavings in drawers and storage cabinets. Fabrics also tend to develop a sour smell if left in a container or shelf too long. To keep a fresh scent in your bedding, launder pillows and put in the dryer with a dryer sheet. If they have permanent unpleasant smells, or if someone has been ill, it is better to get new ones. If you will put two layers of pillow cases on them, the pillow will be better protected, last longer, and stay more sanitary."
More thoughts from Mrs. Sherman: "Moving furniture around may seem daunting as you get older, but there are grown children and grandchildren and other young people who would love to work for a small fee and help you rearrange your furniture. Moving your furniture prevents wear and tear on certain sides of it and creates a consistant wear and tear on the carpet. Rearranging your furniture gives you a chance to clean underneath it and prevent smells from building up.
Your old living room set may be developing a sour scent. You can have the upholstery shampooed, get a new couch, or purchase inexpensive slipcovers. I am waiting for furniture companies to come up with the concept of selling a packaged deal consisting of a couch, loveseat, and easy chair, complete with a summer and winter set of slipcovers. I purchased slipcovers this year and wonder why I didn't do it years ago. They are machine washable and very easy to care for, and they smell wonderful after they've been dried with a dryer softener sheet, or hung out on the line to dry. My clothesline is hung between cedar trees, and the slipcovers smell wonderful when they are back on the couches.
Remember the feather duster? Well, today you can get woolly looking dusters on a pole as long as a broom or mop. You can easily reach up to the ceilings and remove cobwebs, and you can also wipe your walls. Call on an eager grandchild if you need help.
One reason for the musty, cloisome smells in a home that is not used as much is the lack of air circulating around everything. People are not coming in and out of the house as often, nor in and out of the rooms. In the morning, you might try opening the front and back doors and letting a breeze circulate through the house.
You might also consider that your indoor pets--even birds--can cause the air in a room to be sour. They use up a lot of fresh air and add body heat to a room, which adds to the bad aromas. To test if this is true, trying entering your home as if you were a visitor and see if your pets are causing some of the problem.
Just imagine that you are living in a highly rated hotel, where the towels and sheets are changed often, the drapes and carpets cleaned regularly, and fresh bars of soap laid on the sink and tub. If you are not physically able to manage any of this by yourself, you might be able to hire help from willing grandchildren or neighbor children. We aren't saying that you have to live in a home that requires hotel maintenance, but it is valuable to be aware of the cleanliness requirements for the public. You might be able to get some ideas from Bed and Breakfast owners about how often things have to be cleaned or replaced.
If you still detect unpleasant odors, you can always bake something spicy, or use "melts" over a little burner with a tea light to give your home a fresh scent.
Treat yourself occasionally to a big bouquet of fresh flowers from the Grocery Store. They truly do give your house a fresh scent. Just remember to dispose of them when it is time!
There's no need to feel pressured or overwhelmed by all this cleaning. Just determine how often it needs to be done, and space out the jobs throughout the year. You needn't do it all by yourself, as there are often teenagers and young adults who are actually blessed by helping older people and who learn a lot from it.
If a few of us "older women" will make an effort to keep our homes clean and fresh, we might be able to live down the idea that old ladies' homes have a peculiar smell.
Homemaking for older women means being a good steward of the home and an example to younger women. Hospitality is a good way to expose others to your ways and to influence those who want to learn about keeping house. I've often thought that it is mighty lonesome to have a nice, clean house, and not share it with others. Hospitality gives you a chance to use and then wash the things in your home that otherwise will just sit there collecting dust. The burden of looking after a home becomes lighter when you think of the influence it gives to those who notice the care you put into your home. "
Excerpts from article that appeared on LAF web page in 2004.