Learn The Secrets Of A 1950s Housewife’s Cleaning Routine

A lot has changed since 1950, but we can still learn a thing or two from the typical 1950s housewife’s cleaning routine.

By Nicole Andre3 min read
Shutterstock/Everett Collection

In 2021 we’re actually closer to 2050 than we are to the 1950s. Crazy, right? And our world has changed dramatically since then and continues to move further and further away from the traditional lifestyles and gender roles that most of society adhered to in the ‘50s. And while many changes have been for the better, for those who are interested, becoming a homemaker can be a fulfilling option. 

The average woman in the 1950s spent a lot of time cooking and cleaning. Modern appliances have helped to speed up a lot of the tasks that were laid before them. But whether you’re already a homemaker, are hoping to become one, or enjoy working outside the home, there’s a lot to be learned from the ladies of the ‘50s about how to keep a home clean.

The Daily Routine

The first step in the ‘50s homemaker’s cleaning routine might be a little different than you pictured. While a lot of us might go straight to making our bed, the ‘50s housewife would start her day by pulling back the sheets on the bed to air them out. And to let some fresh air into the house, the next thing she would do is open the blinds and the windows.

Next up, the family would be having breakfast, and afterward the ‘50s housewife would wash her dishes. Remember, she didn’t get to use a dishwasher! So she would generally tidy up the kitchen after each meal. It’s easier if you do it as you go, rather than leaving a big mess for the end of the day.

After she’s done cleaning up from breakfast, the ‘50s housewife would tidy up each of the rooms. As she does, she would often carry a basket to put any clutter in so that she can put items back where they belong later on.

First, it’s time to tidy the living room and dining room. She would do a light dusting, straighten up pillows, and generally take care of any little touches that make a room look nice.

After that, she’d move on to the bedrooms. The ‘50s housewife always made the bed, and if there’s anything on this list you can always accomplish, it’s that simple task. To really be true to the era though, make sure you do a dusting of your bedroom as well.

Then, unfortunately, it’s time for the bathrooms. (I’m pretty sure it’s everyone’s least favorite task.) Replace the towels, refill the soap bottles and any toilet paper, and clean the sinks and bathroom counter. 

About this time she might want to take a lunch break. And after she’s done, it’s time to clean the kitchen, including her lunch dishes, of course. Here you’ll want to wipe down surfaces and the inside of your fridge. Take out the trash if need be. And then you can sweep and mop the floor! (I used an exclamation point, but I’m not sure that made it any more exciting. But exciting or not, it’s an essential task. If you do it daily, it will be less daunting.)

Once that’s done she would move on to sweeping the other floors. After that the only cleaning left is tidying the kitchen after dinner. A quick sweep, washing of the dishes, and wiping down of the counters should suffice.

Weekly and Monthly Chores

But before you think you’re off the hook with just those daily tasks, there are also all the weekly cleaning tasks that the ‘50s housewife had to complete to keep the home running smoothly. A common way to do this in the 1950s was to select a weekly chore to do each day to spread out the load. They were some organized ladies!

One big one is the laundry. Many families did without the washing machines and clothes dryers we’ve all grown so accustomed to because of the cost of the new technology. So a housewife would wash the clothes by hand using a wash basin and then hang them to dry outside on a clothesline. Thank goodness for modern technologies!

Another task a housewife might complete weekly is cleaning the closet. Take out all of the clothing. Then donate any old clothes, or perhaps mend if needed. Sweep or vacuum, and mop. Dust and wipe down any surfaces or the inside of drawers. 

Every once in a while, the ‘50s housewife would move the bed so she could put away anything that happened to get under there (seriously, this is the bane of my existence). Then, vacuum the area before you put it back in place. And of course, you’ll want to wash sheets on a weekly basis, and you can take this time to clean the mattress with a little bit of baking soda that you can vacuum up. If you have curtains, you’ll need to make sure you wash them alongside the bedding and remove any cobwebs in the window.

Do you wash your windows once a week? Many women in the 1950s did. You can also take out and wash the screens. I know, that’s a ton of work. These women were dedicated!

Ever notice how even the walls get dirty? (Especially if you have small children who like to put their hands on the walls.) The ‘50s housewife tried to take the time to wash the walls and doors. Don’t forget the doorknobs!

Occasionally, the ‘50s homemakers would clean out and wash the inside and outside of cabinets. There are lots of these all around the house, so it might be helpful to pair it with other deep cleaning tasks in each room or it could become quite daunting.

Cleaning the bathtub and shower is another task that should be done weekly. There’s polish many women would use to keep the fixtures shiny. And of course, the drain always needs cleaning.

Closing Thoughts

The 1950s housewife sure was busy keeping her home neat and tidy! The efforts so many of these women put in to keep a nice home for their families is very admirable. And while it would be near impossible for the many working women of today to clean with the same zeal after a long day on the job, we can all still learn a thing or two from 1950s housewives about how to keep a home clean in an organized way. Half the battle is knowing where to start after all!

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