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Housing: Victorian Housing Estates

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cleaning sash windows

By the webmaster's mother, 1906-2002

How old wooden framed sash windows were cleaned

When I was a child in the early 1900s ordinary families in the 1900s did not pay window cleaners to clean their windows. It was yet another task that fell to the women, and it always amazed me how they managed to clean the sash windows inside and outside, upstairs as well as downstairs, without doing themselves a serious damage or even hurting themselves at all.

Cleaning the insides of the windows was of course relatively straightforward, as was cleaning the outsides of the downstairs ones, but upstairs was a different matter.

The cleaning materials

The women used soap and water and a washleather, also known as chamois leather or just chammy. This was - and still is - a type of soft, pliable, non-abrasive and absorbent leather made from sheepskin or lambskin. Unlike cloths, it leaves no fibres on a surface.

chamois leather

Different grades of chamois leather

Afterwards the windows would really shine, as a lot of energy went into the work.

How women reached to clean the upstairs outside windows

Cleaning the outsides of the upstairs windows was neither easy nor safe. Then the women would push the lower window up and sit on the windowsill with all the top parts of their bodies outside. I was always afraid that a sash cord would break on them or that they would have an accident and fall - but I never saw it happen.

Page based on the recollections and notes of the webmaster’s mother, 1906-2002, with additional research and editorial work by the webmaster.

Text and images are copyright



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