Preservation Virginia Blog


How to Spring Clean your Historic Home


As a historic homeowner, spring cleaning takes special care and knowledge of the unique materials that make up your home. You don’t need to be an expert preservationist to spring clean your historic home, but try to keep these tips in mind as you tidy up:

Be kind to your wooden floors

They’ve taken enough beatings through the winter snow and slush, so take it easy and use soft cleaning materials. For sweeping, use a soft-bristled broom and for vacuuming, a soft floor nozzle. Microfiber mop heads are a great solution for removing dust and pet hair. As you clean, always remember to move with the grain of your floors.

You’ll want to use an only slightly damp mop on your wood floors. The use of linseed oils and other mixtures is discouraged.

how to spring clean historic home
Bacon’s Castle

Think before you pressure wash

Before you unleash water onto the siding of your 100+ year old home, we encourage you to reconsider. Pressure washing can peel off paint, chip away loose wood or stone, or even damage the structural integrity of your historic home.

Instead of pressure washing, do this:

  • Masonry: Clean soiled exterior surfaces with the gentlest method possible, such as using low-pressure water and detergent and natural bristle or other soft-bristle brushes.
  • Protect and maintain wood features by ensuring that historic drainage features that divert rainwater from wood surfaces (such as roof overhangs, gutters and downspouts) are intact and functioning properly.
  • Protect adjacent restoration-period materials when cleaning or removing paint from wood features from the restoration period.
  • Remove damaged or deteriorated paint to the next sound layer using the gentlest method possible (e.g., hand scraping and hand sanding) prior to repainting.
  • Apply compatible paint coating systems to historically-painted wood following proper surface preparation.

Avoid abrasive cleaning solutions for your historic windows

Less is more when it comes to getting your historic windows cleaned. The safest method for your historic glass is to use a cotton cloth and distilled water. For tougher dirt and grime, use a soft, natural cloth or sponge, mild soap (i.e. Ivory) and warm distilled water. Be sure to place an old towel at the bottom of the window sash to prevent water damage to your historic window finishing.

Lastly, remember that your home has literally withstood the test of time. You may not be able to remove every stain and scratch from your windows, but those are the little details that give your historic home its unique character.

how to spring clean historic homeSmith’s Fort Plantation

Patience is key when cleaning antique upholstery

If antique upholstery is on your spring cleaning list, carve out enough time to devote extra attention to these delicate fabrics. To clean upholstery, first look at the condition and the nature of the textile. Upholstery that is stable may be carefully cleaned with a vacuum brush attachment. Wash the brush every two months or so depending on the regularity of the cleaning. This brush should only be used for textiles and marked so others will not use it on the floors. Vacuum historic and brittle fabrics through a fine mesh nylon screen. This method minimizes stress to the fabric and keeps fine loose threads from being lost.

John Marshall House

You’re now on your way to a clean, historic home that you can enjoy for the rest of the spring season. If you’re interested in seeing how Preservation Virginia keeps the homes of some of America’s Founding Fathers tidy year-round, plan a visit to our historic house museums.