Hundred-Year-Old Labor-Saving Cleaning Equipment and Devices

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, April 22, 1914:  Spent part of the day on my knees. Now I don’t mean I was trying to be good. I was cleaning house.

1914-12-28-aFor Wiping Up Wood or Tile Floors

This long handle has a row of rubber teeth on the crossbar at the end. When a wet cloth is laid on any floor this handle is used to push it, as the rubber teeth grip the cloth, and guide it over the surface. It makes the wiping up of many floors a very simple matter, as it is light, easily pushed and forces the cloth close to baseboards.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:


Whew, spring housecleaning can be hard work. Maybe you need some of the new labor-saving cleaning equipment featured in the December, 1914 issue of Ladies Home Journal.

According to the article these are “the newest labor-savers for women—and not one of them costs more than fifty cents.”

1914-12-28-bA Dustpan that Saves Sweeping

No need for a housekeeper to stoop for every paper and match provided she has this long-handled sanitary dustpan. The pan opens as it is set down, and closes as it is lifted. The sweepings need not be emptied until the pan is full. It can be carried, full, on one arm while both hands carry other articles.

1914-12-28-cWashes the Windows Faster

In this device are combined water pail, sponge, and drying cloth. There is a shallow reservoir of metal, with a sponge on one side and a rubber “squee-gee” on the other. The whole is mounted on a convenient handle and is especially useful for outside window cleaning.

30 thoughts on “Hundred-Year-Old Labor-Saving Cleaning Equipment and Devices

  1. I love that Grandma did not want to be mistaken for having spent half of her day either praying or receiving some form of punishment for misbehavior. I suppose when she was working hard, she wanted that to be recognized if only in the pages of her diary.

    1. I like the way you suggested that she wanted to be recognized for her hard work–if only in the dairy. I hadn’t thought of it quite that way, but now that you say it, it makes sense to me.

  2. Did you ever see the PBS series “The 1900 House?” A fascinating reality show where they plopped a modern-day family down into an authentic 1900 environment and they lived exactly true to that time for three months while all was being filmed. And the take-away for me was the unbelievable drudgery of women’s lives at that time if they didn’t have staff. Everything was just so much WORK. No wonder women wore gloves all the time.

    1. I’ve never seen the show, but it sounds really interesting. I’ll have to watch for it. Women (and men) worked really hard a hundred years ago.

  3. Yes, that dust pan looks very modern. I wonder if the circle design on the top was made to hang it in the broom closet.

    1. The description say that it can be “carried on one arm, while both hands carry other articles.” Maybe the circle is so that that dustpan handle can be slipped on over the wrist.

  4. Pretty funny. She wasn’t praying! The idea of stooping for every paper and match made me realize that in some ways things are probably cleaner today than years ago–because our lives are different.

    1. I hadn’t thought of it, but you are absolutely right. it’s hard to imagine homes where matches needed to be picked up. Times have changed!

  5. There are no matches to be picked up but plenty of other little things end up on the floor around here. I am pretty sure my grandmother’s house and my mother’s house was cleaner than mine! I need some of those new labor saving devices and mostly the desire to clean throughly!

    1. People used to take a lot of pride in being really good housekeepers. Now it seems like other things are more important than having the most spotless home in the neighborhood.

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