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Household Sanitation

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

Yeasts, molds, and bacteria are microscopic plants, that is, plants so small they can be seen only under the microscope. For a long time it was believed that these tiny bodies were small animals, but scientists now agree that they are plants.

Yeast. The yeast plant is larger than a bacterium. Tell what you can about it. In what form is it offered for sale ?

Mold. Mold is another plant of this class. Mildew on clothes and mold on bread or jelly are simply large groups of these plants growing together. Molds grow in some kinds of cheese and give it a special flavor. In general, however, molds are dangerous to health, and molded food should be thrown away. To prevent the growth of mold, protect food and clothing from dust and dampness.

EXPERIMENT 1.-Put a soft piece of corn bread in a damp, warm place exposed to the dust for a few days. Note the result. Leave a little thin sugar syrup in a like place. What effect has warmth and dampness on mold growth?

Bacteria. The third class of minute plants is bacteria. Louis Pasteur, the great French scientist, was the first to make a thorough study of these plants and his work has done much for mankind. Before his day physicians did not know that diseases are caused by special germs; through this knowledge they now prevent or cure many diseases.

How Bacteria Grow and Spread. Bacteria are so small that many hundred millions might lie on the head of a pin. When dry they float about in the air on particles of dust ; when they fall on good soil, whether it is a break in the skin, a bowl of soup, or a jar of fruit, they begin to grow and multiply. As they grow, waste products are formed and these wastes are sometimes poisonous. Some bacteria, as those found in butter and cheese, are useful in giving flavor to food. Some change materials in the - soil to a form that can be used by plants that furnish us with food. Other bacteria do harm by causing food to spoil; still others cause disease. Bacteria that cause disease are sometimes called germs. Typhoid fever, diphtheria, and tuberculosis are some of the diseases caused by them.

Most bacteria grow best in dark, damp, warm places, where there is suitable soil. Like all plants, they need food, air, heat, and moisture. But, unlike plants, their best food is found in the substances which human beings eat.

How Bacteria Are Destroyed. Bacteria are destroyed in different ways. Drying will kill many of them ; strong sunlight, too, destroys most disease germs, but not all bacteria. A boiling temperature long continued will kill most of them, although those that form spores cannot be destroyed in this way but must be heated on successive days. The spores may be compared to seeds. A sprouted seed is easy to kill, while a hard, dry one is not. By reheating the food on three successive days a part of the spores are killed on each day as they begin to grow. Cold does not destroy bacteria but puts them to sleep ; when they become warm they again begin to grow.

Study of Bacteria in Dust. Procure two Petri dishes from your drug-gist or dealer (a Petri dish consists of two shallow glass dishes, one of which fits over the other as a lid), or use small, clear glass bowls and sheets of thin, clear glass for the lid. To prepare a suitable soil, make beef jelly as directed below.

Jelly for Petri Dish. Chop fine one-fourth pound lean beef. Mix this with 1 cup warm water.

Heat in double boiler, stirring often until water in pan has boiled for fifteen minutes. Remove inner kettle, place directly over the fire, and boil for ten minutes. Strain through cotton flannel. Add one-fourth teaspoonful bicarbonate of soda and enough water to make one cup of liquid. Moisten three tablespoonfuls of gelatin in cold water and add to the hot liquid. When dissolved, strain through hot flannel.

Put three or four tablespoonfuls in several small bottles, cork with cotton, and tie a thick pad of cotton over each. Place the bottles on a folded cloth in a pan of cold water and boil for fifteen minutes each day for three days, so that all bacteria may be destroyed. Then the jelly is ready to use in Petri dishes. Keep in a cool place. When ready to use the jelly, melt by placing the bottles in cold water and heating gradually just enough to melt the jelly. Cool slightly, and use in Petri dish.

EXPERIMENT II.—Wash the dishes very clean, tie on the lids, and sterilize by boiling or baking. When the dishes have cooled lift the lid and pour in a little jelly from the bottles of the beef preparation which has been melted and slightly cooled. (Jelly can be taken from a bottle but once, as bacteria are likely to enter as soon as it is opened.) Turn the dish so that the bottom will be coated well, then expose it to the air for thirty minutes in a room that has just been dusted with a feather duster. Cover the plate and keep in a warm room—not over 70° F., for a week. Expose the other dish in a room dusted with an oiled duster according to directions, page 31. Note carefully any changes that occur on the surface of the jelly. Examine it under a magnifying glass. At the end of a week lift the cover and smell the contents. Examine a speck from the surface with a microscope.


Name the three classes of microscopic plants. Are bacteria plants or animals? What do they require for growth? What conditions are most favor-able for growth of molds? Tell what you can of Pasteur's great work. Where are, bacteria found? Mention some helpful' bacteria. Some harmful ones. Some germs. When are bacteria called germs? How may bacteria be destroyed? What is meant by spore-forming bacteria? How may germs be rendered harmless? Describe the preparation of Petri dishes, giving reason for each step. Why should all food be protected from dust?

In the preceding paragraphs it has been shown that dust frequently carries the germs of disease or mold and yeast spores which cause food to spoil. Therefore, cleaning the house so as to remove the dust and dirt is of great importance to the health.

Methods of Cleaning Floors. Remember that the dust you raise in trying to remove the dirt will soon settle in the place you have cleaned, so stir up as little as possible. For ordinary floors use a long-handled brush and one of the oils made for the purpose. A dry cleaning mop or a broom covered with a sack or soft cloth may be used on polished floors. The best method of cleaning rugs and carpets is by using a vacuum cleaner; the next best, a carpet sweeper. If a broom must be used, dampen it. Sweep rugs and carpets in the way in which they were woven (you can tell the direction of the nap by the feeling). To clean mattings, first sweep, then wipe with a damp cloth. Never wet them.

Start at one corner of the room, and brush lengthwise of the boards. Be sure to keep the broom close to the floor. Stand on the clean portion and push the broom before you. Hold it almost upright on the dirt collected for a moment; then lift the broom and remove any particles that cling to it and brush the next space. When the middle of- the floor is reached, begin again to sweep at the opposite side of the room. Never sweep dirt from one room to another. Collect the dirt in small piles.

Taking Up the Dirt and Dust. Cover the dustpan with a piece of damp paper, arranged so that it stands high at the back, in order to prevent the dust from flying; then brush the dirt into the pan with a small hand brush. If there is much dust, it is well to cover your mouth and nose with a thin damp cloth. Burn all the dust. It may be put in the kitchen stove, but never while food is being prepared. Keep the dampers open while the dust is burning.

The Stair. In sweeping the stairs, clean the corners care-fully, and brush the dirt from each step into a dustpan covered with a damp paper as described. Hardwood stairs should be wiped with a damp or oiled cloth.

Dusting. Dust the room two hours after it has been swept use a soft cloth slightly dampened or oiled ; gather the dust into a part of the cloth, fold over the cloth, and dust the next portion. Dust the highest part of the room or furniture first. Then wipe. the woodwork and floor with a slightly damp cloth. After the dusting is finished, wash the dust cloth.

To Clean a Room Thoroughly. Open the windows, unless the wind is high. Dust and put away all small articles; wipe the dust from the chairs and take them from the room ; dust pictures and ornaments, and pieces of furniture that are too large to remove, and cover them with cloth or paper. If a bedroom is being cleaned, take the coverings out of doors unless the weather is too damp; shake well and hang in the sun and air; using a soft cloth, wipe the dust from the mattress, and air it; brush the springs and bed corners well with a stiff brush, then cover with a sheet while the room is being swept. Dust the shades and roll them up ; take down curtains and, if possible, shake them out of doors, fold, and put out of the dust. Clean the washstand crockery, and take it out of the room ; wash windows if necessary; clean electric fixtures, door knobs, etc. Fold the rugs so that the dirt will not fall out and take them out of doors. Close the doors and sweep. Wipe the floor if it is necessary. After two hours, dust the room and replace the furniture, A thorough cleaning in this way once a week is far better than a little stirring of The dust every day.

Cleaning the Rugs. Turn the rug upside down on the grass and beat with a whip. Wipe off the back of the rug with a damp cloth. Turn it over and wipe a strip lengthwise ; fold over this strip and wipe another; continue until all is cleaned. Rinse the cloth when it is dirty. If the rug is too large to move, wipe a strip on top of the rug, then on the underside, then the floor; fold over the clean part and continue until half is done; then begin at the other end. Small rugs may have all of one side wiped at once.

Fleas may be the carriers of disease germs, particularly of bubonic plague, which they carry from rats to human beings. Fleas or their eggs may find lodgment in floor coverings if pet dogs or cats are kept in the house. A thorough brushing will remove them from rugs, but in mattings they can be destroyed only by fumigation with formaldehyde gas.

Woodwork. Wipe varnished woodwork with a cloth dipped in a little furniture polish or oil, then rub off the oil with a soft dry cloth free from lint. All woods must be rubbed with the grain when being polished.

Furniture Polish. For the polish, use equal parts of linseed oil, vine-gar, and turpentine. Mix well and shake before applying.

Painted woodwork may be cleaned with cold water and whiting, or with warm water. Alkalies such as borax and soap should be avoided, as they soften paint. Enamel paint should be cleaned with warm water.

Cleaning Windows. Dust the shades and curtains and remove them ; dust the windows well with a soft cloth ; wash the woodwork if necessary ; and clean the corners carefully, using a rag on a skewer. Wash the glass with clear water and ammonia. Use plenty of clean soft cloths, and polish until dry. Never wash windows while the sun is shining on them. Some of the patent preparations lessen the labor in cleaning windows and are very satisfactory.

Care of Floors. A waxed floor should be cleaned with a dry cloth or mop, or one that is only slightly damp. Never use a broom on a waxed or polished floor. Rub it occasionally with a weighted brush to renew the polish. An unpainted kitchen floor should be cleaned with warm water and soap, and dried as soon as possible to keep the wood from softening. An oiled floor should be wiped with a soft cloth. Do not use soap and water on it. Linoleum may be wiped with warm water and soap.

Daily Care of a Bedroom. As soon as you arise in the morning, take the covers from your bed and spread them on chairs in the sun and air. Then roll the bed into the sunshine. Let the room air if possible before cleaning it. Put away all clothing; hang night garments in an airy closet; never fold them under pillows. Straighten the dresser. All crockery or other utensils used in a bedroom should be kept very clean. Rinse with cold water, wash with warm soapy water, then dry and air. Disinfect twice a week as directed for plumbing.

To Make a Bed. Turn the mattress. If a pad is used, place it in the center of the mattress with the hems down. Put on the under sheet, right side up, center fold in center of mattress, wide hem at top. Allow more of the sheet at the foot than at the head. Tuck in the sheet neatly at the foot. Do the same at the head. Then arrange the sides. Finish by making corners square. Put on the upper sheet, wide hem at the top even with the top of the mattress, and tuck it in at the foot.

It is better to keep the blankets in an airy place until night. Put on the blankets with open ends at the top. Leave the ends about twelve inches from the top of the mattress. Tuck in at the foot. Turn the sheet back over the blanket and tuck covering in at the sides. Leave everything smooth.

If the counterpane or spread is to be used at night, put it on with the top even with the top of the blanket, fold the sheet over it, and tuck it in at the foot. If the spread is used only in the daytime, put it even with the top of the mattress and do not tuck it in at the foot.

Lay the pillows flat on the bed with the open end out. Do not use pillow shams or elaborate cases that must be removed at night.

Watch carefully when you make the bed, and if you find either bugs or eggs, clean the bed immediately. The bugs are killed by gasoline or oil of cedar put on with a brush, or put into the cracks with a machine oil can. Never use gasoline where there is a light or a fire. After cleaning the bed, air the room for several hours before a light is taken into it. Wash wooden slats thoroughly with a stiff brush to remove the eggs. Remove the eggs from the mattresses with a damp cloth. After cleaning wooden beds, fill the cracks with laundry soap or putty, and varnish or paint well.

Arranging the Bedroom for the Night. Remove the spread and fold it carefully, unless it is to be used. Turn the covers down one-fourth of the way. Bring in a small pitcher of fresh water and a glass, and cover them with a napkin. Refill the washstand pitcher, empty waste water, and bring fresh towels if needed.

The Care of Lamps. Always keep globes clean whether used for electric, gas, or oil lamps. Never use a half-filled oil lamp that has been standing for a day or two. Wipe the chimney with a soft paper, wash in hot soapy water, and dry while warm with a soft cloth. Trim the wick by cutting off the dark part evenly ; if it is a flat wick, trim off the corners so that they will be lower than the center. Wipe the burner with a soft paper and see that the air holes are not clogged. Fill lamps to within an inch of the top, screw on the cap, and wipe off all the oil. This work should be done in daylight. Never fill a lighted lamp. Do not keep the oil can near fire.

When lamp burners become clogged, take out the wick and boil the burner for ten minutes in two quarts of water to which two tablespoonfuls of washing soda have been added ; wipe dry, and then put in the wick.

The Dining Room and Kitchen. In cleaning the dining room and kitchen, leave no crumbs, grains of sugar, or other foods, as ants, roaches, or water bugs may be attracted. Never sweep or dust the dining room just before serving a meal, as it is better to have the dirt on the floor and furniture than in the food. Do not keep the tablecloth on all day, but remove it after crumbing, fold it in the creases, and lay it away. Set a plant or a vase of flowers in the center of the table on a centerpiece. Sweep the kitchen after all food and utensils are put away.

Keep food in tight receptacles or put the legs of cupboards in vessels of oil or water to keep away ants. Use some of the powders or pastes to destroy roaches.

Care of Bathroom. Let sunshine and air in daily. Remove the rug and wipe it, dust all furnishings, clean all plumbing fixtures with soap and water, and rub the floor with a soft oiled brush. Take away damp towels. Then replace the rug. Clean thoroughly once a week.

The Plumbing. To prevent dust from accumulating in the overflow pipe of the bathtub or stationary washstand, spray well with hot soap suds, using a machine oil can. Keep all fixtures perfectly clean. CIean an enameled bathtub by wiping it dry, then rubbing it well with a little kerosene oil on flannel, and finishing with dry flannel. Marble and tiles may be Gleaned with a soft cloth and soap and water; stained marble with whiting. A solution of muriatic acid may be used on porcelain plumbing to remove the stains. Pour a little of the acid over a mop or rag fastened on a stick, rub it over the surface, and wash off quickly. Do not use on enameled ware. Wipe and polish faucets.

Disinfecting Plumbing Fixtures. Where there is contagious or infectious disease, the closets should be disinfected; for this purpose, use six ounces of carbolic acid crystals dissolved in a gallon of boiling water. Let it stand for one hour.

Another good disinfectant is made by dissolving sixty grains of bichloride of mercury and one tablespoonful of common salt in two gallons of hot water. Do not put this in metal fixtures. Both of these disinfectants are poisonous and must not be left where children can reach them. Do not spill the solution on the skin.

Keeping the Air Moist. It is important to keep the house properly warmed and at the same time to secure a good supply of fresh air that is not too dry. Moisture is needed with any heating system, but particularly with stoves. The effect of too dry air on the linings of the throat and nose is to cause them to become swollen and irritated, a condition which leads to colds. A vessel of water should be kept on every stove, the surface of the pan being comparatively large so that there is enough evaporation to keep the air moist. Too much moisture, however, is not desirable. Furniture kept in rooms heated by stoves not sup-plied with water becomes cracked and drawn. Steam and hot water heating systems are supposed to provide for sufficient moisture, but many do not. Damp cloths may be hung near the radiator if more moisture is needed, or pans filled with water may be attached.

The Proper Temperature. Many colds are caused by a person's becoming too hot or too cold. Some people are not so much affected by such changes as others, but even they should take no risks.

The best physicians agree that from 68 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit is the safest temperature for health; on a damp day 70 degrees is not too much. On a bright, sunny day 68 degrees would probably be right. For old persons' or children, 70 degrees is desirable; for the very weak or delicate even this may not be warm enough. Sitting in a room with a temperature of 65 degrees is dangerous.

The Care of the Yard. Keep the yard clean and dry. Drain wet places; repair leaking hydrants; cover the top of tanks, cisterns, or receptacles containing stagnant water with a thin film of kerosene oil. Mosquitoes lay their eggs only in water, so if oil is used the larvae known as wiggletails will be destroyed, and the adult mosquito will be killed by the oil that adheres to her body when she lays her eggs. Burn trash and prune trees if they prevent the access of sunlight. Do not allow garbage to accumulate. Flies breed in moist, decaying filth, particularly manure. Screen manure piles and cover garbage pails. Gnats also thrive in moist places.

Disposal of Wastes. Do not throw dish water near the house. See that all waste water drains away quickly.

Protection of Water Supply. If a well is used, see that no seepage from closets or stable yard can reach it. Provide a high curb that will prevent surface water from entering it ; have a tight cover, and do not let poultry perch on it. If buckets are used, be sure that they are clean. Do not let water run into the cistern until the dirt has been washed from the roof. Keep gutters clean. Screen the cistern and protect it from birds. Pigeons have been known to carry typhoid germs from closet to cistern.

The Outdoor Closet. There must be no overflow from pit or receptacle. It must be securely enclosed so that poultry and animals cannot reach it, and should be oiled to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes. The closet should be scrubbed frequently. A box of lime and a small shovel can be kept at hand, and whenever the closet is used a shovelful of lime should be thrown in.

Never throw discharge from persons ill of infectious or contagious diseases into the closet until it has been disinfected. Use a carbolic acid solution, which has been well stirred, and allowed to stand for an hour.

The Greatest Disinfectant. As sunlight destroys more germs than any amount of disinfectants, there cannot be too much of it in house and yard. Do not be afraid of spoiling the furnishings ; it is far better to have faded wall paper than pale and faded human beings.


What is dirt? What diseases may be carried in dust? What should be used in cleaning floors to keep the dust from rising? Tell how to sweep. How should the dust be taken up? What should be done with it? How should the stair be cleaned? Why wait for two hours after sweeping, before dusting? Why use a slightly dampened or oiled cloth? Give the order in which the room should be dusted. Tell how to clean a room thoroughly. How should a large rug be cleaned? A small one?

How should polished woodwork be cleaned? Painted woodwork? Give directions for washing windows. For cleaning floors.

What should you do to your room and bed as soon as you are dressed? Give directions for daily care of bedroom. Tell how to make the bed. How should you arrange the bedroom for the night?

Why does the bathroom need such careful cleaning? Tell how to clean the bathtub and toilet. Give directions for disinfecting the toilet.

Why is moisture needed in stove-heated rooms? What is the proper temperature for strong, well people? For children and old people? For the sick? Should the room be warmer on a damp day than on a dry cold day?

How should wells be protected? Cisterns? How can the breeding of mosquitoes be prevented? Where do flies breed? How should outdoor closets be treated? What is nature's greatest disinfectant?

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