The past decade has seen a resurgence in the class home and etiquette tomes of the late 19th century, and Martha Stewart has just the weight with home-makers and professionals to provide a worthy guide.

[EasyDNNnewsToken:Left Justify Embed 300 x 250]Inspired by best-selling “household management” books of the Victorian Era, such as Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management (published in 1861), Martha Stewart compiled Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook: The Essential Guide to Caring for Everything in Your Home (©2006) to provide “…new solutions to age-old problems.” Preceded by Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House, an excellent book on modern housekeeping and home management by Cheryl Mendelson ((c) 1999), it was hard to imagine something that might even compare to Mendelson’s comprehensive treatment of the subject, but Martha Stewart has managed it.

At 744 pages and retailing at $45, this is an attractive, but enormous tome designed to take the place of lost wisdom we no longer pass down to our next generation, and organized by how to clean, maintain, and repair most every item in your home. Opening with “Cleaning Products 101,” Stewart advocates, “[a]lways try the least-toxic products first before moving to something stronger,” and recommends starting with kitchen staples such as vinegar and baking soda to clean with. [Note: Mendelson’s Home Comforts actually is much more thorough in discussing this subject.]

In the next section, “Room by Room,” Stewart begins with helpful daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal cleaning chores and moves on to common surfaces and furnishings in each type of room and how to care for, clean, and maintain them. This section contains relevant housekeeping concerns particular to each room. For example, you learn how to keep drains cleared in the kitchen and the best way to clean grout in the bathrooms.  Stewart discusses essential equipment for cleaning and maintenance, and also provides information to help you make investments in materials, surfaces and appliances with confidence, which includes pros and cons and do’s and don’ts of each.

“Throughout the House” can be described as a master class on how to clean. It includes an excellent review of “The Five Fundamentals” of cleaning: dusting. wiping up, sweeping, vacuuming and mopping, plus their basic techniques and clear instructions on how to clean any household object or surface. In Routine Cleaning, Stewart recommends the best tools and equipment for each task, and their efficient use and care. Periodic Maintenance contains all you need to know to perform the less frequent but still crucial chores, such as waxing floors, and cleaning ceilings, walls and woodwork. A really interesting section, Comfort and Safety, explains the multiple hidden systems that keep a home comfortable (heating, water and electrical systems) and how to check and make small repairs and adjustments. In this section some things you will learn are how to clean your vents, fix your leaky faucets, and control household pests. The back of this book has a really useful and handy A-Z Materials Guide and an excellent index.

Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook contains many interesting and useful sidebars, diagrams and charts. Even if you are not a Martha fan, this is a fantastic reference book. I depend on this book for in-depth, dependable information about new or rare surfaces or materials we are to clean.

My one complaint is she will sometimes say, “Do this,” or “Use this,” with no specific information about why it is best to do it her way. It does, however, contain so many topics that are interesting to both homeowners and professional cleaners, you may find yourself in my predicament – a few times I have actually forgotten what I was looking for because I got distracted by one, and then another fascinating tidbit.

This is Martha Stewart at her best, so don’t have an anxiety attack or get depressed because you’ll never know as much or do it as well as Martha.

Janice Stewart
is the owner of Castle Keepers of Charleston and driving force behind the development of the Modern Cleaning approach, Janice brings her scientific and healthcare background to inform the development of effective, safe, and healthy cleaning methods.