cleaning history

A Brief History of Cleaning

Cleaning our environment (our homes and places of work) is not something new. From the beginning of time, humans have worked to arrange their environment for the sake of survival.

About 4000 years ago, humans discovered they could grow plants and raise animals and would not have to move every few days to find food. At this time in history, buildings began to appear that were designed to last a while.

One of the first environmental management practices in early human settlements was to cover all their garbage on the floor with a fresh layer of dirt or mud. About 3000 years ago, humans in settlements learned the advantages of having a garbage pit outside their
home. The pit left more living space inside and people no longer had to live and sleep on the garbage. About 200 years ago, we discovered basic cleaning (sanitation) was important in controlling rats and mice and their germs, especially in buildings where people spent most of their time. Then we discovered germs spread, especially when people are in contact with each other in dirty cities.

The first modern environmental managers were called ‘sanitarians’ – they were cleaners. They sanitized environments by reducing the contaminants in them to levels that would not harm human health. Some of their first successes came when they designed and developed cleaning programs for boarding houses, hospitals, schools, and prisons in 18th century London.

Cleaning in the Twentieth Century

From the early 1900’s cleaning and sanitation focused on controlling diseases that spread from one person to another.

After World War II, the western world saw the rapid development of the middle class and with it a range of home appliances; one of which was the vacuum cleaner.

Today, we buy smartphones, i-pads, computers and LCD televisions; but in the 1950’s and 1960’s, we started
buying Hoover vacuum cleaners. At the same time, detergent manufacturers such as Johnson Wax was developing and improving floor waxes and air fresheners to make our homes look and smell nice.

In the 1970’s many western countries, including Australia started to ban smoking from offices and other work environments. As we all know today, second-hand smoke is harmful to people’s health. Smoking also contributed a large amount of ash, oils and greasy-tars to the air which settled on office furniture and fixtures.

From a cleaner’s perspective, banning smoking indoors significantly reduced the amount of cleaning required in an office building.
In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s we started to seriously look at cleaning as a contribution to our good health and not just the way a building looked.

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