ByJoanna Lacey

Mar 9, 2022
old broom

I’ve started thinking about spring cleaning, which reminded me of the brooms that Grandma and Mom kept for years. Unlike the cheap plastic models widely available today, Grandma used a high-quality broom that she bought from the Fuller Brush Man. It had a sturdy metal handle and the bristles were made of strong, stiff wire. It was built to last a long time. Mom used a more traditional broom with corn straw bristles and a durable wooden handle, but hers lasted a long time, too.

Mom even used her brooms long after the bristles had worn down. She would cover the worn-down bristles with a damp rag and use it to dust the floors before mopping. She also used it to clear cobwebs and dust in high areas she couldn’t reach near the ceiling.

When I got married, I found myself doing the same thing as Mom. It seemed like such a great solution for dusting and sweeping. The damp cloth picked up dust, cobwebs, hair, and dirt — even crumbs — and it could easily be washed to use again. I also used the “rag on a broom” for mopping the floor. After use, I’d soak the dirty rag in a mop bucket filled with soapy water and hang it outside to dry.

Old brooms can have other uses, too. I keep one with a broken handle in the trunk of my car. It’s great for cleaning snow off of the car or for sweeping the floor mats. If you saw off the worn-out bristles, wooden broom handles make sturdy stakes for garden vegetables like tomatoes and squash. The kids could even use them to build a sheet fort or a tee-pee.

While it’s discouraging to see all the plastic brooms and mops for sale today, it’s good to know there are more sustainable options. While the beautifully handcrafted Shaker braid brooms can be costly, there are plenty of more economical versions that are also strong, durable, and made of natural materials. Also, I often see my neighbors using sturdy outdoor brooms made with coconut palm fibers. And as for Mom’s “rag on a broom,” there are even wooden Cuban-style mops that work much the same way if you don’t have an old broom to use!

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By Joanna Lacey

Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.