How to be a perfect ’50s housewife: Cleaning your home

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The perfect 50s housewife Cleaning your home

Note: This article may feature affiliate links to Amazon or other companies, and purchases made via these links may earn us a small commission at no additional cost to you. Find out more here.

The trademark of every perfect ’50s housewife? She cleans the house while wearing heels.

1956 Vacuuming in high heels

Likewise, Velma here wouldn’t be caught dead vacuuming with slippers on or — heavens to Betsy — bare feet. Heels it is!

Nov 12, 1956 vacuum home

Lucy steps things up a notch — literally — by wearing yellow pumps with three-inch heels.Perfect housewife with a Hoover Constellation vacuum - 1956

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A helpful husband

“I’ll hold the cigarette for you so you don’t have to stop washing the dishes,” said Gerald.

1956 - Have a cigarette while you wash the dishes

“To mother… with love” – For real?

This little poem reads as follows: “Whether you live in a big, big house / Or a house that’s very small / As long as mother’s in the house / Size doesn’t matter at all! / She’s the one person in all the world / Whose place can’t be filled by another. / For no one loves you or understands / In quite the way as mother.”

Do you know what mother doesn’t understand? Why you can’t skip the poem and just help do the dishes for once. Look at this mama watching forlornly from the hallway, carrying a dinner plate and a dishcloth.

So sure, she has a poem — but what she’d really like is a night off, and maybe a glass of something the kids aren’t allowed to drink.

Oct 12, 1953 Family housewife home cleaning

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Double-duty convenience

It’s a little sad when the best thing about Gloria’s day is that she can hide the toilet brush in the back of the hamper.

1952 housewife cleaning bathroom

Duz does soft suds

Thinking about Georgina washing towels a couple hundred times in that tiny countertop washing machine makes us appreciate modern laundry devices a lot more.

1952 How to be a perfect 50s housewife Cleaning your home

Sunlight makes everything bright!


Regina repurposes

“We just need to paint over Junior’s science project posterboard from last year, and we’ll be able to use it for little Petunia’s vacuum cleaner comparison project for school.”

1954 - Fifties housewife cleaning the wall

Bettina re-makes the bed so Alfred will never know she took a 4-hour nap.

There may or may not have been some “health tonic” involved.

1955 - Housewife making the bed

Marlene suddenly realizes she’s the only one doing the dishes.

1955 Putting away dishes - Happy housewife

How to be a perfect '50s housewife: Love your refrigerator!

Touch no dirt! Breathe no dirt! See no dirt!

50s housewife - Touch - breathe - see no dirt

Midge has found the safe, easy way to clean sinks fast

Vintage housewife - Bon Ami cleaning the kitchen sink

Lucinda loves her new kitchen gadget

However, she hasn’t yet learned that you shouldn’t put bones down the garbage disposal.

1950s housewife happily washing the dishes

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Hurry up, Mother!

If only Elmer had learned to iron his own pants, he wouldn’t have been so late for the hop.

Housekeeping - Wife ironing in 1952

Hang the housework!

Dusting was no match for Mary’s coffee… or, to be more specific, Mary’s Irish coffee.

Housewife cleaning the home in 1951

Lady loves laundry

Her favorite chore? “Washing clothes. I like plenty of soft soap and hot water when I do it. I like to wash dishes too, but I don’t like to dust.” – A real quote from Mrs. C. A. Smith, housewife, published in the Argus Leader newspaper (Sioux Falls, South Dakota) June 18, 1954

Housewife loving her laundry

How to be a perfect fifties housewife: Laundry edition

How many things are wrong in this picture? 

Clearly, Kay has never used an iron before.

Happy 50s housewife with an iron outside

How do YOU clean stubborn spots off floors?

Well, probably not by combining four chemical cleaners and making a toxic gas.

1955 SOS housewife cleaning

The kid can wait. Mama Eloise has windowsills to polish!

Oct 12, 1953 Housewife cleaning home

The housewife’s eternal question: “How the heck did that end up there?!”

1950s woman with canopy bed - Cleaning housewife

The best part of Ginger’s week is when she gets to replace the toilet paper.

And now for a little ad awkwardness from the fifties: 20 glamorous housewives who REALLY loved their toilet paper

1956 - Changing the toilet paper roll

She can see clearly now

Veronica decides that she’ll just leave that spider right where it is.

1957 - Woman cleaning window with Bon ami


For months, Edward had been wondering why he could never find any of his golf balls — and, in an unrelated thought, was slightly curious as to why the vacuum cleaner rattled so much.

1958 Grape Nuts - housewife

Elspeth has a cunning plan

“Just ignore the noise in the background, Ann. I’m keeping the vacuum on because if the kids hear me on the phone, they’ll want me to feed them again.”

1959 - Housewife taking a break from cleaning for a phone call

Well-dressed housewife Irma seriously needs to clean that carpet more often

Apr 7, 1958 Vacuum home housewife

Helga lied to Santa.

She wasn’t going to love it. In fact, the very idea of getting a vacuum instead of a salon-style hairdryer just about broke Helga’s little heart.

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Dec 10, 1956 Christmas vacuum

Seeking perfection?

You can’t tell from the picture, but these ladies have been vacuuming the same spots for over an hour.

1950s housewife - cleaning and vacuuming

The Octo-Uum™ didn’t stay on the market long, but boy, was it effective!

You just needed to have 7 ghost women help you vacuum.

May 18, 1953 Cleaning housewife


Betty, Bitsy and Betsy love scrubbing those pots & pans until they shine

Making your pots & pans shine like the top of the Chrysler Building will always be the best part of the whole day.

Fifties housewife - cleaning pans


Vacuum meets jetpack in 1955

“This handy, handsome little Hoover digs out dirt wherever it’s hiding — from the back of the kitchen cupboard to the glove compartment of your car. It weighs only four pounds …and you don’t carry it, you wear it. Strap slips over your shoulders. Leaves both hands free. Quickest, easiest way in the world to clean up, pick up, brush up.

“Hoover’s famous Veriflex hose snaps on front, never kinks. Long, light wand lets you reach up high, down low. way back. And there are extra attachments for all cleaning jobs. See your Hoover dealer soon.”

Hoover Pixie vacuum - housewife cleaning from 1955

It doesn’t work like that…

This lady is crazy happy to have a dish soap that somehow doesn’t require you to wash dishes. The neighbors coming over for dinner tomorrow night will be in for a surprise! (PS: Her eyes!)

How to be a perfect ’50s housewife Cleaning your home 1951

You go, girls!

It’s kind of an unusual kitchen layout, but we like the 6-woman cleaning team approach.


How to be a perfect 50s housewife Cleaning your home

Nice little trick there

With her own pin money, Babette hires a maid to come every Monday. Then when Wilbur walks in the door that evening, she pretends to be “finishing up” the cleaning.

How to be a perfect 50s housewife Cleaning your sink

Here’s the jingle the new guy at the advertising agency came up with on the spot.

She wears the cleanest clothes in town / So does her daughter Susan

So clean, so bright, you guessed it right / Of course it’s Tide she’s usin’!

Jun 11, 1951 Housewife cleaning with Tide detergent home

Once-a-month dishwashing

This — THIS — is what happens when Mabel puts off doing the dishes for a month. Meanwhile, Victor and the tykes relax in the backyard.

Lux kitchen detergent dishes - Housewife cleaning 1950s

ALSO SEE: How one woman invented the automatic dishwasher & saved us all countless hours of drudgery

Clarissa just got married

She’s still learning which end of the broom to use on the floor.

May 18, 1953 Broom housewife cleaning

It may not be the ideal job for everyone…

Woman daydreaming about an office job instead of being a housewife - 1959

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For you, the lady of the house! (1956)

From the Cincinnati Enquirer (September 3, 1956)

HOME LABOR. In the working world, it’s the housewife who holds down the most important job. In no other is a woman called upon to perform more duties, make more decisions and give more guidance — all vital!

Remember it, lady-of-the-house, when faced with those chores that tire and bore you. If you just think how your efforts bring health, growth, comfort and contentment to those you love, tasks will seem far less tedious.

Remember, too, that your labors receive the highest of achievement awards — your family’s devotion.

It's the housewife who holds down the most important job - Cincinnatii Enquirer (September 3, 1956)

All in a day’s work

“Cleaning house is my favorite chore, because it always looks so nice when I get through.” – A real quote from Mrs. James Merrill, housewife, published in the Argus Leader newspaper (Sioux Falls, South Dakota) June 18, 1954

Mar 9, 1959 Bedroom home carpet

How to be a perfect '50s housewife: In the kitchen

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Comments on this story

One Response

  1. Such assumptions about the unhappiness of these women. Women use to take pride in this work, as they still should. Some may have felt oppressed but as a whole women (men and children alike) were comfortable and satisfied and happy with their lives in this traditional family structure.

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