In a book review, Sweeping the German Nation by Nancy Reagin (New York 2007) Jason Crouthamel observes there’s no shortage of fodder for historians about the nature of the German national character. Some of the most telling artifacts that have migrated from German attics to flea market stalls are the stacks of linens embroidered with proverbs like Keep Order, Love It and Cleanliness Brings Joy. These testimonies to the daily existence of the hausfrau reinforce well-known stereotypes and jokes about German obsessions with order, discipline, and cleanliness that persist even today which got me to thinking about “keeping it clean” when you bring it home from the fleas.
They Don’t Call It the Flea Market For Nothing
Some say the eponymous fleas are named for the Marche aux Puces in France which got its name from the flea infested goods it sold. Others say the name comes from a time when the slums and alleys of Paris were demolished and replaced by new construction. The dealers in second-hand goods who lived and worked in these old neighborhoods were forced to “flee”. The merchants’ new gathering place was referred to as the “flee market,” which later became “flea market.” Still others claim that it is associated with New York City’s 18th century Fly Market because the Dutch name for the market was vlie which means valley, but is pronounced “flea.”
One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure
I don’t’ care where my treasures come from, I treat everything like trash until they’re sanitized. Heck, there’s a national epidemic of bed bugs going on, so there is no reason to spread more from dusty, musty, and downright dirty flea markets. So no bringing it in the house until it’s been sanitized!
Flea Market Fresh Checklist
1. Wear plastic (those thin surgical) gloves when you go trolling to avoid germs, bacteria, and bed bugs from spreading. I bring two pairs in case one rips. If you intend on lifting heavy things, slip a pair of gardening gloves right over them. (I put on hand lotion in advance!)
2. Re-use these plastic gloves by washing them as you would your hands in hot soapy water when you are done if they are not ripped. Remove them gently and hang dry on a dish rack.
3. Store your flea market purchases outside, preferably in a dry and well-ventilated area like a storage shed, away from the house until you’ve sanitized everything. This goes double for anything with cloth or that is stuffed.
4. Broom clean and cloth wipe everything down outside, including wood and metals.
5. Vacuum it if you can and empty the canister in the outside trash.
6. Toss what you can safely into the washing machine or dishwasher. Nothing will survive those temperatures, just use your best judgment or machine was on a lingerie gently cycle with Woolite and line or air dry.
7. Wash the rest by hand in the kitchen sink with a mild dishwashing detergent and rinse with hot hot water.
8. You can also spray your item down with a cleaning solution of 1 part bleach to 5 parts hot water in a reusable spray bottle. Rinse everything thoroughly in the sink until there’s no odor or visible dirt left.
9. Good pieces and antiques can just as easily be cleaned, but they require more attention and caution. Gently dust and/or brush with a soft dust broom and then wipe down with a dry or slightly damp cloth.
10. Don’t buy new dust rags. Use and reuse old cut up bath towels. Toss them into the washing machine too. If it’s a nice day, line dry everything.
Now you’re ready to bring those treasures into your home!
Lisa La Valle-Finan is a global readiness consultant by profession and flea market fanatic by nature. She welcomes all comments and can be reached at LLFinan@live.com or you can visit her Old World Living stall at http://www.etsy.com/shop/creativeconverzens for European elegance on a flea market budget.
dailyinfographic. (n.d.). Retrieved June 12, 2012, from http://dailyinfographic.com: http://dailyinfographic.com/big-germ-on-campus-infographic
h-net. (n.d.). Retrieved Juner` 12, 2012, from .h-net.org: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=13074
Where did the term flea market come from? (n.d.). Retrieved June 12, 2012, from ask.com: http://ask.yahoo.com/20010709.html