House Cleaning Tips and Tricks

Vintage Illustration of Young Woman Cleaning a SinkUsing Helpful Household Hints to Clean

Here's a handy collection of old fashioned house cleaning tips and tricks that were used by families to solve troublesome cleaning problems.

Some tips are designed to make ordinary tasks, like dish washing and window washing a breeze. Whatever the cleaning problem, these imaginative solutions made Grandma's work easier.

You're likely to find a tip that will help you too!


Old Time House Cleaning Tips and Tricks

Young's Demonstrative Translation of Scientific Secrets (1861)
Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping (1877)
The Perry Home Cook Book (1920)
The White House Cook Book (1913)
Mom's Recipe Scrapbooks (c. 1920s)

To Ventilate a Room

Place a pitcher of cold water on a table in your room and it will absorb all the gasses with which the room is filled from the respiration of those eating or sleeping in the room. Very few realize how important such purification is for the health of the family, or, indeed, understand or realize that there can be any impurity in the rooms; yet in a few hours a pitcher or pail of cold water — the colder the more effective — will make the air of a room pure, but the water will be entirely unfit for use.

To Remove Odors from Ice Box, Cupboard or Pantry

Fill a dish with boiling water and drop in a piece of charcoal.

To Remove Onion Odor

To remove the odor of onions from saucepans in which they have been cooked, put sal soda [baking soda], fill with water, and let it stand on the stove until it boils; then wash in hot suds, and rinse well.

To Remove Bad Smells

Articles of clothing, or of any other character, which have become impregnated with bad-smelling substances, will be freed from them by burying for a day or two in the ground. Wrap up lightly before burying.

To Wash Glassware

Use a little ammonia in dishwater when washing glassware; it will make it sparkle like cut glass.

Housewife Washing DishesHousewife Washing Dishes in Her Kitchen Sink, c.1930s
(Source: Adapted by Don Bell)

Tumblers which Have Contained Milk

Should be first rinsed in cold water before washing in hot water.

Stain on Spoons from Boiled Egg

Remove stain by rubbing with a little salt.

To Cleanse a Sponge

Rub a fresh lemon thoroughly into soured sponge and rinse it several times in lukewarm water; it will become as sweet as when new.

Care of Oil Paintings

Gently wipe the picture, when necessary, in sweet milk and warm water, drying carefully.

To Clean a Papered Wall

Cut into eight pieces a large loaf of bread two days old, blow dust off wall, rub down with a piece of the bread in half-yard strokes, beginning at the top of room, until upper part is cleaned, then go round again, repeating until all has been gone over. If done correctly, so that every spot is touched, the paper will look almost new. Dry corn meal may be used in place of bread, applying it with a cloth.

Wallpaper Cleaner Recipe

1 quart flour, 1-1/2 tablespoons powdered alum mixed dry, add cold water, let cook ten minutes, work on board, add a little flour if necessary. It should be like rubber. Take small bits and rub over paper surface.

Added Tip

This glass cleaning tip works even better if a small amount of white vinegar is added to the water.

To Clean Looking Glasses and Windows

Divide a newspaper in two, fold up one half in a small square, wet it in cold water. Rub the glass first with the wet half of the paper, and dry it with the other. Using this simple window cleaning tip, fly specks and all other marks will disappear as if by magic.

To Remove Varnish from Glass

To remove varnish from glass use sal soda [baking soda].

To Clean Plate Glass and Mirrors

A soft cloth wet in alcohol, is excellent to wipe off plate glass and mirrors, and prevents their becoming frosty in winter.

To Clean Hearths

Soapstone or sandstone hearths are cleaned by washing in pure water, then sprinkling with powdered marble or soapstone, and rubbing with a piece of the stone as large as a brick, and having at least one flat surface.

The Care of Marble

Never wash the marble tops of wash stands, bureaus, etc., with soap. Use clean warm water (if very much soiled add a little ammonia) and a soft cloth drying immediately with a soft towel. There is nothing that will entirely remove grease spots from marble, hence, the necessity of avoiding them.

To clean marble or marbleized slate mantles, use a soft sponge or chamois skin, dampened in clean warm water without soap, then polish with dry chamois skin. In dusting, use a feather duster, and never a cloth, as it is likely to scratch the polished surface.

Slate Hearths

Are preferable to marble, as they are not so easily soiled. To wash them, use a clean cloth and warm water. Many oil them thoroughly when new with linseed oil; thus prepared they never show grease spots.

To Store Brooms

Hang in the cellar way to keep soft and pliant.

To Preserve Brooms

Dip them for a minute or two in a pot of boiling suds once a week and they will last much longer, making them tough and pliable. A carpet wears much longer swept with a broom cared for in this manner.

To Clean a Copper Kettle

Keep an old dish with sour milk and a cloth in it, wash the kettle with this, afterward washing off with clear water, and it will look bright and new. Instead of sour milk, you could try using buttermilk.

To Clean Brass Kettles

When much discolored, put in a half pint of vinegar and a handful of salt, put on stove, let come to a boil, take cloth, wash thoroughly, and rinse out with water. If using every day, the salt and vinegar and rinsing are sufficient.

To Prevent Rust on Knives

Steel knives which are not in general use may be kept from rusting if they are dipped in a strong solution of soda: one part water to four of soda; then wipe dry, roll in a flannel and keep in a dry place.

To Clean Stained Knives

Cut a good-sized, solid, raw potato in two; dip the flat surface in powdered brick dust, and rub the knife blades. Stains and rust will disappear. Or rub up and down in the ground.

1930s Kitchen1930s Model Kitchen
(Source: Adapted by Don Bell)

To Clean Wooden Furniture

An old cabinet maker says the best preparation for cleaning picture frames and restoring furniture, especially that somewhat marred or scratched, is a mixture of three parts linseed oil and one part spirits of turpentine. It not only covers the disfigured surface, but restores the wood to its natural color, and leaves a luster upon its surface. Put on with a woolen cloth, and when dry, rub with woolen.

To Take White Spots from Varnished Furniture

Hold a hot stove lid or iron over them and they will soon disappear.

To Remove Bruises on Furniture

Wet the part in warm water; double a piece of brown paper five or six times, soak in warm water, and lay it on the place; apply on that a warm, but not hot, flat iron till the moisture is evaporated. If the bruise is not gone repeat the process. After two or three applications, the dent will be raised to the surface.

If the bruise be small, merely soak it with warm water, and hold a red-hot iron near the surface keeping the surface continually wet; the bruise will soon disappear.

To Wash Oil Cloth or Linoleum

Sweet milk added to the water with which oil cloth or linoleum is washed will make it luster like new. To clean oil cloth, rub with sweet milk.

Cleaning Oil Cloths

A dingy oil cloth may be brightened by washing it in clear water with a little borax dissolved in it; wipe it with a flannel cloth that you have dipped into milk and then wring as dry as possible.

To Remove Grease Spots from Carpets

Cover spots with fine flour and then pin a thick paper over; repeat the process several times, each time brushing off the old flour into a dustpan and putting on fresh.

Added Tip

This old time carpet cleaning tip can save you money. It works well when using a vacuum cleaner, and it saves you from having to buy carpet brightening powders.

To Brighten Carpets

Carpets after the dust has been beaten out may be brightened by lightly scattering upon them corn meal mixed with salt and then sweeping it off. Mix salt and meal in equal proportions.

To Prevent Carpet Stains from Soot

Salt thrown on soot which has fallen on the carpet will prevent stains.

To Remove Stains from Hands

If the hands are stained there is nothing that will remove the stains as well as lemon. Cut a lemon in halves and apply the cut surface as if it were soap.

To Clean Ink Stains from Fingers

Rub ink spots with a match, then wash in soap.

To Remove Tea Stains from China

Salt and vinegar will remove tea stains from china.

To Prevent Greasy Dishwater

Add a tablespoon of ammonia to a basin of dishwater and it will not become greasy.

To Clean Unvarnished Black Walnut

Milk, sour or sweet, well rubbed in with an old, soft flannel, will make black walnut look new.

A Good Way to Clean Mica in Stove Doors

To clean mica in a stove that has become blackened with smoke, carefully take it out, and thoroughly wash it with vinegar. If the black does not come off at once, let it soak a little.

To Clean Cut Glass

Gently scrub with a small brush and soapy water containing a little ammonia.

To Clean Ivory Ornaments

When ivory ornaments become yellow or dusky, wash them well in soap and water with a small soft brush, to clean the carvings, and then place them, while wet, in the sunshine. Wet them with soapy water for two or three days, several times a day, still keeping them in the sunshine, then wash them again, and they will be perfectly white.

To Dust Furniture

Warm dusters make the polishing of furniture so much easier, and a more brilliant polish is acquired.

To Clean Dishes

Any dish that seems to require soaking until the next meal washes easily if placed upside down in a pan of hot water and steamed a few minutes. Steaming cleans dishes much quicker than soaking.

To Clean Copper or Brassware

Make a simple paste using flour, salt, and vinegar. Simply brush it on, let it sit for a while, then rinse it off with clear water. You can also use ordinary tomato catsup. It may require more than one application if the tarnish is severe.

To Clean Wine Decanters

Cut some brown paper into very small bits, so as to go with ease into the decanters; then cut a few pieces of soap very small, and put some water, milk-warm, into the decanters, upon the soap and paper; put in also a little baking soda. By well working this about in the decanters it will take off the crust of the wine and give the glass a fine polish.

To Clean Badly Burned Pot

Half fill with cold water, then cook in it one whole onion unpeeled until soft.

To Store Silver Tea and Coffee Pot

When putting away those not in use every day, lay a little stick across the top under the cover or lid. This will allow fresh air to get in and prevent the mustiness of the contents, familiar to hotel and boardinghouse sufferers.

Added Tip

Never allow suds or a particle of soap to touch old fashioned silver or plated ware!

Homemade Silver Cleaning Recipe
to Clean Silverware Easily

Save water in which potatoes have been boiled with a little salt, let it become sour, which it will do in a few days; heat and wash the articles with a woolen cloth, rinsing in pure water, dry and polish with chamois leather.

To Remove Egg Stain from Silver

Salt will remove the stain from silver caused by eggs, when applied dry with a soft cloth.

To Store Silverware

When set away in a drawer or chest, silver keeps best wrapped in dark-blue tissue paper.

Homemade Silver Polishing Cloth for Wiping Silverware

An old linen tablecloth cut up in pieces of convenient size, hemmed, and marked "silver," is very handy.

Warning

Use the old fashioned cleaning tips with "caution and common sense," and always "at your own risk." There is no guarantee these tips will work on today's synthetic materials and some methods might actually ruin them.


About the House Cleaning Tips and Tricks

The Domestic Vacuum CleanerThe Domestic Vacuum Cleaner (c. 1912)

You'll find simple, low-cost methods to clean items such as linoleum, oil cloth, wallpaper, wool carpets, mirrors, and marble fireplaces. There's even some old time silver cleaning tips. That's because cleaning and polishing silver plate was — and is — always a chore that takes time and much effort. It's never fun.

I can remember helping Mom to polish her silver tea set and cutlery whenever she needed it for a special occasion. It seemed to take hours. Eventually tiring of it, she wrapped her silverware in blue tissue paper (see the silver storing tip above) and packed it away in an old wooden storage trunk. Much later, my wife and I inherited her silverware, and it's still wrapped and protected in that old blue paper!

If you enjoy using your silver plate, one of these old fashioned silver polishing tips might make the polishing chore a little easier for you and save some time. Anyway, it's worth a try. Desserts do look spectacular when served on a shiny silver tray.

Have a look at this collection of house cleaning tips and tricks for ideas on how to clean windows, how to brighten carpets, how to remove odors, or how to solve a puzzling cleaning problem that may involve old fashioned items or materials.

Enjoy reading and experimenting. You might discover the solution you've been looking for. Myself, I like the little tip below...

How to Save a Ton of Housework

"There is no need to do any housework at all. After the first four years, the dirt doesn't get any worse." —Quentin Crisp


You May Also Like

Helpful Household Hints






Custom Search



Enjoy a Laugh to Brighten Your Day!

Abbott and Costello

Listen to Bud Abbott and Lou Costello's "Who's On First?" skit from the World War 2 Special Services Division V-Disk.

(5: 54 min.)


Comments

Have your say! Leave a friendly comment about Grandma's old fashioned desserts in the box below. (No links or promotion please.)


Like This Page? Please Share It




Visit the Homemade Dessert Recipes Home Page

Old Fashioned Rose Cookbook Icon

Donald Bell is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. If you make a purchase through a link on this page, I may receive a small commission to help support this site — at no extra cost to you. Thank you.

Don Bell with Old Fashioned Recipes

Please click the Like button above and help me preserve Grandma's old fashioned recipes in their original form.


Mystery Quiz

Mystery Item

What is this antique item? The Answer is found below.


Recent Articles

  1. My Solo Build It Review & How to Build a Recipe Site

    Read my detailed Solo Build It Review with Q&As and step-by-step instructions on How to Build a Recipe Site.

    Read More

  2. Bake Homemade Pie Pops Today

    Make your own flaky, golden pie pops and surprise your friends and family with a truly yummy dessert treat that's easy to make and fun to serve.

    Read More

  3. Vintage Dessert Cake Recipes

    You will love these old fashioned dessert cake recipes for when you want to serve something that's proven to be delicious and different.

    Read More

  4. Basic Homemade Cake Recipe with 12 Variations

    You'll love this basic homemade cake recipe with simple variations for making up to 12 vintage dessert cakes.

    Read More

  5. Straight Soda Recipes from the Vintage Soda Fountain

    Use these authentic straight soda recipes to make old time soda fountain beverages that are totally refreshing and delicious.

    Read More


Favorite
Topics


Quiz Answer

Grandma's button hooks for  fastening tight buttons on leather boots and gloves.