50+ Cleaning Tips & Work Savers: Timeless Wisdom

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These vintage tips are a collection of snippets found in books and magazines from the 1930’s to early 1960’s offering advice to homemakers. Since they didn’t have the appliances, tools and products that we have today (that make our tasks so much easier), every good tip made a difference to the homemaker’s daily schedule.

VacuumingThis is the latest addition to the “Timeless Wisdom Collection” and I chose each of the below for their interest, many are still useful today.

  1. Hard rubbing is not necessary for removing tarnish from flat silver. Do it this way: Use a large enamel kettle. Place an old aluminum pie pan or layer cake pan in the bottom. Measure water into the kettle. Add 1 tablespoon each baking soda and salt for each quart of water. Bring to boiling point. Put flat silver to be cleaned into the kettle. Be sure each piece either touches the aluminum pan or touches another piece of silver which is in contact with the pan. Boil 2 to 5 minutes. Remove silver, wash and dry. Rub to a soft polish with a flannel cloth. Do not use this method for hollow ware, flat ware with hollow handles or silver with an oxidized finish. Also see these Homemade Silver Polishing Cloths.
  2. Add new life to fiber brooms by washing them occasionally in 2 quarts of warm water to which have been added 4 tablespoons of household ammonia. Let the bristles soak in this for half an hour. Rinse in clear warm water and then hang them up in a cool place to dry.
  3. Never stand a broom or brush on its bristles in the closet. Screw cup-hook at the end of the handle and hang it up so the bristles don’t touch the floor. This prevents the brush from losing its shape or wearing out sooner than necessary.
  4. Windows will require less elbow grease if you moisten a rag with some glycerine and use it on those dirty panes. They’ll stay clean longer too.
  5. Clean and shine mirrors at the same time by adding a little borax to the water used for washing them. Another way to brighten mirrors is to rub with a cloth dampened with a little alcohol.
  6. Remove paint splashes from windows and mirrors by washing with turpentine or ammonia, or hot vinegar. Never use a razor as it may scratch the glass.
  7. Always dry scrubbing brushes with the bristles down, in the sun, if possible.
  8. Make your own treated dusters this way: Dip 18-inch cheesecloth squares in a solution of 2 cups hot water and 1/4 cup lemon oil. Squeeze out excess liquid and dry.
  9. Picture glass is best washed with a cloth wrung out of hot water and dipped in alcohol. Polish at once with a chamois cloth until dry and glossy.
  10. Sounds silly but it works! Stale, soft chunks of bread, rubbed over wallpaper in even, vertical strokes, “erase” the soiled spots–even very visible fingermarks.
  11. Varnished surfaces can usually be cleaned tackled with a cloth dipped in cool, weak tea. That’s right! Cool, weak tea.
  12. After washing the supper dishes, the draining boards at the side of the sink should be given a good scrubbing with hot soapy water. This should be sufficient to keep them sweet. If, for any reason they have become badly soiled, a little soda should be added to the scrubbing water. The dish-mop and dish-cloth should be well washed, and squeezed in a hot soapy lather, thoroughly rinsed in clear, hot water, and wrung out. It is then a good plan to shake out the mop and stand it head up in an empty sealer kept for the purpose at the side of the sink.
  13. When “washing up” put a piece of lemon peel into the dish-pan. It will soften the water, remove all traces of the smell of fish, onions, and so on, and put a fine gloss on china.
  14. Sparkle up enameled wood with 2 quarts of warm water to which 3 tablespoons of household ammonia and some mild soap have been added. Be sure to rinse with plain water and to dry thoroughly.
  15. To get into crevices in carved pieces of furniture, use a cotton-wrapped orange wood stick or wooden skewer.
  16. Repair crayons will also do a good job of camouflaging scratches, dents or nicks in furniture or woodwork. Select a crayon which matches wood, and melt. Work the melted crayon into the wood until the damage is concealed.
  17. Wicker furniture should be scrubbed with a stiff brush moistened with warm salt water. Salt keeps the wicker from turning yellow.
  18. White furniture can be handled by dissolving baking soda in warm water and applying the solution to the furniture with a soft cloth. Then rub with a dry cloth. Use a teaspoon of the solution to a pint of water.
  19. Try this treatment to get rid of mildew in valuable books. Brush each spot off, page by page, with an absolutely dry cloth or tissue. Open the book and air in a dry, sunny place. If mildew is exceptionally bad, sprinkle French chalk on the page. Close the book and several days later brush the chalk out.
  20. Fish or onion odor can be removed from utensils and dishes by adding a teaspoonful of baking soda to the dish water.
  21. Onion odor can be removed from the hands by rubbing them with dry salt.
  22. Sprinkle pantry shelves, window sills, and door sills with a mixture of red pepper and sage to rid them of ants.
  23. To freshen wooden chopping blocks, counter or rolling pins, sprinkle table salt on these surfaces when they are wet and scrub dry.
  24. Bread crusts are ideal for cleaning the meat grinder; then add to the meat dish for flavor and food.
  25. To keep a recipe book or card clean while you’re cooking, place it under an upside-down pie plate. The curved bottom also magnifies the print.
  26. To prevent you from losing your place in the cookbook, place a trouser hanger that has been painted to match your kitchen in the place you are using. Then hang the book from the hanger, and the directions won’t get lost nor will the cookbook get soiled.
  27. Salt and vinegar will remove tea stains from china. See also How To Remove Coffee & Tea Stains From Mugs.
  28. Something boil over on the stove? A sprinkle of salt will absorb the juice and stop the smoking.
  29. Sprinkle a handful of table salt over a “run over” in your oven. It will stop the burned smell until you are through baking and can wash it.
  30. If your glass coffee pot gets cloudy, make tea in it. Tea’s tannic content will remove the film. See also this page for more advice.
  31. Some vinegar in a glass or cup placed in the refrigerator will do away with that ice box odor.
  32. To remove any disagreeable odor from your hands or a cooking vessel, wash with apple cider vinegar.
  33. If hands get stained from chopping vegetables, rub them with slices of raw potato.
  34. Put a large teaspoon of baking soda in thermos bottle, fill with boiling water and cap occasionally between use. All adhering material loosens, comes off and sweetens the bottle.
  35. A rubber patch cut from an inner tube makes a good temporary sink stopper.
  36. Replace worn kitchen shades with oilcloth–using the slat and roller from the old one. These are long wearing and washable.
  37. Put a roll of shelf paper into an empty aluminum foil container, lets you tear off pieces quickly and neatly.
  38. Line the tops of cupboards with sheets of wax paper to protect cupboards from grease buildup and no more messy cleanup jobs.
  39. A cloth dipped in lemon juice will remove discoloration on aluminum pots and cookware. Rinse and wipe dry.
  40. Bring back some shine to aluminum pans by boiling apple peels in them.
  41. Mesh scouring pads make fine pincushions when you cover them with leftover scraps of materials.
  42. To pick up slivers of broken glass, wet a piece of paper toweling and apply gently to surface, the slivers will cling to the wet towel.
  43. When stirring anything hot, always use a wooden spoon. It never gets hot nor does it scratch the cookware.
  44. If two glasses are stuck together, fill the top glass with cold water and set the bottom glass in hot water. Try to carefully twist the two glasses apart after a minute.
  45. Make sure you let your metal pans cool before washing otherwise they may warp.
  46. Boil a bit of vinegar and salt in an iron skillet to remove burned on bits.
  47. Put the potato masher into cold water as soon as you’re done using it, it will wash up easier.
  48. Use foam meat trays between each plate of fine china when stacking for storage, will help prevent scratches.
  49. Squeeze a wedge of lemon after handling fish, will remove the fish smell from your hands.
  50. Dip rusted metalware in pure cider vinegar then let it dry. After a few days you should be able to wipe away the remaining loose particles.
  51. When the edges get rough on plastic serving utensils, file the edges smooth with a new emery board.
  52. Here’s a fun one just for giggles: Never shake or poke a pop-up toaster to empty crumbs, instead use a chicken feather to brush them out.

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Published: February 27, 2009
Updated: September 7, 2012

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