50 Laundry & Mending Tips From A 1940’s Housewife

The timeless tips are back! This batch is collected from magazines and books dating from the 1940s, 50s and 60s with many still useful today, some I’ve included for a glimpse into the day-to-day homemaking life of the era.

Picture of Woman Ironing & Pressing
Picture of Woman Ironing & Pressing
  1. After washing overalls, drying and smoothing them, tuck a handkerchief in the back pocket before putting them away. This may prevent a last-minute search before your husband dashes out on his way to work.
  2. To set color in garments: 2 tablespoons turpentine and 1 handful of salt. Pour boiling water over this, then put garment in and leave it until water is cold.
  3. You can iron faster and easier if you put a sheet of aluminum foil under the ironing board cover. The foil stops steam from penetrating the padding and deflects steam back into the article being ironed.
  4. When laundering doilies or other linen pieces that need careful shaping, leave unstarched for the first ironing. When ironed and shaped to your satisfaction, dip a thin cloth in starch, wring out and smooth it over the article on the ironing board, then iron both layers dry. The doily will be nicely starched and finished.
  5. When laundering curtains of voile, scrim or any material which has to be ironed, if they are fold so selvage ends are together and ironed they will hang perfectly even and straight.
  6. To protect sheets and pillowslips, always mend tears, small holes and rips before laundering.
  7. Slipcovers should be starched to give them more body. They also will stay clean longer.
  8. To remove lint from your dark blouses, skirts or shirts use Scotch, masking or adhesive tape. Rub tape lightly over the article and the lint will rub off!
  9. A towel rack on the inside of the clothes hamper lid is handy for hanging damp towels and wash cloths to prevent mildew.
  10. When the rope clothesline needs washing, wrap it around a washboard and scrub with a stiff brush, rinsing thoroughly. Give the clothespins an occasional dip, too.
  11. Work shirts that are fraying at the cuffs can be saved from the rag bag with a little bias tape. Trim off the frayed part closely and bind the edge with tape in the closest matching color. It will make a neat mend and strengthen the cuff.
  12. Hard-to-iron rayons should be rolled in a damp towel, then in waxed paper and put in the refrigerator to chill thoroughly.
  13. To prevent a clothes line from tangling, start at one end and wind it up as you walk to the next hook until the line is all down.
  14. Iron garments with buttons from the wrong side on a turkish towel that has been folded several times. You can iron as if the buttons weren’t there, and your finished product will be worth the extra trouble.
  15. If the hole you are mending in a sweater is large, reinforce it with net. This forms a foundation for your mending and keeps the mend from puckering.
  16. If you must iron a few pieces of unsprinkled laundry in a hurry, dampen them, roll up tightly, and wrap in a piece of paper. Put the package in a hot oven two or three minutes. After that, the pieces will be just right for ironing.
  17. To remove grease from a silk dress, rub the grease spot with a little talcum or magnesia. Let it dry on the stain and then brush off the powder or magnesia.
  18. If you are in a hurry to iron clothes, dampen them with hot water instead of cold. They will dampen more quickly.
  19. Hanging a suit on a hanger while it still retains body heat causes the wrinkles to fall out much more easily.
  20. Handy clothespin bag may be made using a coat hanger. Use any durable material, shape top to the coat hanger, and sew firmly, leaving one end open halfway down the side so that pins may be reached easily. The bag may be hung on the line and pushed along for convenience. See 11 Free Clothespin Bag Patterns for a few free patterns as well.
  21. To keep linens from turning yellow, paint the inside of your linen closet blue. You will find that your linens will stay a snowy white.
  22. Cut a buttonhole from a discarded garment and apply it in the manner of a patch under the worn one. Tuck raw edges under. If the patch is similar to the garment patch, the mend can scarcely be noticed.
  23. One-half cup of household ammonia added to rinse water will brighten colored clothes.
  24. If clothes begin to stick to the lip of the wringer of the washer, try rubbing some paste wax on it; the clothes will fall into the next tub much easier and you will not have the clothes wrapping around the rollers.
  25. When pressing woolen materials with a damp cloth, do not attempt to iron the woolen dry because this causes a shine. Press quickly and allow steam to rise which brings up nap.
  26. Launder the laundry bag. If you use a cloth bag for soiled clothes, be sure to launder it frequently to keep it in an odorless condition. Check out this Free Laundry Bag Pattern – Vintage (1944).
  27. Perspiration rings around men’s hatbands will disappear like magic if the housewife uses her ingenuity! Turn the sweatband down and insert a strip of cellophane around the crown, then turn the hatband back in place.
  28. Know the first place of wear on men’s trousers? It’s where the heel of his shoe rubs against the inside trouser cuff. You can avoid expense by sewing an extra piece of cloth or twill tape on the danger spot.
  29. To wash colored calicos, dissolve, say 10 cents worth of sugar of lead in six to eight quarts of pure water (rain water is best), and after the garments are washed and rinsed, let them be dipped in and rung out. It not only sets the color, but keeps it.
  30. A scorched spot on woolens may be removed by brushing the spot with fine emery paper.
  31. Iron bias-cut garments along the grain of the fabric rather than from neck to hem.
  32. Avoid rips in delicate net or lace curtains by washing them in a large muslin bag.
  33. Rain spots will quickly disappear from suede shoes, hats or purses, if rubbed gently with an emery board such as is used for manicuring.
  34. To press knitted garments, trace the outline desired on a clean piece of muslin and pin the garment over the muslin to conform to the pattern. Cover with a dry pressing cloth, then with a damp cloth and press with a medium hot iron until dry.
  35. Ribbon or lace will dry flat after washing and need no ironing if it is smoothed around a clean bottle to dry.
  36. Try sponging those shiny spots on clothes with hot vinegar before pressing.
  37. Summer cottons and rayons may be refreshed by using small amounts of plain gelatin instead of starch; prepare as for dessert and starch by dipping.
  38. To keep the little tufts on a chenille bedspread fluffy, hang the wet spread on the line with tufts inside. Rubbing together makes them fluffy.
  39. Turn printed washables inside out on the line. This prevents sun fading.
  40. Insert clothespins in the fingers of gloves to hold their shape when drying. These should be laid on a towel to dry.
  41. Clothespins will last longer if they are put in a pan of boiling water and soda when new. Soak for a half hour and then rinse in cold water, dry in the sun.
  42. Place a piece of beeswax between two pieces of flannel and rub your iron on them occasionally. It will keep the iron clean and make it run smoothly.
  43. Children’s clothes made of corduroy are best not ironed. Squeeze very little water from them and hang on line dripping wet. When they are nearly dry, roll up in a towel for a few minutes, then spread on a towel and arrange to proper shape.
  44. When you are ironing keep a pair of scissors handy to clip threads, ravelings and raw ends of lace and ribbons. It pays big dividends.
  45. When ironing shirt collars, place a bath towel under collar and iron on wrong side.
  46. If your rubber boots or galoshes make black marks on your stockings, use colorless nail polish and paint a half inch strip inside the tops of the boots.
  47. Lemon rinds are an excellent bleach. They will keep things snowy white and there will be a lingering aroma of lemon among your clothes.
  48. When hanging skirts and trousers to dry, they should be pinned firmly to the line at the waistband. This makes the pulling lengthwise.
  49. When you wash baby’s bonnet, fit it over an inverted bowl to dry. Helps the bonnet hold its shape.
  50. To whiten laces, wash them in sour milk.

Related Posts


    • Christense Andersen

    Does the blue-painted linen closet really work? Or does it jut mean the wood needs to be finished?

    • TipNut

    I don’t know Christense, that one has had me thinking on it too–I thought it was really interesting. Why would it work, it specifically mentions the color blue so I’d think it has to do with that, but?

    • Maggie Potts

    I don’t know about the linen closet, but porch ceilings that are painted in a turquose color will keep wasps away. If I had a linen closet I would definetly paint it just to find out. I wonder what shade of “blue” works best.

    • Maggie Potts

    Laundry tip #21, concerning that blue linen closet, I did some research and found something I had forgotten. Women use to add “bluing” to the whites when the did laundry to keep them from yellowing. So I guess the blue paint just reinforces that process.

    • TipNut

    Good connection Maggie, I forgot about that too. I still don’t get it though, how the color of the walls would affect linens or keep linens white. It is an interesting puzzle isn’t it!

    • Sara

    I have a very troubling odor to my bed linens. They do not smell when coming out of the dryer, but get quite strong the longer they sit in the linen closet. After a week or two they become too strong to put on the bed and need rewashing. I have tried many things including switching detergents, vinegar, baking soda, beaches, multiple washes, extra rinsing, different wash temperatures, etc. I do not use fabric softeners. What is causing this and how can I get rid of it?

    • TipNut

    Maybe it’s something in your linen closet Sara. Try storing the bedding somewhere else for awhile to see if the smell comes back.

      • Nancy

      It sounds to me that you may be putting your lines away before they are thoroughly and completely dry, in a confined space, with little air movement. Just a slight amount of moisture, in a stagnant air environment, without light is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and mold, both probable sources of your odor.


    The reason linen closets’ are painted blue is to prevent light and it is dark blue like navy.The purpose is for the same effect as root cellars’.store in a cool dark place to extend the lifetime effect.But do not place linens on the shelf without”A LINER MAT”.A web type material or dark shelf paper in dark blue.because some items might stain due to long period of storage.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *