Cleaning The Old Fashioned Way.

By Alison July 24, 2005 2 Comments 6 Min Read


In my time as a Housekeeper I must have bought every new cleaning product on the market.  I used to be a product junkie. If it was new I had to have it because I would convince myself that this was the product that would change my life: the detergent that would transform my tiles, make me happy and heck, who knows, make me thin, rich and divinely beautiful! I am, I am ashamed to say a sucker for persuasive advertising: when Jif changed it’s name to Cif, I was there, stocking up, because here was a product, with not just a snazzy new name (haha!), but now blessed with magical properties that would make housekeeping a cinch…

I learnt the hard way: it doesn’t make any difference how many products you buy: if they sit, in all their promising glory in the little cupboard under the sink- the house stays dirty. If you take them out and waft around the house, spraying a bit of this and a bit of that, wiping a cloth around and hoping for the best- the house will be passably clean. And worst of all, if you go completely mental and scrub the house from top to bottom with the most noxious cleaners you can find, then what you risk creating is a sanitised box, reminiscent of a hospital ward or a swimming pool, filling your home with toxic chemicals, compromising your natural defences against bacteria and endangering your children and pets.

So what to do? While I recognise that what you makes your house feel cleanest is an entirely personal matter, I think it is important to understand that without being too evangelic about it, there are enviromental matters to take into consideration and there are simple rules for keeping a clean house that will make all the difference…

I don’t want to preach: I want you to understand that as the Mistress of your house, it is up to you what household chemicals you choose to use in your home: but as Vintage HouseKeepers, primarily we should not forget that all too often, an arsenal of modern cleaning products will not do the job half as well as boiling hot water and elbow grease, and that the real key to a clean, hygenic home lies in consistent, thorough cleaning on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, according to what is required…

For my own part I use two shop bought cleaners for most cleaning jobs: a cream cleaner without bleach like Cif and  a plain old dish detergent like Fairy liquid. I never use bleach, mostly because I can’t bear the smell and have no wish to have something in my home that is potentially lethal to my child. I don’t buy anti-bacterial surface cleansers, spray polishes, cleaning mousses, or hazardous products like oven cleaners and drain fluids either.

I supplement my shop bought cleaning product list with just two home made remedies:

Brocante Surface Cleaner:

2 tablespoons bicarbonate of soda.

1 teaspoon of vinegar

3 drops of Tea tree essence.

1 drop of Lemon essence.

1 drop of Eucalyptus essence.

Combine and  add a bit of water to mix to a paste. Apply to surface in a circular motion, then rinse with hot water and a clean cloth.

Brocante Polish.

125ml Linseed oil.

30g unrefined beeswax, grated.

5 drops Lavender essence.

5 drops Rosemary essence.

Heat the linseed oil in a bain-marie, then add the beeswax. Stir well until the beeswax has dissolved- (don’t allow to boil!). As the mixture cools and thickens, stir in the essences, then transfer to a sealable jar and use as you would furniture polish.

I choose to use this minimum collection of cleaning products, not because I am fanatical about enviromental issues (although they remain an important issue), but mostly because by using these products I can control the harmony of fragrances in my home: minimal use of chemicals mean that the essences I add to all my products from laundry conditioner to home made room cleansing sprays, remain the dominant comforting scents of my home and the fact that my house is cleaned regularly as part of both my routine and housekeeping rituals means that dirt and grease never builds up to the point where only industrial strength cleaners will shift it…

For more information on the dangers of household cleaners go here and for a list of home made alternatives to cleaning products go here

Happy Scrubbing!

Originally posted on The HouseKeepers Gazette.


  1. Susana Lucero says:

    I just LOVE your ironing board cover! I need me one of those!

  2. Marlene says:

    I recently purchased a vintage Mercer tile. The forground matte glaze on most of the tile is very discolored and dark.
    Any ideas about how I could attempt a cleaning?

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