Old-Fashioned Wisdom

By Alison October 4, 2010 6 Comments 2 Min Read

I have woken this morning feeling dementedly domestic. The sun is shining, there is potato and leek soup bubbling on the hob, one child despatched on a school trip to Castle Beeston, and one Mummy, footloose and fancy-free in her bestest pink pinny.
And so in celebration of a day abundant with home-making potential I hereby offer you a small collection of domestic old-wives tales, vintage housekeeping tips and a few puttery treats from yesteryear. Enjoy!
1. Boil a shard of terracotta or a teeny tiny little terracotta pot for five minutes then pop it inside your brown sugar canister to prevent it clumping the way it so very often does.
2. Sprinkle baking soda on to a nail brush and use it scrub canvas bags clean.
3. Add a spoon full of ammonia to soapy dishwater when you have a lot of oily pots and pans to clean and it will prevent the water turning greasy.
4. Rid pretty candlesticks of drippy dry wax by popping them into the freezer for half an hour before gently chipping away the drips.
5. Remove “pilling” from vintage flannel sheets or candlewick bedspreads by rubbing gently over the surface of each with a length of fine steel wool.
6. Leave silver jewellery in a bowl of tomato ketchup overnight and polish to an astonishing shine the next day…
7. A layer of cat litter at the bottom of your Wheelie Bin goes some way to banishing obnoxious smells.
8. Cut a lemon into quarters and pop it inside your kettle before boiling it three times. Limescale will shift, and the kettle should then be emptied and re-boiled twice more before using the water to make hot drinks.
9. Dish-Cloths that have hardened with age can be re-invigorated by soaking them in a sink full of boiling water and two cupfuls of Epsom Salts.
10. Sieve a little sugar into the bottom of the biscuit barrel and your biscuits will last twice as long before going soft.
11. Fill a large casserole dish with ammonia and leave it to stand in a very dirty oven overnight and the oven will be much easier to clean in the morning.
12. Leave a bowl of ice cold water in your bedroom each morning and it will purify the air of any room in which people have slept.
13. Dip brooms and brushes in a bowl full of boiling hot soapy suds weekly and the bristles will stiffen and brush more effectively.
14. Clean antique varnished surfaces with a soft cloth and a solution of cool, weak tea.
15. Surfaces can be polished to a deeper shine with a warm duster. So hang a selection of dry dusters over hot radiators before you set about your morning polishing ritual.
16. Adding half a cup full of glycerine to the machine when you launder flannel sheets in the Winter will render them fluffier than before.
17. Sprinkling chestnut oil along skirting boards and doors and  tucking whole chestnuts into dark corners will see off the spiders determined to share your home as the days get colder.
18. Glasses scratched or lightly chipped around the base can be smoothed by rubbing extremely gently with extra-fine sandpaper.
19. On rainy days stuff wet leather shoes with newspaper to absorb the damp.
20. When family members are suffering from Autumnal coughs or colds, use a good quality mouthwash to wipe over the receiver of the household phone and keep it germ free.
Have a lovely day Darlings!


  1. I love the first tip. My brown sugar was all clumped when I made my soup tonight. I shall 100% be doing this. Infact I think I have a broken pot that I can clean up and use.

  2. Wendy says:

    Some of these were absolutely fabulous! I do prefer to use vinegar to rid my kettle of limescale, though. Fill kettle 3/4 of the way with water, pour in 1/4 of the way with white vinegar. Let set overnight. pour out in morning, have a good rinse then start your morning cuppa.

  3. Ali H. says:

    I like the one about the spiders. I wonder if it really works? If you can actually get chestnut oil to try it out, I mean.

    1. brocantehome says:

      Oh but you can Ali, it's fairly widely available and that company Roullier White are doing a Shoo Away Spider Chestnut Oil product in their organic housekeeping range too, called Leg It

  4. Amy says:

    The baking soda absolutely does wonders to canvas bags! I didn't know about the Epsom Salts, though. Will have to try it with my sad dishcloths on Thursday (Kitchen cleaning day).

  5. melissa says:

    I had no idea about the ketchup, but since I never have silver cleaner, will definitely give this a try. I tend to lean on baking soda for this, but it's not perfect for the job. Thanks! 🙂

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