Archive for the ‘Cleaning Tips’ Category

The beauty of my home is that it has always been inhabited by members of my family.  The downside is that the attic of my home is filled with items from every generation who ever lived here.  There are seven steamer trunks (filled), boxes and boxes of decorations, books, and furniture.  Most of the recent “crap” is mine… starting with childhood and right up to present day.

The problem is… the insulation installed by my father is inappropriate due to holding moisture against the roof boards causing rot.  It simply has to be replaced with newer insulation which allows for air flow.  This is an easy project which can be done by any homeowner or contractor.  However, in order to get to the insulation I first have to clean out the junk blocking it.  The clean out has to allow for access as well as room to store, cut and work with the new insulation.

Over the last year I have been slowly digging and purging items… and feel that I am starting to make some discernible headway… say 10% complete.  Now, you might ask, “Is the attic really that big?”  No, it is just that full of “stuff”.  However, as best I am able, I always judge each item before simply tossing it.  I use a 4 pile system; Charity, Trash, Keepers, and Family.  If an item could serve another then I put it in the Charity pile and be sure it is donated.  When purging on this scale keep in mind if you haven’t had a use for it in 3+ years… you probably don’t need to keep storing it.

As for the Charity pile, each month I get cards from several different organizations that reach out and are willing to schedule pickups for clothing, household goods and books.  Please consider this during your fall and spring cleaning projects!  The clothing and household items should be clean and serviceable and books should not be musty.

One week’s donation… this was an exceptional haul!


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I have a piece of old newsprint that has survived since 1965.  It has been shuffled around the house but never thrown away or lost.  When a friend showed some interest in this recipe it took me all of 5 seconds to put my hands on it.  Yes, it is like the holy grail of whitening whites.  Since my Mom was a nurse and often had to clean her white uniforms from all manner of stains from her work it was touted as the most successful treatment she had ever used.  I have personally used this on yellowed crocheted items made by my grandmother that are irreplaceable and thus treated with great care and they survived beautifully.  I am sure this will help you get the yellow out of any old articles… pillowcases, towels, clothing, etc.  I usually keep a small box of the granulated dishwashing detergent just for this purpose.  I have not tried this with the liquid versions on the market today.

If for nothing else… the return to the 1950’s mindset is hilarious!!  Taken from the Record American newspaper out of Boston, MA.  Originally printed on Monday, April 26th 1965 in the section “Hints from Heloise” by Heloise Cruse.  Here is the article in full:

Whitens Most Dingy Articles

DEAR HELOISE: I am so ashamed of my baby daughter’s stained undershirts, that I am tempted to discard them and buy new ones (which I can’t afford to do) unless you can tell me how to remove those horrible stains.  Please answer my distress signal.  S.O.S.

DEAR S.O.S.:  I poured one gallon of hot water in a plastic waste basket (enamel or stainless steel containers are acceptable but NOT aluminum) and added one-half cup of electric dishwasher compound (this is the stuff used in electric dishwashers) and one-fourth cup of bleach and stirred it well.

I then put my 100 percent WHITE COTTON garments in this, let them soak for 30 minutes, then washed as usual using some vinegar in the rinse water.  The garments came out snow-white.  I have taken stained pillow slips – that were really yellow and badly soiled – and, after using this method, they were as white as snow!

If you use this on WHITE uniforms which contain nylon, etc., do NOT put in HOT water as it sets wrinkles.  Pour hot water over the dishwashing compound granules and let it get cool BEFORE you put your “lons” in.  DO NOT stir the mixture while the clothes are soaking.

I sent a copy of this method to Ned Hopper, one of the top chemists in Washington D.C. and here is his answer:  “We have found this is a very effective method of whitening badly stained garments.  We tested various dishwashing compounds according to your procedure.  In every case the fabric was either lightened or completely whitened.  In each case, we worked ONLY on stained WHITE fabrics, as obviously the chlorine bleach may react with some colored dyes.  Upon removal from the bleach solution, vinegar will help neutralize any compound agent left in the fabric.”  Richard N. Hopper, Technical Director.

Now I think this is about one of the greatest discoveries in a long time.  It is especially great on dingy pillow slips.  We tested many and the results were amazing though they had been laundered commercially for months.

I think it would be an excellent idea to use the above method for T-shirts too!  We tried it on babies undershirts and it was great.  And what about those white cotton socks teenagers wear?

DO NOT keep re-using the same mixture once it has become discolored.  Pour this out and make a fresh mixture again.  And isn’t it exciting to have really white laundry?


Happy washing and do let me know how you make out!!

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I have always loved the silver pieces in the house but I have always hated the price it takes to keep them shiny and clean.  Therefore, most of the silver that is on display has not seen polish or a soft cloth in years and many, many, many years at that.  Recently, a friend from college shared a recipe (thank you Kate!) for a silver dip that I decided to give a go.  She uses this for the wonderful and intricate jewelry she designs and makes.  Her pieces often have semi-precious stones and crystals and they apparently stand up to this treatment remarkably well.  Of course, use your discretion.  I started with less precious pieces (again, discretion)… mixed up the recipe and hoped for the best.  I was amazed at the results.

Two things to note about this method.  1) It does not replace a good cleaning with polish and cloth.  2) It is not for the faint of heart.  It literally stinks to high heaven.  Think sulfur or rotted eggs.  Use vent fans or open windows in the kitchen to help with this.  What it does do is take a few years of elbow grease off the chore and allow you to turn around a quick result in a quarter of the time.  The pictured results were won in 30 minutes start to finish.  With this in mind… put a kettle of about a quart of water on to boil.

What you need:

  • Tin/ Aluminium Foil
  • Large Bowl
  • 1 Tbsp Salt
  • 1 Tbsp Baking Soda
  • 1 Qt Boiling Water

What you do:

Line the large bowl with the tin/ aluminium foil.  Measure in the salt and baking soda.  Add the boiling water which mixes all as added.  Toss in the silver pieces you want to clean.  The pieces must be touching the foil for this to work.  Stand back and be amazed.  The water will turn brown, the foil will discolor and your pieces will lighted as they sit.  Using tongs, retrieve the still hot pieces and rub with a soft clean cloth.  Yes, you still have to rub but far less than you would think.  Now, you can call it quits or you can follow this with a proper polish that would be considered a light cleaning… rubbing on the polish and letting sit for a few minutes and then rubbing again with a soft clean cloth.

I found that my spoons… pictured here, and the silver bowl needed a follow-up treatment since only limited parts actually touched the foil… and the bowls of the spoons themselves remained a bit cloudy.  Being a bit OCD I wanted real shine… so they were all polished again.  Also, my silver polish has a tarnish preventative so I felt it was best to use and get a proper clean for another few years… (cough decades).

Before and after of the 3 items (2 of which were cleaned).  The teapot was too large for the bowl… thankfully the recipe can be doubled and even tripled.

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Display spoons before, during (one spoon cleaned via dip only) and after (all spoons dipped and then polished).

Happy polishing!!

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