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Ten 150-Year Old Household Tips That Still Work

They’re natural, effective, non-caustic and practically free. No wonder old-fashioned cleaning tips are back in a big way.

Victorian manuals abound, but we have to give a nod to Mrs. Isabella Beeton, an English woman who, in 1861, set out to instruct ladies in the art of house keeping. Her book, Beeton’s Book of Household Management, provided recipes for environmentally safe products to clean just about everything. For this year’s “top ten” list, here are our favourite green housekeeping Ideas from 150 years ago.

10. For Cleaning Fire places and Woodstoves

Clean fireplace tiles with vinegar and water; rinse and wipe with plain water. Dip a damp rag in cold wood ashes and rub on the woodstove window, rinsing with clean water and rubbing with newspaper. Polish the stove with vegetable oil.

9. For Controlling Garden Pests

Dissolve 1 cup (250 mL) grated Castile soap in 1 cup boiling water (set aside). Chop 1 cup of tobacco leaves coarsely and put in an old blender. Add 2 cups (500 mL) of boiling water and leave for 1 or 2 minutes. Add one bulb of peeled garlic and 1 cup of tansy. Blend until smooth and strain through cheesecloth. Add to soap mixture. Spray morning and night for three consecutive days.

8. For Eliminating Ants and Earwigs

Sprinkle sage or white pepper in crevices and cupboards, or leave salted apple and cucumber peelings and where ants have been seen. For earwigs, leave crushed bay leaves or Epsom salts around baseboards and window sills.

7. For Cleaning Windows

To discourage cluster flies and clean your windows, wash them with the following mixture (applied with newspaper): juice of 1 lemon, 2 cups (500mL)water or soda water, 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) peppermint essential oil, 1 teaspoon (5 mL) cornstarch.

6. For General Cleaning

With different combinations of baking soda,white vinegar, borax and citrus juice (and sometimes natural Castile soap, beeswax, and lavender or pine essential oils), you can clean windows, rugs, appliances, clothes, upholstery, metal, bathrooms, kitchens, even household pets.

5. Five Ways to Use Vinegar

Clean bathtubs with vinegar and cooking salt. Remove rust from enamel sinks by rubbing with vinegar. Clean clogged showerheads by removing and boiling in 1/2 litre of water and 1 cup (250mL) vinegar. Clean kettles, coffee and tea pots with 1/2 cup (125 mL) of vinegar added to a pot full of water. And to sour milk for recipes, add 1 tsp (5mL) vinegar to 1 cup milk.

4. Four Salt Tips

Remove kitchen grease stains by rubbing with salt. Remove odors from hands by rubbing with vinegar and table salt. For colour fastness, mix 2 cups (500 mL) warm water and 1/3 cup (70 mL) salt and soak clothes for 20 minutes. And, of course, melt ice on front steps by sprinkling with table salt.

3. For Cleaning Floors

The old-fashioned carpet sweeper is an efficient, lightweight, quiet and economical alternative to the vacuum cleaner. It does an excellent job, uses no electricity and is (duh) cordless, another big plus. A natural broom with a wooden handle is biodegradable when its working days are over. Ditto the cotton mop.

2. Composting

One of the more gratifying and useful household experiences, composting (coupled with recycling) reduces your garbage to practically nothing. A simple garbage can with holes in the sides makes a fine composter. Keep it moist. Earthworms speed up the process and eliminate having to turn the compost as it becomes black gold.

1. Drying Laundry Outdoors

People are starting to push back against bylaws prohibiting old-fashioned clotheslines in neighbourhoods and housing developments. The benefits are huge: energy