Ten old-fashioned household hints that really work

With more and more of us concerned about the environmental and personal impact of chemical cleaners, we take a look at some tried-and-tested cleaning tips used by previous generations. Not only are they chemical-free and kinder to the environment, they actually work! Many use common kitchen ingredients such as vinegar, lemon juice and bicarbonate of soda. Here are our favourites.

1. Cleaning awkwardly shaped bottles such as decanters can be really frustrating. You can buy special ‘washing beads’ to shake around inside, but if you don’t have any handy you can make your own. Tear a piece of kitchen roll in half, roll each half up tightly and secure it with a plastic band. Repeat until you have six rolls. Squirt a little washing up liquid over them, wet them and slide them into the decanter. (This doesn’t work with very slender-necked decanters as you won’t be able to get them out again! Make sure there’s room for the paper to slide in easily.) Fill the decanter a quarter full of warm water, put your hand over the top and shake the bottle vigorously for a few minutes. Tip the paper and water out and rinse well with cold water.

2. Vinegar is a great cleaner. Make up a thick paste using cheap cooking salt and enough vinegar to just wet it, and use it as a scouring paste for sinks and bathtubs. You can also clean the lime scale from kettles by putting about 100ml of vinegar in, topping the kettle up with water and leaving for an hour. Wash the kettle out thoroughly before making tea!

3. To remove rust stains from linen or other fabrics, lay the item you want clean out on an old towel. Squeeze a few drops of lemon juice onto the stain until it’s well saturated, then lay the fabric out in the sun. The action of the sun and lemon together should bleach the stain. Wash the fabric as usual before wearing.

4. To clean kitchen appliances and counter tops, just mix four tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda with a litre of water. Drench a cloth in the mixture and wipe. It works well on grease spots, and also works as a deodoriser.

5. Another great use for salt and vinegar (apart from putting them on your chips, of course) is cleaning metal such as silver and brass (as long as there isn’t a lacquered surface). Just wet a sponge with vinegar, sprinkle with salt and rub. Wipe with a clean damp cloth, allow to dry and give it a polish with a dry cloth for a sparkling finish.

6. To remove odours in a fridge, put in a small dish of bicarbonate of soda, or half a cut potato. Both will absorb strong aromas.

7. To remove grease stains from upholstery or tablecloths, sprinkle with bicarbonate of soda (this works best if you manage to catch the stain when it’s fresh). Leave for half an hour, then vacuum or shake off. Sponge the area with a damp cloth.

8. To clean leather shoes, use a tiny amount of olive oil with a couple of drops of lemon juice added. Dip a cloth into the mixture and rub onto the shoes. Leave for a few minutes until completely dry then polish.

9. To clean windows, mix two teaspoons of vinegar with a litre of warm water. Put it into a spray bottle, spray onto windows and wipe off with a soft cloth.

10. For an easy way to clean the loo bowl, mix 100g of bicarbonate of soda with 250ml of vinegar. Pour into the bowl; and leave for 10 minutes then flush.

What household cleaning tips do you have? Do share them with us in the comments below.

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