More from the A.B.C. of cleaning and removing stains

I suppose like many people, much of my life seems to be taken up with washing, drying, ironing, putting away, changing towels, table cloths and bedding… but unlike the housewives in the 1930’s I have all sorts of modern cleaning agents and appliances to make my life easy. The fabrics we have in our homes are often designed to be washed and cleaned and in some cases resist staining; in the last resort we have expert professional cleaners and dry cleaners we can take our garments to.

In the 1930’s many if not most women, once married, were at home; sometimes there were maids or housekeepers to help, but laundry and keeping clothes clean was a much more difficult, time-consuming, labour intensive chore than it is for us today. In ‘Modern practical Cookery’, written by an anonymous author, published by Allied Newspapers, there is a whole section on cleaning and removing stains… just in case you have any of the following stubborn marks on clothes, bags, footwear, table linen or household furnishings, here is a selection of handy hints:

  • creosote can be removed from cotton material with methylated spirit. The methylated spirit will dissolve the creosote. The best thing to do is to soak the stain in methylated spirit and then wash with a cool solution of dissolved salt.
    Creosote can be removed from tweed in the same way, but the stain should be brushed out afterwards, and then rinsed in tepid water. if the stain is still obstinate, wash in tepid soapy water.
  • custard stains can be removed by first soaking in methylated spirit and then washing in a thick solution of soap.
  • mackintoshes – mud on silk mackintoshes can be removed by warm water to which a little ammonia has been added. One teaspoonful of ammonia to one pint of fairly hot water is the correct amount.
  • grease stains on mackintoshes can be removed with eucalyptus oil. Simply rub the marks with a rag soaked in eucalyptus and finish with a clean rag. If the oil shows afterwards the marks can be removed with a non-inflammable liquid dry cleaner.
  • a rubber mackintosh can be cleaned by laying it on a table and using cold soap and water and a very soft brush that will not scratch the surface. Tepid water will not hurt for the soiled parts, but do not use soda or hot water. It is very important that the mackintosh should be thoroughly rinsed. If any soap is left it will dry in white patches. Avoid making any creases during the cleaning process, and hang it up dripping wet on a coat hanger. it will take two days to dry.
  • paraffin stains can be removed by rubbing gently in plenty of cold dissolved soap until a lather comes. This lather will come when the paraffin is gone. After this you should rinse the marks in tepid water and methylated spirits will brighten the silk.
    Do not use hot water in case the colour of the material should run.
  • verdigris on woollens can be removed with an acid such as vinegar. First rub in plenty of salt, then pour on enough vinegar to cover and squeeze till clean. Afterwards wash in soapy water.

When I look under my sink where I keep all my cleaning things, I sometimes think I have rather a lot of products… But methylated spirits? Ammonia? Eucalyptus? Soda? The writer of these very handy hints, is definitely a big fan of tepid water, and although I am sure most of them work (although I don’t have any tweed clothes, or a mackintosh, silk, rubber or otherwise, and nor do I use paraffin or creosote) I am not sure I would ever give the amount of time needed to clean the clothes which have been stained… and I wonder what was in custard in the 1930’s which made it so difficult to clean from clothes?


  1. grevilleacorner

    Fascinating! what on earth is creosote? I do use vinegar and baking soda a lot here at home…I like that they are non toxic and gentle ….


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