Homes: Old-fashioned cleaning hacks

Cleaning experts share their favourite traditional cleaning hacks using lemons, vinegar, onions and even tomato ketchup.

Friday, 11th June 2021, 7:00 am
TV's queen of clean Lynsey Crombie

Here TV’s Queen of Clean Lynsey Crombie (pictured above), Nicola Lewis, who runs the professional tidying and decluttering service This Girl Can Organise Lewis and Suzanne Waring, who runs cleaning company The Helping Hands Group ( share their favourite old-fashioned, natural cleaning hacks…

Use tea on mirrors

In the past, black tea was used to clean mirrors, says Crombie. “The tannic acid does the work and creates a lovely shine,” she says.

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Eliminate grease with lime and salt

Crombie notes the old-fashioned way of getting rid of hard-to-shift grease stains was to use a mixture of salt and lime.

“Salt acts as an abrasive for gunk and grime,” she explains, “and lime breaks down smells.”

Natural furniture polish

Before shop-bought polish was available, past generations used a mixture of linseed oil, lemon juice and vinegar as an effective furniture polish, says Crombie.

Spick and span with soda

Before householders enjoyed the ‘luxury’ of Fairy Liquid, soda crystals were used to do the washing up, Crombie points out. Soda crystals mixed with warm water were also used to wash the floor, she says.

Clean with ketchup

Waring says tomato ketchup – which has been around since the early 19th century – can be used as a metal cleaner, and is effective for brightening up small patches of rust, or tarnished metal such as silver, copper or brass. “Dollop the sauce over the rust or tarnished area, let it work its magic for 30 minutes or so, and then rub off with a cloth and rinse,” she says.

Tackle grime with an onion

Onions can be pretty handy for cleaning as well as cooking, promises Waring, who explains they contain enzymes which, when combined with oxygen, turn into sulphuric acid.

“Sulphuric acid is a non-toxic substance and works wonders to tackle stubborn or even burnt-on grime,” she explains.

“So whether that’s for a stubborn stain on a work surface, a dish that refused to get clean in the dishwasher, or stuck-on grime in the bottom of an oven, slice your onion in half and use the cut side as your perfect cleaning product, at a fraction of the price of cleaning solutions.”

Remove rust with potatoes

Waring says the oxalic acid contained in potatoes is a natural alternative to the harsh chemicals found in shop-bought cleaning products, but is just as effective if used with bicarbonate of soda. “When combined, they help to dissolve the rust by loosening the hydrated iron oxides found in it,” she explains. “So, don’t ditch the old knives if they’ve developed a bit of rust, just get your potatoes out!”

Remove limescale with lemon

A lemon cut in half and rubbed into limescale will remove hard water stains, says Waring. “Whether that’s around your kitchen sink, taps or even in the shower, this citrus fruit is a one stop wonder! And it smells nice too, so can also be a great odour remover when left in the fridge.”

Clean windows with vinegar solution

Lewis suggests using a mixture of 100ml white vinegar, 200ml cooled boiled water and 15 drops of peppermint, citrus or lavender essential oil to clean windows. Just put the ingredients into an old, clean spray bottle and shake it well before spraying onto windows and wiping off. “My nan used this for cleaning her windows,” she says, “along with some crumpled up newspaper, which works a treat.”

If newspaper is used, it needs to be black and white and not colour print, she stresses, and the hack shouldn’t be used when the sun’s shining on the windows and they’re warm, as streaks will show when the window dries.

Use vinegar on stained cups too

If your cups and mugs are stained inside by tea and coffee, Lewis, author of Mind Over Clutter: Cleaning Your Way to a Calm and Happy Home (published by HarperNonFiction, priced £9.99), says using a sponge soaked in white vinegar should get rid of the stains.

Stale bread for clean walls

Crombie, author of The Easy Life: Quick ways to clean and manage your home all year round (published by Welbeck, priced £14.99), says stale bread can be used to clean wallpaper. “A downwards motion will pull off any dust and stick to the bread,” she explains.