With the first daffodils and snowdrops appearing I thought it was time to get on with a spring clean, but not being best friends with the hoover or duster I thought I’d procrastinate and make some nice home made washing powder and leaf through some old household manuals for tips instead, well after all boring women have tidy houses.


Sitting with a nice cuppa, watching the dust settle and perusing my battered Victorian and Edwardian manuals I came across all sorts of cleaning tips from scattering damp tea leaves on rugs to freshen them to scouring pans with egg-shells; but I must admit that I was most taken with the laundry tips.


Whilst we have modern washing machines to tackle the bulk of our weekly laundry needs there are some delicate garments that benefit from being washed and treated with a little vintage tender loving care. I love vintage clothes and linen, but the care of them does take a little fathoming, modern machines and powders don’t do them a lot of good.

I have made a brilliant home made washing powder by mixing 225g washing soda with 225g borax and adding a grated bar of pure vegetable soap. I got the girls to help me and it has worked a treat on all my old linen tablecloths and some Edwardian aprons that were in need of a good wash.


When washing silk I find adding a teaspoonful of methylated spirits to the rinsing water helps preserve the natural sheen of the silk, this is a tip I gleaned from a few old household manuals I have lurking on my bookshelf.


Whereas, to revive black lace and indeed small black crepe items, wash thoroughly in cold beer. Press the washed item between two clean towels to dry and then pin the lace to a fresh towel, according to its shape and then when it is nearly dry cover it with a thin towel and iron it with a cool iron.

Now I love a nice cup of tea, but I hate finding tea stains on linen, and being a bit of a heirloom linen hoarder I battle with the problem of removing old tea stains regularly. So to remove tea stains from linen place I place the item into a large pan of cold water and add one tablespoon of turpentine (pure turpentine available from artist’s shops) for every four pints of cold water added.  Bring the pan with the linen in to the boil and allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes before allowing to cool, ringing and rinsing in fresh, clean water. I use my great big old ‘school dinner’ boiling pan for this job….it may be big and ugly but it’s fabulous for this job.


Finally whilst I recommend drinking red wine whole heartedly, it can be a pain if spilt, so to remove fresh Wine stains from linen clothes hold the affected area in freshly boiled milk and then rinse thoroughly in clean water. Then wash as usual.


Well, after all that laundry work I think it may well be time for a glass of milk….better start boiling the milk now in case of spillage!