Late nineteenth century living: Cleaning household items



_To Clean Knives and Forks._

Procure a smooth board, free from knots, or one covered with leather. If the latter, melt a sufficient quantity of mutton-suet, and put it hot upon the leather with a piece of flannel; then take two pieces of soft Bath brick, and rub them one against the other over the leather till it is covered with the powder, which rub in until no grease comes through when a knife is passed over the leather, which may easily be known by the knife keeping its polish.

If only a plain board, rub the Bath brick 2 or 3 times over it; for if too much be put on at once it will make the blades of the knives look rough and scratched. Let the board be of a proper height, and set so that the person may be a little on the stoop while cleaning the knives. Take a knife in each hand, holding them back to back; stand opposite the middle of the board, lay the knives flat upon it, and do not bear too hard upon them; by this method it will be easier to clean two knives at a time than one, and they will be less liable to be broken, for good knives will snap when pressed on too heavily. Many will say that they cannot clean two knives at once, or that they can get through them faster one by one; but if they will only try it a few times in the way recommended, they will find it not only much more expeditious, but easier.

Be careful in keeping a good edge on the knives. Carving-knives in particular ought to be kept sharp, which may easily be done by taking one in each hand, back to back when cleaning, scarcely letting them touch the board when expanding the arms, but when drawing the hands together again bearing a little hard on the edge of the knives; this will give them both a good edge and a fine polish, and is much better than sharpening them with a steel.

The best way to clean steel forks is to fill a small barrel with fine gravel, brick-dust, or sand mixed with a little hay or moss; make it moderately damp, press it well down, and let it always be kept damp. By running the prongs of the steel forks a few times into this, all the stains on them will be removed. Then have a small stick, shaped like a knife, with leather round it, to polish between the prongs, having first carefully brushed off the dust from them as soon as they are taken out of the tub. A knife-board is often spoiled in cleaning forks upon it, and likewise the backs of the knives; to prevent this have a piece of old hat or leather put on the board where the forks and backs of the knives are cleaned.

Always turn the back of the knives towards the palm of the hand in wiping them, this will prevent all danger from cutting. In wiping the forks put the corner of the cloth between the prongs, to remove any dirt or dust that may not have been thoroughly brushed out; and if there should be silver ferules on the knives and forks, or silver handles, they must be rubbed with a piece of leather and plate powder, keeping the blades covered while the handles are cleaning.

Wipe the knives and forks as soon as possible after being used, as the longer they are left with grease and stains on them the harder they will be to clean; particularly if they have been used for acids, salads, tarts, etc., have then a jug of hot water ready to put them into as soon as done with, and wipe them as before directed.

In order to keep knives and forks in good condition when they are not in use, rub the steel part with a flannel dipped in oil, wipe the oil off after a few hours, as there is often water in it; or dust the blades and prongs with quicklime, finely powdered and kept in a muslin bag.

_To Brush Clothes._

Have a wooden horse to put the clothes on, and a small cane to beat the dust out of them; also a board or table long enough for them to be put their whole length when brushing them. Have two brushes, one a hard bristle, the other soft; use the hardest for the great coats, and for the others when spotted with dirt. Fine cloth coats should never be brushed with too hard a brush, as this will take off the nap, and make them look bare in a little time. Be careful in the choice of the cane; do not have it too large, and be particular not to hit too hard. Be careful also not to hit the buttons, for it will scratch if not break them; therefore a small hand-whip is the best to beat with.

If a coat be wet and spotted with dirt, let it be quite dry before brushing it; then rub out the spots with the hands, taking care not to rumple it in so doing. If it want beating do it as before directed, then put the coat at its full length on a board; let the collar be towards the left hand and the brush in the right. Brush the back of the collar first, between the two shoulders next, and then the sleeves, etc., observing to brush the cloth the same way that the nap goes, which is towards the skirt of the coat. When both sides are properly done fold them together, then brush the inside, and last of all the collar.

_To Clean a Hair-Brush._

Put a tablespoonful of spirits of hartshorn (aqua ammoniae) in a pint of water and wash the brush in it; it will very quickly make the brush clean as new. This is also an excellent method of cleansing or shampooing the hair.

_Japanning Old Tea-Trays._

First clean them thoroughly with soap and water and a little rotten-stone; then dry them by wiping and exposure at the fire. Now get some good copal varnish, mix with it some bronze powder, and apply with a brush to the denuded parts. After which set the tea-tray in an oven, at a heat of 212 or 300, until the varnish is dry. Two coats will make it equal to new.

_To Cleanse Silver._

Clean silver with hot water, followed by a solution of equal parts of spirits of ammonia and spirits of turpentine; and after this, if necessary, prepared chalk, whiting, magnesia, or rouge.

_To Pack Glass or China._

Procure some soft straw or hay to pack them in, and, if they are to be sent a long way and are heavy, the hay or straw should be a little damp, which will prevent them slipping about. Let the largest and heaviest things be always put undermost in the box or hamper. Let there be plenty of straw, and pack the articles tight; but never attempt to pack up glass or China which is of much consequence, till it has been overlooked by some one used to the job. The expense will be but trifling to have a person to do it who understands it, and the loss may be great, if articles of such value are packed up in an improper manner.

_To Clean China and Glass._

The best material for cleaning either porcelain or glassware is fuller's earth, but it must be beaten into a fine powder and carefully cleared from all rough or hard particles, which might endanger the polish of the brilliant surface.

_To Clean Wine Decanters._

Cut some brown paper into very small bits, so as to go with ease into the decanters; then cut a few pieces of soap very small, and put some water, milk warm, into the decanters, upon the soap and paper; put in also a little pearlash. By well working this about in the decanters it will take off the crust of the wine and give the glass a fine polish. Where the decanters have been scratched, and the wine left to stand in them a long time, have a small cane, with a bit of sponge tied tight at one end; by putting this into the decanter any crust of the wine may be removed. When the decanters have been properly washed let them be thoroughly dried and turned down in a proper rack.

If the decanters have wine in them when put by, have some good corks always at hand to put in instead of stoppers; this will keep the wine much better.

_To Decant Wine._

Be careful not to shake or disturb the crust when moving it about or drawing the cork, particularly Port wine. Never decant wine without a wine-strainer, with some fine cambric in it to prevent the crust and bits of cork going into the decanter. In decanting Port wine do not drain it too near; there are generally two-thirds of a wineglass of thick dregs in each bottle, which ought not to be put in; but in white wine there is not much settling. Pour it out, however, slowly, and raise the bottle up gradually. The wine should never be decanted in a hurry; therefore always do it before the family sits down to dinner. Do not jostle the decanters against each other when moving them about, as they easily break when full.

_To Preserve Hats._

Hats require great care or they will soon look shabby. Brush them with a soft camel-hair brush; this will keep the fur smooth. Have a stick for each hat to keep it in its proper shape, especially if the hat has got wet. Put the stick in as soon as the hat is taken off, and when dry put it into a hat-box, particularly if not in constant use, as the air and dust soon turn hats brown. If the hat is very wet, handle it as lightly as possible; wipe it dry with a cloth or silk handkerchief, then brush it with the soft brush. If the nap sticks so close, when almost dry, that it cannot be got loose with the soft brushes, then use the hard ones; but if the nap still sticks, damp it a little with a sponge dipped in beer or vinegar; then brush it with a hard brush till dry.

_To Clean Boots and Shoes._

Good brushes and blacking are indispensably necessary. First remove all the loose dirt with a wooden knife, and never use a sharp steel one, as the leather is too often cut, and the boots and shoes spoiled. Then take the hard brush and brush off the remainder, and all the dust; they must also be quite dry before blacking, or they will not shine. Do not put on too much blacking at a time, for if it dries before using the shining brush the leather will look brown instead of black. If there are boot-trees, never clean boots or shoes without them, but take care that the trees are always kept clean and free from dust. Never put one shoe within another, and when cleaning ladies boots or shoes, be careful to have clean hands, that the linings may not get soiled. Always scrape off the dirt when wet from boots or shoes, but never place them too near the fire when dry, as that cracks the leather.





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