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Stately home shares Victorian cleaning hacks using milk, bread, and beeswax

A conservator cleaning the flagstones with milk (Picture: Richard Lea-Hair/English Herritage)

Forget cupboards full of chemicals, back in the day there were plenty of ways to get your house sparkling with just a few products everyone has.

Ahead of the reopening on May 17 of Brodsworth Hall, near Doncaster in South Yorkshire, staff at the stately home have shared some historical cleaning tips.

English Heritage have been using 19th century techniques to spruce up Brodsworth Hall, poring through old homemaking manuals to find out how they did it back then.

Amber Xavier-Rowe, head of collections conservation at the charity, said: ‘Although we may not recommend some of the more bizarre historic cleaning tips… housekeepers of the past were often spot-on with their methods.’

The reason Amber states this is that the methods used aren’t what we’d reach for in 2020.

The Victorians were fond of using everything from bread to turpentine to clean. Check them out.

Bread to clean wallpaper

Taking a piece of bread to your walls sounds strange, but it works.

The porous nature of the bread and the slight moistness of it means it picks up dust and dirt. Just take a piece of dry bread and rub it onto your wall mark.

Skimmed milk for stone floors

Don’t cry over spilled milk. Skimmed milk contains casein, water, and a small amount of fat.

This will lift dirt and add shine and a protective surface.

Turpentine to brighten timber flooring

If you do use turps on your waxed timber flooring, always do a patch test first.

However, it can be a great way to remove scuff marks in high traffic areas and leave your floors sparkling.

A pony-haired brush to dust

Particularly in homes with a lot of ornaments, pony hair can be great to dust.

It’s soft enough that you can dust china, ivory, and gilded surfaces. Use alongside a vacuum to pick up the dust rather than just displacing.

The slightly moist bread picks up dirt (Picture: Richard Lea-Hair/English Herritage)

Chamois leather as an eco-friendly glass cleaner

Rather than using glass cleaner, a chamois leather cloth could remove streaks without chemicals.

The softness of it will buff your shiny surfaces when used in a circular motion.

Beeswax to gloss wood

Using a soft cloth, use a soft cloth to rub a small amount of beeswax onto wood.

Let this dry for around 30 minutes, before buffing out with a clean cloth.

Not only will this make the wood shine, it’ll add a protective coating to it too.

Do you have a story you’d like to share?

Get in touch at MetroLifestyleTeam@metro.co.uk.


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