16 Vintage Cleaning Tips

Here are sixteen old-school cleaning secrets. You’ll be surprised by how practical these vintage cleaning tips are for modern homemaking.

The last time I looked under my kitchen sink, I was annoyed. Why? Because it was absolutely stuffed with cleaning products: weird cloths and mop attachments I had been pressured into buying, scented powders, clingy things that were supposed to attach to the toilet, and more.

And yet… my house wasn’t that clean.

My grandmother hadn’t had these things, yet her home was always sparkling. And the hard truth is: it’s the work that makes a home clean, not the products. So, let’s set aside these newfangled cleaning gadgets and chemicals, roll up our sleeves, and get back to basics.

A rustic kitchen scene with shelves lined with jars of preserved foods, a sunny window sill adorned with fresh flowers and lemons, invoking the wholesomeness and simplicity of home canning and natural cleaning ingredients.

What We’ll Cover

  • Simple Cleaners. Why versatile and affordable homemade cleaners are a great choice.
  • Mindset: How to love your work and stay cheerful!
  • The Importance of Routines: Another way to stay productive.
  • Cleaning Hacks: A few fun tips and tricks Grandma knew!

1. Clean the kitchen before and while cooking

This tip took me a while to get on board with, but it has helped me cut the time I’m actually cleaning drastically. While cooking, if you’re waiting for water to boil or a sauce to thicken, wash a dish while you wait.

You can also clean your kitchen before getting the dishes out to start cooking. It gives you more room on your countertops and in your sink instead of adding onto an existing pile. (This is one of my best canning tips too! Starting with a mess is overwhelming and don’t lead to a happy kitchen kitchen experience.)

It also cuts down on the after-dinner clean-up so you can enjoy time with your family.

You can check some cleaning tips here too!

2. Dryer sheets are versatile

Dryer sheets can be helpful for more than laundry.

They can even get rid of stuck-on food in pots and pans. Place a non-woven dryer sheet in the bottom of your pot or pan with hot water. The residue will slide off after a couple of hours.

3. Vinegar is your best friend

White vinegar (approx. 5% acidity) or cleaning vinegar (approx. 6% acidity) are the best to eliminate dirt, food, odors, and some food-borne germs.

Pour water and vinegar into an empty spray bottle, and you have a simple cleaning solution ready to use. Now, you can ditch the surface cleaning products loaded with extra chemicals.

Need more ideas on what to do with vinegar?

  • Vinegar can also be used to make your microwave sparkle. Depending on your microwave’s size, just place a few cups of water and half of that amount of vinegar into the bowl. Turn your microwave on for about 7 minutes to soften any dried-on food. Carefully use the warm water mixture and a rag to wipe the microwave down.
  • It can clean your coffee pot, remove shower scum and lime buildup, and making glass and silver shiny again by pouring 1-2 cups of vinegar into the bottom of your dishwasher.
  • Don’t forget about your windows and mirrors! Mix vinegar to 10 parts warm water in a spray bottle to remove dirt without any streaks.

You can buy special cleaning vinegar, but you don’t have to. Regular white vinegar will work just fine.

4. Create a cleaning schedule.

Make a cleaning schedule for yourself, don’t feel the need to do everything one day a week if you get overwhelmed easily, break tasks up.

Designate a specific day of the week for certain chores, such as Monday for laundry, Tuesday for bathrooms, and Wednesday for mopping/vacuuming.

Learn More

Create a weekly cleaning schedule or build one that breaks up the work into bite-sized pieces.

If you love old-fashioned living, be sure to read this list of vintage-inspired money-saving tips.

Read all about homemaking for beginners and get a handle on managing your home.

5. Dust with a damp cloth

Damp cloths work much more efficiently to gather dust, unlike a dry cloth or even a feather duster. You don’t need fancy sprays, expensive microfiber, or anything else. We’re talking a rag + a little bit of water.

One exception: if you’re cleaning up dry flour, use a dry cloth or else you’ll make a sticky paste and spread it all over your counters. Not fun.

6. Lemon is your next best friend

Lemon juice is a perfect rust remover, grout restorer, and deodorizer.

A peaceful watercolor image showing an open window with translucent curtains swaying gently. In the foreground, a kitchen sink overlooks a garden with lush pink flowers, suggesting a serene and clean home environment.
  • Put lemon peels in your garbage disposal for a fresh scent. Or, if you want to remove a smell from upholstered furniture, put 2 cups of hot water, 1/2 cup of lemon juice, and 1/8 cup of baking soda into a spray bottle.
  • Another trick from Grandma to make your home cozy is to put two lemons, two stalks of rosemary, and a teaspoon of vanilla in a pot with 2 quarts of water to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer to freshen up your house.
  • Need a simple recipe for wood furniture polish? Mix 2 parts white vinegar, 2 parts olive oil, and 1 part lemon juice. Dip your cleaning cloth into the mixture.
  • A little bit of this goes a long way! Wipe the excess off with a dry rag. This recipe is great for the wood tables in your home, but do not use it on wood flooring. The vinegar’s pH could be too rough for the flooring, and the oil could be a slipping hazard.

7. Hang your broom and scrubbing brushes.

To keep your broom and scrub brushes durable and prevent the bristles from warping, hang them up after each use. Plus, it looks cute and gives you an excuse to get nice wooden ones!

8. Don’t throw out your old toothbrush

Here’s how you can repurpose an old toothbrush into your cleaning arsenal:

  • Grout Cleaning: Perfect for scrubbing between tiles to get that grout looking brand new.
  • Jewelry Shine: Gently clean the nooks and crannies of your favorite pieces to make them sparkle.
  • Keyboard Dust Buster: Sweep away crumbs and dust between keys.
  • Stain Spot Treatment: Work out stains on clothing or upholstery with precision.
  • Shoe Detailer: Scrub away dirt from seams and soles to keep your kicks looking fresh.
  • Silver Polish. Grandma was very proud of her silver. It would be a waste to let it rust. Get an old toothbrush and toothpaste to polish your silver and make it look brand new again.

The old toothbrush, with its small size and sturdy bristles, gets into those hard-to-reach places, making your cleaning routine a breeze. Next time you’re about to retire one, think twice and give it a new lease on life.

9. Use an Abrasive Powder on Tough Stains

Baking soda, white vinegar, or lemon not doing the trick? Turn to a simple scouring powder like Bon Ami or Bar Keeper’s Friend for the absolute best results in deep cleaning.

For cleaning white kitchen sinks, cloudy glass, or anything else that just doesn’t budge, these powders are miracle workers that women have counted on for decades.

10. Pour salt on spills in the kitchen

I know I can’t be the only one who makes a mess in the kitchen. So take note of this kitchen hack!

Spills happen, so when they occur around the stove or contain grease, pour salt on top of the spill, and it will reduce the number of paper towels you need to clean the mess.

11. Use the sun as a natural stain remover

Did you know the sun removes those pesky laundry stains? I didn’t until I had babies, and nothing I did would thoroughly remove the baby food stains.

An idyllic outdoor setting featuring freshly washed laundry hanging on a clothesline, swaying in the breeze amidst a blooming countryside landscape, evoking the freshness of line-dried linens.

The sun can also be used to remove perspiration stains.

If you don’t have a clothesline in your yard, purchase a drying rack from the store and place your stained clothes outside on the rack immediately after washing. Do not put the stained clothes in the dryer, as that will set in the stain even more.

12. Always clean top to bottom

You may think this should go without saying, but I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve caught myself cleaning the floors before dusting the bookshelves.

Start cleaning the taller surfaces up high and work your way down as you clean.

13. Take advantage of rainy days

If the weather gets in the way of your plans for the day, do something extra.

Take the day to tackle a project in the house you’ve meant to get to or add some extra chores to your day, so when the weather clears up, you feel free to go out and enjoy it.

It’s like making hay when the sun shines but in reverse. So you have time to make hay!

14. Use old fabric for cleaning surfaces

Don’t throw away your old shirts or any other fabric you have lying around.

They can easily be cut up and used for dusting or even sewn together for a thicker cleansing cloth.

Old cloth diaper inserts also work very well because they are tough and absorbent.

15. Tea stain towels

If you have a beautiful tea towel or cloth napkin, you want to use, but they have an ugly stain?

Simply tea stain the cloth to give the towel a more antique look while covering the food or spill stain.

Steep 5 tea bags in hot water for 10 minutes before removing the tea bags and putting the cloth into the tea. Let it sit until you have your desired shade. Dry the cloth to set and then wash in cold water.

16. Use baking soda as a deodorizer

Sprinkle baking soda on the carpet or rugs in your home before vacuuming to get nagging odors out of your house.

Please don’t roll your eyes; just hear me out.

Cleaning isn’t always fun, and there are always tasks we prefer over others. So pair the least favorite cleaning activities with something you do enjoy.

My grandmother enjoyed listening to baseball on the radio. She would do laundry mending and ironing while listening.

Do something similar. Watch a show, listen to a podcast, or turn on a favorite show while you check off the to-dos on your cleaning list.

Get the kids involved in cleaning and make it a game or a race to see who can complete a task first. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming if you try to make it fun and active.

Don’t forget that as important as a clean home is, there is more to vintage homemaking that just cleaning. Enjoy the process.

Remember, the products aren’t what’s important, and they are very minimal. Having said that, these are helpful to have.

  • Wooden Scrub Brushes
  • Dish Cloths
  • Nice-Quality Spray Bottles
  • Clothespins

Are vintage cleaning tips really effective?

Absolutely! They’ve been trusted for generations because they work. Vinegar and lemon, for example, are fantastic natural cleaners that tackle grime and odor without the harsh chemicals.

Can I save money using these methods?

Yes, you can. Most of these ingredients, like baking soda and vinegar, are inexpensive and versatile, cutting down on the need for multiple, pricier cleaning products.

Are these methods better for the environment?

Definitely. By using natural ingredients and reducing plastic packaging, you’re opting for a greener cleaning routine that’s kinder to our planet.

An inviting and sunny living room detailed with a comfortable sofa adorned with floral pillows, a rustic stone fireplace, and windows framing a lovely outdoor view, creating a sense of a well-tended and lovingly maintained home.

Embracing vintage cleaning tips isn’t just a nod to nostalgia; it’s a smart, sustainable choice for today’s households. By returning to basics, we not only honor the wisdom of past generations but also make a positive impact on our environment and wallet.

Remember, the secret to a clean home doesn’t lie in the latest chemical-laden products, or in homemade cleaners. What matters is doing the work. So, roll up your sleeves and clean like grandma did, proving that sometimes, the old ways are still the best ways.

Hope you find these tips inspiring and fun!

16 Vintage Cleaning Tips

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  1. Azijn is geweldig ! Ik gebruik het in plaats van wasverzachter, op aanraden van de kinderarts. De eczeem bij m’n kinderen verdween vrij snel…

  2. Vinegar is a wonderful cleaner but do not use it on granite or marble countertops as it will etch them. It’s fine on quartz. Vinegar is also an excellent fabric softener. The smell disappears once the laundry is dried. It’s healthier for you and the environment than liquid softener or those horrible dryer sheets that are full of chemicals and bad for your dryer.

    1. Thank you Karen! i’ve never had granite or marble so i did not know that. i’ll add that! is it horrible to confess i use no fabric softener or dryer sheets at all?

  3. Do you have any good recipe for laundry powder? I made the cleaning soup but looking to also use it for laundry. Many thanks. Miriam

  4. Vintage cleaning also helps prevent chemical air pollution that makes breathing hard when cleaning. Thanks!