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Victorian Cleaning Methods

Updated on September 8, 2012

Victorian life and their lifestyle was totally different to the 21st century. Central Heating, hot water from a tap, electric lighting would have been luxury to any victorian household. The majority of victorian households would have an open coal fireplace in every room. Housework was very hard going too; as there was no luxury items such as vacuum cleaners or washing machines. Being a victorian housewife or housekeeper was a very difficult job, as it was a very difficult task to keep the home clean.

1827 Method Of How To Restore Your Carpet To Its First Bloom

Beat carpet with a carpet rod until it is free from closer.

If there are any spots of ink, they can easily be removed by using Lemon.

Oil Spots - take half a hot loaf of white bread and rinse with water.

Hang your carpet outside on your washing line for three to four nights; then clean with a corn broom.

Your carpet will look as good as new.


Place Tansy and/or strips cucumber around the area the ants are coming into your home


Into boiling water place~

Allspice, Cinnamon and Ginger

Keep the saucepan on your stove to freshen the air in your home.


String Lemon and orange rinds and hang them in an open window is also effective


Prior to cleaning. make a tincture, consisting of ~

1 part Basil

1 part Bay

1 part Cinnamon

1 part Comfrey

1 part Rosemary

3 parts Lavender

3 parts Lemon Balm

Add to your wash water

This keeps your house germ free


Beat 4 fresh eggs whites well

1 ounce Quick Silver

Apply using a brush or feather


Corrosive Sublimate Pulverized 1/4 ounces; beat it in the same way and it works in the same way


To clean your Brass and Tin Use a mixture of Rape oil and Rottenstone.

To clean your COPPER use Plain Sorrel leaves with water.

This will put the shine back into your copper pots.


Spray the bottom of your oven with water and sprinkle some baking soda.

Spray the baking soda some more and leave it overnight.

Then scrub with a soapy abrasive pad.


Corn Shuck Mop is wonderful for cleaning pine floors. The corn shuck mop was just one method a victorian lady would make use of with the left over corn shucks. To make a corn shick mop ~

8-inch piece of wood with holes drilled into it all the way round

Twist the shicks in tightly until each hole is filled

Attach it to a handle and use it with lye soap

When the shuck wears out just replace them.


Chemicals and methods recommended for destroying moths are Fumigation with Hydrocyanic - acid gas or sulphurous - acid gas, the application of bisulphide of cardon, various petroleum products {especially gasoline and bezine}, turpentine, solution of alum, corrosive sublimate, carbolic acid, cloroform and the application of stern or hot water.


Drains were disinfected with chloride of lime


Was a major issue in victorian homes, due to the lack of good screening.

1/2 teaspoon powder form pepper

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon cream

All mixed together.

Place it on a plate in the worst room in the house, which was usually the kitchen.


Soak leeks in water for twenty-four hours

Dab the liquid onto your furniture

It stops the flies from landing on it


Take Resin with Sweet Oil, Lamp Oil and Lard

Mix together until mixture is like a honey-like consistency

The mixrure is then painted onto strips of paper and hung.


Baking Soda in your fridge absorbs any odours.


Paris's Municipal Regulations required perdical cleaning of the front of your home, due regard to the appearance of the building, from the view of the street indicates a similar practice was adopted in numberous cities on the side of water. The plan was mainly approved in Paris, France; where it had been in usage since 1867. They used a jet water that was forcibly projected by steam pressure against the front of house. However, there are advantages to this method of cleaning; it was cheap and did avoid any damage being done to any fragile oramental and or sculptural portions to the buildings, and universality of application. Apart from the house having a len fresh appearance, other desiable results could be measured in secured; such as it was calculated that any e4xterior wall building in London was to be kept clean, instead of looking grim and black from top to bottom. In addition an extra half hour of dylight would be obtained every twenty-four hours.


There were two differet furniture polish recipes; plus a different furniture polish recipe for Black-Walnut Wood and Wood.

For furniture polish use one of the following recipes ~

A mixture of Beeswax; Turpentine; White Wax and White Soap


Mix together~

1/8 cup food-grade linseed oil

1/8 Vinegar

1/8 cup Lemon Juice

Rub into the wood with a soft cloth.

1869 Black-Walnut Polish Recipe

Place into a jar Asphaltum and Pulverize.

Pour over it double the amount of Benzole or Turpentine

Place in a warm place

Shake it from time to time

Once the mixture has dissolved to a liquid; strain it and apply to time wood with either a cloth or stiff brush.

If you think the polish leaves the wood too dark, it can be thinned down by using benzole or turpentine

It only takes a few hours to dry.

If you require the wood grain to come out even more; apply a mixture of boiled oil and turpentine, which is better than oil on its own.

Put no oil with the mixture of asphaltunm and it will dry very very slowly.

Once the oil has dried into the wood it can then be polished in time with Shellac Varnish.


Lemon Balm leaves makes an excellent wood polish; the oil in them helps to protect the wood.

The Lemon Balm Leaves scent will leave your wood smelling lemon fresh.


There was two methods for cleaning glass and a method for cleaning glass bottles.

For Glass and Windows~

Mix together:

1/2 teaspoon liquid vegetable-oil based soap

3 tablesppons vinegar

2 cups water in a spray bottle

After one spray onto the glass or window; wipe off with a newspaper.


Put methylated spirits onto a cloth, once glass has been wiped polish it with leather

1874 Glass Bottle Cleaning Method ~

Put a small amount of shot into the bottle and shake it around. Water will dissolve the lead to acertain degree, but a film of lead will attach itself to the bottle so closely, that through rinising or shaking the bottle with water alone will not detach it. It will remain to be dissolved by a liquid that has a less sourness in it. If anyone drank the lead it could result in lead poisioning; sometimes a piece of shot could become wedged in the bottle and can be dissolved with either cider or wine. Thus it is vital to wash the bottle as soon as it is empty with warm water and wood ashes or salarahs, and put the bottle away straightaway with the bottle mouth open and downwards. However, please note you need to wah the bottle again prior to using it, as flies and other insects frequently get into bottles.


Remove the dust by using a long-haired brush; after you have blown off any loose parts with bellow.

If you took care, your paint will remain looking good for a very long time.

If any of your paint work is soiled, dip a piece of flannel or spange into water, that soda has been added too. Wash it off very quickly and dry straight away.

The reason for this is the strength of the soda could discolour the paint


Wainscoting requires scouring, which should be done top to bottom, whilst not allowing the soda to run onto unclean parts as much as possible. If the soda runs onto the unclean parts, marks will appear after it is finished. Dry the Wainscoting with old linen as quickly as possible whilst someone else will scoured off the dirt and wahed it off with soda.

If you would like you fine oak-wainscoting to have a gloss finish -

Wash with warm beer, then boil two quarts of strong beer, a small piece of beeswax {the size of a walnut} and a large spoonful of sugar. Wet it all over with a large brush, once dry rub until bright.


At the start of the 19th century wallpaper was referrred to a paper. Thus the definition paper hanging or paper walls was used.

Once the dust has been removed with a bellow.

Divide an eight day old white loaf into eight parts.

Place the crusts into your hand and start from the top and work downwards in a light manner. DO NOT CROSS or GO UPWARDS.

The crumbs and dirt off the paper will fall together.

NOTE ~ You should not wipe above half a yard above your last stroke. After finshing all the upper parts, go around again, starting off a little above were you stopped. If you do no do this procedure extremely lightly, the dirt will adhere to the paper.


Scrub with sand, then rub with a stiff brush with Lye Caustic Soda

Wash with water

Let an hour or so past and before the floor drys

Moisten it with a diluted solution of hydrochloric acid

Then a thin uniform paste of bleaching powder, that is hypochlorite of lime

After having left it overnight; it should be washed off in the morning

Housekeepers will be astonshed at the beauty of the floor

NO Grease spots will be present; the application of Caustic Soda can be omitted


When you are finished with your Herbal Teabags do not throw them away. They can be dried on-screens and re-used for Incense or Potpourri Sachets, to scent oils or to enrich your soil.


How to make your bag ~

Use Persian Silk, which should be approximately for inches square

One and a Half Pounds Florentine Orrisroot

1/2 pound Calamus Aromaticus

1/4 Yellow-Sand Wood

5 ounces Gum-Benjamin

1/2 ounce Cloves

Beat into a powder and fill your bags


For a walnut effect to be given to white wood, just apply a warm solution of concentrated Permanganate of Potassa with either a paintbrush or sponge. The effect you get varies on the kind of timber being used. Some woods will stain rapidly, whilst other woods will require more time for this effect to occur.

Permanganate of Potassa is decomposed by woody fibres; brown peroxyd of manganese is precipitated, which will be removed later with wahing with water. Once the wood is dry, it can then be varnished and will resemble natural dark wood.


1 ounce red led

1/2 pint Cornmeal moistened with molasses to a consistence of batter

Spread on the bottom of a plate.

This mixture will destroythe roaches as they eat it.


1 Part Boiled Oil

Shake it well prior to using it.

Apply it to Time-Wood by placing a few drops onto a cloth and briskly rubbing for a few moments.

Shellac Varnish also works well on old-varnished furniture.


Your silver could be cleaned using two diiferent methods:

Mix Chalk, Ammonia, Alcohol and Water together

Rub onto your silver Rinse with warm water and dry {polish}


Line a basin with aluminum foil

fill basin with lukewarm water

add 1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon Baking Soda

Place your silver in the basin and level to soak for 1 hour

The aluminum foil attracts the tarnish on the silver Rinse with warm water and dry {polish}

TO REMOVE TOUGH TARNISH FROM YOUR SILVER there was Two Different methods

Mix a dab of white toothpaste with a drop of olive oil

Then rub the tarnish off the silver with your hand

Rinse with warm water and dry {polish}


Mix a thick paste of Bicarbonate of soda with water

Apply to the silver using a damp sponge; rub; rinse with warm water and buff dry.


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I appreciate this information. However, is there any way you can provide source documentation, as I will be using this page as a research reference?

    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 

      7 years ago from Midwest

      I live in a Victorian era farmhouse and I can't begin to imagine having to clean using these techniques :) - We do lead a very easy life these days in so many ways. What an interesting hub! Voted up and shared


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