A very kind friend gave a lovely selection of old cookery books, which included one by Ruth Drew, a collection of her household tips and advice which had originally been on the radio. Ruth Drew  was born in  1908 and died, sadly missed and before her time in 1960. Her book, ‘The Happy Housewife’, is a joy, quirky, amusing, and actually quite useful.

Here is the index to her chapter on Domestic Calamities:

  • bird droppings
  • burnt saucepans
  • candlewax on polished table
  • candlewax on table-cloth
  • chewing gum on seat of trousers
  • dingy nylons
  • heat marks and scratches on polished tables
  • stains: cod liver oil – coffee and tea – dandelion – fruit – grass – grease – hair lacquer – ink on materials – ink on wood – ironmould – lipstick – mildew – scorch – soot – stains inside silver teapots – tannin stains on plastic – tar – transfer marks – varnish – winestains on table-cloth

This offers a little glimpse into ordinary households over sixty years ago… we might have to do battle with bird droppings, burnt saucepans and candlewax where we don’t want it – but how many people worry about dingy nylons?  or the specific stains dandelions and hair lacquer leave? or have any soot at all anywhere in the house – oh, actually, with the fashion for wood burning stoves that might be an issue for some people! But ironmould? Does she mean rust?

As I mentioned in another post about old-fashioned treatments for stubborn and unwanted marks, some of the chemicals used in the past are probably not available to buy any longer…calcium hypochlorite? Oxalic acid? Carbon tetrachloride? Salts of lemon… which according to Miss Drew ‘is dangerous stuff!’

 

3 thoughts on “Domestic calamities

    • And they didn’t cost anything! These days there are all sorts of ‘products’ in the shop to deal with every sort of ‘calamity’… and they are all expensive! … I wonder what salts of lemons is?

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