No One Cleans Better Than Grandma | Anyclean

updated: 21/04/2024

How to clean without modern commercial cleaning products

Have you ever wondered how on earth people used to keep clean their houses in the olden times? Let’s say a few hundred years ago? No Mr. Muscle and Cif were available then, I am afraid. How did our ancestors cope with the lack of commercially available cleaning products and managed to survive?

I have been asking this question myself many many times. My hectic an pretty busy lifestyle has not allowed me to invest a lot of time and resource in getting the answer… until today. The time has finally come to solve this mystery and take a peek into the life of people roaming our land not so long ago. I can assure you, it was quite a reassuring and useful journey.

House Cleaning in the Olden Days

Nobody deals with the home chores better than Grannie

Back in the day, when my grandparents were growing up no one had money to waste. My grandparents came from big families. Every penny was crucial. For dinner, they served pasta most of the time and if you were given meat, chicken, or steak for dinner that was considered a luxury.

The same went for keeping the house clean. Grandma’s house always sparkled and smelled so fresh. You could smell the cleanness in the air. Our grandparents cleaned the old-fashion way. The used the techniques and family secrets that they learned from their parents. They used natural ingredients and mixed them together to produce natural cleaning products that made their houses shine and did the job right.

They were smart. They saved money they did not spend five to ten pounds sometimes more on toxic cleaning supplies that do more damage than good.

Contemporary Cleaning Challenges

We all are on the run 24//7 trying to take care of families and earn an honest living. Who has time to research and find out how to make natural cleaning supplies and how many of us remembered what grandma used in her house to make it look sparkling clean?

That is why you need cleaning gurus like me to help you maintain a clean home. You need to use natural cleaning products that are safe for your home and for the environment. How would you feel if you found out your child came down with asthma and the toxic chemicals you used in your home clean could have been attributing to your child getting asthma? The companies that sell the products do not tell us how toxic or hazardous they are to our bodies. You need to look at the ingredients and research the long-term effects it can cause. Who has the time to research? Not many.

How To Properly Clean Your Home Without Chemicals

Let us cut to the chase below are grandma’s secret recipes to help maintain a clean home inexpensively and most important the natural (healthy) way.

Ingredients you can use to clean your home naturally:

1. Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate): neutralises acid, softens fabrics, as well as deodorises, cleans and polishes metals and plastics

2. Borax deodorises: prevents mould and mildew, and removes stains

3. Cornstarch: cleans windows and carpets, and polishes furniture. Isopropyl alcohol disinfects

4. Lemon juice: deodorises, cleans glass and removes stains

5. Mineral oil: polishes furniture

6. Vinegar: removes mildew, grease, and wax; deodorises; cleans windows, brick, and stone

7. Washing soda (sodium carbonate decahydrate): removes grease, and cleans laundry

A mature smiling woman dusting the kitchen shelves at her home

Grandma’s Recipes for Natural Cleaning Products

Air freshener:

  • Place shallow plates of vinegar in rooms to absorb odours
  • Sprinkle ½ cup borax in the bottom of trash cans or diaper pails to prevent the growth of bacteria and mould that cause odours

All-purpose cleaner:

  • Place 4 tablespoons baking soda in 1-quart warm water and shake well.


  • Mix ½-cup borax into 1 gallon of hot water.

Drain cleaner:

  • Pour ½ cup baking soda down the drain
  • Add ½ cup white vinegar
  • Cover the drain
  • Wait 15 minutes
  • Pour 1 gallon of hot water down the drain.

Metal cleaner and polish

For stainless steel:

  • use undiluted white vinegar

For tarnished copper:

  • Boil the item in a pot of water with 1-tablespoon salt and 1 cup white vinegar.

Oven cleaner:

  • Moisten oven surfaces with water
  • Sprinkle baking soda on them
  • Scrub with steel wool.

Toilet bowl cleaner:

  • Mix ¼ cup baking soda and 1 cup vinegar
  • Pour into toilet
  • Let it set for 5 minutes
  • Scrub with brush.

Invaluable Recipes Hidden in Books

We also have a recipe book passed to us by my husband’s Gran. As old-fashioned recipe books often used to, this one has a hints and tips section at the back – plus a few others cut out from the newspaper by Gran herself – that has some very handy odds and ends. Here are some of the gems about cleaning and keeping the house (leaving out the real beauty: a recipe for tanning skins):

  • The best way to clean a raincoat is to mix up a quarter of a bucket of warm soapy water and add a couple of tablespoons of methylated spirits. Spread the coat out flat and scrub the outside. Turn it over and repeat on the inside. Rinse once with fresh warm water, then with cold water. Sponge with acetic acid (I guess vinegar will do) to set the colour, then dry the coat outside, turning the pockets inside-out.
  • Wipe down wooden furniture with a mix of vinegar and water to remove finger marks before polishing.
  • To remove ink from a fountain pen (i.e. ink that has leaked out from a fountain pen), cover the spots with wet mustard and leave overnight before washing in soapy water. (The mustard, in this case, can’t have had much turmeric in it – turmeric stains like anything and can even be used as a sort of dye. Best to stick to ink stain removal tip number two from the book: methylated spirits.)
  • Clean the stained insides of teacups by rubbing a paste of salt and water around the insides.
  • White chalk is good for removing grease stains from white wallpaper. Just rub the chalk onto the stain.
  • If you need to clean the inside of a silver teapot (which is a bit hard to clean by the standard natural silver cleaning method involving baking soda and tin foil), mix up a paste of flour, soda (Gran’s book doesn’t specify whether this means baking soda or washing soda, but I presume that baking soda is meant) and vinegar. Brush this around the inside of the teapot and leave it overnight. Wash out with boiling water in the morning.
  • Half a walnut rubbed over the spot helps to remove scratch marks from wooden furniture.
  • If you need to banish the smell of stale smoke from a room (that’s one thing that even an end of tenancy cleaning won’t get rid of if the former tenants were smokers), put some vinegar on a hot shovel and burn it. That’s how Gran’s book worded it – in modern terms, boil vinegar on the stove until it evaporates. The place will smell of vinegar, but that’s not as bad as stale smoke
  • To clean a coir mat (e.g. a doormat), tie it onto a clothesline outside. Hose it to wash the dirt out. This is much more effective than shaking.
  • A pint of cold tea with a teaspoon of glycerine can be used for window cleaning.
  • Remove heat marks from table tops by mixing equal amounts of methylated spirits and linseed oil. Use this to polish the marks, and keep going, adding more, until the marks go.

Oh, all right – the recipe for tanning skins for the curious. Mix up a paste of baking soda and kerosene, plus some wood ash. Spread this on the raw side of the skin and roll it up for a week. Then remove the paste, let the skin dry and soften the tanned bit by rubbing it with a pumice stone. Just in case you ever wanted to know!

About the author 

Nick Vassilev

Nick blogs about cleaning. He is a cleaning expert with more than 25 years of experience. He is also an NCCA-certified carpet cleaner. Founder and CEO of Anyclean.