How-To Tips
Dirty Dozen Housecleaning Tips

The Dahlias' "Dirty Dozen"
Housecleaning Tips
(from The Darling Dahlias and the Naked Ladies)

The Dahlias are dedicated to clean homes, naturally. None of these cleansers contain any petroleum products.

  • A good wood cleaner may be made of 1 quart hot water, 3 tablespoons boiled linseed oil, and 1 tablespoon turpentine. Mix together. Use while warm on wood floors or woodwork. (Mildred Kilgore)

  • To clean silver without lots of polishing, bring 1 quart of water to a boil in an aluminum pan large enough to contain your silver. Remove from heat and add 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon baking soda. When fizzing stops, add silver. Soak, then wash. Double the mixture if necessary to completely cover your silver. (Bessie Bloodworth)

  • To make your own wax (for hardwood baseboards, banisters, wood floors), melt ¼ pound beeswax in a double boiler. Remove from heat, add 1 pint turpentine. Stir until it looks like a thick batter. Pour into a jar, cover, and use as needed. Outing flannel makes a good polishing rag. The more rubbing, the better. You can never rub too much! (Ophelia Snow)

  • To make powdered laundry soap, grate half a bar of castile soap and mix with 1 cup borax and 1 cup washing soda. Keep this powder in a can or jar with a lid. Use 1-2 tablespoons for each load of washing. (Beulah Trivette)

  • To clean your kitchen and bathroom floors, add 1 cup ammonia, ½ cup white vinegar, and ¼ cup washing soda to 1 gallon of hot water. You can also use this on painted walls and woodwork. (Verna Tidwell)

  • For cleaning windows, nothing beats plain old newspaper, crumpled up, and a spray made of 1 cup water, 1 cup rubbing alcohol, and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar. (Aunt Hetty Little)

  • To wash the inside of your ice box, use a mixture of ¼ cup lemon juice in 1 gallon hot water. If you don't have a lemon, use vinegar. (Earlynne Biddle)

  • To remove the lime deposit from my tea kettle, I mix up 1½ cups vinegar, 1½ cups water, and 3 tablespoons salt. I pour it into my tea kettle and boil it for fifteen minutes. I leave it overnight, then rinse it out in the morning before I make Arnold's tea. (Alice Ann Walker)

  • When you're laundering your nice lace collars, cuffs, and scarves, add ½ cup of vinegar (the word can be traced to the French word for "sharp wine," or vinaigre) to the final rinse. Lay flat to dry in the sun. (Miss Dorothy Rogers)

  • For a drain cleaner, mix 2 cups of salt, 2 cups of baking soda, and 1/8 cup of cream of tartar. Store in a lidded container. To use, pour a little over one cup of this mixture down the drain. Let stand for about 20 minutes, and flush with cold water. For a stronger flush, dissolve 2 tablespoons of washing soda in a quart of boiling water. Let stand for 15 minutes and repeat. Flush with hot water. (Verna Tidwell)

  • To clean starch residue from the bottom of your flatirons (or your new electric iron), sprinkle a spoonful of salt on a cloth dampened with vinegar and rub the warm iron. (Elizabeth Lacy)

  • If you need to remove mildew from clothing, furniture, or bathroom fixtures, use vinegar at full strength or mixed with water. Or if your dog smells like dog, rinse him with fresh water, then with a mixture of 1 cup white vinegar in 2 gallons of water. Dry without rinsing. (Myra May Mosswell)

Darling Dahlias & the Cucumber Tree
July, 2010
    Darling Dahlias & the Naked Ladies
July, 2011
    Darling Dahlias & the Confederate Rose
September, 2012
    Darling Dahlias & the Texas Star
September, 2013
    Darling Dahlias & the Silver Dollar Bush
September, 2014
    Darling Dahlias & the Eleven O'Clock Lady
September, 2015
    Darling Dahlias & the Unlucky Clover
March, 2018
    Darling Dahlias & the Poinsettia Puzzle
October, 2018


  • Borax is a naturally occurring mineral salt that is often used as a home cleaner, a stain remover on surfaces and clothes, a fabric and water softener, and a soap booster. You'll find it with the laundry products at the grocery.
  • Castile soap is a type of soap made from vegetable oil rather than animal fat or synthetic substances. You can find it in drugstores.
  • Cream of tartar (potassium bitartrate) is a by-product of winemaking that is used in food and as a cleansing agent. Small amounts may be purchased at a grocery; buy in bulk from a wine-making supplier.
  • Linseed oil (cold pressed from the seeds of flax, sometimes called flaxseed oil). Used as a wood treatment, it protects the surface. Available from paint stores.
  • Turpentine is distilled from pine resin, which is obtained by tapping trees of the genus Pinus. It is used as a solvent. Available from paint stores.
  • Washing soda (sodium carbonate) is a highly alkaline chemical compound which can be used to remove stubborn stains from laundry and for other cleaning purposes. Don't confuse washing soda with washing powder (powdered detergent) or with baking soda. Arm & Hammer washing soda is usually stocked with the bleach in the laundry aisle. If you don't find it in the national chains, try a local chain store, or ask a local grocer to order it for you.