24 Vintage Housekeeping Hacks That Are As Useful As Ever

housekeeping hacks from grandma

My grandma lived through the Great Depression, as I’m sure many of your grandmothers did. And while that experience taught her to be thrifty and resourceful, it definitely didn’t lower her standards. She kept the house clean and tidy, kept her kids fed with homemade meals, and did it all on an extremely limited budget. She was a force to be reckoned with, as were all of the women who grew up during that challenging time!

While modern technology and resources have made many housekeeping tasks easier, there’s still a lot we can learn from how Grandma used to do things. So today I’ll be sharing 24 brilliant housekeeping tips that come straight from our grandmothers. These tips make it easy to keep a clean and tidy house that Grandma would be proud of, and they’ll save you money and resources in the process!

24 Housekeeping Hacks We Can Learn From Grandma

housekeeping hacks from grandma

1. Deep Clean With The Seasons

Many of our grandmothers used to plan bigger cleaning projects in sync with the seasons, which is a good way to distribute more demanding cleaning tasks over the course of the year so you don’t have to do them all at once. Here’s a basic outline you can follow to deep clean with the seasons:

  • In the spring, deep clean the carpets and get rid of clutter.
  • In the summer, clean the exterior of your house, including windows.
  • For fall, wash the insides of your windows and change your furnace filter to prepare for colder weather.
  • And in the winter, vacuum your mattresses (and flip them, if applicable) and clear clothes you don’t wear out of your closets.

2. Crisp Sheets With Less Ironing

Grandma had a super simple way to get bedsheets crisp without having to iron a full sheet, and you can do it to! After washing your bedsheets, remove them from the dryer before they’re fully dry and fold them into a manageably small size. Run your iron across the top layer of the folded sheet (but don’t iron the fold itself). Your sheets will look fresh and smooth in seconds!

housekeeping hacks from grandma

3. Stock A Rag Bin

Being thrifty was second nature to our grandmothers, and they never let good fabric go to waste. They would keep old clothes and linens and cut them up into rags. Rags like these are great to use for all kinds of cleaning jobs, and they’re much better for the environment than using paper towels. So instead of tossing out your old clothes, use them to stock up a bin of cleaning rags!

4. Dye Linens With Tea

If you’ve tried everything to remove stains from cloth napkins, a tablecloth, or doily with no success, you don’t have to toss it out! Back in the day, many women “tea-stained” these items to make the stains less obvious.

To do it, add 4 or 5 black tea bags to a bucket of hot water and let them steep for 10 minutes. Then remove the tea bags, add your stained item, and swish it around a bit. Let it sit in the tea until it reaches a shade that most matches the stain, then let it dry to set the tea and wash in cold water when necessary.

housekeeping hacks from grandma

5. Wax Furniture With Shoe Polish

Shoe polish makes a great wax for your wooden furniture, and will keep it looking rich and vibrant. You can also use shoe polish to cover up nicks and scuffs on wooden furniture.

6. Dry Windows Directionally

When you’re drying freshly washed windows, use vertical strokes on one side of the window and horizontal strokes on the other. If any streaks get left behind, you’ll be able to tell with one look whether they’re on the inside or outside of the window.

housekeeping hacks from grandma

7. Remove Spilled Candle Wax

To remove candle wax from wood floors or furniture, hold a bag of ice cubes against he wax for a few minutes. Once the wax has hardened, it will be easy to scrape off or chip away.

8. Wash Walls From The Bottom Up

With some cleaning jobs it makes the most sense to work from the top down, but that’s not the case when it comes to washing your walls. Working from the bottom and moving up is the best way to avoid drips, which can leave your walls looking streaky.

housekeeping hacks from grandma

9. Cut Sponges In Half

Our grandmothers always new how to make things last, and the easiest way to do that is to divide things up. If you cut a new kitchen sponge in half, you’ll get twice the use of it than you normally would! And a smaller sponge dries much faster than a larger one, so it can help prevent bacterial growth too.

10. Damage Control For Spilled Grease

If you’ve spilled grease onto a wood floor, pour cold water on it right away. The cold water will make the grease congeal before it has a chance to penetrate into the wood and leave a stain.

Best Cleaning Secrets from Grandma

11. Shine Silver With Toothpaste

If time has gotten away from you and you need a quick way to shine your silver, don’t panic! Just grab your toothpaste. Rub a bit of toothpaste (paste, not gel) onto your silver, rinse it clean, then dry with a soft cloth. Beautiful!

12. Put A Pillowcase On With Ease

Grandma knew all the best tricks for making beds, including this trick for putting on a pillowcase. Flip the pillowcase inside out and put your arms inside. Then grab the corners of one end of the pillow and pull it towards you, while sliding the pillowcase down onto it. How easy is that?

housekeeping hacks from grandma

13. Use Flour Sack Towels

You can save yourself quite a bit of money by switching from paper towels to flour sack towels. They’re great for drying dishes because they don’t leave any lint behind, hold up well to repeated launderings, and the cloths themselves dry quickly. (Just make sure you don’t use any fabric softener when you wash them, which can affect their absorbency.)

14. Use Wax On Your Air Vents

Apply a little bit of car wax to the air vents around your house to prevent dust from building up on them. Anything that reduces the amount of dusting I have to do is a thing worth doing, in my book! :-)

A pot with cranberries and oranges on the stove.

15. Freshen The Air Naturally

Use 100% vanilla extract to make your house smell amazing, without any unnatural chemicals. You can put a few drops on cotton palls and hide them in plants or underneath furniture. Or visit the link below to get the “recipe” for my favorite simmering potpourri recipes.

Related: My Favorite Simmering Potpourri Recipes

16. Steam Stuck-On Food

There’s an easy way to remove stuck-on food that doesn’t require hours of soaking. Bring a pot of water to a boil on your stovetop, then hold the messy dish over the pot for a few seconds. The steam treatment will loosen up the stuck-on stuff, and you’ll be able to scrape it off easily.

housekeeping hacks from grandma

17. Have A Weekly Wash Day

Have a “wash day” once a week instead of doing different loads of laundry every day. It simplifies things a lot, and you’ll never have to wonder if a certain item is in the washer, the dryer, or waiting to be folded.

18. Remove Stains And Odors From Hands

Handling certain foods can leave behind stains or odors on your hands. Remove stains and odors rubbing tomato juice or sauce on your hands! You can also rub your hands together with table salt for the same effect.

A blonde woman mixing eggs in a bowl.

19. Have A Baking Day

It seems like our grandmothers always used to have a cake or homemade cookies at the ready to offer guests. That’s because many of them had a weekly “bake day!” Thanks to our modern freezers, you can even do a monthly bake day where you prepare several batches of cookies or cakes, then freeze the extras for later. Having a bake day is a great way to keep homemade treats on hand for company (or for an after-dinner treat!)

20. Prevent Shower Curtain Mildew

The next time you get a new shower curtain, cut 2″ or so of the material off the bottom. This is the part of the curtain that sticks to the side of your tub, and that’s where mildew loves to grow. By removing the material, you can prevent the mildew from forming in the first place to make cleaning your tub easier down the line.

A person opening a can of cola on a door.

21. Use Crisco To Silence Squeaks

Have a squeaky door or cupboard hinge that’s been bothering you? Lube it up with a little bit of Crisco for a simple fix. You’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner!

22. Freshen Your Mattress With Sunshine

Grandma knew that few things clean and deodorize as effectively as good old sunshine and fresh air. It’s a great way to freshen up your mattress once the weather warms up in the spring. Just pull your mattress out into the yard on a sunny day and leave it there for a few hours. It’ll help kill dust mites, dry out any moisture, and leave your mattress smelling fresh and clean!

housekeeping hacks from grandma

23. Practice An Ounce Of Prevention

When it comes to keeping the house clean, it’s like Grandma always used to say: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” If you can prevent bigger messes from happening, you won’t have as much to clean!

So squeegee your shower after each use, place rugs in doorways to keep dirt out, vacuum high-traffic areas frequently to keep dirt from getting ground into the fibers. These little chores will make it less likely that you’ll have to spend hours and hours on a bigger project later on!

24. Keep Up, Don’t Catch Up

Grandma had a list of little chores that she would do every day. Not only did it keep her house nice and tidy in case anyone stopped by, but it also made keeping the house clean easier overall.

You can follow in her footsteps by choosing a few things to do every day, like making the bed, doing the dishes at the end of the day, and sweeping the kitchen floor. (If you’re only going to choose one tip from this list to try, this is the one that will make the biggest difference!) :-)

Did you learn any useful homemaking tips or tricks from your grandma or mom?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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Homekeeping Tips

  • After making sure the tub surround is spotless, I use boat paste wax (formulated for fiberglass) on it. The water just runs right off. I only need to do it every 2 to 3 months. Makes cleaning so much quicker and easier.

  • I remember my Mom doing most of these things when I was growing up. Wash day, cleaning day, baking day. :) One thing that has especially stuck with me today is having an empty kitchen sink. Even while cooking or baking, my Mom would always have a sink of soapy water and wash dirty dishes as she went. I do this as well, and teach my children to do the same.

  • Grandma could have a once a week wash day because people even 60 or 70 years ago didn’t have anything like as many clothes as we do now, and wore everything more often before it was washed. An obvious example of this is that most men’s shirts had separate collars so the shirt would last a whole working week, another is that before fitted sheets you ‘top-to-bottomed’ them. Clean sheet on the top, the top sheet to the bottom, bottom sheet in the wash. If clothes looked clean and didn’t smell, you put them away rather than washing them. Very important when many of our grandparents, in the UK at least, were still doing the washing by hand.
    Even today it has many benefits as not only does it reduce the time spent doing laundry, it also reduces electricity and water costs, wear and tear on your washing machine and means you don’t need so many clothes.

    • How right you are.growing up we had wringer washer and 2 tubs for rinse water. A cast iron wash pot where clothes were boiled ( in wash pot over open fire. We lived in country) then into washer ( we had electricity ) let it agitate, enrun through wringer into 1st tub of water and repeat into next tub. It took all day you hoped it stay sunny all day because they hung on line and shrubs.Grandma didn’t choose to do it all in one day it was necessity. Can you imagine carrying water to fill tubs more than once a week.

  • I a. Not sure about your grandma, but mine used to hang sheets on the line. They come out wrinkle free and smell wonderful. I still do this. Sunshine and wind don’t cost a penny and sunshine kills. Acteria too.

  • This is a totally unrelated tip, but the tea dye reminded me of a time when I moved a used cream colored couch into a room with white walls. The couch looked gingy until I repainted the walls a shade a bit darker then the couch didn’t look dingy at all.

  • Just commenting about the tea dying vrs tossing……sometimes a stark white is not the look that you want so dying something with tea gives a nice beige tone.

  • I had to laugh at doing wash once a week. With my job when you wear uniforms it’s not possible.. I do try to have designated wash days. We do save some old rags for cleaning. My Grandma back in those days reused stuff. We have a beautiful rug made from old clothing. Can’t believe Grandma was so resourceful. Someone told my mom several years ago rugs like that are worth a lot of money these days.

    • I generally don’t do laundry but every two weeks for a family of three but we have a lot of clothes. It usually takes me a couple days with a large capacity washer to get them all done. This does not include time spent washing bed clothes though. That’s another day. I would not want to have to do laundry every day though, which is why we have lots of clothes.

  • When you been cutting onions, garlic, etc., an easy way to remove the smell from your hands is to rub them on your kitchen faucet. There is something about the metal that makes the smell go away. This is a trick that I learned from my mom many years ago.

      • You’re right, Nancy. I guess that I forgot to mention that. I think that most kitchen faucets have stainless in them whether we see it or not. Even if your faucet looks like rubbed bronze or something else, it never hurts to try it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

    • Yes! There’s a green print friendly button at the bottom of the post. :-) After pressing that button, you’ll be given the option to remove the photos (or make them smaller), and to remove any text you don’t need!

  • Regarding the second suggestion, Crisp Sheets Without Ironing, won’t storing them slightly damp promote mildew, especially in humid climates?

    • In particularly humid environments, it could take too long to dry. If the sheets are not dry after an hour or so, just toss them in the dryer! That won’t give them enough time to accumulate any mildew. :-) In more dry environments (like in Utah, where I live), the sheets will definitely dry and you’ll have perfectly crisp sheets! Give it a try!

  • Love all your tips! I remember many of them from my own grandmother! One of them I chuckled at–#22. I can’t imagine tossing the giant mattresses of today on the lawn to air out, but back then, my grandmother did do that with her “double bed” :-)

  • Where is the recipe for washing the windows on the outside??? I saw the article went I went to read more I expected the recipe but no just blog blog blog???? If you can’t get the recipies what good is this for????

  • Cutting the bottom off the vinyl shower curtain is a trick I learned years ago and works great. The bottom usually has a small hem and that’s where the water collects and the pinky mold grows. With the hem gone, so is the mold.

    I thought the idea of wiping the windows in two directions was brilliant and I’ll be adopting that one.

    My grandma’s house was always neat and clean but I never saw her fuss over it or even cleaning anything other than the kitchen after a meal. Our house (with 6 kids) was always a bit of a mess and I wondered why my mom didn’t keep her house as neat as grandma did. It took a bit of growing up to realize grandma didn’t have any kids in her house anymore! That sure makes a difference.

    • Yes, the tannic acid can weaken the fabric, but I think the point was to use the tea as a last thrifty resort for something stained, instead of just tossing it.

      • Why bother dying cloth with a damaging dye when it’s easier to cut it up and reuse it?

      • Because people are different and have different ideals than your own? I have no idea!

      • I have a few tea dyed doilies that were crocheted by my Grandmother. I’m pushing 70, so these things have been around a while. They’re still in beautiful
        condition.

      • Of course they may not be tea dyed, they may just be made with ecru thread. If you wanted beige doilies, why would you make them with white thread and then dye them?

      • It seems to me that using “damaging dye” still gets you more uses from the original item. Maybe you can wait to use the scissors until the item is really done. ☺

      • I just remember tea dye as a way to color doilies and small table scarfs. It wasn’t to cover a stain, it was a way to give white crochet thread color.

  • When I was younger it was easier to keep up with cleaning. No2 I get together with my daughters in law for cleaning. We help each other to get things done weekly. This way we also have time to chat and get caught up on things important to families.

  • Jillee,
    I’ve enjoyed remembering the things I did as a young married housewife. Since our children are grown I’ve gotten laxadaisy. I need to start these things again. By practicing these tips. I was better with myself and home. I would like to share one tip I do every night before bed. Pick up the house. Put away things from the day. Always helps if you have one of those dreaded calls in the night. You may have to leave the house or have a family or friend over in an emergency. It also helps start the next day off to a good.
    Thank you Jillee for always sharing your interesting ideas. Keep’em coming!

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