10 handy natural cleaning hints from Aunt Daisy

Admiral Butterfly on Hebe

Aunt Daisy had it right (sometimes)

When it comes to doing the right thing for the environment, I often think we need to look back to what our grandparents or great-grandparents were doing. The days before crude oil was readily available and made into everything from petrol & plastic to fabric & medicines. The days when make do and mend was a necessity due to either war or lack of funds or resources.

Today I decided to do some cooking with my 3 1/2 year old.  Plastic Free July is looming and the one thing he consistently loves to eat is crackers.  But I have yet to find crackers that don’t come in plastic.  Crackers I have made in the past aren’t usually eaten past the day cooked in our household (except by myself), so I turned to my Mum’s old recipe book Aunt Daisy Cookbook with Household Hints. 

I discovered in the back, many fabulous ideas for household hints. And some not so helpful: like DDT powder for killing ants; and melting old tyres and painting the back of fabric. Coincidentally this is not much different to what they do to some fabric these days to create block out fabric and blinds. The only difference is the rubber is more likely to be new rather than recycled.

However, the book does contain non-toxic healthier options for your home, that come from everyday pantry items.  Here are a few hints that stood out; *

(Just a disclaimer: I haven’t tried all of these yet, but will update this blog when I do)

1. Deal with an Ants Infestation

Smother them salt, and they will soon disappear taking the dead with them.

2. To clean Blood Stains

Never put anything hot on blood stains. Sponge with cool salted water.

3. To Clean Tarnished Brass

Clean with hot vinegar.

4. To Clean Copper

Take a half cut lemon, dip in salt and rub on.

This works an absolute treat. Last week I spent hours lying on my side cleaning the tarnish of our copper bath with a Steelo and elbow grease.  In a few seconds and barely any effort the tarnish had gone. I rubbed off the excess lemon juice and salt with a rag.

Copper Bath Surrounds

Our Copper Bath Surrounds made from our old Hotwater cylinder Before using Lemon Juice

Copper Bath Surrounds

Our Copper Bath Surrounds after using Lemon & Salt (still with the left side to do)

5. Sticky Wooden Drawers

Rub a Cake of soap along the sides and bottoms of the outside of the drawers.

We use to do this as kids to our own drawers, before modern drawer sliders came along. Now we use beeswax on our older sets of drawers just because it smells nice.  But any wax or soap would do.

6. Cleaning Gilt Picture Frames

I am sure there aren’t too many gilt picture frames around these days, but I thought the use onions in this one to be genius.

Boil up some onions in water and clean frames with the water using soft cloth.

7. Clean Stained Glassware & Decanters

Remove stains by rubbing with warm vinegar. For Decanters, pour hot, not boiling vinegar and salt into the glass and shake well. Rinse well.

8. Paint on stained woodwork

Dampen a cloth with white iodine and lightly rub until paint is removed. Then polish.

9. To deal with Silverfish

Sprinkle epsom salts in crevices where silverfish hide.

10. How to clean Silverware

Use an old aluminum saucepan. Add salt and baking soda. Place your item in the dish or sink. Pour boiling hot water over the top.

I have done this many times to silver using tin foil in the sink, including a Mr Verdant’s Grandparents engraved silver teapot.  But using an old aluminum saucepan (which by the way should never be used for cooking) is a much better use of a something you can’t use anymore and won’t create waste. It works a treat! Just a warning: it does use a lot of baking soda, so make sure you are armed.


I hope you find something useful out of this. I will update this when I have tried more of these hints. So watch this space!

By-the-way Aunt Daisy’s Cheese crackers went down a treat.


Basham, Barbara (ed), The Aunt Daisy Cookbook with Household hints, 1968, Hodder & Stoughton,  Auckland, NZ.

* Disclaimer:  I do not take any responsibility for any outcome of anyone using these hints. I have yet to try some of them myself.


My Mum’s Recipe Book