Care of the Ice Chest (Ice Box)

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:

Saturday, April 12, 1913:  Did some house-cleaning this morning.

ice.box.1

Ice Box

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Maybe Grandma cleaned the ice box.

Here are  the directions in a 1913 book for cleaning the ice box:

Care of the Ice-Chest (Ice Box)

Once a week wash the walls, sides, shelves, and every corner with cold water, borax, and any sweet pure soap, rinse with clear water and wipe dry. The shelves may be taken out and scalded, but must be chilled and wiped dry before they are returned. If anything is spilled, wipe it up at once, and be sure each day that there is no refuse bits of food or berries lying about.

A good scalding is not necessary very often if the chest is kept clean.

It is best to keep everything covered; it is imperative that milk and butter should always be covered, and, if possible, kept in a separate apartment.

Do not keep food too long, to spoil and sour, and thus scent up the ice-box.

A neglected ice-chest is a menace to the life and health of the whole family. A well-ordered household should always mean a sanitary refrigerator. Keep the box full of ice, as refrigeration checks the germs.

One should be as particular in caring for an ice-chest during the winter months as in the summer-time. Keep a saucer of powdered charcoal standing in the ice-box. It will absorb all odors and keep the air pure. When opening a refrigerator that has been closed for a long time, burn for an hour a small-sized sulphur candle, then cleanse thoroughly with warm soapy water and dry perfectly, exposing to air and sun if possible. It is most important to keep the ice-chest wholesome and sweet.

Remember that ice is apt to be dirty, and it is wise to watch the receptacle for the ice, that there be no leaves or anything collected there to decay or to clog the pipe. This pipe or the pan beneath should never be allowed to get slimy, as slime is a danger signal.

It is also important that the door be kept closed; otherwise the temperature will rise and the ice will melt rapidly.

Housekeeper’s Handy Book (1913) by Lucia Millet Baxter

27 Responses

  1. Interesting to see how much food storage technology has changed in the last 100 years.

    • I continue to be surprised by how much some things have changed over the past hundred years, and how little other things have changed.

  2. Clinging to the past… there are two of these ice chests stilling living in my family’s homes. Both now storage units for art supplies. ;)

  3. Houscleaning is much less complicated these days! And I’m fortunate to have an old wooden ice box that belonged to my late uncle and his wife.

  4. My mother always told me about these and a friend had an antique one in her living room, sort of a conversation piece.

  5. Reading this made me remember I really need to clean my refrigerator!

  6. Once upon a time, a long time ago, I knew a woman who still refused to use the refrigerator’s ice. She preferred to keep using her old ice box and had someone to deliver a block of ice every week.

  7. Beautiful piece in the picture. Apparently, someone adhered to the instructions.

  8. Since my mother was 48 when she had me and my siblings were much older than me (from 1930 – 1941), they talked about the ice box and when they missed emptying the drip pan and the mess it would make. I had forgotten this and I thank you for the reminder. In my childhood, we had to defrost the fridge – many will remember that. Dianna is so right – our chores are much simpler now and I don’t think many appreciate that. I do have an ice card though that were put in the window for how big a chunk of ice you wanted delivered. I also have ice tongs hanging in my kitchen.

  9. Those old wooden ‘icebox’s’ make a nice piece of furniture really. That ones in amazing condition.

  10. I was commented to my mom I would have loved to have had an ice box and she replied, “no you don’t”! then went on to explain why. Her dad was raised on a farm and her grandmother always had an ice box, so she knew first hand how messy and hard work one was. She lived in the city and by time she was born her parents had made the plunge and had an electric one!

  11. Great looking ice box! We’ve definitely come a long way in the appliance dept.

  12. We could do as well to give such care to our fridge and freezers. I am old enough to remember a neighbour with an ice chest. We had a kerosene fridge and were considered very modern!

    • I learned something new. I never heard of a kerosene refrigerator until I read your comment. I then googled it, and was surprised to discover that you can still buy kerosene refrigerators.

      • Yes, I believe so and they are probably quite efficient. I found the kerosene rather smelly, and Oh the Glorious Day when my mother and father purchased our first electric fridge :)

  13. Ooooookay…THAT was confusing.
    I suppose my family’s fridge could use a weekly cleaning… :-)

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