Hundred-Year-Old Advice for Cleaning the Kitchen Sink

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

Monday, November 24, 1913: Cleaned the kitchen today. Feel rather tired and sleepy by this time.

Woman at Sink (Source: Ladies Home Journal, April, 1911)
Woman at Sink (Source: Ladies Home Journal, April, 1911)

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


I understand how you feel. I did a major cleaning and re-organization of my kitchen cabinets last week-end, and I was also exhausted by the time I finished.

Here’s some advice from a hundred-year-old book on cleaning the kitchen sink:

The care of a house increases in proportion to the plumbing. Odors are often found in houses where the plumbing is of the very best, but this can be helped and possibly prevented by the intelligent use of proper disinfectants.

Kitchen Sink: The kitchen sink should be treated every other week with a hot solution of sal-soda (washing soda).

A solution of sal-soda is made by dissolving one pint or one pound of sal-soda to four gallons of boiling water; pour this while hot into the pipes; for pipes which may be clogged with grease make the solution much stronger.

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

You may also enjoy this previous post on:

Care of the Ice Chest (Ice Box)

29 thoughts on “Hundred-Year-Old Advice for Cleaning the Kitchen Sink

    1. You’re absolutely right. Your comment made me realize that most rural farm families probably didn’t have sinks with faucets a hundred years ago. I bet that the woman in the picture lived in a more urban area. :)

    1. It’s washing soda (sodium carbonate)–whereas baking soda is sodium bicarbonate. According to Nature’s Nurture blog,

      “The difference between baking soda and washing soda is water and carbon dioxide. Seriously. Baking soda’s chemical makeup is NaHCO3 (1 sodium, 1 hydrogen, one carbon, and 3 oxygen molecules). Washing soda’s chemical makeup is Na2CO3 (2 sodium, 1 carbon, and 3 oxygen molecules).”

  1. Just thinking about cleaning my kitchen makes me feel tired and sleepy – and suspect it’s a much easier task now.
    We had an AGA cooker (a type of range cooker) growing up which burnt coke – always remember the stove top had a patina of grease and coke dust. But my Mum thought there were better things to do than housework – and I seem to have inherited her habits. My sister on the other hand rebelled against it and her house is pristine;)

    1. The AGA cooker sounds like it would be really difficult to clean–and that your mother had a good attitude towards housework. I’m always trying to find the right balance between an overly clean house and an overly dirty house.

  2. Once upon a time I recyled the newspapers by making “twists” and soaking them in water with washing soda… which was my mum’s advice. Later I got a bit fancy with tearing the paper up and squashing it into briquettes in a fancy contraption… then I gave it all up :lol:

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