Vintage Care Directions from a Vintage Book

Vintage Book Full of Vintage Care Instructions

My 1947 Good Housekeeping book.

A favorite book in my collection is a 1947 original edition of The Good Housekeeping Housekeeping Book.  It is a 500 page gem, originally sold for $3.00 new. To say that this book is a treasure is an understatement. It is full of methods to clean, maintain, or store just about anything found in a home at that time. There are pages and pages on spot removal, ways to deal with various insect infestations, and instructions for a person just starting to keep a home, or how to clean it when you move out.

Much of it is very practical, especially when seeking to clean without the use of some modern chemicals. It is also quite entertaining, even very funny, to read. Sometimes I pick it up, knowing it will give me either a smile, or some handy advice. It certainly reminds me that our lives today are very different from people’s were in the late 1940’s. I admit to being old enough that my mother ironed everything, and I learned to iron on pillowcases and my dad’s hankies long before I could advance to blouses. The chapter on ironing is a full fifty pages long! Between modern conveniences like permanent press fabrics, and changing lifestyles and attitudes, there are large sections of this book that seem downright archaic today.

One section I always enjoy is the Housekeeping Calendar. It has full lists for Monday through Friday, with chapters to tell you how to accomplish each task. Saturday should be reserved for family time, or special baking or crafts. Sunday, being the traditional day of rest, is not even listed. According to the book, today I should thoroughly clean all the bedrooms and the bathroom, and the directions given for doing that are enough to exhaust anyone just by reading them. Needless to say, the very idea of a woman working outside of the home is not addressed at all in this book!

“The home that runs smoothing and happily is one that is run by a plan or schedule, consciously or unconsciously…the right kind of schedule is merely a guide to getting things done without crowding too much into any one day. The daily jobs of meal preparation, getting children off to school and a general straightening up of the house are governed by the routine of the family and cannot be altered. It is the time-consuming work such as thorough cleaning of the living room, bathroom, etc., and washing and ironing, which must be spread out over a week and fitted into a plan.”

What a lovely idea, to have a plan.  More power to those of you who successfully keep one!  Of course, there are seasonal calendars as well, for polishing wood floors, window washing, even vacuuming out your box springs.  True, we do many seasonal tasks today, but I doubt that we pursue them with the gusto and resolve that this volume suggests.

When was the last time that you did any of these tasks?

  • Brushed your hats.
  • Hand-buffed your waxed floors.
  • Vacuumed your fur coats, collars, and mitts.
  • Took down all your pictures and artwork for a thorough dusting.
  • Ironed your nylons.
  • Rinsed your shower curtain in vinegar, and hung in sun to dry.

Among the practical tidbits, many of the discussions on the care and storage of linens are still very pertinent today. Some are even important for the quilters of the world to keep in mind, whether storing quilts or fabric stash. When I moved into this old house, it came with a healthy infestation of silverfish. I read the chapter on that topic, and promptly washed all the starch and sizing out of everything I store, which helped to starve them out of the house. To this day, while I sometimes do starch fabric in quilt projects, I am careful to wash it out before giving or storing the finished piece. Storing linen, lace, and bedding folded with fresh, white tissue paper is a great idea, which I do use for long-term storage but certainly not for the everyday things. And the practice of taking out stored bedspreads and quilts every few months and refolding them to prevent permanent creasing or stretching is widely used by people who collect old quilts and must store them folded.

And so, on this lovely spring day, having fortified myself with inspiration from this old treasure trove of housekeeping knowledge, I am motivated to go air out my vintage quilts, and give them a good inspection before refolding them and packing them away again.

But, should an occasion arrive that causes me to actually wear nylons again, I refuse to iron them first!

Love vintage things? Check out Vintage Thingy Thursday over at The Coloradolady blog! She features great links to many nifty vintage items every week.

©2011, The Curious Quilter,,


About thecuriousquilter

Quilter, sewer, writer, gardener, mother, sister, friend, always learning, always curious.
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11 Responses to Vintage Care Directions from a Vintage Book

  1. nanayane says:

    Pretty sure only sewers are the main ironers of today…well…and those wealthy enough to have servants to iron everything…though I have an iron and use it daily when sewing…I still let my clothing that needs ironing pile up because it’s definitely no fun to iron… 🙂

  2. J. Johnson says:

    What a HOOT! Save that one for the next generations, too.

  3. Brenda says:

    good advice on the linens, but wouldn’t the nylons melt with the heat? but does GH say anything about dusting and vacuuming electronics or how to keep all those cords untangled? we just have different challenges now.

  4. Martin says:

    I must be old. I remember my mother ironing for hours, sprinkling clothes. Our standards on some things certainly have changed, for which I am glad.

    Fun piece, thank you for sharing.

  5. Marge Gordon says:

    I will confess, I recently soaked my cloth shower liner in vinegar, and then washed it in bleach and soap, to get rid of the soap scum. Wal-Mart has been out of cloth shower liners every time I’ve been in there, so I am making good use of knowledge passed down to me by my Grandmother. I did not however hang it in the sun to dry, wished I had thought of that. I would have hung it over the railing of the deck, we don’t have a clothes line.

    When my husband graduated from officers school my Aunt sent me a book on proper etiquette for an officer’s wife… it was a comedy to read, nothing as valuable as the information in your book.
    Another great post, thanks!

  6. Cindy says:

    I remember my one aunt had a schedule for each day of the week. Monday was laundry day, Tuesday was for ironing – even towels, sheets and underwear. I forget what Wed. and Thurs. were for, but Friday was grocery shopping day. As far back as I can remember, my mom worked outside the home. She didn’t have a schedule, just when time and energy allowed to do the home chores. Thanks for bringing back good memories.

  7. Tanya says:

    Gotta’ love the old books, with their helpful hints! Happy Thursday – Tanya

  8. LaVoice says:

    I can relate to most all those vintage methods. They work a lot better on some things than this modern way.

    (In my 80’s, blogging to 100, at Meme’s Corner)

  9. Jill says:

    I enjoyed this week on Vintage Care Directions from a Vintage Book I love the humor. I remember so much about the ironing & how life was “to be” lived in the 1950’s. You write a great blog.

  10. AliExi says:

    Cool book, nice post, did people REALLY iron pillowcases, sheets, and nylons? You are MUCH older than ME if you remember that! LOL… my mom remembers though…

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