Home & Design July 30, 2008
Housekeeper Diaries

There’s nothing like settling into a hot bath—the intoxicating mix of soft music and the scent of lavender bath oil wafting over you, a glass of red wine nearby.

But as you languorously raise your leg to meet the razor, you jostle the vessel of nectar to the floor. Now, you have a situation.
For those in the business of cleaning up those mishaps, the quickest remedy is right at your fingertips.

“You can take that shaving cream and spray it right on the carpet and usually that’s enough to lift that stain out,” says longtime Valley housekeeper to Sun Valley’s rich and/or famous, Judy Peterson. Her client list includes national politicians, millionaires and celebrities she’s too discreet to disclose. We asked her and other cleaning experts for some cleaning tips used to please the often demanding and sometimes peculiar employer in hopes of making our jobs at home a little easier. She took a break from making snowmen out of 150 daisies to share some of them with us.

“I can’t give away all my secrets,” she says with a wink, “or I won’t have a job to apply them to!”

She gets her tips from experience, adversity and Depression era logic.

“I had to take care of my four siblings and the house from the time I was five years old. You learn pretty fast how to get out the tough stains kids can make,” she says. “The rest I have picked up along the way. The list grows with every new challenge.”

And those who have worked with her have gleaned ideas from her and honed some of their own. The Magic Eraser was an often quoted tool for many.

Case in point: Stucco. General cleaning rules call for sanding before cleaning, but the Magic Eraser from Mr. Clean eliminates that step and takes care of the stain.

I don’t even want to know how it works because with my luck it will be as good for you as trans fat, but as a mother of a pair of three-year-olds with visions of artistic grandeur and toddler level execution, I can attest to the sponge’s effects, having removed crayons, marker and paints from my white-walled house, my wooden table and even a velvet coat.

Biz is another winner in clothing stain removal. Don’t be shy—a presoak and washing with the stuff can do wonders. And remember: Don’t wash or dry rags with fabric softener or they will have a residue that streaks glass.

There’s no denying that there are many products that should be in your arsenal on dirt, but what we have called on these cleaning experts for are those methods that aren’t found on a label.

Everyone does housework, but authentic domestic gods or goddesses have secrets to make their lives easier. Below you will find some of the things we learned—all of which would require a book in itself, but we’ve shortened them for your reference.

Mouse away: Mothballs discourage mice as well as the winged cloth eaters. Throw a few beneath the house.

No more scum disease: “I used to use Lime-A-Way and a scrub brush. Now I use a ‘sonic’ scrubber,” professional cleaner Judy Peterson says. Use a little Soft Scrub and water on the brush.

Kitty litter, not just for kitty: Use it to soak up oil spots on a driveway. Throw it under a tire that’s stuck in the snow for some out-of-the-box traction.

Got gas?: Water with baking soda poured down sinks and drains can help with sewer smell.

No need for an arm and a hammer: “I have a sister-in-law who is allergic to all cleaning products so she cleans everything with baking soda and water. You have to rinse it well and dry it, but it sure leaves things sparkling,” says Peterson. It’s also a good toothpaste substitute.

Get your shoes off the table: But Kiwi shoe polish can fill chips and scratches. A Sharpie marker can also fill a scratch; just fill in and wipe off.

Puppy piddle: Clean with warm water mixed with equal parts Woolite and vinegar, then scrub with a brush and dry with a towel.

Nice racks: For grimy oven racks, remove and place in a heavy-duty garbage bag. Pour ammonia over them and seal the bag. Shake and turn the bag over a few times during the next 24 hours. Use a facemask when removing the racks to avoid fumes. Rinse with warm water.

Hold the mayo: For water stains on wood, a dollop of mayonnaise on the mark, left to soak in, will oil the wood and help restore the shine.
Pillow talk: Wash those down pillows and comforters and fluff them back to form in the dryer on air dry with a tennis ball or tennis shoe.

Wax on, wax off: It’s one way to use your credit card without spending a dime. When a candle drips on your table, use a card to remove wax without scratching the table. If it dripped on a rug, runner or other cloth, lay a paper towel over the wax and iron with a warm iron to draw out the wax. >>>



If you want to see your face in it . . .
Here are some tips for cleaning & polishing your various metals

Aluminum: Household isopropyl alcohol can clean your utensils and bakeware.

Brass: From fixtures to hardware, lamps to decorative items, brass requires frequent care to prevent tarnish buildup. Unfortunately, the best choice is a commercial paste wax. Do not use ammonia or anything acidic.

Bronze: This is the metal to love.
Just regular dusting will keep bronze looking good.

Cast Iron: Season your cookware with oil after each use to reduce rust. Small spots can be removed with a knife, larger areas with a light scouring pad.

Chrome: Usually doesn’t rust or corrode, but will spot. Use a soft cotton cloth to buff clean.

Copper: Use a natural polish of lemon juice or white vinegar with a sprinkling of coarse salt on cookware and decorative items.

Gold: Tap water impurities can discolor gold, so keep dry and dust larger, plated items (which are delicate) with a soft brush.

Nickel: Wash, buff with soft cloth. Re-plate if chipping occurs.

Pewter: Don’t use any corrosive cleaner on this naturally tarnished material. Simply dust and wash.

Silver: Polish silver only when it needs it and never with dips, which are harsh acids. Store pieces in tarnish-resistant silversmith pouches. When cleaning, follow the previous polishing pattern.

Stainless steel: Prone to watermarks, drying is essential to keep flatware looking its best. Polish in straight motions with the grain with a stainless steel cleaner when buffing out sinks or counters.

Tin: Thin and delicate and prone to diminish with cleaning, it’s best to dry dust this metal and, if wetted, dry the porous metal thoroughly.

This article appears in the Spring 2007 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.