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Chatsworth housekeeper’s ingenious tips on how to clean your house like a stately home

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Bread to wipe clean your wallpaper and banana skins to shine your shoes: Chatsworth housekeeper’s ingenious tips on how to clean your house like a stately home

  • Christine Robinson is former head housekeeper at the grand Chatsworth House  
  • Here, she reveals unconventional but simple answers to household problems
  • One of her suggestions is rubbing leather with the well-beaten white of an egg

By Christine Robinson For The Daily Mail

Published: 17:07 EDT, 10 October 2018 | Updated: 18:03 EDT, 10 October 2018

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Whether you are under siege from moths, want to revive an old leather chair or make your candles last longer, Christine Robinson, the former head housekeeper at the grand Chatsworth House stately home in Derbyshire, shares her unconventional —  yet simple — answers to daily household problems.

AND SO TO BED

Plump up your feather pillows by tumble-drying them with a tennis ball or two.

Mattresses should be turned over once a month, and turned from head to foot once every three months. They should be regularly vacuumed with the soft brush attachment of the vacuum cleaner to pick up dust mites and skin scales, which we shed at a rate of 1lb per person per year.

In a brilliant guide, Christine Robinson (pictured), the former head housekeeper at the grand Chatsworth House stately home in Derbyshire, shares her unconventional — yet simple — answers to daily household problems
In a brilliant guide, Christine Robinson (pictured), the former head housekeeper at the grand Chatsworth House stately home in Derbyshire, shares her unconventional — yet simple — answers to daily household problems

In a brilliant guide, Christine Robinson (pictured), the former head housekeeper at the grand Chatsworth House stately home in Derbyshire, shares her unconventional — yet simple — answers to daily household problems

When using a hot water bottle for the first time, put a few drops of glycerine in it to prolong the life of the rubber.

VALET TRICKS

Place conkers in drawers and wardrobes to protect clothing from moths, which don’t like horse chestnuts. If a jewellery chain has become tangled, put it on a saucer with a small amount of olive oil and gently tease the knots apart with a couple of pins.

Brown shoes, it’s said, can be polished with the inside of a banana skin — while black shoes can be polished with the inside of the rind of a fresh orange.

COOK’S WISDOM

If a red wine is too young, decant it and then pass the wine from bottle to decanter and back again using a funnel, to get as much air into the wine as possible. This will prematurely age the wine and soften it.

Spirits should be stored upright, because prolonged contact with the liquid may make the bottle-top disintegrate when on its side.

Stop ants getting inside your kitchen cupboards by sprinkling around some dried tansy (a perennial flower from the aster family).

Among her long list of tips is  advice on looking after your bed. She advises you to plump up your feather pillows by tumble-drying them with a tennis ball or two inside (pictured)
Among her long list of tips is  advice on looking after your bed. She advises you to plump up your feather pillows by tumble-drying them with a tennis ball or two inside (pictured)

Among her long list of tips is  advice on looking after your bed. She advises you to plump up your feather pillows by tumble-drying them with a tennis ball or two inside (pictured)

Burnt-on food and scorch marks on baking dishes, egg stains on cutlery and stains on china can all be removed by rubbing them with salt.

Stale breakfast cereal or crackers can be revitalised by being given a short spell in the microwave: just line a bowl with some kitchen paper, pour in the stale cereal or crackers and heat for 20 seconds on full power.

To avoid a cake going stale, keep an apple or a slice of fresh bread in the cake tin.

Apples will work particularly well with a fruit cake.

Don’t store bananas with other fruit as they give off ethylene gas as they ripen, which will speed up the ripening of other fruit in the bowl.

To stop eggs cracking when you are boiling them, add a drop of vinegar to the water, or pierce the egg carefully with a sterilised darning needle.

To prevent smells in the freezer, pour vanilla extract onto a piece of cotton wool and leave it on a freezer shelf, or place a small dish of cat litter on the shelf to absorb any odours.

Christine's tips were picked up from her time at Chatsworth House stately home in Derbyshire (pictured). She gives advice on how to deal with household issues such as protecting clothes from moths and getting rid of scorch marks from cooking
Christine's tips were picked up from her time at Chatsworth House stately home in Derbyshire (pictured). She gives advice on how to deal with household issues such as protecting clothes from moths and getting rid of scorch marks from cooking

Christine's tips were picked up from her time at Chatsworth House stately home in Derbyshire (pictured). She gives advice on how to deal with household issues such as protecting clothes from moths and getting rid of scorch marks from cooking

To get rid of smells from plastic containers, crumple a page of newspaper and put it inside the container and then close the lid.

The smell should be gone by the following morning.

A dish of milk left in a room overnight should get rid of unpleasant cooking smells — and even the smell of fresh paint.

NATURAL POLISH

A traditional treatment to refresh the leather on chairs or sofas is to rub the surface with the well-beaten white of an egg.

To get rid of rings or minor scratches on polished furniture, cover them with petroleum jelly or cod liver oil and leave for 24 hours.

Then rub into the wood, wipe off any excess and polish normally. Never position furniture too near a radiator because the wood may shrink and glues can dry out, causing joints to fail.

Housemaid Kath Watts poses during her cleaning routine as she spring cleans the Sculpture Gallery in the magnificent Chatsworth House. It takes a team of housemaids to clean the house in preparation for visitors
Housemaid Kath Watts poses during her cleaning routine as she spring cleans the Sculpture Gallery in the magnificent Chatsworth House. It takes a team of housemaids to clean the house in preparation for visitors

Housemaid Kath Watts poses during her cleaning routine as she spring cleans the Sculpture Gallery in the magnificent Chatsworth House. It takes a team of housemaids to clean the house in preparation for visitors

If a fire is slow to take, it can be livened up with some dried orange peel or an old cork soaked in paraffin.

Put candles in the freezer for a few hours before burning to make them last longer.

SPARKLING IDEAS

To reduce steam, which can lead to mildew, run the cold water into the bath before the hot water.

Prevent tidemarks in the bath by adding a little bubble bath to the water.

If the bath has a dirty tidemark, fill with warm water and add two cups of biological washing powder. Leave to stand overnight before rinsing it thoroughly.

Dripping taps can leave a stain on your sink — rub it away with half a lemon. Pick sprigs of your favourite herbs (such as rosemary, lavender, lemon verbena or scented geranium) and tie them in a bunch to hang from the hot bath tap.

Another unconventional but extremely useful tip is how to clean wallpaper. Christine says you should use stale but still slightly moist bread or bread dough and just roll it over the dirty mark
Another unconventional but extremely useful tip is how to clean wallpaper. Christine says you should use stale but still slightly moist bread or bread dough and just roll it over the dirty mark

Another unconventional but extremely useful tip is how to clean wallpaper. Christine says you should use stale but still slightly moist bread or bread dough and just roll it over the dirty mark

As the hot water runs through the leaves, the water is beautifully scented with essential oils from the herbs.

Floral teabags can also be used to scent your bath water.

Simply place four tea bags in a bowl and infuse with boiling water for 15 minutes before adding the water to the bath.

To soak stiff joints, slice 5cm of unpeeled fresh ginger root into one litre of water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for half an hour before straining to remove the ginger and adding the water to the bath.

 Simply place four tea bags in a bowl and infuse with boiling water for 15 minutes before adding the water to the bath

To prevent the bathroom mirror from steaming up, rub a little shaving foam onto the glass and then wipe until the foam has disappeared. Clean glass shower doors with left-over white wine.Clear a blocked sink by putting down a handful of bicarbonate of soda, followed by a cup of vinegar. After two hours, pour a kettle of boiling water after it.

GREEN FINGERS

Cut daffodils are said to last longer if a copper coin is placed in the bottom of the vase.

Surround young carrot plants with a barrier of used coffee granules to deter slugs.

People living near the sea often hang kelp by the back door as a weather-predictor — seaweed is one of the best natural forecasters. In fine weather, the seaweed shrivels and is dry to the touch, but if it is likely to rain, it swells and feels damp.

CLASSY GLASS

Wash windows on a dull day. Too much sun will dry them too quickly and leave the glass looking streaky.

Prevent smeary windows by adding a drop of vinegar to the final rinsing water.

Flies don’t like the smell of strong aromatic herbs, so grow basil on a windowsill to deter flies from entering.

Another bizarre but ingenious tip reveals how you can prevent smells in the freezer. Either pour vanilla extract onto a piece of cotton wool and leave it on a freezer shelf, or place a small dish of cat litter on the shelf to absorb any odours (file photo)
Another bizarre but ingenious tip reveals how you can prevent smells in the freezer. Either pour vanilla extract onto a piece of cotton wool and leave it on a freezer shelf, or place a small dish of cat litter on the shelf to absorb any odours (file photo)

Another bizarre but ingenious tip reveals how you can prevent smells in the freezer. Either pour vanilla extract onto a piece of cotton wool and leave it on a freezer shelf, or place a small dish of cat litter on the shelf to absorb any odours (file photo)

STICKY SITUATION

Chewing gum can be removed from material by placing a block of ice over it until the gum has hardened. Then chip it off with a knife. Any remaining bits can be removed using a cloth dipped in methylated spirits.

Remove Blu Tack stuck on a wall by dabbing a little toothpaste on the lumps and leave it to harden. When the toothpaste is washed off, the Blu Tack will come away, too.

To clean wallpaper, use stale but still slightly moist bread or bread dough and just roll it over the dirty mark.

from Christine Robinson’s Chatsworth: The Housekeeper’s Tips, Tales & Tipples (Bannister Publications, £12.99). © Christine Robinson 2017. To order a copy, visit christine-robinson.co.uk.

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