1930's and 1940's Household Products

Discussion in 'Skills and Smarts' started by Fleur de vanité, Jan 8, 2008.

  1. Fleur de vanité

    Fleur de vanité New in Town

    Messages:
    34
    Location:
    Monroe,North Carolina
    I've been thinking about this alot lately.

    As I religiously clean my home no less than 3 times a day (Yes,I am a clean freak) I have often wondered what women used in the Golden Era to clean thier homes with.

    What products were used? and how they were used. Also,I've been curious as to what types of food they prepared.

    Any links,Ladies?

    Thank you!
     
  2. Miss Brill

    Miss Brill One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,199
    Location:
    on the edge of propriety
    You can find a lot of household cleaning tips in old home ec books. They really seem to stress having easy-care textures in the home, and they had a lot of gadgets--things like dust mops. They did use cleaners they bought, like bleach and polish. I'm looking in a book trying to find a shopping list, but I can't find one... [huh]
     
  3. Fleur de vanité

    Fleur de vanité New in Town

    Messages:
    34
    Location:
    Monroe,North Carolina
    Thank you fior the quick response! I'm definitely going to have to look into that,maybe even check out Ebay. I've been watching a lot of the older movies from the 30's and 40's and I have found quite a few things.
     
  4. Miss Brill

    Miss Brill One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,199
    Location:
    on the edge of propriety

    They do have them on eBay--and they are usually fairly inexpensive. A lot of them have recipes, and how to care for the sick, and they'll have patterns for slipcovers, and how to decorate--just a bit of everything. You can also find them for beauty & fashion. One of my favorites is the Woman's Home Companion Household Book (1948), and there are several currently on eBay. :eusa_clap
     
  5. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    The thirties were the heyday of labor-saving household products, such as Johnson's Glo-Coat, the first one-step liquid floor polish -- "No Rubbing! No Buffing! You just apply -- and let dry!" Before such things the housewife was expected to laboriously coat her floor with paste wax, rub it in, and then buff it until it shined. This was often hands-and-knees work, although "buffing mops" were sold.

    The common cotton mop and wringer pail were usually found in every cellar stairwell or broom closet -- messy, but effective for general cleanup.

    Very few people had carpeting -- most floors were wood or linoleum, covered with woolen rugs. Mechanical sweepers were common for keeping these rugs clean, and twice a year, in the spring and fall, the housewife was expected to haul the rugs out to the backyard, drape them over the clothesline, and beat all the dust out of them with a metal-wire rugbeater. (I find a baseball bat works just as well, myself.)

    Most sinks were porcelain enameled iron -- while you might find galvanized tin sinks in farmhouses, nobody outside of a commercial setting had stainless steel fixtures. These enameled sinks had to be cleaned with a very gentle scouring powder like Bon Ami or Gold Dust to avoid scratches which would lead to rust.

    There was no such thing as Teflon -- most cooking pots were also porcelain enameled, although aluminumware was just becoming popular, and all skillets were cast iron. Steel wool pads were available to scour these pots, along with kitchen cleansing powders like Old Dutch or Bab-O.

    Dishes would be washed in the kitchen sink, usually with the same soap one used for the laundry -- flaked or chipped soaps like Rinso, Chipso, Oxydol, or Super Suds were most common. You could also use Fels-Naptha chips in the kitchen sink, but you'd better wear rubber gloves if you did. These were all *soaps,* not detergents, so there was a lot of rinsing to make sure the dishes didn't end up scummy.

    If you were troubled by pests around the house, you'd either hang a strip of flypaper in the kitchen or spray with a Flit gun -- Flit was an oil-based chemical insecticide and the Flit gun was a simple hand-pumped sprayer such as can still be found in gardening stores. Flit had a terrible petroleum smell, so you'd have to leave the windows open to air the house out after spraying.

    If your drains stopped up, you either pumped away at them with a "plumbers helper" or you dumped cupful of Red Devil lye down the hole and hoped for the best. Once the plug was opened, you'd pour some Sani-Flush down the drain to keep it sweet-smelling.

    If you got stains on your clothes while doing all your housework, you'd reach for the bottle of Carbona or Energine -- by either name, a highly poisonous carbon tetrachloride dry cleaning fluid. Or, you could send the kid down to the filling station with a glass jug and a nickel, and he'd bring back enough gasoline to do your pre-wash spotting. Just be sure not to sneak a smoke while you're working.
     
  6. Sweet Leilani

    Sweet Leilani A-List Customer

    Messages:
    305
    Location:
    Quakertown, PA
    Great info as always Lizzie! I always find it interesting that many "vintage" cleaning products are still with us today and are usually much cheaper than the lastest things advertised on TV. Simple cleaners like ammonia, bleach (but don't mix the two!), Comet, Bon Ami & Fels Naptha may require a little more elbow grease but produce the same result- often times better!

    I use ammonia & water to clean my bathrooms, Comet to scrub my sinks and tubs, and Fels Naptha to pretreat my wash.
     
  7. Miss 1929

    Miss 1929 My Mail is Forwarded Here

    Messages:
    3,397
    Location:
    Oakland, California
    I miss Energine!

    I know it's poison, but it was so convenient!

    I am wondering though - really three times a day? How does one ever find the time?

    For research on vintage cleaning products, I suggest buying a few vintage magazines - Good Housekeeping, Delineator, and Pictorial Review all spring to mind as likely ones.
     
  8. Bill Taylor

    Bill Taylor One of the Regulars

    Also, dishes, pots and pans were not left out to dry. They were immediately hand dried, usually with several clean ironed white cotten feed or flour sacks. And for the most part, these "feed sack dish towels" had a good bit of embroidery on them. If there were kids in the house, the task was performed by two; one to wash and one to dry. In our house, we washed the dishes in a dish pan of boiling hot water on the counter and the dishes were rinsed twice in the double sink, then immediately dried and put away. If it was evening, once all was spotless and everything put away, the kitchen lights were turned off and the room closed for the night. In those times, after supper and the kitchen closed, one did not wander back into kitchen for this or that snack, since basically, such things were not available. No grabbing a coke out of the fridge. A bottle of coca cola was a once or twice a week event, maybe with a weekly hershey bar. In our house and most others I saw, left overs were placed on a large kitchen table (in our house, a big round one) and a snowy white starched and ironed cloth was spread over the top of the leftovers. That was done after every meal actually. So, instead of bought snacks, one could always snitch a bit of leftover afterwards - a cool piece of fried chicken, cool cornbread (my favorite), cool biscuits or whatever was left from the meal. Nothing was ever wasted in the 30's or 40's. And if you've never had a piece of cold cornbread and a glass of cold fresh buttermilk, you just haven't lived!

    Bill
     
  9. GunForHire

    GunForHire New in Town

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    Made in Germany
    Hi everybody!

    Hello from Germany. Running a 30s/40s website and forum by myself, we had a question about an American(?) 1930s kitchen equipment. We can't figure out what it is that you can see on the picture on the left side in front. The ''machine'' with the stainless steel lid and the three adjusting knobs. Is it a dishwasher or maybe something to dry the dishes after the washing-up...? Or a very different beast?
    [​IMG]

    Thanks,
    Frank
     
  10. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    That's an early home dishwasher -- my best friend's house, built in 1950, has one very much like that built into the sink. Under the lid you'd find a circular wire rack for dishes, arranged in tiers. Such units were available -- if you could afford them -- as far back as the twenties, but very few people could afford them until after the war.
     
  11. GunForHire

    GunForHire New in Town

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    Made in Germany
    I thought as much.
    Very interesting information. Thanks a lot!
     
    2jakes likes this.
  12. Paisley

    Paisley I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    5,374
    Location:
    Indianapolis
    I don't know for a fact, but vinegar and baking soda were probably popular cleaners. One of the best uses for vinegar is getting rid of hard water stains.
     
  13. mdavids2000

    mdavids2000 Familiar Face

    Messages:
    70
    Location:
    Amsterdam

    Thanks a lot Frank. Welcome in thefedoralounge!
     
  14. epeterso

    epeterso New in Town

    Messages:
    2
    Location:
    Colorado
    Hi - I am new to the forum - I joined because I had a question I thought maybe you'd know the answer to. I am the assistant director for a production my university is doing of You Can't Take It With You, a play that was written in 1934 and we are setting in 1936. My costume designer wants to use rubber gloves as a prop for one of the female actors, but I have not been able to find out if they actually used rubber gloves when they were cleaning in the 1930's. I know you should wear gloves if you use their cleaning products, but I was not sure if they were available then. Would you happen to know? Or would you know where I could look. I have consulted some advertisements based off of the household cleaning products you mentioned, but none of the women that appear in them are wearing gloves.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2011
  15. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Rubber household gloves were available as early as the 1910s -- and were widely used thru the early 1940s, until the rubber shortages in the war years made them hard to get.

    Here's an ad for "household gloves" from 1916.

    Here's a magazine item from 1940 showing them in use.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2011
  16. Heather

    Heather Practically Family

    Messages:
    657
    Location:
    Southern Maine, USA
    Fantastic thread!!
     
  17. Kahuna

    Kahuna One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    267
    Location:
    Moscow, ID
    It should be noted that the Flit account was an early success for Theodore Geisel who went on to much success as children's book author and illustrator Dr. Seuss.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  18. epeterso

    epeterso New in Town

    Messages:
    2
    Location:
    Colorado
    Thank you so much! My costume designer is thrilled that he can use rubber gloves!
     
  19. skerychlik

    skerychlik New in Town

    Messages:
    1
    I'm currently working on a show that takes place in 1937. I've been trying to find any information concerning air fresheners with no luck. I know the spray air fresheners that we are familiar with now did start being used until mid 1940s... and ideas as to what was used in the 1930s to keep the home smelling fresh and clean?
     
  20. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Mopping the floors with a diluted solution of Lysol. Or plain carbolic acid, if you didn't want to buy the brand name stuff.

    It was also common in New England to take a sprig from a pine or fir tree and drop it into a pan of water left to simmer on top of the stove. This worked great unless you were an idiot, and used a sprig of cat spruce.

    The big breakthru in commercial air-freshening products was the Air-Wick, which was introduced in 1943. It wasn't a spray, but rather a liquid solution, heavily scented with pine oil, packaged in a glass bottle with a fiber wick folded into the bottle and extending into the fluid. You'd take off an outer cap, pull up the wick, and leave the bottle out in your kitchen or bathroom. The fluid would disperse into the atmosphere by evaporation. There were several other products of this type -- Vair, Wizard-Wick, and Breeze were some of the brand names, but they all worked on the same principle.

    The first popular spray deodorizer seems to have been a product called "OD-30," which was specifically sold as a kitchen deodorizing product. It was a chemical that you mixed into a solution and applied by spraying with a Flit gun into the air or sprinkling from a watering can onto the odiferous surface. It was heavily advertised during the war with an offensive series of radio commercials that tried to link killing your kitchen stink to supporting the war effort, but Consumer Reports tested it in 1944, and found that was largely ineffective -- failing to deodorize a plate that had held a load of raw herring even after the plate soaked in the solution for half an hour.
     

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