Retrofitting Vintage

1950’s Cleaning Supplies

The fact is, my cleaning is already rather old-fashioned. It will come as no surprise to readers of this blog that if DIY is an option, I’m probably going to try it. Consequently, I use a lot of castille soap, and vinegar, and baking soda to get things clean. So did a lot of housewives in the past. While the 1950’s was an era of new products and consumerism, lots of people, like me, were pretty cheap. In addition to being inexpensive, these products are lighter on the environment, due to less packaging and fewer things that are harder for the earth to get rid of (I’m not going to say “chemicals” because everything is made of chemicals).

So here’s what I’m using for my spring cleaning.

Old school.
Old school.
  • White vinegar
  • Murphy’s oil soap
  • Old English Lemon Oil Wood Polish
  • Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Castille Soap (not pictured) lavendar.
  • Brasso metal polish
  • My homemade all-purpose cleaner, which is made of vinegar, castille soap and water, in a handy spray bottle.
  • My homemade laundry soap, which is made of washing soda, borax, castille soap, and water.
  • Baking soda.

Tools-wise, I’ve got:

  • a broom and dust pan
  • a vacuum
  • a sponge mop
  • a bunch o’ rags
  • a scrub brush
  • a tooth brush
  • a feather duster (pre-vegan)
  • a little brush sized broom and dustpan
  • a couple of buckets
  • some paper towel*

*About paper towel. I am not a fan. It’s wasteful, and I feel guilty about using it. However, for some jobs, it is the best tool. Mass manufacture of paper towel started in the 1930’s, so I am still definitely cleaning like a mid-century housewife. I will use it for jobs that are too germy or sloppy for rags.

So that’s about it. We’ll see if this is enough…


  1. How did you make your own laundry soap? I know there are recipes out there, curious which you used and how much it cost you.

    1. Hi Tomoko!

      I use this recipe, with Dr. Bronner’s. I haven’t found washing soda locally, you can order it online. Or, do what I do and make it yourself. Washing soda is just baking soda that has been heated until it chemically changes. Pour some baking soda flat on a rimmed cookie sheet, bake at 400 degrees for at least half an hour, voila, washing soda!

      As far as cost, I think the original investment seems high if you don’t already have castille soap and borax. A medium sized container of Dr. Bronner’s ran me about $10, and the borax was $7. However, this makes an almost infinite amount of soap, so I think it works out to be cheaper, especially if you were previously purchasing environmentally-sound soap. Which I wasn’t, because it was too expensive! So I’d say it’s a $20 initial amount of supplies for gallons and gallons of laundry soap.

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