Some unusual methods used in the Victorian era have been tested during the annual spring clean by conservators at English Heritage (EH) as they hope to reopen various sites to the public in May.
Skimmed milk was useful in cleaning the stone floors at Brodsworth Hall in Yorkshire while white bread shifted “an impressive” amount of dirt from wallpaper, according to EH.
Waxed timber floors came up a treat after a dose of beeswax and turpentine was used on them and a soft chamois leather, which was used instead of less eco-friendly glass cleaners, gave a shine to mirrors.
Other historical cleaning tips which pleased the modern-day conservators was using a pony-haired brush to dust furniture and figurines.
Amber Xavier-Rowe is the head of collections conservation at EH which cares for more than 400 historic buildings, monuments and sites.
She advised against using “some of the more bizarre historic cleaning tips” like using a potato to clean an oil painting but said that housekeepers of the past were often “spot on with their methods despite relatively little scientific knowledge”.
Reminding everyone to remember to vacuum up the crumbs if they use some of these unusual cleaning tips, Ms Xavier-Rowe said: “Using white bread to clean wallpaper is a great example.
“We tend to use a synthetic bread to avoid attracting pests but the idea is the same and normal bread works just as well.
“Though they were often on the right track, housekeepers of the past’s more unusual cleaning methods might leave you scratching your head.”
EH warned that some historical cleaning tips should be ignored as they are likely to do more harm than good such as trying to clean mould from paintings by leaving them out in direct sunlight or using salt and lemon on historic copper pans.
They also include using a potato that has been dampened with cold water to try and clean an oil painting or Worcestershire sauce to polish silver.
Trying to clean wallpaper by smearing it with oatmeal with a piece of flannel and then sweeping it with a broom or feather duster was another historical tip that should be avoided.