Housekeeping Secrets to Steal from Grandma

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Rediscover these old-fashioned tricks.

Your grandma had more chores and fewer modern cleaning tools than you do, yet she kept a sparkling house with just a few products, elbow grease, and a hefty dose of common sense. Get your household cleaning tasks done like grandma did with these time-tested ways to keep your home clean and tidy:

Keep up, don't catch up.

Grandma kept after messes every day, and you should, too. "It's easier than saving all your chores for one big cleaning session," says Donna Smallin Kuper, certified housecleaning technician and author of Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness. Get into a daily routine and your house will always look neat as a pin: Make the bed, do the dishes after every meal, and sweep the kitchen floor daily.

Stockpile tea towels.

Instead of using paper towels, invest in flour-sack tea towels. "They're 100 percent cotton so you can dry glasses lint-free, wipe down the stove, or let dishes drip-dry on them," says Becky Rapinchuk, blogger at Cleanmama.net and author of The Organically Clean Home. "They launder well and dry fast." Grandma-approved bonus: They come in pretty patterns, colors, and embroidered motifs to add vintage charm to your kitchen.

Use DIY window cleaner.

Your grandma didn't have fancy window and mirror cleaning sprays, and you don't need them either. Mix up this streak-free recipe, courtesy of Rapinchuk:

•1 ½ c. water

•1 ½ T. white vinegar

•1 ½ T. rubbing alcohol

•3 drops peppermint essential oil

Mix in a spray bottle, spray liberally on windows and mirrors and wipe with a lint-free cloth.

Renew stained linens.

Can't get rid of stains on napkins, tablecloths or doilies? Grandma wouldn't toss them; she'd tea-stain them. Add four or five black tea bags to a bucket of hot water and let them steep for 10 minutes or so. Remove tea bags, add the cloth (swish it around so it absorbs the water), and let it sit until you reach the desired shade. "You'll get a lovely antique creamy brown," says Rapinchuk. Let dry to set, then wash in cold water.

Go old-school with products.

Some of the products grandma used are still available, because they're inexpensive and they work great. Use lemon oil such as Old English or Milsek to dust furniture and add a sheen to kitchen cabinets. Try scrubbing powder such as Bon Ami on pots and pans. Or dab baking soda on a damp rag as a light abrasive in sinks or to buff scuffs off floors.