Grandmas Household Tips    

1960 Cleaning, Garden, Home Recipes

More of Grandmas household tips from the 1960's that were popular and often shared among homemakers of that era and even earlier. One can guess that many of these tips had already been passed on down through a few generations. I love looking back at how people lived and learned years ago. Seeing some of their household tips gives insight into what life was like back in the 1950’s and 1960’s when I was young. And, needless to say, brings back lots of fond memories.

Grandmas Household Tips

One of my favorite memories was helping my mom make Yule Logs and seeing those little cupcakes piled high in a big brass jelly pot (from my Grandma Wallace) that sat beside our fireplace in the winter. I loved to see the different colors of the glowing flames that was one of the things that made Christmas such a special occasion.  So I’m starting off this list was Yule Logs and King Alfred Cakes.

(By the way, I still have that big brass jelly pot and, sadly, haven't yet found a way to clean the tarnish off it.)

We think of today as being the day of the crafter, the DIY-er, the time of people being frugal and thrifty – but many of us were raised by moms and grandmas that went through the Depression and War years and have much more knowledge of living on a shoe string that a lot of us nowadays.

It’s good that so many people want to get back into being thrifty and are so fed up with prices today and products that are harmful that we’re anxiously engaged in learning to do like our moms and grandmas did (with some great improvements).

Just a word of warning though: These are some old time home and household tips so what may have worked then, may not be the best or safest thing to do today.  Take suitable precautions! Yet many of them aren't much different than what we could do today.  These are written exactly as I found them - casual, simple - just as they came from the pens of those who wrote them.

So come with me as I wander throughout the days of my childhood, marveling at the cleverness of my mom, as I share more household tips from mom.  I hope it brings back some great memories for you, too.

Do any of these sound familiar? Maybe you made Yule Logs, too.

Have fun on this trip down memory lane.

Grandmas Household Tips - Yule Logs

Yule Logs

2 lbs. coarse salt
2 lbs bluestone
1 oz each of other salts for coloring
2 gallons boiling water

Mix the above ingredients together in a wooden pail. (The salt corrodes metal)
Roll up old newspapers and tie tightly.  Place them in the solution. Allow to stand 2 weeks.
Remove and let dry on a rack for 1 to 2 months.

How To Make Chemical Logs for your Fireplace

1. No newspapers – only magazines or telephone books.
Roll into shape of log. Wire them well. Submerge in mixture of salt and water for 3 or 4 days.
Dry thoroughly before using.

2. Using newspapers
4 lbs of copper sulphate or bluestone, as it is known by, 3 lbs of rock salt and dissolve in a gallon of water.
Stand for 2 or 3 weeks.
Let it dry thoroughly before using.

King Alfred’s Cakes

3 lbs bluestone
3 lbs coarse salt
1 oz strontium nitrate
1 oz calcium nitrate
1 oz potassium nitrate
1 oz borax
Paper baking cups
Melted wax from old candles or paraffin

Mix chemicals together in a cardboard carton. Line muffin tins with paper cups.
Put 2 Tbsp of chemical mixture in each paper cup. Fill with melted wax.

CAUTION: Melt wax over hot water, NEVER directly over heat or it WILL catch fire.
These cakes produce a colorful flame when burned in your fireplace.

NOTE: When mixing the ingredients, be careful not to pound them.

Fire Cakes

2 lbs coarse salt
2 lbs blue stone (copper sulphate)
1 lb borax
2 oz potassium

Mix in a cardboard box and MIX well.  Spoon mix into paper cups and cover with a thin layer of paraffin wax.
When you want to use one just drop it in your fireplace among the logs.

Grandmas Household Tips - Christmas Fun

To make a Decorative Christmas Box

2 cups Tide
½ cup Durham Liquid Starch

Whip to a stiff cream. Spread this on any shape box you choose. It will dry to a stiff hard finish in a few days. Before it dries, sprinkle it with gold or silver glitter. A little food coloring may be added to the frothy mixture for an added effect.

Candle Making Tips

To make a harder candle, add 1 lb of stearin (also known as stearic acid) to 2 lbs of paraffin.
A good way to make  candle wicks is to twist together 5 or 6 strands of cotton string.
For a frothy candle, dip half the completed candle into wax that has been foamed up with an egg beater.
To color candles add tinting powder, first dissolving it in a little liquid wax.
Candles can be hand painted, by using the tinted wax and an artist brush.
Melted crayons are ideal for coloring hot candles.
To apply glitter, dip the candles in hot wax and roll in glitter sprinkled on paper.

Citronella Candles

1 oz citronella
1 oz spirits of camphor
2 lbs Parawax

Melt  together and then pour into a mold, putting a string through the center of the candle.

Dancing Snowballs

Fill a clear glass vessel ¾ full with water. Add any vegetable coloring to get the shade desired. Then add:
1 teaspoon of citric acid
1 ½ teaspoon of baking soda OR
1 oz citric acid (2 Tbsp)
1 teaspoon baking soda

Into this solution drop a few mothballs. They will bob up and down as though dancing.

Grandmas Household Tips - Beauty

Hand Lotion

½ oz cologne
½ oz alcohol
1 ½ oz glycerin
10 drops carbolic acid
2 ½ drams gum of powdered Tragacanth

Add one quart of softened rain water.
Shake well until dissolved.

Bath Salts

1 lb epsom salts
1 lb surf sea salts
1 tsp glycerine
1 or 2 drops  of oil of roses or lily of the valley

Mix glycerine and salts in a large bowl. Then add a little coloring and perfume. Bottle.

Grandmas Household Tips - Fun with Plants

Rose Jar

For a rose jar, (one purchases a jar at a china shop) take
4 oz. of orris root
3 oz of oil of cloves or bruised cloves
2 oz of gum benzoin
10 drops Oil of Cinnamon
30 drops Oil of Verbena

Having gathered fresh rose petals to nearly fill the jar, sprinkle some salt through them and leave to stand for a few days.
Then pour over them the above mixture.
It will perfume the air for years.

Pot Pourri
Gather one peck of sweet-scented rose leaves and spread on blotting paper in the sun. Sprinkle them with a pinch of salt.
Turn them each day while they are drying.
If you can obtain them add carnations, lemon verbenas and any sweet-scented thing.
When all are dry, put them in a jar and add 1 oz of each of the following:

Tonka bean
Coriander seeds
Orris root
Add a little bergamot.

Pour on this mixture an ounce of alcohol and a few drops of essence of rose and lavender.
Let the mixture rest in the jar for 1 week, during which time, stir several times.
Then put in rose jars.

Coal Flower Garden

6 Tbsp salt
6 Tbsp liquid blueing
6 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp ammonia water

Mix all together and then pour over a piece of coal, coke or broken brick set in a shallow dish.
Dabs of red or green ink or food coloring will give a lovely color effect. Make sure that the coal, etc. is dry. To prevent the garden going over the dish, rub the edge with a bit of Vaseline.

Preserving Flowers

The following recipe can be used for preserving any flower, grasses and leaves.
Dissolve 1 lb of alum in 1 gallon of boiling water and cool.
When cold place flowers in solution and leave until the solution forms crystals on the flower, stem, and leaves. Remove gently and let drip for several hours.


Paint the stems and leaves with glycerine. Coat the “cat tail” with shellac or liquid wax.

Drying Gourds

Leave them on the vine until dry. When you cut them leave a 2 inch stem. Hang them up to dry in a a warm dry place, but don’t force them to dry by putting them over a furnace, etc.
When completely dry varnish with shellac.


Stick cloves in an orange and roll in an equal portion of orris root and powdered cinnamon.
Wrap in paper for a week and then put in drawer with linen to dry.

Grandmas household tips also includes Garden Tips, Here's a few. I so remember helping in the garden of our home on West 33rd in Vancouver. I especially loved how my mom could magically turn the Hydrangea flowers different colors!

Garden Tips

My mom loved gardening and these Grandmas household tips are for growing and gardening. A few recipes for getting rid of pests, like earwigs, but some helpful household tips from mom on how to keep some plants alive from year to year  - and how to start new ones from cuttings. I remember the little back corner of our basement where plants and cuttings would over winter!

I recently got to go back to Vancouver to see our old home. The garden has grown so tall and there are even more plants in the yard than there were before. I loved to see how well the rockery and the bamboo was doing. I wish I could have sneaked into the backyard to see if the hydrangea and some of the other plants were still there. A garden is a gift to the future! 

Rose Cuttings

Summer Cutting: These are taken from shoots that have flowered that year. 

The cuttings should be 4 to 8 inches long.  Remove the leaves except for the 2 on top.
Leave the dormant bud, and can reap the and with a hormone to hasten root development .
Then insert in very sandy soil, shaded from direct sunlight.
Heat the soil moderately moist  and set under a frame  or in a greenhouse.
Place of fruit jar over the curtains and they will form roots in a few weeks.
July and August are best for summer cuttings.

Autumn cuttings: these are taken in October or early November and kept indoors.

These cuttings may be from 6 to 10 inches long and should be taken from well ripened flower shoots.
Cuttings are set in a trench with sand on the bottom.
Cuttings should be half covered with soil, set 5 inches apart, and furrowed in firmly.
These will root in a year’s time and bloom in two years.

Growing  Avocado From A Pit

Use a four inch pot , which has had the drain hole covered with a few pieces of broken crockery .  Fill the container ¾ full of good potting soil.
Place a thin layer of sand over the soil.  The seed is planted with the pointed end up and then covered with sand so that about 1/3 of the  pit shows above the sand.
For the next six or seven weeks keep the sand damp but not wet.  After the leaves appear the plant should be transplanted to a rich soil.

Cutting Lavender

The highest fragrance is present in the herbs just as the first flowers open. The lavender should be cut at noon or in the early afternoon on a sunny warm day. The easiest way to handle the cuttings is to cut each stem full length, putting them together in small bunches of about 18 stalks. If a large quantity is being cut for future use, place the stalks in wide mouth jars or cans (without water). These bundles can later be removed and spread thinly and evenly on trays, either slatted or wire,  for drying.

This drying should be done as quickly as possible to retain fragrance, and is done by warm air circulation. Bleaching and loss of perfume result from sun drying. The ideal spot for drying is the sun porch, with the windows open, keeping the trays of lavender out of the direct sun rays. A small quantity may be hung in a warm airy spot in the kitchen.

Grandmas Household Tips - Holiday Plants

Care Of Poinsettia Plants

As soon as it stops blooming, put it down in the basement out of any light.  When it completely dries up cut all stems  within 3 inches of the soil.  90 days before you want it to bloom bring it upstairs to a warm room and water occasionally.
Cover it at night or put it in a dark room so that it gets no incandescent light.

Care of Easter Lily

Wait until the blooms die completely.  Then pull them off.  Cut down to 7 to 9 inches and put down in your basement or somewhere where it is comparatively dark.  Bring it out in November and repot.

To Change The Color of Hydrangeas

In the Spring, sprinkle with the following:
Blue – Alum
Pink – Saltpetre
White – Epsom salts

About 2 cups is sufficient around  the bottom of each plant.

Grandmas Household Tips - Bug Spray

Earwig Bait

2 ox sodium fluoride
2 cups black molasses
10 lbs bran
1 gallon water

Mix and apply to areas where earwigs are making their appearance.
Solution for Killing Weeds
(particularly in driveway)
Mix 1 lb box of borax in 5 gallons of water.  Spray on weeds until they die.

Garden Spray

Mix 1 cup of pure soap with a bucket of water, add 1 eggcup full of coal oil. Spray on plants. Do not use detergent, as it will kill plants.

Lysol Treatment For Sweet Peas

Soak seeds in 1 gallon water and 4 tsp Lysol before planting. This is a precaution against thrips, etc.

More household tips from Mom are found right here and here.

Grandmas Household Tips: Return To Homepage

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