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12 down-to-earth cleaning tips from a stately home

26 September 2018

Christine Robinson, former head housekeeper at Chatsworth House, shares her insider’s secrets for a gleaming home.

A row of shiny copper pans
Find out how to make your pans shine, glass gleam and much more...

With 38 years of experience running Chatsworth, one of the country’s most iconic stately homes, Christine Robinson knows a trick or two to keep things sparkling using easily available household items. She shares some of her top tips for keeping things shipshape.

Remove the sticky residue from labels on bottles and jars

Put a teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda in a ramekin dish, together with a tablespoonful of cooking oil. Using a soft cloth, or a piece of kitchen paper, rub the label with the mixture and the stickiness will simply wipe away.

Burn residue on an iron

If you have used an iron that proved too hot and something nasty is burned onto the sole plate of the iron, switch the iron off and while it’s still warm, hold a paracetamol tablet in a pair of tweezers and rub it over the stain on the iron and the mess will then just wipe away with a soft cloth.

Read more tips on cleaning an iron

Clear a blocked sink

Instead of using astringent proprietary cleaners, try clearing a blocked sink by putting down two tablespoonsful of bicarbonate of soda, followed by a cup of vinegar. After two hours, pour a kettle of boiling water down and the sink should drain freely.


Flies don’t like the smell of strong aromatic herbs, so try growing basil on your windowsill to deter them from entering.

Find out how to deter flies

Copper pans

Copper pans that are to be used for cooking shouldn’t be cleaned using ordinary copper polish, which may taint the food. Instead, clean them with half a lemon dipped in salt, and then rinse thoroughly.

Bathroom buff-up

Dripping bath taps can leave a stain – rub with half a lemon. Clean a bath with a piece of old net curtain or tights – it’s mildly abrasive.

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Instead of using a can of glass spray, squeeze lemon juice into the washing water, and the windows will gleam beautifully. To remove insect spots on windows, wipe them over with a cloth rinsed in cold tea.

Read more tips for cleaning windows

Chewing gum

Instead of using a can of aerosol chemical chewing gum remover, place a few ice cubes in a plastic bag and press on top of the chewing gum, which will then harden and can be removed carefully using a knife.


Don’t throw away a scratched glass before polishing with a bit of toothpaste, which might remove the scratch.

Feather pillows

Plump up feather pillows by putting them in the tumble dryer for half an hour with two tennis balls.

Clothing moths

To deter moths, rather than using insecticides, try putting a few conkers in the drawer or wardrobe.

Find out more about getting rid of clothes moths


To clean grubby wallpaper around light switches, use stale, but still slightly moist, white bread or bread dough and roll it over the dirty marks.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.