Last week as I stood in the devastation of my former landlady's home Audrey Burke on University Avenue, my eyes witnessed hardwood floors heaved, French doors bathed by coffee-colored water, and the deposits of river and sewage water that left a paste as thick as silver polish.
Her home, once gleaming with warm invitation, was now saturated with a shade of dull and way past gloomy. A chill came over me as I thought about the sound of the waters entering this home and the moans this house spouted forth with this appalling assault.
My spirits were, however, lifted as I viewed the quaint, twin ivory corner cabinets with inviting salmon interiors. Water had come up to three feet plus on the main level, and the cabinets by a miracle have survived. Inside these cabinets resided the china treasures of Audrey including an elegant set of china passed to her by her mother. Stacks of bread, salad, and dinner plates richly scrolled with gold rested behind a cloudy glass door. Yet inside, they remained unharmed by our recent flood waters. As her daughters, Joyce and Vivian, began to empty this treasure chest, they shared stories, and even a few smiles, about their mom.
Charles Repnow is a freelance writer who lives in Rugby. His column appears alternate Wednesdays in The Minot Daily News.
One certainly does not have to write poetry or play an instrument to live artfully. Audrey knew the comfort of serving a cup of refreshing and relaxing tea and did so often in her home. She was a lady who brought forth balance and beauty in her daily routine. More than once on a snowy, cold day my soul found comfort here. She also took the time to share tea with her family. As her family now deals with the day-to-day living of a flooded home, the emotional, sentimental and inspirational values of this memory will be significant. This brings our attention that the hospitality we show in our homes, coupled with the personalities of our dishes, can be a source of endurance and comfort. Very few lives in our world do not have attachment to dishes.
Audrey's cupboard inspired me to share a few cleaning tips for china, silver, linens and other kitchen items. Many of these items will need to be cleaned. Here are a few tips I have picked up along with way.
I have never claimed to be a hero, but I must admit I have some great success in cleaning up items and have actually developed a real love for it. These tips and recipes have never brought anyone closer to romance, nor improved their golf game, but stain removal and cleaning is not without adventure and rewards. We also take to heart the words of John Ruskin, "When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece." For example, your aunt's linen tablecloth once covered with spots of rust now completely free of these annoying blemishes.
Here are some tips that I have gained along the highway of stain removal that work.
If you have rust on fabric, there are commercial removers that work well. You may also try rubbing a tomato ripe or green to remove iron rust. This also works on mildew.
Stubborn stains on fabric can be released by using a stain remover and allow the item to soak. Another great tool in removing stains on fabric is to use a toothbrush and a small amount of blue Dawn dishwashing soap.
Water spots on glass may be removed by rubbing them with vinegar. Some water spots that have dried are difficult to remove, so try a bit of vinegar on a soft rag and rub.
Laundry bluing works wonders on glassware that has become cloudy especially leaded glass. Add a few drops of bluing to a sink of water and allow items to soak. Then rinse with clean water and wipe with a cotton towel. For extra sparkle in your glassware, rinse items in water to which 1/4 cup of vinegar has been added.
When cleaning china, do not use bleach if dishes are trimmed in gold, as bleach will remove the embellishments. It is also best to handwash china as dishwashers can be hard on china surfaces, especially those with elaborate gold or silver decorations. When encountering tough stains on china, use a bit of baking soda which has been made into a paste, then gently rub to remove stain.
Vases or decanters that have had water in them can easily been clean by filling them half full of water, a drop to two of dishwashing soap, 2 tablespoon of ammonia and 1/2 cup of rice. Swirl this mixture around in the item. If necessary, let soak overnight to remove difficult stains.
Use plastic tubs or rubber mats inside your sink when washing china or crystal and limit the number of items you place in the water. Also helpful in washing china/crystal is to line the sink with a thick bath towel which aids greatly in preventing breakage.
Stainless steel, aluminum, cast iron, copper
Stainless kettles, silverware and other items become gleaming when cleaned with Cameo Aluminum and stainless steel cleaner. I prefer to use the powdered form. For the purpose of disinfecting, wash the stainless in hot soapy dishwater which contains a few drops of bleach.
For extremely stained stainless steel, I would recommend placing the item in a plastic bag and adding 2 tablespoons of ammonia. Tie the bag shut for a day or more. Once the item has been removed from the bag, rinse in hot soapy water.
SOS pads are also great to use on stubborn stains, and I have found great success in using them with Cameo and Bon Ami Cleaners. Be sure to test the surface for scratching before using an SOS pad.
I often cut SOS Pads in half with a scissors. This eliminates waste, and often a smaller pad is easier to work with. Used SOS pads, if stored in the freezer in a plastic bag, will not rust and can be used many times.
Aluminum kettles that may have had flood waters may be revived by bringing to boil 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar in a quart of water. Let items stand in this mixture for several hours, if necessary. Once done soaking, wash in hot soapy water.
Cast iron skillets that have been exposed to water may also be rusting. You will want to re-season the skillets. After drying them out and removing the rust, spread a thin layer of shortening over the surface with a paper towel and place the skillet into a 200 F oven for 1 to 2 hours. This may also be repeated until the skillet is conditioned.
For copper items that have become dull with water, blend together a paste of lemon juice and salt. Apply with a soft cloth and repeat until the desired shine begins to appear.
When working with all cleaners, always wear rubber gloves.
A little starch added to the water used in washing windows, mirrors and other glassware will not only help remove dirt, but will give a lasting polish. The following is an excellent mixture for cleaning windows. Our front porch is all windows and I have used this with much success.
Half a cup of ammonia, 1 cup of white vinegar, and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch in a bucket of warm water. Dry with paper towels, old towels, or for lasting shine, newspapers!
For silver that has been in water, usually a good quality silver polish will bring it back to a fine shine. It is good to note that silver should never be near rubber such as rubber bands, mats, holders, etc. because rubber contains sulfur which will cause silver to become marked and corroded.
A final tip that really works: Newspapers, which have been crumbled up and stuffed into drawers that smell damp, works wonders. Leave them for several days and then replace. Adding droplets of vinegar to the newspapers also aids in removing the smell.