Polishing in the Old Days

I was brought up to understand the necessity of polishing, especially after the Second World War ended and polishes became plentiful again. My grandmother, always an astute shopper, managed to make those bought before the war last!

Mansion Polish was regularly applied to all furniture, to preserve the wood, as was Lavender polish made by Johnson’s. Min-Cream was another, for antiques, which you used sparingly. It was put on with old rags (well-used elsewhere first) and then polished until you could see your face in the surface!

Linoleum and parquet flooring required regular polishing and was hard, tiring work. If I misbehaved as a teenager floor-polishing was the punishment, and I hated it!

Grates had to be cleaned out and set daily in winter besides being regularly polished, the ornamental front receiving Zebra grate polish. This was a filthy task – no wonder our mothers were clad in old clothes and large aprons! As well as the fire grate surround being washed and polished weekly, brass fenders and companion sets were metal polished too.

Goddard’s metal polish was used on the silverware – cutlery, silver teapot set and flower vases – and was applied to ornate areas with an old toothbrush. Pink plate powder was mixed with water and applied with old rags. Silver was then washed and polished. I still have some to use today.

Gumption was a great invention, better than Mirro and having numerous uses. It was still available in 1970, but seems to have been replaced by Astonish. Gumption was used sparingly as it cost money (cash was for food, elbow grease for cleaning!)

Brillo soap and wire wool were excellent for cleaning saucepans. I used it after 1946, but was pleased when Brillo pads arrived. Sunday saucepan cleaning was done by teenagers before they went out with friends.

Parazone, diluted, was great for cleaning the tiles and stove tops. What happened to it? I preferred it to Domestos. Kleenoff was useful, too, but the smell put me off!

When available, Ronuk was applied to our kitchen tiles and the front step quarry tiles. Dad painted these to save the task and Mother was furious. Our quarry tiles are now washed with washing-up liquid and water, but it doesn’t give the same result.

I’ve been to the Black Country Living Museum at Dudley and seen the old ironmonger’s store. It’s very interesting and brings back childhood memories of pleasant-smelling cleaning products and less chemical usage. Parents took precautions then, but more are needed today as cleaning products have numerous ingredients.

Priscilla Odell