Easy, low-cost household tips from the ’70s for cleaning, home improvement & more

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Woman with paint on her nose from the 1970s
From the vintage newspaper columns of Bert Bacharach (father of Burt) come these helpful household tips and tricks for dozens of different things, from better ways to clean up paint to making DIY cookie cutters.

Even though they’re not current — they are all from the ’70s — plenty of them seem to be just as helpful today as they were back then. However, use the suggestions at your own risk.

Helpful, low-cost household tips from the ’70s

Household hint writer praises baking soda, vinegar

Albany Democrat-Herald (Albany, Oregon) November 12, 1971

NEW YORK — Here he is, Bert Bacharach, syndicated columnist, men’s fashion expert, inveterate traveler, a worldly man. And you ask him the two items he would not be without, and he answers, “baking soda and vinegar.”

Baking soda and vinegar play prominent roles in Bacharach’s new book, “How to do Almost Everything,” a compendium of household hints for the handyman, cleaning woman, chef, traveler and clotheshorse.

“They (baking soda and vinegar) do almost everything,” says Bacharach, father of well-known composer Burt (with a “u”) Bacharach, as he thumbs through a copy of the book.

Take plain old baking soda. “It’s good for cleaning rubber bathmats, it’s a mouthwash, a toothpaste, it’s good for cleaning cooking utensils that are not aluminum. It’s also good for washing hands after cleaning car batteries to get rid of battery acid, and for degreasing hands after greasing the car.”

And vinegar? “Look on page 76,” he says. On page 76 it says: “to clean deep vases, allow a solution of salt and vinegar to stand for an hour. Shake well, then wash and rinse.”

Bacharach’s hints come in from his readers and the “baking soda lobby,” and are cataloged in files in his apartment office.

Woman with wooden furniture - helpful household hints

Testing these easy & low-cost household tips and tricks

When it comes to making repairs and doing odd jobs at his own place, Bacharach says, “Where I live, I have a wonderful handyman.” But when a hint needs testing, he tries it out for size himself.

That’s why there are plates of tobacco in his closets (moths keep away from tobacco), blotting paper lining his medicine chests and kitchen cabinets (it blots up spills), camphor balls on his window sills (they make pigeons go away).

All these are among the 3,300 how-to suggestions included in the book published by Simon and Schuster. They’re all short items listed under general headings and indexed. Bacharach says that by this point, he has most of the 3,300 items committed to memory.

The strangest how-to tip he has ever gotten, he recalls, is “the one from a guy working in a ceramics plant in New Jersey. He said if you ever touch anything hot and burn your finger, hold your finger to the earlobe. It works. Doctors don’t know why, but it works.” Bacharach tested it on a finger burning occasion and vouches for the technique.

He says the question he is most frequently asked is how to get alcohol stains off furniture. “Rub the spot with olive oil,” Bacharach suggests. “And for stains made from heat, rub cigarette ashes into a paste with a few drops of water and rub on stain.”

Since Bacharach’s wife, Irma, is a painter, his living room walls are loaded with her work. To keep the paintings from tipping when being dusted, Bacharach says, “we hang them on two picture hooks instead of one, and they don’ t go askew.”

Vintage paint cans and wallpaper from the 1970s

Painting tips & tricks

Two full pages in the general housekeeping section of the book are filled with suggestions for making painting (of walls, not pictures) easier.

Although the author does little painting himself, he rattles off these suggestions:

— Dip hands in paraffin wax before starting to paint and wash them clean when finished. Petroleum jelly, olive oil or linseed oil on hands also keeps paint from sticking to them.

— A simple method of removing paint from the hands: just rub them with salad oil.

— Glue a large plate to the bottom of the paint can. It keeps the paint from dripping all over the floor and makes a convenient resting place for the brush.

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— Cover chandeliers with plastic bags when painting to keep them from getting splattered.

— Paint-splattered windows can be cleaned by rubbing with hot vinegar.

— Put an old pair of socks over shoes to keep them clean while painting. The socks are also good for wiping up any drippings that do occur.

— A few slices of raw onion, several feet apart in a freshly painted room, will remove the paint odor.

— One of Bacharach’s favorite paint tips is to add a little vanilla — 2 teaspoons per quart of paint — to any color paint to eliminate the bad paint odor. He said it will not change the color of the paint.

Helpful household hints for a woman in her kitchen in 1973

Other Bert Bacharach hints include:

— The metal cutting edge of wax paper boxes can be easily shaped into handy cookie cutters.

— You can remove rust from utensils and tools by rubbing them with cork dipped in olive oil.

— Rotating the five tires on a car regularly (the spare, too) will add as much as 10,000 miles of wear. The right rear tire gets 38 percent of the wear; the left front only 14 percent.

— [If a vinyl] record is warped, try this: Place each record on a smooth surface, preferably glass, that has been covered with cloth. Weigh down with about eight heavy books and remove books after about one week. This usually does the trick.

— To remove a fish odor from a frying pan, boil [some] water and salt [in it], then rinse in cold water.

— To clean eyeglasses without leaving streaks, use a drop of vinegar on each lens — or a drop of gin or vodka.

— You can temporarily weatherproof a cracked windowpane by giving it a coat of fresh shellac.

— If there’s moisture on the inside of windows, wipe from the bottom up. The windows will be cleaner.

Woman with glasses from the 70s

— To get your dog’s coat extra shiny and soft, add two tablespoons of baking soda to both rinse and wash water.

— Artificial flowers can be held in an artistic arrangement by pouring salt into the container, adding a little cold water and then arranging the flowers. The salt will solidly as it dries and hold the flowers in place.

— A good, safe, nonpolluting, non-enzyme pre-wash soak [for clothes] is a sinkful of warm water spiked with a third cup of washing soda.

— Silverware, soaked in sour milk for a few hours and then washed, rinsed and dried will have a lovely gleam.

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— Cover the head of a hammer with a padded bandage when striking decorative nailheads or tacks.

— Decorating one wall in a child’s room with pegboard will allow clothes hooks, blackboards, etc., to be adjusted to the proper height as the child grows taller.

— Try using equal parts of salt and flour to clean hairbrushes. Rub mixture into brush, comb through bristles and shake vigorously. Mixture picks up oil and dirt.

— To clean natural woodwork, moisten a cloth very lightly with a solution of water and a few drops of white vinegar.

— Cover a cot mattress you don’t use often with heavy denim and let your children use it for a gym mat.

Family at home - Mother and daughter tea party

— When replacing furniture on a rug that has just been shampooed, place pads of aluminum foil under legs to avoid leaving rust or pressure marks.

— For more effective cleaning when using steel wool on aluminum pots and pans, rub in one direction only, rather than with a circular motion.

— You can soften hard water by adding a teaspoon of borax to two-thirds of a quart of water.

— Scrubbing plastic table mats with a stiff brush sprinkled with dry baking soda revives their color by removing all soil.

— To remove fingerprints from [a painted wall], dip a damp cloth in baking soda and rub prints.

— Egg beaters will clean easily if they are put in cold water as soon as you have used them.

— To get paper off a frozen steak, put the meat in a plastic bag and pour hot water over it. The paper will come off almost at once.

— To remove most food stains from rugs, mix one teaspoon of white vinegar with three teaspoons of lukewarm water. Apply with eyedropper, allow to stand for 15 minutes, then blot with a clean cloth.

— And if you’ve worked up an appetite caulking windows or scraping floors, treat yourself to Bacharach’s flaming Mount Fujiyama dessert: Place a bed of shredded coconut in a dessert dish. Add a cone-shaped scoop of vanilla ice cream, sprinkle with more coconut, and pour brandy over it. Light the brandy, which toasts the coconut for added flavor.

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