The Best Cleaning Tips We Learned From Our Grandmothers

Grandma knows best, especially when it comes to keeping a tidy home.

Christmas Kitchens Warm Wood
Photo: Southern Living

Some of the best wisdom we’ve learned in our lifetimes has come from our grandmothers. From how to perfectly set a table to heart-warming suppers, let’s face it, Grandma could do just about anything and everything, and her home was always spotless. Today, when we try to make one of our grandmother’s classic cakes or host a party, our entire house turns topsy-turvy, but that never happened to Granny. No matter what she made or how busy she was, whenever we came to visit, her home was always gorgeous and would pass even the most particular of inspections. For the most part, grandmothers seem to have kept cleaning secrets as close as her treasured family recipes, but we at Southern Living have been able to tease out a few little gems of cleaning wisdom from our grandmothers to share with you. 

Every grandmother has a different cleaning tip under her sleeve, so don’t be surprised if yours had a different trick or even if your grandma told you to do the exact opposite of what we’ve learned from ours. Even though Grandmama would never admit it, sometimes it's just her way of doing things. Then again, she’s always right. So the next time you find yourself not wanting to clean or thinking you can take a shortcut on Granny’s cleaning tips ask yourself: What would Meemaw say if she walked in right now? And use that and these tips below as your guide.

Do Your Dishes

There is nothing worse than waking up in the morning and seeing last night's dishes in your sink. Even though it’s your mess, there is something about a sink full of dishes that feels gross, regardless of whether or not the rest of your kitchen is in decent shape. Per her grandmother's advice, every night before she goes to bed, Office Manager Nellah McGough makes sure she takes care of those dishes, so she can wake up to a clean kitchen.

For washing your dishes and anything that might not fit in your dishwasher, Digital Editor Jenna Sims' grandmother recommends using a special sponge. “My grandmother introduced me to the Scrub Daddy sponge several years ago and I have kept one in my sink ever since,” Sims shares. “The firmness [of the sponge] is controlled by temperature, the mouth is the perfect shape for washing spoons, and most importantly they dry quickly to help keep them from holding an unpleasant odor.”

Make Your Bed

If you only have time to do one thing, make your bed. Yes, you’ve heard that since childhood, maybe you tell this to your own children, but you need to do it. McGough says that making her bed along with doing her dishes every night are the two things she does without fail, even if nothing else gets done. After a very long day, you want your bedroom to be a space of tranquility, not chaos.

Editorial Fellow Mary Alice Russell learned from her great grandmother to flip her top sheet so that your bed will always look tidy and flawless, especially if you fold that top sheet over your comforter.

Start At The Top

Whether you are dusting or cleaning your windows, you should always clean from the top down, according to Senior News Writer Meghan Overdeep’s grandmother. There is a little something called gravity that tends to make all that dust, dirt and grime all pile up at the end. If you start dusting from the base of a lamp or the bottom of a window, trust us when we say that item will never be truly clean.

Wash Those Floors

Have you ever sat in a room with hardwood floors during golden hour, and watched as the light hit in such a way that you could see every single speck of dust? Yes, we’ve all been there, except for Southern Living’s Assistant General Manager Anna Price Olson. She follows her family’s example and combines Pine-Sol with water to make a solution that always cleans her floors perfectly every time. Sure, there are plenty of ways to wash your floors nowadays, but this classic combination never disappoints.

Take Advantage Of Daylight Savings Time

As the clock springs forward or backwards, Senior Special Projects Editor Katie Rousso is following her grandmother’s advice. “Use daylight savings as a built-in reminder for tasks that you only need to do a few times a year,” Rousso shares. Things like rotating your rug and mattress are perfect to do during this strange time of year. If Daylight Savings ends, you can use the solstices, the longest and shortest days of the year, to complete those tasks.

Don’t Hold On To Those Magazines

Yes, we are a magazine and here at Southern Living, we hold on to every issue, but Editorial Fellow Mary Alice Russell’s great grandmother, lovingly known as GG, would never approve of such a thing. Russell reached out to her mother, who explains, “GG did not believe in keeping stacks of magazines around, when new ones came in the old ones went out.” And that’s that.

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