Thumbnail image for HappyHousewife.jpgTuesday is traditionally ironing day. Given the headache Laundry Day gave me yesterday, as well as the fact that I'm still doing laundry, I think Ironing Day is better saved for another Tuesday. So, today, I'm on to something different.

In my discussion of cleaning equipment, I mentioned lemon oil as something I needed to get, so that I could make the lemon oil treated dust cloths recommended by America's Housekeeping Book. In the comments, Jes (Alberta) said that she thought lemon oil was like Pledge. Given that it's used in the book to treat dust clothes that are then dried before use, and also used to polish wooden furniture, that seems like an excellent guess.

However, neither America's Housekeeping Book nor any of the other volumes I have gave a recipe to make lemon oil, leaving me to figure it must have either been available commercially in the 40s or so common that knowing how to make it was assumed. Today, the only things I found available commercially were lemon furniture polish, which would likely work but I'm not crazy about the usually artificial lemon smell, or lemon essential oil, which is lovely and I do have on hand, but it's far too expensive to use in the kind of quantities the book recommends. After a little Googling, I decided that the closest approximation to what the book calls "lemon oil" would actually be some sort of carrier oil, such as jojoba oil or olive oil, mixed with either lemon juice or lemon EO. About.com suggested a mixture of 1 cup olive oil to 1/2 cup lemon juice. I decided to experiment a bit and came up with my own recipe.

IMG_2080.JPGLemon oil
1. Pour the juice of two lemons into a spray bottle (about 1/2-3/4 cup)
2. Add several drops (8-12) of lemon essential oil.
3. Fill the spray bottle the remainder of the way (about 1-1 1/2 cups) with sweet almond oil.
4. Shake.

The product ends up thick, creamy, and not pleasantly-but-not-overly lemon scented. Score!

IMG_2082.JPGTo make the treated dusters it recommends, America's Housekeeping Book gives the following instructions:
1 pint hot water
1/4 cup lemon oil

Combine hot water and lemon oil. Dip 4-5 cheesecloth squares (20" X 20") in solution. Press solution through cloth thoroughly. Squeeze out all excess moisture. Dry thoroughly. Then, after I dust with the cloths, I am to wash them in warm soapy water, dry them, and re-treat them with the lemon oil and hot water solution. Since I don't have cheesecloth, I substituted old flour sack towels--they seemed the closest thing, weight-wise. I mixed up some of my lemon oil with some hot water in a bowl, then soaked the towels in it, wrung them out, and hung them over my porch rail to dry in the sun.

If nothing else, my hands are moisturized and smell nice, and I don't have to worry about having just dipped them in nasty chemicals. Whether these dust cloths will be magically remains to be seen. I'll keep you posted.

9 Comments

I'm finding this whole journey so fascinating Grace! Hopefully your dusters turn out - if they do I may make a few. I love the smell of lemon but don't actually have any wooden furniture. I could use something like this even on all my fake press board shelves and get that loverly scent!

Thank you for sharing the recipe - it sounds wonderful and something I'd like to try out.

I love lemon oil and used to use it for my stone countertops. I had the best success finding it in large quantities sold as "block oil" with other kitchen cleaners/supplies (designed for use on cutting blocks--this is the brand I bought). A fancy kitchen store will surely carry it, but I also saw it at Target once. It smells heavenly and is completely oil-based. A closer homemade approximation might be lemon EO in a bunch of grapeseed oil or something.

We always used Lemon Pledge growing up. I have fond memories of dusting, I actually enjoyed it. These days I just use whatever all purpose spray I happen to have around. I would be into making this and trying, I'm looking forward to reading more about your dusting day.

If you eat oranges or lemons, which we do in ridiculous quantities, if you peel the outer skin (not the pith) with a vegetable peeler, and simmer it in a pot of water, you'll basically get highly-scented water with a touch of citrus oil in it (and some of the cleaning properties of citrus oil). Yay, cleaning products from garbage!

I tend to simmer the peels with whole cloves and cinnamon sticks (if orange) or dried rosemary and mint tea (if lemon).

At this point, you could use the citrus-spice-water as a floor wash, or to wipe off cupboards and countertops, or you could put it in a spray bottle with a few drops of Dr. Bronner's soap and use it as a light all-purpose cleaner.

I like your lemon oil recipe, and am going to make some lemon oil cloths. Thanks!


Ooh. I just bought lemons and cheesecloth. They may get reassigned from their intended purpose.

If you take those same lemon peels and steep them in vodka for 4-6 weeks and then add simple syrup, you've got limoncello.

Or, if you don't add the sguar water and use VERY strong booze, I'm thinking you've got something that could clean *something* off pretty well!

Lemon oil is available in the cleaning products aisle. Most commonly the brand sold is Old English. It is labelled as lemon oil. Works great!

If you check out books on housekeeping from 1880-1920's you should be able to find a variety of recipes of house cleaners. Try Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household management. You can find it in free ebook form. Also women apparently made their own cosmetics back when as well.

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