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Proper Management of Fires.
ONE of the first things a young housekeeper must master is the science of managing fires. Now, a coal fire is like some people: it will stand a certain amount of nagging, pressure, and neglect, but it will make you suffer in some way for all your abuse. On the other hand, with uniformly fair treatment, it will repay a hundred-fold in comfort.
The demands upon the kitchen fire are varied. Sometimes we want a very hot oven or surface, and again we must have only a moderate amount of heat.
The degrees of heat must be regulated by the various checks and draughts in the range, rather than by the use of a greater or less amount of coal. In the morning remove all the ashes and cinders.
Put the shavings or paper on the grate loosely, and then put in the kindling wood, crossing the pieces, that there may be a free circulation of air. Open all the draughts and light the fire. As soon as the wood begins to burn, put on some coal.
Let the fire burn for ten minutes; then shut all the dampers, but keep open the draught in front of the fire. When the coal begins to burn well, add enough fresh fuel to come nearly to the top of the lining of the fire-box. Keep the front draught open until all the coal has become ignited, but not until it becomes red-hot.
Now close the front draughts, and the fire will be hot enough for anything you may want to do for hours to come. Should you want only a moderate heat, there are checks with all modern ranges which enable you to make the combustion very slow. If greater heat be wanted, open the draughts, and in ten minutes you will have a glowing fire.
These are the great secrets of always having a good fire when you want it: Do not let the coal burn to a white heat; when you do not require a hot fire, open all the checks; when you want a hot fire, close the checks and open the draughts; and, of course, the moment there is no further need of a hot fire, close the draughts and open the checks again.
A fire built and managed in this manner can be used constantly for four or five hours.
Points about the Furnace Fire.
The furnace fire should be shaken down and raked perfectly clear in the morning. A few shovelfuls of coal should be put on, and all the draughts opened.
The ashes should then be taken up. As soon as the coal begins to burn well and the fire looks clear at the bottom, put in enough coal to come almost to the top of the fire-pot. Keep the draughts open until all the gas has burned off; then close them, and later, if the fire be too hot, open the checks.
Except in extremely cold weather, this is all the attention that ought to be necessary through the day. The fire must be raked down and fresh coal or cinders put on in the evening, but a small amount of coal will answer for the night, unless the draughts have been open the greater part of the day.
On an extremely cold day it may be necessary to have the draughts open a part of the time, and some coal put on at noon.
All the clinkers should be removed when the fire is raked down in the morning. The water pan should be replenished at least once a day. Some careless people leave the ashes for a day at a time at the bottom of the furnace, where they absorb the heat, robbing the house of its share.
If the furnace fire be allowed to burn to a white heat it will be ruined for that day, unless more coal be put on a little later. The cold-air boxes must admit enough air to drive the hot air through the house, but not more than can be heated.
Heating stoves and open grates are to be managed as far as possible the same as a furnace. With the stove there is no trouble, there being plenty of checks and draughts. The open grate is not so well provided.
Keeping the Refrigerator Sweet.
Few duties are more important than that of keeping the refrigerator in perfect condition. If the lining be broken in any part, so that the water soaks into the wood, attend to the relining at once; or, if the refrigerator be not worth that, discard it wholly. Never have the waste-pipe connected with the plumbing in the house.
Have the refrigerator placed where it can be flooded with air and light whenever necessary, but, of course, in as cool a place as possible. Once a week have everything removed from it. Take out the shelves and wash them in hot soap-suds; then pour boiling water over them.
Place them in the sun; or, if that fails, by the range, that they may be perfectly dried. Now take out the ice rack and wash and scald in the same way, except that, as there are grooves or wires in this, the greatest care must be used to get out every particle of dirt that may have lodged there.
Next wash out the ice compartment, running a flexible wire rod down the waste-pipe, that nothing shall lodge there. Put two tablespoonfuls of washing soda into a quart of boiling water and set on the fire.
When this boils, pour it into the ice compartment; follow this with a kettleful of boiling water, and wipe dry. Now wash the other parts of the refrigerator with hot soap-suds, and wipe perfectly dry.
Be careful to get the doors and ledges clean and dry. Leave the refrigerator open for an hour, and then return the ice and food to it. Plan this work for a day when the iceman is due. The work should be done immediately after breakfast, so that the refrigerator shall be ready when the ice comes.
Should you, after this care, still have trouble, do not use the refrigerator. It will be far better to get along without the comfort it affords than to endanger health and life by using a contaminated article. Food never should be put in a refrigerator while warm, because it absorbs the flavors of other food and also heats the refrigerator.
Getting the Greatest Good out of Lamps.
In these days, when lamps are used so much, the care of them is quite an important matter. If the lamps be good and have proper attention, one cannot wish for a more satisfactory light; but if badly cared for, they will be a source of much discomfort.
The great secret of having lamps in good working order is to keep them clean and to use good oil. Have a regular place and time for trimming the lamps.
Put a folded newspaper on the table, so that any stray bits of burned wick and drops of oil may fall upon it. Wash and wipe the chimneys and shades. Now take off all loose parts of the burner, washing them in hot soap-suds and wiping them with a clean soft cloth. Trim the wicks and turn them quite low.
With a soft, wet cloth, well soaped, wipe the burner thoroughly, working the cloth as much as possible inside the burner, to get off every particle of the charred wick. Now fill the lamps within about one inch of the top, and wipe with a damp towel and then a dry one. Adjust all the parts and return them to their proper places.
Whenever a new wick is required in a lamp, wash and scald the burner before putting in the wick. With a student lamp, the receptacle for waste oil, which is screwed on the bottom of the burner, should be taken off at least once a week and washed.
Sometimes a wick will get very dark and dirty before it is half consumed. It is not economy to try to burn it; replace it with a fresh one. The trouble and expense are slight, and the increase in clearness and brilliancy will repay the extra care.
When a lamp is lighted, it should not at once be turned up to the full height; wait until the chimney is heated. Beautiful shades are often cracked or broken by having the hot chimneys rest against them. Now, when lighting a lamp be careful that the chimney is set perfectly straight, and does not touch the shade at any point. The shade should be put in place as soon as the lamp is lighted, that it may heat gradually.
Take Good Care of the Plumbing.
The care of the plumbing is an important duty; yet, provided there be nothing wrong about the plumbing at the start, and the supply of water be constant and generous, this duty will not be found a hard one. The housekeeper should impress upon the younger members of her family the importance of thoroughly flushing the water-closets. She should at least once a day personally see to it that there is sufficient flushing. The best time for this is after the morning work is done.
The laundry tubs should be thoroughly rinsed after washing. Be free with the water, that no trace of suds shall be left in the pipes.
After the midday work is done, and again at night, the pipe in the kitchen sink should be thoroughly flushed with hot water, if possible. In case there be no hot water, be generous with the cold. Once a week put half a pint of washing soda in an old saucepan, and add six quarts of hot water. Place on the fire until the soda is all dissolved; then pour the water into the pipes, reserving two quarts of it for the kitchen sink.
Have an old funnel to use in the bath-tub and basins, that the hot soda shall not touch any of the metal save that in the pipes.
Particles of grease sometimes lodge in the sink-pipe and cause an unpleasant odor. The hot soda dissolves this grease and carries it away.
Copperas will remove odors from drain-pipes. Put one pound of the crystals in a quart bottle and fill up with cold water. Cork tightly and label, writing “Poison” on the label. Pour a little of this into the pipes whenever there is any odor.
If thorough flushing and an occasional use of the hot soda will not keep the pipes sweet, there is something wrong with the plumbing, and it should be attended to at once.
It seems as if one need not caution people in regard to throwing into either water-closet or basin anything that may clog the pipes, but it is because of ignorance or carelessness on the part of the people who use these conveniences that much of the trouble with the pipes arises. Here are some of the things that should never have a chance to get into the pipes: hair, lint, pieces of rags, no matter how small; matches, fruit peelings, etc.
If for any reason there should be a bad odor from the drain, two tablespoonfuls of carbolic acid, mixed with a cupful of cold water and poured into the pipes, will prove a good disinfectant. A small bottle of carbolic acid, plainly labelled, always should be kept in the house, out of the reach of the children.
About the Bath-room.
The bath-room should have special attention daily, and once a week a thorough cleaning. A woollen carpet is not desirable for this room. The floor may be of tiles, or of hard wood, stained or painted, or be covered with lignum or oil-cloth. Of course, there must be a rug or two. The Japanese cotton rug is cheap and pretty for this purpose; or, one can make rugs from pieces of carpet.
Not only should the wash-basin be washed clean and the bowl in the water-closet washed every day, but, if the bath-tub has been used, this too should be washed and carefully wiped dry. Dust the room, and hang the soiled towels where they will dry before being put in the hamper provided for such things.
Once a week give the room a thorough cleaning. Wash the toilet articles. Wash all the marble with soap and water, and if there be any spots that are not easily removed, put a little sand soap on the wash-cloth and rub the spot well. The bowl in the water-closet should have a good scrubbing with sand soap. Rub the bath-tub with whiting, wet with household ammonia, and then wash it with plenty of hot water and wipe dry.
Never use for the bath-tub sand soap, or any substance that would scratch, unless it be an enamel tub, in which case no harm will be done. Clean the faucets with whiting. Take a long-handled boot-buttoner and draw from the waste-pipes all the bits of lint that have gathered there. Dust the room and wash the floor, wiping very dry. Now lay down the rugs, which already should have been well beaten and aired.
Do not Neglect the Garbage Barrel.
The garbage barrel or tub should be thoroughly washed once a week. In summer, after the barrel has been cleaned, sprinkle into it one teaspoonful of carbolic acid mixed with half a cupful of cold water. This will keep the barrel free from offensive odors even in the hottest weather.
Sort the dishes and scrape them free from fragments. Have two pans, one for washing and the other for rinsing. Have also a large tray on which to drain the dishes. Wash the glassware first.
Proper Care of Glassware.
It must be remembered that even a scratch on the surface of a piece of glass often will cause it to break at that point under the slightest shock; therefore, it is essential that it shall not come in contact with a sharp, hard substance.
A grain of sand on the bottom of the dishpan, or on the cloth with which the article is washed or wiped, may be the means of breaking a valuable dish.
When possible, a wooden or paper tub should be used in washing glass. A soft silver-brush, soft cloths for washing, and soft linen towels for wiping, also are necessary. Have the water cool enough to bear the hand in comfortably.
Make a strong suds with hard soap. The second dish of water should be of the same temperature. Wash each piece carefully, rubbing with the soft cloth; then put in the rinsing water. When four or five pieces have been washed, spread a coarse towel on an old tray, and place the glass on this to drain. Wipe the hands dry, and then wipe the pieces of glass with a perfectly clean, dry towel.
Rub gently, to polish. Hold the glass up to the light, to see if it is perfectly clear, then place on a clean tray. Always keep the towel between the hands and the glass, and as soon as the towel becomes damp change it for a dry one. The glass should not drain long enough to become cold; for this reason it is best to wash only a few pieces at a time. If the glass be cut, or an imitation of cut, use the soft silver-brush to cleanse all the grooves.
As it is almost impossible to get the deeply cut glass perfectly dry, it should not be placed at once on a polished-wood surface. It is a good plan to have a soft cloth on which to place cut pieces for ten or fifteen minutes after they have been wiped. Glass that is ornamented with gold must be treated with great care, to prevent the ornamentation from wearing off. Use only castile soap, and do not have the suds strong. Wash one piece at a time, and wipe immediately.
It will be seen by the foregoing that the care of glass can be summed up in a few words: wash in clean warm suds and wipe perfectly dry, using clean dry linen towels; be careful not to scratch nor hit a piece of glass, and do not expose the surface to sudden heat or cold.
Other Dishes and Utensils.
After the glass the silver should be washed and wiped. Next wash the china in hot suds, and then rinse in the second pan of hot water.
Drain on the tray, and wipe while yet warm. The kitchen crockery should follow the china, then the tins, and finally the iron cooking dishes. Change the dish-water often, having the first water very soapy and the rinsing water hot.
Be as careful to have clean water and clean dry towels for the pots and kettles as for the china, and wash in the same way as a piece of china, having the outside as clean as the inside.
Some kind of sand soap or mineral soap is necessary to keep the tins, granite-ware, and iron saucepans perfectly clean and bright. After wiping such utensils with a dry towel, place them on the hearth, to become perfectly dry, as they rust easily and quickly.
Now rub the steel knives with either Bristol brick, wood ashes, or sand soap. Wash them, and wipe perfectly dry. Next wash the tray, the rinsing pan, the table, and the sink. Finally wash the dish-towels, and then the dishpans.
Some Special Cautions.
Pitchers, bowls, pans, and other utensils used for milk, should have cold water stand in them for half an hour or so, then be washed in plenty of clean soapy water. After this they should be scalded with boiling water, wiped dry, and placed in the sun and open air, if possible, for several hours.
Teapots, coffee-pots, chocolate-pots, and the like, should be washed in hot soapy water and be rinsed in boiling water. Use a wooden skewer to remove every particle of sediment that may lodge in the spouts or creases of the pots. Wipe perfectly dry, and expose to the sun and air, if possible, for an hour or more.
Pans in which fish or onions have been cooked, should be washed and scalded; then they should be filled with water, in which should be put a teaspoonful of soda for every two quarts of water. Place them on top of the stove for half an hour or more. This will insure the removal of the flavor of fish or onions.
Care of Silver.
Silver that is properly washed and wiped every day will require very little extra cleaning. Remove it from the table on a tray and then put it into a wide-mouthed kitchen pitcher containing warm water.
When ready to wash it, have a pan of hot soap-suds and a clean soft dish-cloth. Put all the silver, except the knives, into the suds, and wash a few pieces at a time, rubbing well with the cloth. Wipe the silver, while it is still warm, with a fine soft silver-towel, rubbing it until perfectly dry and bright. Always keep the towel between the hands and the silver.
As fast as a piece is finished lay it on the tray, and when all the work is done wipe the hands perfectly dry, and then put the silver away.
Should there be any tarnish on any of the pieces, rub with a little wet whiting and a piece of chamois skin. Wash again in the hot suds, and wipe.
When the silver is to have a regular cleaning, put it in a pan of hot suds and wash well. Spread several thicknesses of paper on the table. Have at hand a saucer of French whiting, finely powdered and sifted. Wet a little of this with water, unless the silver is very much tarnished, in which case use half water and half alcohol; or, instead of the alcohol, half household ammonia.
Rub the article with this and then with dry whiting and a chamois skin, finally using a soft silver-brush to clean out all the chasing and creases. When all the silver has been cleaned in this manner, wash it in clean hot suds, wipe on a towel kept for silver, and put away.
Do not put silver in woollen bags, as the sulphur in this cloth tarnishes the metal. Rubber should not be placed near silver.
Only substances which are well known have been suggested for the cleaning of the various articles of silver. There are preparations in the market which many housekeepers use because they consider them harmless, and great savers of labor. Each one will decide for herself in these matters.
Do not Slight the Knife Blades.
In nearly all cases the blade of the knife requires different treatment from the handle. If it be of unplated steel it must be thoroughly polished every time it is used.
If it be of silver, or be silver-plated, a careful washing with soap and water, and a thorough drying, will be all the daily care that is required,—a thorough cleaning about once a week sufficing to keep the blade perfectly clean. There should be a knife-board for the steel knives. Boards covered with leather that come for this purpose may be purchased at any first-class kitchen furnishing store.
To clean the knives have at hand a pan of clean, soapy water and a soft cloth. Hold the knives in the left hand and wash the blades with the cloth, only wiping the handles with the wet cloth, unless they be silver, in which case wash them thoroughly with the soap-suds and cloth.
Sprinkle the board with some knife-polish. Hold the blade flat on the board and rub back and forth until it is polished. If the stain be hard to remove, dip a cork in the strong soap-suds, then in the polishing powder, and, laying the blade of the knife perfectly flat on the board, rub with the cork until the stain disappears.
Now wipe the polish off with a soft cloth and rub the blade with a piece of chamois skin. The handles of the knives should be protected while the blades are being polished. Have a long, narrow bag of Canton flannel to slip over the handle while the blade is being rubbed.
Rust and Other Annoyances.
If it should happen that the steel of knives or forks becomes rusted, dip them in sweet oil and let them stand for twenty-four hours, then rub them with powdered quicklime, and the stain will be removed. If the handles of the knives be ivory, and they become stained, rub them with whiting and spirits of turpentine. This will remove all ordinary stains.
Still, the appearance of the ivory will be greatly improved by a vigorous rubbing with the whiting and turpentine. Frequent wettings with hot water and soap will dull the mother-of-pearl handles, which should be wiped with a damp cloth and rubbed dry with a soft towel.
Silver handles should be rubbed frequently with whiting. Celluloid, ivorine, bone, etc., require the same general treatment as ivory and pearl. The handles of knives, no matter what the material, should never be allowed to stand in water.
The water, particularly if it be hot, loosens the handles from the tang, and also dulls them. A tin or granite-ware pail or pitcher should be kept exclusively for knives. When used, it should have some water in it, but not enough to come up to the handle of the knife. As soon as the table is cleared the knives should be put in this, to remain until the time for washing them.
If you have no regular case for the knives, they may be kept in one made of Canton flannel. To make this take a piece of flannel about three quarters of a yard wide and cut off twenty-one inches. Fold over eleven and a half inches of the selvage end, leaving a single thickness of about four inches at the other end. Baste the doubled part together; then stitch it into twelve compartments.
Bind the bag with tape, and sew tapes on the single flap at the centre. Of course, the flannel is on the inside. When steel cutlery is to be put away for any length of time, melt pure mutton suet, and dip the steel part of the knives and forks in it. When cool, wrap in tissue paper, and then in thicker paper or Canton flannel.