Proper Care of Sink and Refrigerator

This is the second article in July of the School for Housewives 1907 series published on July 14, 1907, and is an educating article about keeping sink and fridge clean.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the Boston Sunday Post.

Proper Care of Sink and Refrigerator

THE kitchen sink cannot be made slightly by any device. It cannot be draped; and to draw a screen before it is to subject the priestess of the domain to countless inconveniences when she must have light and room for operations. The basin may be of porcelain, and the row of faucets above it of shining nickel. The whole construction is unmistakably and irredeemably ugly.

It is, nevertheless, the criterion of the housewife’s or cook’s “management.”

“Show me your sink, and I will describe your cook!” is a homely old saying.

If it be littered with tea leaves and coffee grounds; if it be “whisk-clean” save for a greasy gloss on bottom and sides, while in the far corner the blackened whisk conceals a disgusting deposit of refuse and of coagulated fats—you need not inquire verbally into the management of that mistress’ housewifery or into that cook’s fidelity to the duties of her calling.

Keep a sink sieve hanging above the sink and use it whenever anything that contains sediment is poured out. The stationary grating in the bottom of the basin is too coarse to keep back the substances which clog the pipes.

Beware of Grease.

The vilest of these in all its works and ways is, of course, grease, invisible to the careless eye when hot, but afterward working out the mischievous fruits of neglect. It coagulates upon the sides of the drain, and if not “cut,” becomes as hard and as impervious to water as wax. Nine-tenths of the disastrous stoppages in the pipes that flood the kitchen floor with all manner of uncleanness and involve the expense of the costly plumber and his equally costly assistant, are the direct result of a collection of oil matter that should never have found its way into the sink at all—or if this had happened, ought not to have been suffered to stiffen into a mass.

In consideration of this truth, the duty of flushing the sink daily with caustic alkalies cannot be too strongly enforced upon cook and housewife. Have ever on hand chlorides—or, better still, and more easily procured— washing soda, which disintegrates the accumulation of grease. Plain folk say “cuts” it, and the term is more emphatic than the polysyllable.

Scald the sink every other day flushing the pipes by letting the hot water run when at its hottest and for ten minutes at a time. Before the flushing begins, lay a lump of washing soda over the grating and run the water directly upon it.

Summer Expedients.

In summer, substitute, twice a week, a lump of unslaked lime for the soda. If a handful of borax be thrown into the sink at night directly over the grating and left there until morning, it will tend to dissuade water bugs from creeping through the pipe and sweeten the first dash of water turned out of the faucet on the morrow.

Beside the can of borax set above the sink should stand the bottle of household ammonia. The combined cost of an abundant stock of the two would not equal in a year what a plumber “and man” would charge for three hours’ work—“and time.”

(By the way, why must a plumber invariably bring a helper along when one man could do all the work? Must the species always hunt in couples?)

I mentioned “water bugs” in a casual, airy manner just now, that was altogether disproportioned to the part they play in bathroom, kitchen, and sink, not to speak of pantry and refrigerator. They are cousin-german to the cockroach.

There is a covert pun in that compound word. For our water bug was brought to our shores in the holds of German vessels. Ever since that unhappy hour he has been a “stowaway” of the most detestable type. To cap the climax of odiousness, he and his kinsman inflict upon the memory a sesquipedalian title. The cockroach is “Blatta (or Periplaneta) Orientails.” The imported variety is “Blatta Germanica.”

A naturalist thus describes the pest of sink and larder:

“Nocturnal in habits and very troublesome in houses, where they multiply in great rapidity, infesting kitchens and pantries and attacking provisions of all kinds. They have a very offensive smell.”

He might have added that an ill-kept sink is their favorite resort.

Borax comes into deserved prominence in the list of our helpers in the mission of freeing our premises of the loathly things. Strew it thickly over shelves and blow it into cracks. Or—mix it with molasses and cornmeal into a paste, work in tartar emetic, or red lead, and set tiny plates of the delicacy in the sink and on the shelves overnight. Or (again!) pour a little oil of pennyroyal down the pipe at night and wet a cloth in hot water, drop a little of the oil upon it and wipe off the woodwork of the sink with it.

Old-fashioned Southern housemothers knew not the “water bug” even by name. The native cockroach we have had from time immemorial. They (the aforesaid mothers) used to boil poke weed root in water, and mix the strong decoction with an equal quantity of black molasses. This was spread on bread and laid in the tracks of the nocturnal prowlers. They ate it ravenously and departed to other hunting grounds—if there be a future state for the Blatta tribe.

In our germ-mad generation, it is surprising that in the howl against cold storage foods, so little has been made of the peril to health by unclean refrigerators. The confined air is, of itself, unwholesome, imparting a “close taste” to butter and meats, easily recognized, yet rarely analyzed. The chill of the ice arrests decay, but it does not prevent the growth of mould.

Did you ever look at a section of mould through a microscope? You would see it pretty forest or jungle of divers color. Like non-edible toadstools, it is fair to see, and, like them, it is poisonous to human stomach. If the sink be a faithful witness to the housewifery of owner or caretaker, the refrigerator is a yet more correct reporter. It should be absolutely odorless.

How to Keep Food.

Meats that give forth a goodly smell should be kept in a meat safe in the cellar. Fragrant fruits must never be set in the same compartment with other foods. If milk and butter are kept in the refrigerator, give them a shelf to themselves, and, unless the butter be perfectly fresh, keep it away from the milk.

In summer the shelves should be cleared dally and the contents sorted under the of the mistress. The corners must be scrubbed faithfully with a cloth wrung out in boiling water and baking soda, that nothing may accumulate there. Then the doors must be left open until the shrives are entirely dry. To shut up humidity in the chilled interior is to make a dark cave of it.

It is an excellent plan to lay a lump of dry, clean charcoal upon each shelf, exchanging it for fresh once a week. It absorbs musty smells and tends to keep the refrigerator dry inside.

Charcoal is an invaluable sweetener.

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