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Chatsworth House’s former head housekeeper shares some surprising eco-friendly cleaning tips.

CHRISTINE Robinson, the former head housekeeper at magnificent Chatsworth House, will share her insider’s secrets at this year’s Malvern Autumn Show at the Three Counties Showground, Malvern, on September 29-30.

Her 38 years of running one of Britain’s greatest stately homes means she knows exactly how to iron out those tricky little niggles to ensure everything around the house is sparklingly shipshape.

Ahead of her guest appearance at the show, she’s rounded up some of her top environmentally friendly tips to help create a heavenly household. From tennis ball tricks to ensure the plumpest feather pillows to surprising stale bread solutions for grubby wallpaper, there’s no end to her creative solutions.

Remove the sticky residue from labels on bottles and jars

Put a teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda in a ramekin dish, together with a tablespoonful of cooking oil. Using a soft cloth, or a piece of kitchen paper, rub the label with the mixture and the stickiness will simply wipe away.

Burn residue on an iron

If you have used an iron that proved too hot and something nasty is burned onto the sole plate of the iron, switch the iron off and while it’s still warm, hold a paracetamol tablet in a pair of tweezers and rub it over the stain on the iron and the mess will then just wipe away with a soft cloth.

Clear a blocked sink

Instead of using astringent proprietary cleaners, try clearing a blocked sink by putting down two tablespoonsful of bicarbonate of soda, followed by a cup of vinegar. After two hours, pour a kettle of boiling water down and the sink should drain freely.


Flies don’t like the smell of strong aromatic herbs, so try growing basil on your windowsill to deter them from entering.

Copper pans

Copper pans that are to be used for cooking shouldn’t be cleaned using ordinary copper polish, which may taint the food. Instead, clean them with half a lemon dipped in salt, and then rinse thoroughly.

Bathroom buff-up

Dripping bath taps can leave a stain – rub with half a lemon. Clean a bath with a piece of old net curtain or tights – it’s mildly abrasive.


Instead of using a can of glass spray, squeeze lemon juice into the washing water, and the windows will gleam beautifully. To remove insect spots on windows, wipe them over with a cloth rinsed in cold tea.

Chewing gum

Instead of using a can of aerosol chemical chewing gum remover, place a few ice cubes in a plastic bag and press on top of the chewing gum, which will then harden and can be removed carefully using a knife.


Don’t throw away a scratched glass before polishing with a bit of toothpaste, which might remove the scratch.

Feather pillows

Plump up feather pillows by putting them in the tumble dryer for half an hour with two tennis balls.

Clothing moths

To deter moths, rather than using insecticides, try putting a few conkers in the drawer or wardrobe.


To clean grubby wallpaper around light switches, use stale, but still slightly moist, white bread or bread dough and roll it over the dirty marks.

Christine will share her extensive housekeeping experiences in a Through the Keyhole talk at 12.30pm and an engaging Upstairs, Downstairs conversation with celebrity chef Valentine Warner at 3.15pm in the Autumn Potager Theatre on Saturday, September 30. She will also join celebrated florist Jonathan Moseley in the Floral Fiesta Theatre at 2pm.

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