YOU CAN clean old photographs by rubbing gently with stale bread, says Harriet Wylie. Use baby oil to remove chewing gum from your kid's hair, suggests Jane Keely.
A total of 1,421 ways to solve household problems are contained in two new books: "1001 Great Housekeeping Hints" by Jane Keely and the readers of Good Housekeeping magazine (published by Hearst Books, $6.95) and "420 Ways to Clean Everything," by Harriet Wylie (published by Harmony Books, of Crown, $2.75).The two don't always agree.
Wylie makes use of "cleaning recipes," as she calls them in her introduction. Admittedly, some of her concoctions are involved, but all are well described and the ingredients can be bought at your local grocery, hardware store, or pharmacist. Wylie even provides you with a glossary that gives the characteristics of her suggested ingredients (ranging from pumice powder to oxalic acid to carbon tetrachloride), including whether they can they be used on synthetics, where to store them, and if they are poisonous.
Keely, on the other hand, relies on modern cleaning products to get out stains, clean furniture or wax the floor. The Keely book uses comprehensive charts, such as stain removal or cleaning chemicals.
Starting at the bottom with carpets, the Wylie book tells how to remove chocolate.Wylie recommends removing as much of the hardened chocolate as possible -- scrape it off with a blunt knife. Then gently rub any remaining stain with carbon tetrachloride. Blot up the now-liquid chocolate and sponge softly with club soda. Finally sponge with clean, warm water and dry completely.
According to Keely's stain removal chart chocolate should be soaked in cool water and an enzyme pre-soak product. If this fails, she says, sponge the stain with a cleaning fluid and allow to dry before washing. Keely says the same procedure can be used for tea, coffee, egg, gravy, meat and juice stains.
For cigarette burns in the carpet, Wylie suggests rubbing the mark with fine sandpaper to remove the charred fibers. Then "make a mild detergent solution and drip it slowly onto the stain. Rub gently with a clean cloth. Leave for five minutes, then sponge it off with a solution made of two tablespoons of borax to two cups water. Repeat if necessary, then rinse with clean water and dry well. Or scrape the stain with a silver coin to remove the singed fibers.
Keely's instructions are less complicated. She says to remove as much char as possible. Then snip short pieces of a sturdy yarn of a matching color (or cut from a leftover piece of carpet if there is any). Apply household glue to the burn and pack the spot with the yarn pieces.
To polish the parquet floors -- which seem to cover all D.C. apartments -- Wylie suggests using a solution of 1/4 cup beeswax and 1 cup turpentine. This makes an oily mixture. Next coat the floor with linseed oil and then rub on the beeswax/turpentine mixture. Let it sit for 24 hours. Polish hard.
For bare wood floors, Keely says to "dry-clean" the floor with a wood floor cleaner containing wax. Apply with a soft cloth or long-handled lamb's wool wax applicator. (A thin film of wax is enough -- "Don't pour it on," stresses Keely, "or the floor will be slippery.") It will dry quickly without need for much polishing or buffing.
Rising above the floors to the tabletops, what about cleaning silver?
Wylie advises making a homemade silver polish by dissolving two tablespoons of powdered aluminum and a half cup of talcum powder in one cup of cold water. Mix thoroughly. Then add four tablespoons of ammonia and four tablespoons of turpentine. Shake well before using and when not in use, warns Wylie, keep the bottle tightly corked.
Keely recommends the use of the more conventional polish -- "it's the fine abrasive in a good polish that really gives the shine (to the silver)." Keely says you should rub your silver with polish often and if you use an anti-tarnish polish, allow it to sit awhile before rinsing. Many silver experts would take exception to the advice of polishing often, since the abrasion actually rubs away silver.
Keely says you can use silver polish to polish stainless steel. "Even though stainless steel flatware doesn't tarnish it does look better with an occasional polishing."
For white marks on highly polished wood, Wylie suggests rubbing the stains with any of the following: oil of camphor, the cut edge of a shelled Brazil nut, silver polish (see above) or a mixture of cigar ash and olive oil. Then polish as usual. Wylie warns that metal polishes other than silver should not be used on woods.
According to Keely you should be "glad (the stains) are white, not dark brown or black. It means they are still on the surface and the water (or alcohol) hasn't soaked into the wood fibers." Keely provides three treatments: Rub the mark with liquid wax. This may take off the old wax as well as the stain. If this doesn't work, rub the stain with water mixed with a little ammonia or rub with camphorated oil. Or try rubbing the white mark with silver polish, toothpaste, cigarette ashes or any fine abrasive -- a tough mark might even require a steel wool pad, she says. AND "when all else fails, take to a professional or take a course in refinishing."
Both authors say it's important to keep your sponges clean. Wylie recommends soaking sponges -- especially once they become slimy -- in a strong solution of vinegar and water for 24 hours. Then rinse in cold water two or three times. Dry outside.
Keely says that cellulose sponges can't take bleach, but can stand a good machine washing. The kitchen sink sponge can go in the dishwasher -- wedged between rack pins. Between uses, Keely emphasizes, "place sponges where they will thoroughly air-dry or they'll turn sour-smelling, a sign that bacteria are growing."
Keely's main problem is with the organization of the book, or lack thereof. As she says in her intro, " . . . hints are by nature random, [so] they appear in no special order in each chapter." This makes it hard to follow, especially because Keely covers so much ground in her book.
Whereas Wylie sticks mostly to cleaning (with a few hints on curling carpets and stopping shoes from creaking), Keely covers a wide range of household problems from food preservation to table manners for toddlers to how to wrap a package. Since Keely attempts so much, her advice is often sketchy.
But both books have their uses. Cleaning is, unfortunately, a fact of life. Discovering the methods that work best can make the job easier.