Home Comforts: The Art & Science of Keeping House

Minding the small stuff

This appears to be a book of tips for housekeeping, but it is as much about housekeeping as Moby Dick is about fishing. It’s about doing mindless chores mindfully. If you cook, clean, and dress, why not do it with full knowledge of what the most scientific method is? There is something attractively nerdy about Mendelson’s obsession with getting to a deep technical understanding of whatever needs to be done. So much good-spirited lore swims in this book, that you can pick it up anywhere and find yourself reading hours later about the absolute best way to iron. Ordinary chores are given a new life. I haven’t seen such behavior-changing information in ages. I’m thinking I’ll give each of my kids a copy when they depart for their own places.

-- KK 12/30/20


The terms "ironing" and "pressing" are often used interchangeably, but they are in fact different things. In ironing, you slide the iron back and forth over the cloth; in pressing, you simply press the iron in one spot and then lift it. Pressing is used on tailored and lined suits, especially on men's, on wool, on silk and some rayon, on net, and on pile fabrics. Pressing is used to avoid crushing the cloth, giving it a shine, or stretching or scorching or otherwise harming it with the heat of the iron. This is done partly by not sliding the iron and partly (and usually) by using a "pressing cloth." This is simply a cloth that you lay over the fabric, pressing through it rather than touching the iron directly to the garment.


Washing the Dishes. Begin with perfectly clean, hot, sudsy water. Wash the dishes that are least soiled first and progress to those that are most soiled, as this entails the fewest changes of water. As noted above, you usually begin with glass and silver or flatware, which need very hot water so that they dry quickly without streaks or spots.



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