Old News – Ice Box

I bet you wanted to know how to clean an ice box. This article from 100 years ago will tell you how. Some of the directions are dangerous. Salsoda, also known as washing soda, that it says to use to clean the ice box is very acidic and will burn your hands. You can still buy it but you would have to wear rubber gloves so your hands wouldn’t be burned. Better to use would be baking soda which is not acid. Then in the first paragraph it says to use boiling water. Just another thing that will cause burns to your hands.

The ice man would bring ice whenever you needed it. Most people wouldn’t need ice every day but it depended on the size of ice compartment of your ice box. You would also have to empty the drain water every day.


Friday, July 27, 1917


First remove all food from the food compartment and with strong, hot soapsuds, in which there is a generous handful of salsoda, notwithstanding its effect upon the hands, wash the compartment with water from a boiling teakettle.

Wipe dry with a perfectly clean towel and wash and scald the doors and the ledges and shelves, which have been removed. Set the shelves in a current of air and leave the door of the compartment open so that it may cool. Then wrap the ice in a paper ice blanket and set in the food compartment and treat the ice compartment in the same manner. When all the water has run down the drain remove the drainpipe and scald it again and again with boiling soda and water. Noxious gases form in the drainpipe and these literally poison any food with which they come in contact.

Cool the drainpipe and replace and when the ice compartment has cooled set back the ice and close the doors, being very careful always to latch them, else a large proportion of the efficiency of the refrigerator is lost

It is a good plan to go over the outside of the chest or refrigerator with an oiled cloth if it is a wood finish or with soap and water and metal polish if it is enamel metal trimmed. This will prolong the life of this piece of furniture. Its preservation is important, for in case of moving it is often most convenient to dispose of such articles, and if they are in perfect condition they will bring more.

In storing away food care should always be taken to see that no drops and overflow are allowed to remain around the rims of bowls and plates. A container which is shaped for butter is in the end most economical for then odd bits may be put away and the container need only be washed when a fresh supply is laid in.

Wash and sort all salad materials as soon as they enter the house, put them in clean white bags and shake to dislodge water drops. These bags may be laid against the ice, and the melting caused is more than balanced by the crisp condition in which they appear on the table.

Never set a vessel directly on the cake of ice. If instant cooling is imperative, chip off a bit of ice, crush and set the vessel in it.

Never leave the doors of the refrigerator open an instant longer than is necessary.

The effort of keeping a new refrigerator clean is a real pleasure, but where an old ice chest is concerned the work should be reduced by giving the entire box a coating of paint or two if need be. Aluminum paint does excellent service for the inside and stops up cracks and holes. This paint is also said to be sanitary. Where there are old wooden racks and shelves a scouring with sand salsoda and soap will render them germless.


  1. After World War II, appliances were in high demand because manufacturing of them ceased during the war. My parents had an icebox until they were able to buy a Kelvinator refrigerator on the black market. My mom says that when they went out of town for the weekend they had to put their icebox in the bathtub so that the drain water wouldn’t overflow onto the floor.

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