( Originally Published 1931 )
THE high cost of living as reflected in rents and in the wage scale for domestic service has had a profound influence not only on the size and equipment of the modern kitchen, but also on the housewife's attitude toward this room and toward the whole machinery of housekeeping. Compare the old-fashioned Southern kitchen, which stands separate and apart in its own building at least several paces from the main house, with the modern kitchenette, which rubs elbows with the combination dining and living room. And it is probably a safe guess that there are more kitchenettes in active use in the city of New York than there are outdoor kitchens in all of Virginia and the Carolinas.
Because the kitchen has worked its way into the bosom of our family life, color has come into the kitchen. Because the old-fashioned "help" have in large measure walked their way out of our lives, labor-saving aids in the preparation of meals and in the cleaning and care of the home have come to play an increasingly important role.
Color has not merely come into the kitchen; it has overwhelmed that room. The trimmings of the stove and the pots and kettles on it, the clock on the wall and even the handle on the patent bottle opener run riot in reds, blues, greens, and most of the other primary and secondary colors. The main difficulty is that every one of the many manufacturers producing kitchen equipment has his own idea of what a red or a blue or a green should be with the result that the shopper who is seeking to establish a harmonious ensemble finds that the oilcloth fights with the enamel ware only less violently than it does with the color of the broom handles. In a few cases the larger and more progressive stores have established certain color shades as standard and specify them in placing their orders; and it is only on some such basis of stabilization that color can protect itself from being laughed out of the kitchen. The same comment applies to the introduction of color into bathroom fixtures and accessories as relief from the universal white of only a few years ago.
Another consideration to bear in mind is that color may cover a variety of sins and shortcomings in the material and workmanship of the articles offered for sale. After all, it is the durability of the pot and the cutting edge of the knife that counts more than the charm of the handle.
With these general considerations in mind, let us examine some of the major items in kitchen and bathroom. fixtures and in household appliances.
In kitchen cabinets the requirements are pretty much the same in all homes except as to size, which, obviously, is regulated by the needs of the family. They are divided into two broad divisions, wooden and steel. Color being desirable in many instances, it is well to remember that paint can, and sometimes may, cover a multitude of construction blemishes. Examine the joints. See that they fit closely. If you can slip in a knife blade at any place where two pieces come together, it is a poor job. If the piece is of wood, look for "checking," splitting. An apparently insignificant crack may be the forerunner of a decided break later. Pull out the drawers, lift lids and covers, try out hinges, see that all parts operate easily but not loosely.
Steel cabinets are about 50 per cent more expensive than those of wood. The color is usually sprayed on, and when this is properly done it is a good and lasting job. The surface should be smooth, without lumps, bumps, ripples or ridges, specks or flaws.
Construction: Kitchen tables and chairs should be of good weight for their size. Sturdy woods such as maple and birch are preferable to whitewood, particularly in the unpainted kinds where appearance counts for much. Close fitting at all joints is, of course, a prime requisite in these pieces which are subject to a deal of hard usage. The joining of the legs to the seat of a chair or to the top of a table is, apparently, a simple matter, but it is a highly important detail in cabinetmaking. The manner in which this is done, including the bracing and reėnforcing, makes the difference between a good strong piece which will retain its shape for years and one that becomes wabbly and uncertain on its supports with little usage. Porcelain top tables (porcelain baked on metal) should be well reėnforced. Turn the table upside down and examine the bracing where the strain is likely to come when it is used. The tops won't split or crack as wood might, but unless strongly made they will buckle under stress. All drawers should be dovetailed at the joints instead of being simply glued or having the square ends nailed together.
STOVES AND RANGES
The shopper is offered a wide choice in what formerly were called simply kitchen stoves. We now have ranges in all sizes and with a variety of adjuncts and in many kinds of finishes, plain or elaborately ornamented. The general divisions are gas, electric, oil, and coal stoves and ranges. The best ranges are made of cast iron with porcelain baked on the metal and are provided with a heat regulator. The lining (inside of range) should be rustproof. The cheaper, less desirable grades are made of stamped metal and will give or yield to a smart tap or when pressed against. Then there are the fireless ranges working on the principle of the fireless cookers but on a larger scale. They are expensive and should, considering the prices, be highly finished and of the best obtainable materials.
In all ranges and stoves accessibility to the different parts is a requirement which all housewives appreciate. See that detachable, movable pieces such as lids, grates, oven trays, etc., fit easily, are not warped or out of line where straight edge meets straight edge or circular parts fit into or over holes. An uneven lid makes a bump on the stove or range which may result in trouble.
Fireless Cookers: These are of either the soapstone or the electric variety. In the former case the stone or stones are well heated and then inserted in the cooker, where they slowly give off their heat. In the electric type the heat is generated in the cooker itself. In both cases the main advantage is that they require no attention during the process of cooking. As a rule a fireless cooker is used as a convenient auxiliary to one or another of the usual types of kitchen ranges.
While all housewives understood that the purpose of refrigeration is to preserve perishable foods, either raw or cooked, until such time as they are to be used, many persons do not seem to understand the principles upon which refrigeration depends for its effectiveness. Also, there are some persons who forget that in the preservation of foodstuffs, protection from pollution is just as important as chilling.
The most common mistakes made are : (1) buying ice to effect refrigeration and then covering that ice with paper to save it; (2) buying refrigeration chambers so constructed that the foodstuffs needing the maximum chilling cannot be placed conveniently in the coldest parts of the chamber; (3) leaving ice-box doors open longer than is really necessary and forgetting to close the doors tightly when they are not in use; (4) permitting drain pipes to become clogged and failing to wipe up immediately any foods spilled within the refrigeration chamber. These mistakes obviously have to do with the operation, rather than with the purchase, of a refrigeration unit; but they all have their influence on the type of box to select.
The sole object of household refrigeration is, of course, the preservation of foods by keeping them in a temperature below that at which they are affected by heat and begin to spoil. Government research has fixed this temperature for meats, milk, and many other foods at a maximum of 50° Fahrenheit. As we maintain our homes at a minimum of approximately 68°, and as summer temperatures often run much higher, it is obvious that we must create somewhere in the home a place where the temperature can be maintained below 50°. That place is the refrigerator, which depends upon the effectiveness of its isolation from the surrounding atmosphere (insulation) and upon its pro-visions for keeping the inside cold. There is no such thing as perfect insulation and, even if there were, the interior temperature of the chamber would tend to rise whenever a door was opened and whenever there was put inside any food having a higher temperature than 50°; hence the importance of the chilling unit.
The design of a refrigerator is based on the physical law that warm air rises and cold air drops. Therefore the chilling unit is placed at the top of the chamber, and provision is made for free circulation, so that the air, as it tends to become warm, will rise to contact with this unit, which will chill it and permit it to sink again to the bottom of the chamber. The result of this constant motion of air within the chamber is that the coldest part of the refrigerator is in the chilling unit and the next coldest is directly below this unit. Naturally, a great deal depends upon having a chilling unit of sufficient size to keep the circulation at its proper efficiency and thus maintain the desired temperature.
The problem of providing adequate refrigeration is exactly the reverse of that of heating a room. We all know that we cannot keep a big room warm with a small radiator. We all know that it is warmer nearer the radiator than it is at the other end of the room. And we all protest vehemently when some one opens a window while we are trying to get warm. In other words, we realize that a room with some sort of radiator in it does not necessarily mean warmth. Yet many of us, including both manufacturers and housewives, fail to apply this knowledge to the creation and maintenance of chill within a refrigerator.
Let us go about the selection of a practical ice box.
The Selection of an Ice Box: Obviously the first consideration is one of size, and the second is that of shape, so that the ice box will fit into the most efficient space from the viewpoints of handling the ice and having access to the chambers. These are fundamental things which need no elaboration.
Next comes the selection between a, wooden and an enameled metal box. In the better grades there is little to choose between the two types, although a well-made box of well-seasoned wood is generally considered the best. Both wooden and metal boxes will "sweat" in the sticky dog days of August, and one therefore should not be worried if some moisture and even a few large beads of water appear on the outside of a box under those atmospheric conditions.
Then comes the all-important matter of insulation. In the most primitive type of ice box this is provided in the form of a "dead-air" chamber; this means that an air space is left between the outer and the inner shells of the box. This space is supposed to be sealed, but in the inevitable expansion and contraction of the materials it loses its air-tightness and the insulating factor becomes negligible. An improvement over the dead-air type is one in which the space between outer and inner shells is filled with granular cork. This has a tendency to pack down, leaving a space at the top, where the insulation is imperfect. The most effective types are Balsa wood and a sheet-cork insulation, which varies in thickness between half an inch and two and a half inches. Here the question of water-proofing the insulation becomes of great importance, as wet and rotting cork gives off an odor which makes use of the box impossible.
Practically as important as the insulation are the size, shape, and fitting of the doors to the various compartments. Upon the size and shape of the doors depends the quickness with which things can be moved in and out of the refrigerator, and this speed naturally controls the length of the periods when the interior is exposed to the warm air outside and refrigeration is thus interrupted. Likewise, upon the fitting of the doors depends the effectiveness of the insulation and, therefore, of refrigeration. Doors should be so hung that they will swing closed from the lightest push; they should be equipped with self-closing catches so that they will stay closed; and the edges of the doors should be lined with rubber or fiber gaskets so that they will be effectively sealed when closed. Every door is a potential threat against refrigeration, and one which does not close readily or which permits a seepage of air around the edges will prove to be an expensive item in the preservation of foodstuffs.
In the case of the door to the ice chamber there is a special point to bear in mind. A well-designed box provides an ice chamber to take the size of ice cake that is required to insure the creation and maintenance of the proper temperature, and boxes are described as being of 50, 75, or 100 pounds capacity. But some boxes which have ice chambers for, let us say, 100 pounds, and which require that amount of ice to provide proper refrigeration, have such small and badly shaped doors to their ice chambers that it is impossible to insert a cake of more than 50 or 75 pounds.
Next come the various items of interior design and workmanship. The drain from the ice chamber should be of such size and shape as to avoid the danger of clogging with a resulting overflow of melted ice into the food chambers. As the ice chamber should be kept well filled with ice to insure proper refrigeration in the entire box, it ought not to be considered as a space for the storage of food. Therefore the space immediately below the ice chamber is the coldest place available for food. As most housewives want to keep milk in the coldest spot, this space should be sufficiently high to take milk bottles; and the door to this part of the ice box should be of a size and shape that will permit the bottles to be moved in and out with- out need for tipping them and without danger of bumping and chipping their tops.
As for the lining of an ice box, it controls the ease with which the food chambers can be kept clean. The cheaper grades of boxes are lined with corrugated galvanized iron; better grades have baked enamel linings, and the best are lined with porcelain-enameled sheet steel which can be cleaned easily and repeatedly with-out any impairment of its surface. Just as important as the material is the fitting of the lining, which should have rounded corners and edges.
Finally, the hardware of a good ice box should consist of nickel on brass. Then, if the nickel plating wears off in spots and exposes the base metal, that metal will be one that will not rust.
Other Types of Refrigeration: Although ice has long been the accepted basis of household refrigeration, other effective agencies have been developed and already occupy important places in this field. In considering these other agencies the shopper should remember that the boxes are substantially the same, whatever the chilling agent may be. Therefore, the questions of insulation, lining, arrangement of food chambers, and design of doors are just as pertinent here as they are in the selection of an ice box.
The refrigerating agent most nearly resembling ice in its active principle and in the way it is handled is the so-called dry ice which has been introduced to the public by soda fountains in the packing of ice-cream that is bought for consumption elsewhere. This is nothing but solidified carbon dioxide which comes in glistening white cakes at an internal temperature of 112° below zero Fahrenheit. A pound of this sub-stance can do the work of some fifteen pounds of ice, and in the process of "melting" it changes from its solid state directly into gas; thus there is no problem of water disposal as there is with the use of ice. Furthermore, the carbon dioxide gas, which is odorless and entirely harmless, is said to be a good preservative of many foodstuffs. It can be used in any ice box with only two slight changes in the construction of the box; these are the sealing of the drain from the ice chamber and the drilling of a small vent in the top of the box. This vent is needed to provide an escape for the gas after it has circulated through the food chambers and chilled their contents. Incidentally, this small but steady escape of gas carries off with it any food odors which may have developed within the ice box.
The other refrigerating agencies which have established themselves in the household field are in reality small ice-making units. They are driven either by electricity or by gas, and both have the important advantage of being operated by thermostatic control, thus assuring a fixed temperature within the food chambers at all times. Furthermore, both types have facilities for making artificial ice cubes.
As electricity is more universal in country and city than gas, the electrically operated refrigerators are the better known. One of the best known products in the electrical group features the fact that it has a sealed refrigerating unit on the top of the box, where it can be easily removed and a substitute unit installed in case of any operating difficulty. Thus the faulty unit can be taken away for overhauling and repair without any interruption in the functioning of the refrigerator; whereas the boxes with built-in refrigerating units may be entirely out of service while any necessary repairs are being made.
Capacity to meet the household's needs, stability, ease of cleaning, and coolness of handles are the fundamental requisites for the pots and pans in which food is cooked. The capacity, or size, is a self-evident factor in selection. Stability naturally depends on an even, flat bottom which, also, makes for a proper distribution of heat when the utensil is on the fire. Ease of cleaning depends on hard, smooth surfaces free of crevices or sharp angles either where the sides join with the bottom or where the two parts of a double boiler nest. Handles should be insulated at point of juncture with the pot or pan and either should be made of ebonized wood or, if of metal, should be so constructed as to create air ducts the length of the handle.
When it comes to the materials of which these utensils are made, there are advocates for every one of the major types in use. The primary consideration should be to select a ware that is sufficiently thick to give rugged service; for a pot which dents easily soon gets out of shape and becomes unstable and hard to clean.
Copper is the old stand-by of the culinary art, and no self-respecting French chef would think of cooking in anything else. But it requires much labor for scouring, and it is a rarity in the kitchens of modern homes.
Enamel ware has taken the place of the old gray agateware, and is the medium through which color has come into the kitchen. This ware consists of a steel base coated with enamel and it should be triple coated to give efficient service. When too thinly coated the black steel base will show through upon close examination.
Tinware is, likewise, a steel base with coating which, in this instance, is tin. It is this ware which is productive of much of the kitchen junk utensils so thin and so flimsily constructed that they are practically useless; but good tinware is entirely practical and serviceable.
Aluminum ware for the kitchen is either stamped or cast. In the former case the utensils are formed by special presses out of sheets of aluminum. These sheets are frequently too thin for serviceable products, but where heavy sheets are used the products compare favorably with cast aluminum ware. Because of the popularity of aluminum, manufacturers of all types are turning out kitchen utensils in this ware; it is therefore well to inspect for thickness of metal, flatness of bottoms, and insulation and construction of handles before making your selection.
Chromium steelware, the latest type to enter the cooking utensil field, is expected to make an important place for itself. Its strong points are that it is an excellent conductor of heat, looks like nickel, does not dent easily, is free from stain, and cleans easily-.
Waterless and Steam Pressure Cookers: Patented utensils for steaming foods in their own juices and for cooking them under steam pressure are developing their separate followings. The shopper who approves the waterless principle of cooking can find in the department and house furnishing stores utensils designed to carry out this principle just as effectively as those which are sold at fancy prices by home demonstrators. In the case of the steam pressure outfits the important thing to look for is a reliable safety valve so designed that there is no chance of its becoming clogged; for otherwise a pressure cooker may prove as dangerous a pet as a homemade still.
Heat-proof Glass and China : In addition to the various metals and alloys used in the manufacture of cooking utensils, certain glass and china wares have been developed for use in the oven. The production of these two wares is restricted to a few manufacturers who have perfected the processes, and they offer no particular problems of judging and selection.
TINWARE AND WIREWARE
In this group are various cooking accessories such as pans, sieves, strainers, and eggbeaters. The service-ability of these products depends on the weight of the metal used and the ruggedness of construction. Look especially to the seams and rivets.
The various chopping bowls, bread boards, rolling pins, and salad forks and spoons of wood are largely imported from Germany, where their manufacture is an important industry. Serviceability of these products depends primarily upon the use of well-seasoned wood; and there is no way for the shopper to determine the degree of seasoning. However, she can look for knots, which are spots of potential weakness in woodenware.
Kitchen cutlery is divided into the stainless type and the old-fashioned carbon, steel. The stainless is a specially processed steel which is easy to keep clean but which will not hold its edge the way carbon steel does. In addition to this classification as to the material there is a division as to method of manufacture a forged blade is superior to one which has been stamped out of the metal. Once the matter of the blade is settled there remains the final consideration of the firmness with which the blade is fixed into the handle; the joint should be close and solid as evidence of its water-tightness.
Here the fundamental classification is between the heat group, in which radiant heaters, toasters, percolators, waffle irons, etc., are included, and the motor group, of which vacuum cleaners and washing machines are the outstanding examples. In the former group the primary considerations are that the electrical element shall be such as to use the current to its maximum efficiency, and that this element shall be sufficiently rugged to withstand jars. In the motor group the main concerns are the simplicity of construction and the ease of oiling.
In either case it is well to make sure that the electrical unit, whether it is a heat or a motor element, is the product of one or another of the largest and best known manufacturers; for the nice questions of motor design and of electrical heat elements are beyond the scope of the layman.
Once this fundamental question is answered satisfactorily, the following points should be considered:
Nickel on a brass base is standard for the fittings of all such appliances as toasters and irons.
One cannot expect to draw from the normal circuit in the home sufficient current to heat a room. The so-called radiant heaters are designed merely to "spot" their heat as a supplement to the general heating arrangements in a room. Upon the shape of the cop-per bowl in which the heating element is centered depends the degree of this concentration of heat; if the bowl is too wide and shallow the effect of "spotting" is lost without the chance of effecting any appreciable degree of general heating. In this connection it should be distinctly borne in mind that all radiant heaters draw exactly the same amount of heat from a house circuit into which they are plugged.
In the case of vacuum cleaners the shopper has three general types from which to select. The first is the suction pure and simple, the second is suction plus a rotary brush which produces a surface agitation of the object being cleaned, and the third adds to these two principles a more fundamental agitation to loosen such dirt as may have become more deeply embedded. In all three cases it is the suction, of course, which picks up and disposes of such dirt as is sufficiently free to respond to the pull of the vacuum. In no case can dirt be removed which has become mixed with any wet, greasy, or sticky substance; such dirt can only be dissolved out by laundering or dry cleaning.
In the case of washing machines one of three principles is applied. In one type the clothes remain relatively quiet while the water is agitated; in another type the clothes are whirled through the water, and in the third type so-called vacuum cups create a friction akin to rubbing on a washboard. Whichever principle appeals to the shopper as the best solution of her laundering problem, she should make sure that the machine selected is simply and substantially constructed and is easy to operate and to keep oiled. The very last thing a good housewife wants to do is to introduce into her home any machine which is going to get out of order and require repairs, even if the "servicing" is done free by the manufacturer or store.
In the case of all electrical appliances the one great point to remember is that the electrical element, whether heat or motor, must be kept fully protected from water and even from any undue moisture if short-circuiting is to be avoided.
PAINTS AND VARNISHES
In the important item of paints which we depend upon for much of the decorative effect of our homes there should be borne in mind the basic division of all pigment preparations for household use into out-side and inside paints, that is, those that are manufactured with a view to withstanding the vicissitudes of atmospheric and other weather conditions and those designed for use in the sheltered precincts within the walls of a house. This is a highly important distinction to which some shoppers do not give sufficient consideration. It is absurd simply to buy a can of paint with the idea that part of its contents will do for painting the kitchen chairs and walls and what is left can be applied to the railing around the back stoop or to the summerhouse roof.
Paint intended for the outside work should consist basically of linseed oil, carbonate of white lead, and oxide of zinc, the coloring matter being ground in the linseed oil. This combination has stood government tests in three widely separated sections of the country where it was exposed to varying weather conditions.
The formula of a paint can's contents should be printed on the label but the scientific or technical terms used mean little or nothing to the average shop-per. Lead carbonate, zinc oxide, and an "inert" pigment such as asbestine or barrytes and linseed oil make a mixture that will hold off the ravages of sea air. Lead is inclined to "chalk" or rub off. Zinc has a propensity to dry too hard and blister and, furthermore, leaves a poor surface on which to repaint. The "inert" pigment is added to absorb and hold the oil in solution and to correct the bad features of the other constituents.
A white paint of this combination is not suitable for use inside the house because the oil turns yellow; but on the outside, the sun and air keep it bleached and it remains a pure white in color. Other colors prepared by this formula may be used for inside work where a high gloss is not required.
For inside paints a combination of zinc, lithopone, and specially treated oils in flat pastel shades is being sold. It comes in a great variety of colors, including white. It can be washed and cleaned but should not be subjected to a hard scrubbing. It is useless as an outside paint, being unable to resist the weather. Too much of it is being used as a general purpose (inside and outside) paint.
There are a good many paints on the market which are sold on a price basis only. These paints make no claim to durability or permanency and are cheapened by substituting cheap inert pigment for the most lasting and expensive pigments such as lead and zinc. They are also cheapened by various substitutes for pure linseed oil and pure turpentine. Some manufacturers also add a certain percentage of water to the paint to cut the cost. While quantities of water up to one per cent are not injurious to the mixture there are manufacturers who are not above using a great many times that amount in order to produce a cheap paint. Farmers and suburban residents are the chief victims of this nefarious practice. This stuff can be sold for one-third less a gallon and net a big profit to the manufacturer and dealer.
In the old days the popular impression was that paints with a boiled linseed-oil content were far and away preferable to those made with raw oil. Now boiled oil is not used to any great extent except in paints intended for use on the roofs of houses, where a non-hardening film is demanded. Raw linseed-oil paints dry all the way through and are regarded as the more desirable for most purposes. A boiled-oil paint has a tendency to soften and blister and if applied to, say, the wall of a house, would be likely to absorb dust and dirt and take on a dull spiritless tone.
Varnish is made from fossil gums, linseed oil, china-wood oil, and turpentine. Sometimes naphtha or benzine is used instead of turpentine. It is colorless and is used over other paint preparations to add to their luster and heighten their effect, or separately as a preservative and beautifier of exposed surfaces, or to bring into higher relief the attractive grain in woods. Combined with a color it is made into enamel, a heavier, more enduring compound with a high gloss.
Lacquer, also clear and colorless, is to be distinguished from varnish. It is made from guncotton and amyl acetate and "retarded" with castor oil and other agents. As a combination of guncotton and amyl acetate would dry so rapidly it would have to be sprayed on, a "retarding" ingredient is used to permit of its application with a brush. The great problem in making a lacquer is to get a product that dries slowly under the brush. It takes varnish from twelve to forty-eight hours to dry. Lacquer dries in thirty minutes. The brushing lacquer is much used for inside work.
Shellac, known in the trade as India gum, is a highly important and widely used product. It is "manufactured" by one of nature's own busy artisans, the shellac bug. This insect, common to India and the West Indies, exudes a fluid by means of which it anchors itself to a tree which takes its name from the bug a shellac tree. After being prepared for commerce the fluid is used for floors and furniture. A hardwood floor treated with two coats of shellac and then waxed, presents a beautiful appearance in which the natural effects of the wood are heightened; and, as a result of such treatment, the wood itself is preserved and the life of the flooring consequently lengthened. Frequent application of a good wax will obviate the necessity for scraping and reshellacking. Shellac dries quickly and gives a smooth glossy surface.
Virgin shellac (known as orange shellac) is the gum as taken from the tree. It is of a light golden color. White shellac is the same product after it has been bleached. It gives the same gloss but is without color.
Shellac may be tested after it has been applied and dried by running a finger nail over it with sufficient force to leave a well defined mark. If it "spalls," that is, leaves a scratch which shows up white, the scratch is an indication of a cheap resinous substitute for shellac. Good shellac will show the indentation or mark but it will not show any variation from the original or undented surface.
One gallon of paint will cover between 500 and 600 square feet of surface with one coat. A new, or raw, surface, inside or outside the house, should have three coats of paint as follows:
First coat: the primer, containing a quart of pure, raw linseed oil to each gallon of paint.
Second coat: one pint of turpentine to each gallon of paint.
Third coat: the paint as it comes in the can.
The modern home contains a wide variety of surfaces faces which must be kept clean. In this multiple problem the common denominator still remains old-fashioned "elbow-grease"; but for almost every type of surface some cleaning agent or compound has been marketed as a ready help. The trouble is that these products sometimes contain chemicals which may either injure the texture of the surface treated or prove harmful to the user. In this latter category are preparations containing bichloride of mercury or cyanide of potassium.
Cleaning agents are divided roughly into the abrasives, such as steel wool, where the action is the simple physical one of scraping, and the solvents, which usually induce some type of chemical reaction. In this latter group are the various soaps and soap powders for laundering and dish-washing, and the dry cleaners for fabrics. In addition there are the waxes for hard-wood floors. It is in the solvents and floor waxes that the greatest danger lies; for the desire to produce something that will "do the work" more quickly and easily than a competitive preparation sometimes leads to the inclusion of chemicals whose frequent use may prove definitely harmful. As the formula of a preparation is not given on the label as a rule, it is difficult for the shopper to make her own selections. At the same time she has reassurance in the knowledge that a good soap is about as good as, and is safer than, most patented preparations for quick laundering, and that benzine, the basis of commercial dry cleaning, can be obtained easily for home use.
The department store, the "five-and-ten" stores and innumerable hardware stores and small shops carry an assortment of what might be called household hard-ware, that is, hammers, screw-drivers, saws, hatchets and other edged tools, door knobs, locks, hinges, drawer pulls, shelf brackets, nail boxes, picture hooks and wire, clothesline pulleys, clothes hooks, gimlets, braces, brads, screws, and nails all suitable for use by the householder without calling in the services of a carpenter or other mechanic.
Cast-Steel Tools : Of these articles the item of tools is, perhaps, the most important. Tools are graded according to the quality or toughness of the steel in their composition. The cheapest, poorest grades are of cast steel. This is a molded product which really is merely a finer grade of cast iron. The metal is very brittle and the tool, if an edged one such as a hatchet or a chisel, will soon become dull and of little value for cutting purposes, will readily chip or break if used for pounding or hammering, or will be twisted or chipped if a screw-driver. If a cast-steel product of this kind be finely finished it may be difficult to distinguish it from a butter quality of steel. If the shop-per is in doubt she is advised to compare it with a higher-priced article made for the same purpose but about the quality of which there can be little question. The cast-steel tool will be much the lighter in weight of the two. Don't buy a cast-steel tool. It is dear at any price.
Forged Tools: Under the head of forged steel comes a large group of tools which may be subdivided into die and drop-forged products. Of these the drop-forged are the better because the hammering process to which they are subjected welds or knits the molecules closer together, making a tougher product. Edged tools made of this kind of steel, if properly tempered, will retain their keen cutting qualities under hard usage and can be sharpened almost indefinitely; and the heads of pounding tools such as hammers will not chip, crack, or break. A great deal depends, of course, upon the quality of the steel used, and for this the shopper must depend upon the reputation of. the store or the firm making the tools.
Some idea of the latent virtues or the lack of them in a tool may be had from the finish and fittings. Take the matter of handles for hammers and hatchets. The best wood for this purpose is second-growth hickory, the next best is ash. The beautiful, close grains of these woods, particularly of hickory, are readily apparent when a comparison is made with handles made of other woods. Also, as a rule, hickory handles are not painted; whereas the cheaper grades of wooden handles are often disguised by being colored. There is, however, an exception to this rule in that one prominent and perfectly reliable firm paints even its best-grade handles.
Locks and Keys : Locks, door knobs, hinges, drawer pulls, cabinet fittings, weather strips, etc., are classed as builders' hardware. A highly important item here is that of locks. These are roughly divided into those that take a flat key; those that take a bit or round key, and the pin-tumbler lock. Locks that take either of the first two kinds of keys are the cheaper, but the shopper purchasing that type of lock is not buying much in the way of security. They are easily opened with the so-called skeleton key. Simple in construction, they are susceptible of but a limited number of variations in key changes, possibly not more than 1,000 all told.
The pin-tumbler lock, on the contrary, can be and is made in an unlimited number of key changes, no two locks being exactly alike, and there being no single key which will fit more than one lock, unless the locks have been made with a view to using a master key. The interior of a pin-tumbler lock is fitted with a varying number and arrangement of pins. The insertion of a key permits a cylinder to be turned, lining up these pins and unlocking the device; unless the key is absolutely accurate in shape and size to fit a particular lock, it will not do the work.
The strength and durability of a lock depend, of course, upon the material of which it is made and the workmanship expended upon it. Brass and bronze are the best in materials; they will not rust or corrode. Particularly does this apply to padlocks.
Hardware Metals: In connection with the metal content of all hardware it may be said that the higher the quality of the steel, when steel is used, the quicker the piece of hardware will rust or corrode.
Brass plating can be so well done that the layman cannot tell it from solid brass. If, however, the suspected product be scraped with a knife, the scraped part will show up lighter in color than brass, if it be plated ware, and a true brassy yellow if solid metal.
All plated ware is good only for so long as the plating lasts. When the outer coating or plating wears off the steel or iron underneath quickly rusts or corrodes.
Bronze is harder than brass but excepting for the differences in their appearance, one is as good as the other. No matter how much brass may tarnish it can always be restored to its original color and it will last for a lifetime.
Mail Boxes: In mail boxes, which are coming more and more into general use, a great deal depends upon the material of which they are made. Solid brass or copper is by far the best. Boxes made of other materials are likely to rust and leave ugly streaks on the wall or post to which they are attached. The screws with which the box is fastened in place should also be rustproof. Don't use steel screws with a brass or bronze box.
In galvanized ware, the secret of a good dependable product lies in the thickness throughout of the sheet of metal from which the. ware is made. Galvanized iron is measured by gauge, 20 gauge being heavy. The higher the gauge number the lighter the ware. One way in which the shopper can test the material in an ash or a garbage can is to pick it up and "heft" it.
Another thing to look for is what in the trade are known as "gyp" sheets of galvanized metal. These are odd, uneven, discarded lots which may be 20 gauge at one end and taper to 30 gauge at the other. See that the can or other receptacle is of an even thickness throughout.
In good galvanized cans the bottoms are heavier than the sides and the bottoms are "dished," that is, they slant or incline toward the center, permitting fluid matter or moisture to settle there rather than at the seamed edges or sides.
It is important, too, that in the process of manufacture the metal be "hot-dipped" after and not before the can has been made up. This insures that all edges, rivets, and holes have been immersed in hot spelter and thoroughly covered. If the galvanizing is done when the sheets are rolled out and then are made up, the edges, rivets, and holes will not, of course, have been galvanized and while the can may be sturdily built these ungalvanized places would be susceptible to rust. Ask if the can or receptacle has been "hot-dipped."
See that the covers of garbage cans fit snugly to shut off fumes and odors. Give preference to garbage cans with a locking device on the cover. A garbage can set out on the sidewalk or in a back yard may be upset by dogs.
All cans for use in an apartment house should be reėnforced with metal strips on the side and bottom, so that they will not wear out quickly if repeatedly dragged along the cellar floor or banged on the side of a truck when emptied.
A rimmed bottom for ash and garbage cans provides for free circulation of air, if the can be left standing, and so prevents rusting.
It is better to guess weight than to weigh inaccurately, yet there are many scales sold for household use, which either are inaccurate or will soon become so. To assure original accuracy, buy only such scales as carry the stamp of a federal or state board of weights and measures. To assure continuing accuracy, buy only the balance type of scales. The spring type, if well made of good material, may function accurately for an indefinite time; but there is no telling when a weak spot will develop in one or another coil of the spring, throwing off the expected registration on the dial.
Color has come into the bathroom as it has into the kitchen. Blue, lavender, green, yellow, and red, often in pastel shades, may be repeated in many of the fixtures, stools, shower curtains and other appliances that once were to be had only in plain white. The shopper should bear in mind, however, that a great number of manufacturers are making bathroom accessories, and that each manufacturer has his own conceptions of color. Hence the fitting out of a bathroom with things which either match or harmonize, requires foresight and, perhaps, considerable shopping.
In no item has the change in "styles" in these appurtenances been so marked as in shower curtains. The extent to which the shopper's interest runs in these may be appreciated from the fact that 30 per cent of the total sales of bathroom appliances of the largest department store in New York City are of shower curtains. The curtains come in colors in the more desirable fabrics, such as silk, cretonne, satin, and moire; in flowered, striped, or solid hues with a great diversity of designs and patterns.
They may be broadly divided into the rubberized and the oiled silk, according to the waterproofing, the latter being on the average about twice as expensive as the former. In buying the rubberized article the shopper is advised to demand a year's guarantee of serviceable wear. One reason for this is that a rubberized curtain costing five dollars will look to the average shopper pretty much the same in many essentials as a two-dollar curtain. The layer of sheet rubber on these curtains is simply attached to the fabric and much depends upon the manner in which this is done and upon the quality of the rubber material constituent, matters which are beyond the ken of any one in a cursory examination. If an inferior quality of rubber or a cheap fabric has been used, the life of the curtain will be short. Toward the close of 1928 there was introduced to the New York market a rubberized curtain which Is produced by a "heater-cured" process. This curtain is guaranteed washable; and it is further claimed that it will not cling and that it can be ironed with a lukewarm iron.
The oiled silk curtain is generally considered the best curtain on the market. The silk frabric in such a curtain has been impregnated with rubber and oil. The waterproofing contents are inseparable from the silk, have, in fact, become part of it, and for this reason the waterproofing is certain to last as long as the curtain itself. This is another instance in which the increased cost of an article pays for itself in service and in satisfaction growing out of the possession of a beautiful, superior household fitting.
Whatever the type of curtain selected, make sure that it is an honest cut, the standard size being 70 x 70 inches.
It is not the purpose of this book to advocate styles or fashions, but it may be said of bathrooms that if the shopper be of the old school with ultra-conservative tastes she will, perhaps, incline toward nickel plate on brass fittings; if up to date she will, very likely, select chromium plate or chinaware; if she wants a comparatively low-priced and at the same time a serviceable fitting, she will buy porcelain on iron.
Nickel plate on brass has long been standard for bathroom fittings. Its disadvantages are that it does tarnish and that where the plate eventually wears through, the yellow brass is exposed. Also, the shop-per should remember that there are on the market inferior fittings which resemble nickel on brass and which thus make it advisable to deal only with a store of excellent reputation in buying any nickel-plated ware.
Best known to the public through its use for the radiator and lamp fittings of the better grade auto-mobiles, chromium plate is fast establishing itself in the field of bathroom accessories. This metal makes a fine appearance; it neither rusts nor tarnishes, and it is easy to keep clean.
Chinaware offsets its liability to break or chip with the advantages of inherent beauty and of cleanliness. Here there is no surface plating to wear off through use, and the life of this type of bathroom fitting is thus entirely dependent upon its protection from breakage.
Porcelain on iron is the least expensive type of fitting. It will withstand hard usage and may survive being dropped on the floor; but if it should chip the exposed iron will soon rust, destroying any beauty in the piece.
It is well to remember that accessibility for cleaning is a prime consideration in all bathroom fixtures and fittings.