I’ve noticed of late that in my house we probably get through a swimming pool’s worth of milk in a week. That’ll be the thirsty, water-phobic, growing children and their play dates who seem able to smell a well-stocked fridge from the front gate; two (normally fairly restrained) adults who have developed an insatiable appetite for muesli cereal cocktails (“…bet we could do a kilo if we went slowly”); the occasional mega batch of béchamel… ahem cheese sauce for various suppers; and a pretty steady flow of tea and coffee from dawn to dusk. It’s a domestic blip of the highest order if we are found without the white stuff in the fridge.

Quietly pushing the boundaries of our dependency, I’ve BOGOF’d to see what other clever things milk can do. Be enlightened, and, depending on how exciting your day pans out more generally, you may even find yourself amazed.

The spoon trick:  


Sour milk or milk with a glug of vinegar added is reportedly rather good at removing tarnish from silverware. Soak your dull-looking cutlery for at least 30 minutes (even overnight if they’re in a bad way like mine), sponge clean in soapy water and rinse for a beautiful shine. With a heavy heart I tested some spoons bestowed to me by my maternal Grandma that I’ve treated badly (…the dishwasher made me do it) but remarkably they have come up lovely with a long soak. You can of course use the same method for giving your jewellery a blinding sparkle.

Gardener’s hands:  


For my next trick – and this one is really excellent – mix a paste of porridge oats and milk to de-grub, cleanse and exfoliate gardener’s hands. Wet hands in warm water, and then rub the paste all over just as you would following a hospital’s soap dispenser guide to hand washing. The oats clear all traces of soil and the oatmeal and milk moisturise your hands back to soft, pink, silky paws.

As if an interest in cleaning my silver and gardener’s hand care didn’t age me enough, this next milk skill really confirms that I’m on the right path for picking up my bus pass…

Cracked china:

I’ve a sweet Minton China tea set I inherited some years ago, but during our last move one of the cups got bashed and has a hairline crack. In my pursuit of milk gimmicks I’ve tried this out: place the damaged china in a pan and cover with milk, heat very gently for an hour, then allow to cool in the milk and then rinse. If the crack wasn’t too far gone it reseals… magic!

Milk is also surprisingly entertaining. This simple experiment will delight and amuse the small ones as well as the old ones. All you need is some milk, a shallow dish, some food colouring, and some Fairy liquid.

And if your milk consumption is as high as ours, you could support a milk bottle igloo project at your local school.


It might not be quite as pretty as this one by Simone Spicer, but here’s the idea. Start now in time for winter; now that’s grown up and organised.

Milk photography: Ruth Howes

Milk bottle igloo image: courtesy of Simone Spicer