A Surprising 18th Century Colonial Williamsburg Cleaning Solution that Really Works!

As a bed and breakfast, we are experts in keeping our rooms hotel clean. Recently, we came across an 18th century recipe for a cleaning solution that was surprisingly familiar! We were shocked to learn the origins of this popular modern cleaning solution.

If you’ve been keeping up with modern housekeeping blogs, you’ll know that vinegar cleaning solutions have gained in popularity over the past few years. You’ll find thousands of articles out there about making your own vinegar cleaning solutions at home, rather than using store bought alternatives. Many choose this because vinegar is safe and non-toxic, in addition to being inexpensive and effective.

However, it turns out that vinegar cleaning solutions are not new. According to 18th century housekeeping journals, these solutions were used in Colonial Williamsburg, too! Housekeepers would layer herbs, such as sage, thyme, and rosemary, into the bottom of glass bottles and then fill them with apple cider vinegar. The bottles would then be left to sit for 6 months as the herb scent fully infused the vinegar. This ensured a clean home, without the lingering smell of pickles.

This may seem pretty old, however, the practice of cleaning with vinegar goes back even further than that! According to tradition, cleaning with vinegar can be traced back to France during the Bubonic plague. Referred to as “Four-Thieves Vinegar”, it was said that grave robbers at the time were able to avoid contracting the disease by cleaning with vinegar. Today, we know that vinegar does effectively kill many bacteria and viruses, so these claims could very well be true!

In honor of both our historic roots and our love of vinegar cleaning solutions, we decided to post our favorite recipe for homemade, herb-infused cleaning solution. It’s a modern take on a well loved classic recipe from the pages of 18th century Colonial housekeeping recipe book. You’re going to love it!


kitchen counter with two brown spray bottles and a cleaning scrubberColonial Williamsburg Inspired Infused Vinegar Cleaning Solution for the Modern Home


  • 1 Part distilled, white vinegar
  • 1 Part Vodka
  • 1 – 2 cups of herbs of your choice. You can choose from Sage, Rosemary, or Thyme if you want to stay authentic to the original recipe
  • A glass container
  • Essential oils of your choice
  • A plastic or glass spray bottle

The first step is to infuse the vinegar with the herbs. Add your herbs into your glass container. Pour in the one part vinegar to one part vodka solution until the container is full, being sure that the herbs are fully submerged in the solution. Add in the essential oils. Put the lid on and shake to combine. While the original 18th century recipe requires that you wait 6 months, we find that this amount of time really is not necessary. Allow to sit for 2 weeks to infuse.

Once the 2 weeks is up, strain the herbs out and pour your infused cleaning solution into your spray bottle. And that’s it! You’re ready to get to cleaning!



If you’re tired of cleaning and need a place to getaway, Williamsburg, Virginia is the perfect spot. With great food, cocktails, attractions, and music, you won’t be disappointed! And if you’re looking for a place to stay, check out Colonial Gardens Bed and Breakfast! We have a gourmet breakfast menu and pleasant accommodations in the heart of Williamsburg, Virginia. (And we do all the cleaning for you so you can relax!)

Click here to see our inn for yourself and check our summer availability!


Do you think you’ll try out this historic cleaning solution?


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