Powerful cleaning supplies are available on the market to clean up the worst spills, but sometimes the least expensive and damaging to the environment are right at our fingertips. Vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, and salt are all you need for most cleaning projects, and they have less risk of provoking allergies and asthma.

Following are some suggestions as to how to use these items, but keep in mind that even though they are natural and relatively safe, they can cause damage. It’s a good idea to test a small area before proceeding any further. For example, vinegar can damage marble and lemon juice is a natural bleaching agent and can take the color out of items you don’t want whitened.

Vinegar

Vinegar is one of the best products to use as an all-purpose cleaner. It is a natural disinfectant and deodorizer so is quite effective for home cleaning. Mix equal parts of water and vinegar together in a spray bottle and it will be ready at any time. Just use it with caution on tile grout because it can eat away at it.

Use your vinegar solution to:

  • Clean bathroom toilets, sinks, and counter tops (except marble)
  • Dissolve soap scum and hard water stains on fixtures
  • Shine kitchen appliances and countertops
  • Remove mold. Spray the solution on the moldy area, wait for 15 minutes, and rinse.

Vinegar can also be used to:

  • Mop floors (except marble). Pour ¼ cup of vinegar into a bucket of warm water.
  • Clean and disinfect cutting boards
  • Soften clothes. Add ½ cup vinegar to the rinse cycle in your washing machine
  • Clean the washing machine. Wash an empty load without soap, only vinegar.
  • Remove water deposits from the coffee maker. Pour equal parts of vinegar and water into the coffee maker and brew. Run several cycles of clean water to remove any taste of vinegar.
  • Disinfect the dishwasher. Pour ½ cup vinegar in a bowl and set it in the bottom rack. Run an empty cycle.
  • Sparkle glassware. Soak glassware in a pan of water and some vinegar.
  • Clear mineral deposits from a steam iron. Pour equal parts of vinegar and water into the iron and steam until empty. Turn off the iron, allow it to cool, and fill with clear water and steam until empty.
  • Clean windows.  Mix ¼ cup vinegar into two cups of water. Spray windows and wipe clean with newspaper.

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is similar to vinegar in its usage. It can dissolve soap scum and water deposits. Lemon juice is a natural bleach which is wonderful for brightening surfaces but use with caution in areas you do not want whitened.

  • Rub lemon juice on hands to remove odors from raw fish and other foods like garlic.
  • Make a paste mixing lemon juice and baking soda to clean brass and copper.
  • Cut a lemon in half and sprinkle baking soda on it to use to scrub dishes and counter tops.
  • Make furniture polish by mixing one cup of olive oil with ½ cup lemon juice.
  • Dispose of citrus fruit peels in the garbage disposal to freshen the drain.
  • Whiten laundry. To brighten whites add 1/2 cup lemon juice to the rinse cycle.

Baking Soda

Baking soda can be used as a non-abrasive cleanser to scrub away stains. Or you can dilute and soak items in baking soda and water to clean and brighten.

  • Clean stove burner grates. Soak grates in a dish pan of warm water and ½ cup of baking soda for 30 minutes.
  • Remove stains from teacups and coffee mugs. Soak in a mixture of two parts water and one part baking soda. Rub and rinse.
  • Deodorize your refrigerator, trash cans, or laundry room by leaving an open box of baking soda in them.
  • Deodorize upholstery. Sprinkle on upholstered furniture to remove odors, wait about 15 minutes, and then vacuum.

Salt

Salt is an abrasive solution and great for scouring stains. Any type of salt works, although the larger the grind, the more abrasive.

Use salt to

  • Polish copper and silver.
  • Remove stains from glassware
  • Absorb grease from cookware. Sprinkle, scrub and rinse. Do not use on non-stick cookware.
  • Clean oven spills. Pour salt on the spill when it’s hot. Cool and wipe with a damp sponge.

(See the post, “Blue’s too Cool for Me,” for more suggestions on stain removal.)

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

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