An all-around kitchen workhorse. Wipe a vinegar-soaked towel over your greasy stove-top to clear away any residue. One TDM editor always uses 1 part white vinegar to 16 parts warm water when mopping her floors. Run out of descaling powder and need to clean your coffee or espresso maker? Use ¼ cup white vinegar with 4 cups of water and run it partway through your machine. Let it sit overnight, then run the remaining liquid all the way through. Rinse the machine by running four cups of water through, and then repeat a second time.
Many cooks stash a box of baking soda in their fridge to keep away odors. But to use it in lieu of a Brillo pad on baked-on grime? Yes. Make a paste with 3 parts baking soda to about 1 part water and use it to remove stubborn stains on pots and pans.
Have a slow drain in your bathroom? Pour a ¼ cup baking soda down your drain, then follow with a minute of running hot water. Do this weekly to keep clogs at bay.
Many have heard about gargling with salt water to help fight a sore throat. But, when used to cover fresh red wine stains, salt is an effective stain-fighter around the house, too.
Did you over-do it when loading your dishwasher — or washing machine — with detergent in a post-entertaining blur? Salt will help. Simply sprinkle salt on the suds to watch them instantly retreat.
Salt can also be used to help remove coffee and tea stains from the inside of mugs – make a paste with equal parts salt and water and scrub away. But, please, save your gourmet salts for cooking.
A disinfectant and all-purpose cleaner in your liquor cabinet? Yup. Straight vodka, like rubbing alcohol, makes an excellent disinfectant for cleaning, when you’re in a pinch, and the higher the proof, the better.
Aside from using vodka in a cocktail, try wiping down wooden bowls or cutting boards with vodka for an alternative to soap and water (as long as you’re not cutting raw protein on them). In the bathroom, or around the kitchen, vodka helps remove fingerprints and grime from chrome faucet fixtures. Simply pour some on a damp towel and rub away.
Run out of glass cleaner? A diluted solution of one part vodka to one part water will remove any greasy fingerprints from glass surfaces and mirrors.
One of the more unlikely cleaning agent candidates in the pantry, ketchup is very effective in removing tarnish from your beloved copper pots (try with a penny and see for yourself). Simply rub your copper pot with ketchup and let it sit for about 15 minutes. When the time is up, rinse the pot well with soap and water. The acid in the ketchup binds with copper oxide tarnish, leaving you with a shiny surface once it is washed away. One caveat: Don’t do this daily, as each ketchup-polishing removes a little bit of copper each time.
The high acidity of lemon juice makes lemons a useful fruit to keep around the kitchen.
Rub your cutting boards with one half of a lemon to remove any lingering stains or smells; if you let the board sit for a 10 minutes after rubbing, it will also help disinfect it, too (note: the lemon will slightly bleach the wood, so only use this technique on your heavy duty boards, not your decorative cheese boards).
Ever store tomato sauce in a plastic Tupperware container, only to find it left a red ring around the sides? A lemon can fix that. Just rub half a lemon directly on the container and scrub until the stain disappears.
Cornmeal is not just for making cornbread or polenta.
Cornmeal is also effective in soaking up oil slicks on clothing – the absorbent quality of the cornmeal helps draw out the oil from the fabric. Just cover the stain with cornmeal, rub it around a bit, and then brush it away. You can repeat, if necessary, for larger stains.
Most interesting of all, you have an ant problem, grab the cornmeal. Place little piles of it around the areas where you see ants entering your kitchen. How will this work, you ask? Ants like food and water. They will take the cornmeal back to the nest, where it is eaten. Once the ant drinks water, the cornmeal expands... And so does the ant.