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Say no to harsh chemicals and yes to all-natural sprays and solvents. Baking soda, lemon juice, white vinegar and a couple other common household items are all you need to save money on store-bought cleaners and concoct your own solutions at home. Follow these tips to ensure your winter, summer, fall or spring cleaning stays natural.
To clean an oven, first make a paste of 1 cup baking soda and water. Slather the mixture over months-, years- or even decades-old grime and gunk and let sit for 30 to 45 minutes. Then scrub with a scouring pad. For dirt that won’t give, trade in your scouring pad for a bread knife. Owners of self-cleaning ovens, check your manufacturer’s booklet before using this hack.
Wipe away accumulated window dust or dirt using a mixture of 1 quart warm water and your choice of white distilled vinegar, apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. If using vinegar, add a quarter cup to the warm water. If using lemon juice, add just 2 tablespoons. Pro tip: clean with a squeegee. Not just a fun tool to use and word to say, squeegees are also most effective at removing residue.
Dissolve 4 tablespoons of baking soda, into 1 quart of warm water. This all-purpose solution will clean and deodorize most surfaces but will not sanitize. Not sanitizing is a common household mistake you should correct before you get sick.
Store-bought disinfectants may contain irritative ingredients like sodium hydroxide, sodium hypochlorite and phosphoric acid. Instead, try a home-made substitutes with borax. To battle bacteria, mox together 2 teaspoons borax, 4 tablespoons vinegar and 3 cups of hot water. And don’t forget to wash your hands before and after use.
Every parent should treasure their child’s artwork, preferably hung from a wall, not drawn on it. Sprinkle baking soda on a damp sponge and like magic turn it into an eraser. Scrub stains or scuffs, ink, crayon or pencil off painted walls.
For off-the-wall stains, turn to that bar cart must-have and trusty stain-remover: club soda. Use it alone or, in more heavy-duty cleaning circumstances, mixed with baking soda.
Nothing aggravates quite like stained Tupperware. To get rid of any leftover odor and that pesky orange tint, wash your plastics with hot water and baking soda. Dust with 2 or 3 more tablespoons of dry baking soda or cover stains in a sodium bicarbonate and water paste. Let stand for an hour, then wash. Water and baking soda paste also removes coffee and tea stains from mugs.
Leave pans with crusted on residue to soak in baking soda. After five minutes, scrub the pan and rinse. However, to care for your cast-iron pan, wipe residue off with a paper towel, run under hot water and scrub with a steel chain-mail cloth.
To eliminate mold, mildew and other hidden sources of bacteria in your home, mix lemon juice or white vinegar with salt, apply and scrub. Baking soda, borax and white vinegar can all similarly be used to scrub mold and mildew. However, hire a home inspector or professional if you suspect a more extreme case of mold.
To make your toilet shine, shake some baking soda into the bowl and scrub with a brush. Repeat with borax, allowing 30 minutes for the acid to sit before scrubbing. Then pour in either one can of cola or 1000 mg of vitamin C. Allow the cola a few minutes to sit, or the vitamin C a whole night, then flush. While in the bathroom, grab two easy-to-forget items in need of a good clean: the bath mat and shower curtain.
Laundry detergents may contain harmful chemical fragrances, synthetic whiteners and bleaches that may irritate skin. You can create laundry necessities at home. Make a whitener out of borax and washing soda, a stain remover out of borax and cold water, and laundry starch out of cornstarch and black tea.
Sinks, tubs, drains and disposals are some of the dirtiest places in your home. To properly clear a drain, pour half a cup of baking soda, then half a cup of vinegar. Allow three to five minutes for the drain to bubble before pouring a quart of boiling water down. Repeat the previous steps should the sink remain clogged.
Concerns over increased indoor pollution and potential health risks are reason enough to ditch artificial air fresheners. To mask and dilute odors, pull out a pot and turn on the stove. Simmer water, cinnamon and other spices that suit your scent preferences. Open containers of baking soda absorb odors too.
Replace varnishes and other chemical polishes with natural oils. For unvarnished wood use olive, peanut, almond or walnut oil. For furniture, shake together 1 cup of your chosen oil with half a cup of water or lemon juice, pour onto a soft rag and apply on furniture. Dry with another cloth. Remember, beware of potential allergic reactions when using oils derived from nuts.
Fun food fact: banana peels are chock full of beneficial ingredients too useful to throw away, so repurpose the peels. The banana’s potassium serves as a natural cleaner and polish for leather or metal. A banana peel rub may also shine houseplants and fix hiccups on scratched DVDs or CDs.
Mix 1 quart water, a crushed garlic clove, minced onion and a tablespoon of cayenne pepper together for a natural pesticide. Let the mixture sit for an hour before straining and adding a tablespoon of liquid laundry detergent. Pour into a spray bottle and spray the bugs away. Additionally, cream of tartar, paprika, red chili powder and dried peppermint are best for ants, and other essential oils (think rosemary, cedarwood or citronella) are best for garden pests.
Pour a combination of 1 cup cornmeal and 1 cup borax onto a dirty carpet an hour before vacuuming. Let sit as the 60 minutes pass, then vacuum up the excess mess. For heavy stains, mix equal parts borax, salt and vinegar, scrub and let sit for hours before vacuuming.
Looking for a way to be more sustainable? Adopt sustainable food practices and reuse as much food packaging as you can. Start by removing price stickers or labels from glass or plastic packaging and reusing the cleaned containers. Saturate the sticky labels with vegetable or baby oil, then scrub off with a cloth or scraper. Put the good-as-new containers to use as holders for all your new natural cleaners. Label each to avoid confusion.
Dip a cloth in white vinegar and wipe across stainless steel appliances. While at it, make sure everything in the fridge is still good and all surfaces are clean.
Rub rust stains with lemon juice and salt to lessen their appearance. Luckily for cleaners in a pinch, kosher and sea salt never go bad. Put that year-old salt shaker to use. Salt is one of many foods with a surprisingly long shelf life.
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