Lemon, Baking Soda, and Vinegar, Oh My!

Many people want to be resource-conscious and environmentally friendly these days, and even though home economics may seem like a lost art, there are a lot of clever ways to use common household substances as home cleaning agents, so that you don’t have to go out and spend money to bring potentially harmful chemicals into your house cleaning routine. These substances range from ketchup to Ivory soap to club soda, but probably the three most common and versatile are vinegar, lemon (mostly the juice, but also the rind), and baking soda.

Vinegar: Almost More Useful for Cleaning than Cooking

Vinegar, in particular white wine vinegar, can be used to remove build up. Since it is “a (non-toxic) acid and mild disinfectant,” it makes an excellent all-purpose cleaner. It works at full strength against mold or mildew. Half a cup diluted with two cups of water in a coffee pot can be run through the whole machine to clean it, and vinegar alone can be applied to coffee stains on cups. Mixing two teaspoons of white vinegar with one quart of warm water produces a good window cleaning solution. Mixed with an equal part hot water, it can be applied to remove old wallpaper. Applied in small dabs to a sponge, the same can be done to remove stickers on walls. Simmering vinegar on the stove while cooking reduces lingering odors. Combined with water in a spray bottle, white vinegar is effective against carpet stains; simply spray directly, let sit, and then clean with a sponge and warm water. Four tablespoons of vinegar, combined with two teaspoons of borax and three cups of hot water, produces a disinfectant solution which can be applied with a damp cloth or through a spray bottle. Vinegar also repels ants.

Lemon: If You Weren’t Handed Any, Go Get Some

Lemon juice is a natural bleach and deodorant, with a pleasant scent. Apply it to an old toothbrush to remove grout. Combined with salt it effectively cleans metal grills. It can be applied to hard water stains in the shower. Adding it to laundry brightens clothing, although it should not be used with silks. Mix the juice with three-quarters of a cup of water, heat it in the microwave for two minutes, and then let it sit there about ten minutes to disinfect it, then wipe down the inside of the microwave with a damp cloth. Finally, wipe thoroughly with a damp cloth when you are done. Half a lemon with baking soda coating its pulp can be a cleaning sponge with pre-loaded detergent.

Baking Soda: Arm Yourself with This Cleaning Hammer

Baking soda also can be mixed with vinegar and water into a general cleaning agent, which is useful against water deposit stains on shower stalls, bathroom chrome fixtures, windows, and mirrors. Combined with vinegar it can be used to unclog drains — simply flush with hot water. It works well on surfaces that should not be scratched but instead scoured, such as the stove top or refrigerator. Three-fourths of a cup of baking soda combined with a quarter cup each salt and water into a thick paste that can be used to clean the inside of an oven. Ink and other stain spots can be removed with baking soda.

Plenty of other common household substances besides these three can be used for eco-friendly house cleaning. Toothpaste can be used to remove water rings from wooden tables or counters, for instance. But generally, these three common household substances are remarkably versatile, handling most of your cleaning chores.

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