Simple solutions for everyday clean
When it comes to housework, I guess you could call me an “accidental” environmentalist. My daughter has chemical sensitivities and my husband, who is gluten intolerant, prefers all-natural products. This, coupled with the fact that I used to write a household advice column for Family Circle magazine, transformed me into a greener cleaner.
Today I use baking soda and distilled white vinegar for almost every cleaning chore in my home. Turns out, these two ordinary pantry products are extra-ordinary for scrubbing and sanitizing. Not only are they natural, allergy-friendly and safe for you and the environment—they’re nontoxic, biodegradable and contain no harmful fumes or chemicals—they’re amazingly inexpensive. But best of all, they actually work.
I buy super-size portions of baking soda and vinegar from discount retailers. I pour the vinegar into spray bottles and put the baking soda into shaker dispensers (like my mother’s antique cut-glass cheese shaker), and tuck them away under every sink.
Here are some ways that I use baking soda:
Scrub the sink
Baking soda is a mildly abrasive cleaner, effective for scouring sinks and countertops.
Wash a scorched pot
Remove burnt-on crud by sprinkling a generous amount of baking soda into the pan. Add water and gently heat. Let pot sit for several hours to loosen debris before scrubbing.
Sprinkle baking soda on a sponge and wipe fruit and veggies under running water.
Wipe the microwave
Place ¼ cup baking soda and 1 cup water in a glass container, stirring to combine. Heat mixture in the microwave to steam up the inside. Then wipe the oven down.
Freshen a teapot
Dissolve mineral build-up in your kettle by adding ¼ cup baking soda to 2 cups water (or more). Bring mixture to boil and let sit overnight. Rinse well.
A mist of distilled white vinegar, full strength, sanitizes the bathroom sink and fixtures, as well as the surface of the toilet lid and rim. It’s also helpful in these instances:
Spruce up a coffee machine
Run a cup of just vinegar through a cycle and pour it out. Then run a pot of clear water, twice, through the brewing cycle. Your coffee maker will be sweet-smelling once again.
Clear a drain
To loosen up a slow drain, run the tap water until it’s hot and turn it off. Pour 1 cup baking soda down the drain, followed by 1 cup vinegar. Wait until the bubbles subside and then rinse the drain clean for a minute or two with hot water. You may need to repeat this process a few times to get the drain going. Doing this monthly is good maintenance that staves off the need for toxic drain cleaners.
Add ½ cup vinegar to the last rinse cycle of your washing machine instead of fabric softener. Vinegar removes soap residue from clothes and keeps the machine clean.
Neutralize pet accidents
Blot the urine off your carpet and wet the area with a solution of vinegar and water. Dab the rug until it’s no longer wet and dust it with baking soda. Vacuum carpet when dry.
Another common household item I recommend for cleaning is rubbing alcohol. It’s a disinfectant that’s particularly good at removing hairspray residue from surfaces. For extra shine on bathroom fixtures, spray it on a tissue or soft cloth and polish away.
Vicki Lansky is author of several books on household tips. She lives in Minnetonka, Minnesota.