Six D.I.Y. Tips For Cleaning Greenly And Cheaply

Harsh chemicals aren’t just bad for you and the environment, they’re bad for your wallet too. Cleaning most things, from clothes to your kitchen, can be done greenly and cheaply with these six nifty do-it-yourself cleaning recipes from Consumer Reports…

1. Air Fresheners: Mix 1 tablespoon baking soda and 1 tablespoon vinegar with 2 cups of hot water. Pour into a spritzer and follow the dog.

2. Detergent Enhancers: Add 1/2 cup baking or washing soda to your detergent mix. It’ll reduce the amount of detergent you need and add minerals that soften water. For liquid detergent, add the 1/2 cup at the start of the wash. For powdered detergent, add it at the start of the rinse cycle.

3. Super Cleaners: Add 3 tablespoons of vinegar to a quart of water and spray the mix onto your dirty windows. To reduce streaks, put down your paper towels and wipe the windows with newspaper.

4. Stain Removers: Try cream of tartar. Yes, cream of tartar. The bleach alternative removes spots from aluminum cookware and kills germs. You should be able to find it in supermarkets and drug stores, if it’s not already on your shelf.

5. Grease Dissolvers: Scrub your countertops with a baking soda and liquid soap mix, but don’t make more than you need because the mix will quickly solidify. For greasy ovens, mix 1 cup of baking soda with a 1/4 cup washing soda and add water until you get a paste. Apply it to the oven and let it seep in overnight.

6. Borax To The Bathroom! Make an excellent all-around borax bathroom sanitizer by adding 2 teaspoons of borax and 4 tablespoons of vinegar to 3 or 4 cups of water. For toilets, pour 1 cup of borax into the bowl before you go to sleep and scrub and flush in the morning.

What do-it-yourself mixes do you use around the house? Share your recipes in the comments.

7 ways to green clean-and cut costs
(Photo: ?Sage… here and away)

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  1. b612markt says:

    I heard from Julie Andrews that soy sauce is pretty good at removing stains.

  2. wellfleet says:

    We get a brief ant problem in early to mid summer and I was always afraid my animals would get into the ant traps and get sick. I googled natural ant traps and many people suggested using plain powdered cinnamon. I sprinkled it by all window ledges and doors, and no ants! Apparently it irritates their little ant feet…

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      @wellfleet: Essential oil of peppermint works well, too. It needn’t be the expensive kind in little bottles. You can find 4-ounce bottles inexpensively if you search for a few minutes online. I HATE ants, but this has always worked for me.

      I sort of miss that arsenic/sugar paint, though. Nothing like killing the little bastards. They no longer sell it, and I have cats now, so it’s just as well.

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      @wellfleet: I’ve heard cloves work too.

      • missdona says:

        Also, ants wont cross a chalk line.

        We had the dog’s bowls outside during the summer and the ants kept invading, I took my niece’s sidewalk chalk and drew a circle around the bowls. The ants would walk right up to the line and turn around. It’s the weirdest thing.

        • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

          @missdona: Some bugs have problems with talc and fuller’s earth and things like that because the crystals are so rough (if you’re bug-sized) that it literally tears the bug apart. Maybe that’s the ants’ issue with chalk?

          I’m so trying the chalk thing this summer.

          • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

            @Eyebrows McGee: It seems to be the reason why we used to use boric acid to kill roaches. Someone told me it cuts the chitin shell and the bugs dry up. Not sure it that’s true, but it appears to work like the powders do for ants.

        • TeraGram says:

          @missdona: I’m sorry but it’s only mildly true. Ants will cross a chalk line if they’re motivated enough, and it doesn’t really take a lot to motivate ants, not even teeny tiny little black ants. Great big carpenter ants and fire ants couldn’t care less about chalk.

    • ElleDriver says:

      @wellfleet: I had a horrific ant problem a few years ago. Peppermint definitely does work, but I would avoid using essential oil peppermint, as it may be harmful if ingested. If you’re leaving that stuff on the floors, your pets may inadvertently lick some of it.

      As I mentioned in another post, I absolutely swear by Dr. Bronners peppermint soap – all natural and very safe. Try to find a bottle and mop down your floors with it. It won’t kill the ants, but they’ll avoid the areas wherever you mop.

      If you want a less-natural approach, Ivory soap (the original formula) combined with Windex will definitely kill the ants. They abhor the soap, and the Windex will actually melt their exoskeletons. I sprayed this in the cracks where the ants were coming in and out of. (But again, avoid areas easily accessed by pets.)

  3. Onion_Volcano says:

    Put a mug of fresh ground coffee in the fridge to soak up all the stink.

  4. cynical_bastard says:
  5. wenhaver says:

    Wait, don’t baking soda and vinegar explode when mixed, a la the volcano experiment?

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      @wenhaver: They foam. You need kind-of a lot of them to get any good reaction.

      But it’s a great way to clear minor slow drains and to freshen your sinks (esp. the disposal sink) — dump in a bunch of baking soda, chase with a bunch of vinegar, watch cool volcano action.

  6. richcreamerybutter says:

    I use baking soda and vinegar first for slow drains. It usually does the trick.

  7. Lyndsay Peters says:

    If you have stainless steel appliances, there is no need to buy stainless steel “protectorants” to keep fingerprints off. After washing the appliance, rub some olive oil on the steel surfaces. Gently wipe off the excess, and repeat this every few days or as needed. This keeps grubby fingerprints off of your fridge and other stainless steel kitchen friends!

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      @Lyndsay Peters: Vegetable oils leave a sticky film after a while, especially on appliances that are heated. If you’re going to scrub your appliances with something every few days, it might as well be with something that actually cleans them.

      • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

        @speedwell, avatar of snark: Microfiber cloths are pretty magic on stainless steel, I’ve found.

        • perruptor says:

          @Eyebrows McGee: Microfiber cloths are great for cleaning glass, mirrors and porcelain, too, using just water. The best place I’ve found to get them is BJ’s Wholesale. In the auto section, they sell 40 one-foot squares for about $15. The cheapest I’ve seen them elsewhere is about a buck each. Since they’re washable, 40 is a lifetime supply.

    • teh says:

      @Lyndsay Peters: Olive oil does go rancid. If you’re cleaning it every few day, you should be fine, but you’re much better off using something like mineral oil.

  8. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Does anyone know an inexpensive, effective, natural method for getting rid of cat urine stink (that does not involve getting rid of cats or doing bad things to them)? I love my kitties, but face it, they’re animals and they do animal things like get overexcited when they see outside cats through the window by the front door.

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      @speedwell, avatar of snark: Vinegar! See below.

      If they’ve peed on something you can machine wash, machine wash it with 1 cup white vinegar, then rewash with a normal load in detergent. If you can remove and wash (like a throw rug), a vinegar soak in the bathtub followed by thorough rinsing will usually do the trick.

      If it’s a large cushion or a permanent carpet or (god forbid) a mattress, SATURATE the area with vinegar, wait 30 seconds, and blot like crazy (wear shoes, step on it on an old towel). Blot up as much as you can, then saturate with quite a bit of water and repeat the blotting. You may do the water trick a couple times. It may take a day or so for the vinegar smell to evaporate.

      If the urine soaks through to your carpet pad or subflooring, you’re kinda screwed. There’s not much that can be done. But if you’re quick at the stains, they’re pretty easy to treat with vinegar.

      If there’s lingering odor, try any of the various “pet odor” carpet cleaners. Or rent a Rug Doctor or hire Stanley Steemer to come steam that area … they have enzymatic pet odor things. But if it’s in the padding or subflooring, this will only reduce but not eliminate the odor.

      We also tended to sun-dry things that had been peed on when it was possible, because the sun is the most effective germ-and-odor killer. But that’s not necessary. (We’d throw them over our yew bushes to dry since we don’t have a clothesline and everything would smell like sunshine AND pine fresh! Our neighbors thought we were weird.)

      We had a diabetic cat with serious bladder problems (he died in the fall), so I got a LOT of urine-stain-cleaning practice. There’s one patch of carpet I just have to tear out, though, despite my best efforts.

      • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

        @Eyebrows McGee: Awesome, thank you.

      • gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

        @Eyebrows McGee: we had a large oriental rug cleaned for pet stains, and they used ultraviolet light, because it was supposed to help break down the stain (i think in conjunction with an enzyme cleaner)

        side note: i had a friend who had a diabetic cat, said friend was a (human) diabetes educator, so she would check her cat’s blood sugar and give the cat insulin. cat is still alive after 5+ years of diabetes

        • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

          @Gstein: UV light helps you SEE the stains because it reacts with chemicals in the biological fluid.

          Going to a cheap hotel soon? You can check to see if the sheets are clean by taking along a pocket UV LED flashlight.

  9. Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

    Vinegar in your washing machine will remove tons and tons of odors (and, no, the vinegar odor doesn’t stay on the clothes … they usually come out of the wash without any lingering vinegar odor from the work of the rinse cycle, but line or dryer drying removes any of the rest).

    Vinegar is particularly excellent at removing urine odor — for those of you with peeing babies and/or pets. (You can also use it to directly clean a urine stain on carpet.) I usually wash whatever’s been peed on in a normal wash cycle with 1 cup of vinegar, make sure it got the pee, then wash it again (typically in a full load of whatever I’m washing) with normal detergent. You can add vinegar to a normal detergent wash cycle, too. (But we had a diabetic cat with a serious bladder problem so I was a little overzealous with the washing. If it’s just a baby who’s leaked, it goes in with normal detergent and some vinegar all at once.)

    Allegedly vinegar in your darks load (with regular detergent) will help keep them darker longer. I did this religiously with my black jeans in high school, but I can’t say for sure if this works or not — never did a controlled test. :)

  10. Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

    I was just researching this a.m. and learned I can put vinegar in my “rinse aid” spot in my dishwasher — we have very hard water, lots of spots. Much cheaper than the “jet dry” type stuff. Since I haven’t tried it yet, I can just HOPE it works, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t.

    For those of you with hard water like mine, a vinegar rinse will remove the hard water stains. I typically rinse my knives and wine glasses in vinegar (then rinse in cool water and dry quickly) before dinner parties, since those are where the hard water stains are the worse. (Toss the knives in a shallow pan with vinegar and wipe them down 10 minutes later — spots gone.)

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      @Eyebrows McGee: Don’t overdo the vinegar on flatware, and never use it on silver plate. My fiance, god bless him, heard vinegar would take the spots off flatware, so he dumped the whole drawerfull into a stock pot, covered them with vinegar and BOILED them. I wound up with a whole new set.

      • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

        @speedwell, avatar of snark: LOL. Nope, got silver polish for the silver and I can’t imagine BOILING them!

        Usually I use a water/vinegar mix in a shallow pan for a few minutes on the stainless steel. Vinegar-soaked cloth for the wine glasses.

      • jamar0303 says:

        @speedwell, avatar of snark: Out of curiosity, what was the aftermath of that incident?

        • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

          @jamar0303: He hadn’t realized that it would hurt the stuff. I told him I appreciated his effort, showed him the damage on the flatware, and asked him to replace what had been damaged. He did.

          Sorry to disappoint the scandalmongers in the audience.

  11. mythago says:

    VINEGAR IS NOT A CLEANSER. Just because it is cheap does not make it a miracle chemical. There’s a reason you don’t see commercial cleaners using buckets of vinegar. If it were so great and inexpensive don’t you think they’d be the first ones all over it?

    Instead of reprinting the same tired old stuff you can find in 1960s-era copies of Family Circle, Consumerist ought to be telling people to go to stores that sell to the industry. Smart & Final, Costco, or janitorial supply stores. They sell stuff in bulk so it’s really cheap, and it WORKS.

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      @mythago: Sure they work. They work to put money into the companies that sell them. That’s what they’re for.

      Around here, the house cleaners all use this dollar store all-purpose cleaner called, IIRC, Fabuloso. I asked a maid once if she wanted me to supply her with a better product to use, and she told me, “This IS the better product.” Hmm.

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      @mythago: “They sell stuff in bulk so it’s really cheap, and it WORKS. “

      And kills you. Have you read the MSDSs on those things???

    • Tyler Laing says:

      @mythago: Did you not see, “cleaning greenly” in the title? The thing is, while vinegar is cheaper for us to buy, its not as cheap as the ingredients for chemical cleaners, hence why it isn’t used. Vinegar is used for a lot of stuff, and its safe to use, doesn’t let colors run, all because of its inherent chemical makeup. Industrial cleaners cannot be ingested, sniffed, or even placed on skin, while vinegar can. Which wins here?

    • bohemian says:

      @mythago: Your just wasting your money and inhaling toxic stew. You do not need industrial chemicals to clean your house. I swear this has been so ingrained into people’s brains it is like a scene out of The Matrix. You do not need all that expensive chemical stuff to clean your house.

    • ShortBus says:

      @mythago: “If it were so great and inexpensive don’t you think they’d be the first ones all over it?”

      LOL No, because they’d have a hard time selling a dollar’s worth of vinegar for $6 at the grocery store. However, for that same $6 it’s not so hard to sell a dollar’s worth of chemicals that people can’t mix together in their kitchen. Then they can spend that extra $5 on buying TV commercials to tell you how great it is.

    • CFinWV says:

      @mythago: A lot of the cleaners in stores is toxic to pets though. Hence the reason why people seek alternatives.

  12. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    When I worked in a stained glass window studio for a year or so, customers would always ask me if there was a special cleaner for them. I wondered how many believed me when we told them we usually just used dry paper towels in the production room. If there were mineral spots on the glass from water splashing, we sprayed a little plain water on the paper towel first and then polished up with the dry paper towel.

    If your stained glass window or door gets especially oily, for example if your pizza-eating offspring decide to make greasy fingerprints on it, sprinkle a little baby powder (talc or cornstarch based, doesn’t matter) on a new, soft, shoe brush and brush the oily marks away. Don’t overuse the powder or you’ll just make more mess to clean up. Finish up with (you guessed it) dry paper towels.

  13. LJKelley says:

    Cleaning? What this ‘cleaning’ you speak of?

    Vinegar is also good for cleaning out your body in small amounts. Its kinda gross to drink it straight though. Actually I hate anything with vinegar.

    Another good tip though is to let orange peel sit near your heater or ontop of your fireplace. It really does make an nice orange freshness to the room. My grandmother does this, and its a great free deodizer left over from that delicious orange.

    • Charles Duffy says:

      @LJKelley: My doctor advised soaking my feet in white vinegar (over the course of 3-4 months) to kill fungus; all in all, it worked well.

  14. EdithHeadsChignon says:

    Where can I buy washing soda?

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      @EdithHeadsChignon: Pool supply houses have it, if nobody else does. It’s also called “soda ash.” Anything that says it’s “sodium carbonate” is what you want.

  15. OmarMarr says:

    relating to the pet urine issue, apple cider vinegar is the better kind to use. cat urine is full of oils, which are hard to remove from fabrics, but the vinegar chemically reacts to turn the urine oils to salts, which are then easily water soluble. and the apple cider vinegar does this better than white vinegar. good luck!

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      @OmarMarr: How would the vinegar do this? Vinegar is an acid. The chemical that turns oil into a salt (soap, which is chemically a salt) is sodium hydroxide, or lye, one of the most alkaline chemicals known.

  16. Stephmo says:

    I’ve done the Real Simple (the magazine folks) shiny sink thing once a month in my kitchen forever – and the method works well in tubs and smaller sinks as well. Basically, you fill up your sink with hot water, throw in a cup of bleach and walk away for an hour.

    Come back, rinse and do a quick scour with baking soda (baking soda is great for any quick scour). If you have a stainless steel sink, you’ll be amazed at how much cleaner it looks after this. Basically, you’ll be rid of any lingering stains, scum or various ickies you have left behind without having to do a hard-core scrubs or super-expensive cleaner that promise to do the same.

    Never forget the power of that cheap gallon of bleach – and some do come in better smelling versions nowadays.

  17. crashfrog says:

    Did you talk to a chemist about any of these?

    Baking soda is a good cleaner, and vinegar is a good cleaner; but an equal mixture of both in hot water leaves you with nothing but water and carbon dioxide gas. The soda is a base and the vinegar is an acid, and they simply neutralize each other. (As it turns out, hot water cleans fairly well, too, which may explain why any of you thought this mixture had any cleaning power at all.) My guess is, though, that there’s far more baking soda in a Tb of baking soda than there is vinegar in a Tb of vinegar, since the vinegar is already mostly water. Ditch the vinegar; just make a solution of baking soda in hot water.

    Cream of tartar is an acidic salt, so it’s no surprise that it takes the spots off your aluminum pans – it’s taking a fair bit of the aluminum away, too. So don’t do it often.

    3 Tb of vinegar in a quart of water isn’t enough to be very effective at anything given that household white vinegar is only 3% vinegar or so.

    You don’t add minerals to water to make it soft – minerals in your water is what makes it hard. Detergents and shampoos usually have an amount of a chelating agent like EDTA that traps these minerals and improves the action of the soap or detergent they’ve been mixed in. Adding baking soda, which contains sodium ions, just introduces extra metal ions into the solution and “uses up” a portion of the EDTA that is already in your detergent. Use washing soda instead, because it will bind with magnesium and calcium ions in your water.

    Most of this list seems to be based on not knowing the difference between cream of tartar, baking soda, and washing soda. Did Consumer Reports even talk to a chemist? I’m surprised it doesn’t say something like “save time around the house and clean in one step instead of two by mixing bleach and ammonia!”

  18. STrRedWolf says:

    Follow-up to #1: Or get rid of the dog and get a cat instead.

  19. Homerjay loves stars. :) says:

    I’ll take an alternate route here and recommend a steam-mop. I’ve been using it for 6 months and my non-carpet floors always look fantastic with just a cup of water and very little effort.

  20. edwardso says:

    I use baking soda for pretty much everything, cleaning out the coffee pot, scrubbing the sink, tub, stove and toilet. It’s cheaper than comet and I don’t have to worry about the cat and dog licking any residue. A 4 pound bag is about 3 dollars at costco and lasts forever.

  21. CumaeanSibyl says:

    Baking soda left on a damp, smelly carpet overnight will absorb the odor and moisture, and then you can just vacuum it up. I think it works for upholstery too.

    I worked in a repertory theatre once, and to deodorize the costume pieces that couldn’t be washed, we used a mix of one part water to one part super-cheap vodka, with a few drops of lavender essential oil. The vodka evaporates without leaving an alcohol smell behind, and takes the worst of the odor with it. A good substitute for Febreze, you can put in whatever perfume or scent you like, and if you have a Brita pitcher you can filter the rest of it and render it marginally drinkable.

  22. nix-elixir says:

    You can also use regular rubbing alcohol for getting rid of urine smells. Mix a little witch hazel into it and it smells better and is calming for your cat!

  23. Coles_Law says:

    @crashfrog Good points, however for the sake of being nitpicky, baking soda+water =sodium acetate (in addition to CO2+water).

  24. duffbeer703 says:

    @crashfog: Baking soda and vinegar is great for all sorts of things. You don’t mix it in the bucket, you sprinkle the baking soda on the dirty area then mop with the vinegar solution.

    The vinegar and baking soda reaction is amazing — try it on grout, its a miracle.

  25. bohemian says:

    I have gradually been eliminating store bought cleaners for the past year. Vinegar and baking soda will clean just about everything. I keep a bottle of 50-50 distilled water and vinegar in a spray bottle. I use washable microfiber rags from the auto dept. at Target instead of paper towels. It cleans as good as any all purpose cleaner. I use vinegar in the rinse aid compartments of our dish-drawer dishwasher. No more water spots and things get cleaner. Baking soda and vinegar along with a scrub brush gets all the crud off the bath tub. The vinegar & water with a microfiber does a great job on glass. You can get 2 gallons of vinegar at Sam’s or Costco for about $3 and a huge bag of baking soda for under $5.

  26. Charmander says:

    I make my own shower spray by filling a spray bottle with rubbing alcohol and about 20-30 drops of essential oil (I like lemon, grapefruit or lavender).

    It’s really inexpensive, and keeps the mildew at bay much better than any of the commercial shower sprays that I’ve tried.

  27. Jetgirly says:

    I buy expensive, natural cleaners when they’re on sale. I’d been using GreenWorks in Mexico because it was all I could find, and while it’s not bad I am not a big fan of the smell. Now I’m Canada and I have recently switched to some Method products (bought on sale for $3 each plus bons Air Miles) and find they work better and smell A LOT better.

  28. JulesNoctambule says:

    #7 – Watch ‘How Clean is Your House?’; write down everything Kim and Aggie say.

  29. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    burned charred food crusted onto your pots and pans: a paste of baking soda and water slathered on there and left overnight. it doesn’t work QUITE as well on glass baking dishes, i generally find that takes a couple of days and some scrubbing, but less scrubbing that without the baking soda. my sister recently burned cheese around the top of a baking dish and it just wouldn’t scrub or soak off for anything for about a week and she was about to throw it out and buy a new one. a couple of days with a paste of damp baking soda and the char started to flake away.

    for pots and pans where i have burned something to the bottom [obviously not non stick pans, don't know what baking soda would do to those anyway] i pour enough baking soda to cover the bottom, add hot water and leave it alone overnight. usually in the morning it just rinses out with no effort at all

  30. fuzzymuffins says:

    tea tree oil, diluted in water in a spray bottle. a great air freshener and light cleaner as well.

  31. RandaPanda says:

    I know that if you have deer in your garden, human hair will repel them.

    My grandparents had a garden that deer were always in, so my grandma went to her local hair salon, collected some of the clippings, then spread them around the edge of the garden. They didn’t have any deer problems the rest of the season!

  32. N.RobertMoses says:

    Key limes get out a lot of bad smells on things.

  33. dragonpup says:

    Simple Green is non-toxic general cleaner that is not too expensive. Of course, I tend to use it to strip paint of miniatures.

  34. quail says:

    Sorry, but some janitorial chemicals just can’t be replaced by vinegar and water. Or by baking soda mixes. Ever try removing soap scum, mold, soot, etc. from walls and fixtures? Natural cleaners can handle a good 80% of what needs cleaning. But they aren’t a magic bullet. And often they aren’t quick to use.

    You can, however, save a fortune by buying your necessary chemicals in concentrated form in the janitorial isles of Home Depot, Sam’s, etc. The name brand cleaners that are out there are mostly water and marketing anyway. The concetrates can be mixed and will cost a fraction of what the

    Go to instructables.com and check them out for tips as well as wikihow.com. Lots and lots of great cost saving cleaning tips.

    And people, just because something is ‘natural’ doesn’t mean that it’s safe. Or that it’s cheap.

  35. perruptor says:

    Cream of tartar made into a paste with hydrogen peroxide is great for erasing brown stains on fixtures caused by manganese in the water.

  36. Anonymous says:

    We wash our hair with 1 leveled tablespoon of baking soda disolved in 1 cup of boiling water. Obviously let it cool a bit first before using it. It doesn’t store well as the baking soda crystalises if its not well disolved to start with. It will re-dissolve if heated, but we usually just make a fresh batch.

  37. Anonymous says:

    Microfiber cleaning cloths and plain water cleans most things. Cloths can be washed and re-used up to 500X. Removes more bacteria than antibacterial soaps/cleansers.

  38. aliasmisskat says:

    Vinegar is a great laundry rinse aid. Screw fabric softener. Occasionally, especially with towels, add a cup or two of vinegar to an extra rinse cycle. Most detergents leave a residue on clothes, and in the case of towels, prevent them from absorbing as well as they should, and making them feel kind of stiff and scratchy. Vinegar helps to strip that residue off, and makes the towels much more effective. We cloth diapered, and this was a necessary step every week to maintain the ability of our hemp/cotton diapers to soak up the huge amount of pee my son managed to produce.

  39. Hannes F. Famira says:

    Our friend is selling her home made organic cleaning products. My wide and I have had the good fortune to use them for a little over a year now and I am blown away by the quality. Check this out:

    [www.plainjanes.biz]

  40. ElleDriver says:

    Invest in a big bottle of Dr. Bronner’s soap. It can be used for dozens of purposes (body soap, shampoo, laundry detergent) but I mainly use it to mop my floors and wipe my counters. It’s all natural and is super-concentrated, so you can get many uses out of one bottle. I prefer to use a combination of their citrus and peppermint formulas: peppermint is a natural anti-bacterial ingredient, and the citrus makes the place smell nice. :)

    For air fresheners: Purchase peppermint and citrus “essential oils” from a health food store. Take 10 drops from each bottle, and combine with half a cup of distilled or filtered water. Pour it into a little spray bottle, and voila! Easy, and all-natural with no toxic chemicals.

  41. SJActress says:

    Worcestershire sauce and ketchup do wonders for polishing brass. However, you must RINSE THOROUGHLY after cleaning it, as the ACID is what cleans the brass, but it’s also what will ERODE/TARNISH it if it’s left on there.

    Also, once a week I cut up a lemon and put it in the garbage disposal to get rid of any lingering odors that might come out of the drain.

    For ants getting pet food, the only solution that has ever worked for me is rubbing the outsides of their bowls with Vaseline and making sure there’s no alternate route to the inside of the bowl. I don’t know if Vaseline is all that dangerous to pets, but I’m fortunate enough to have a dog and a cat who are not interested in messing with anything but food (well, the cat likes phone cords).

  42. competentgirliegirl says:

    Lavender essential oil AND many other essential oils can be toxic to dogs and cats. Be careful that you are using this heavily diluted (such as the 10 drops in 4 oz of distilled water for air freshner) if you are using it anywhere your pet might walk over it or lick it. Essential oils get into the body via the skin as well as by mouth and via the lungs (yes, just by the smell of it) so that means walking over it could be a problem if it is not vastly diluted. Essential oils are VERY STRONG and should never be used straight – always use it by drops to the ounces to be safe.

    BTW, the lavender air freshner recipe above is perfectly fine to also use as a facial water spritzer — lavender is great for the skin and it’s very refreshing. Ideally, any essential oil you use on your body should be steam extracted and NOT chemically extracted. The cheaper oils (all are the exact same price) are usually chemically extracted or even fake oils, so pay a bit more for the good steam extracted stuff.

    And for those that do not know, ESSENTIAL oils means the oil is extracted from a plant and NOT a chemical faux creation of some lab that just smells sort of like the real oil. Essential oils have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, calming, stimulating and many other good properties – chemical concoctions that are labeled “lavender oil” for example, have NO GOOD properties except the fake smell.

  43. competentgirliegirl says:

    Also for those that are pushing commercial cleaners, those things are MUCH MORE TOXIC than most natural cleaners like vinegar and baking soda. Breeders have had entire litters of puppies DIE when they were TOO sanitary and used commercial cleaners to disinfect and mop the floors of the kennels. Same thing can happen to kids — again the stuff is not just a problem by ingestion, it is ABSORBED BY THE SKIN and LUNGS. Further, recent studies were reported that prove commercial cleaners are hazardous to the lungs of everyone, especially anyone with asthma or lung issues and nurses who used these cleaners were found to have much higher rates of asthma after years of using that stuff.

    Of course all those manufacturers of chemical cleaners will never tell you this and our govt “watchdogs” will never do anything to protect us. It’s PROTECT YOURSELF!

    So ditch the harsh cleaners AND anything with heavy fragrance (like room freshners, car perfume, soaps, shampoos, lotions, etc.) and take care of yourself by not exposing yourself to mass amounts of these UNHEALTHY CHEMICALS that are in just about everything these days. They only put this in there to lure unsuspecting buyers thinking they will pretty things up with some “fragrance” — this stuff is toxic and not necessary for or compatible with healthy living. SAVE YOUR HEALTH and avoid chemicals wherever possible.

  44. FCL says:

    I recommend buying one or two decent microfiber cloths. I impulse bought a pack of Fuller Brush microfiber stuff from QVC while channel surfing one afternoon, and I’m actually really pleased with them. I use plain water and a microfiber cloth on my high-traffic kitchen floor, and the amount of dirt I pull up is phenomenal.

  45. littletater says:

    Dang, I just cleaned my whole house this weekend with like, a gallon of Clorox. I nearly passed out from the fumes, but WOOT! my tub looks brand new!

  46. MacGyver says:

    To clean the coffee carafe, I use vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, a scouring pad, and some elbow grease. Those nasty java stains don’t stand a chance!

  47. u1itn0w2day says:

    I’ve almost eliminated the need for furniture polish .When dusting wood surfaces with a shine I now use a clean damp cloth to wipe the dust off .It works great .Make sure the cloth has no fabric softener or any other residue and ring thoroughly after soaking .

    When ever possible use the damp cloth .Less chemicals and actually work better .Saves money as well .

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      @u1itn0w2day: Excessive moisture or humidity ruins wood. Your shiny wood is only holding out because the oils and waxes in the polish are keeping the moisture away for the time being.

      The more you polish with water, the more you wipe away this protective coating and increase the likelihood that the moisture on your cloth will be absorbed by the wood, separating the fibers and causing your formerly nice solid wood to warp and become damaged, and the veneer to life and flake off. Polish with wood polish, not with water.

      Honestly, some common sense here.

  48. competentgirliegirl says:

    I’m using a microfiber cloth (dedicated to this task only) with very hot plain water to clean my glass top stove. Everything usually comes up with one wipe or sometimes with a hot water rinse and second wipe. Occasionally I need to use the straight edge razor to remove something burnt on (same as when I was using the cream cleaner for every cleaning). Now I use the stovetop cream cleaner about every week to ten days. But the majority of the day to day cleanup is done with the cloth and hot water. Can’t beat that with a stick! These cloths are miraculous!

  49. Steph Adams says:

    Many, if not all, supermarkets carry Arm & Hammer washing soda in the laundry detergent area – usually on a top or bottom shelf with the other low-budget items, usually around $3 for a box (which will last you AGES). It is NOT baking soda, it’s actually a lot more alkaline & should be handled with gloves, but it’s a fantastic cleaner. It’s one of the three ingredients for homemade laundry detergent, and it’s amazing on nasty, gummy, cooked-on grease.

  50. MinervaAutolycus says:

    I have 2 suggestions. First, I keep my fridge fresh by getting a pint-size or smaller plastic container, punch some holes in the top, and fill it with aquarium charcoal. It absorbs odors well. You also can use this in cars (under the seats) or in an enclosed space.

    Secondly, we’ve got a bit of an ant problem and I’ve found that spraying them with air freshener is just as effective as using ant poison spray and less harmful.

  51. Anonymous says:

    Borax rocks!
    My bathroom and kitchen smell fresh when I clean, instead of like a chemical plant! Plus, I am doing my kids and pets a favor by using these natural products- I am an avid user of vinegar and lemon juice, also- by not exposing them to unnecessary, corporate driven cleaners.