Before you buy that extra-large jug of industrial-strength cleaning solution, take a look in your pantry. Your spring-cleaning prep may include stocking up on spray bottles full of grime-fighting chemical products (masked by the scent of lemon), but it might be time to rethink your strategy. You don’t need a cabinet full of specialized cleaners for every surface; just a few common household products can clean and refresh your home.
“There are plenty of all-natural cleaning products out there, but why spend that money when you probably have most of the things you need to make your own right in your own pantry?” says Debra Johnson, home cleaning expert for Merry Maids, the nation’s largest home cleaning service.
We've highlighted 30 of our favorite uses for these fab four solutions to make cleaning a no-brainer.
- Scrub pots: Pour a spoonful of baking soda on a sponge, and use this mild abrasive to remove crud from pots.
- Clean brushes and combs: Sprinkle a tablespoon of baking soda in a bowl of warm water, and soak your hairbrushes and combs. Rinse them and air-dry.
- Freshen rugs: To banish odors from rugs, sprinkle baking soda on the rug, let set for about 15 minutes, then vacuum.
- Brighten laundry: Skip commercial brands of fabric softener and brightener, and add a half-cup of baking soda to each laundry load. It will make your whites whiter, your colors brighter, and everything softer. You can also use a bit less detergent.
- Unclog drain: Pour 1 cup baking soda and 1 cup vinegar down the drain to dissolve built-up scum.
- Clean toilets: Pour a quarter cup baking soda in the toilet bowl, scrub with a toilet brush, and flush.
- Keep bugs at bay: Surround your pet's bowl with baking soda to keep insects away.
Distilled white vinegar
- Polish your windows: Mix a solution of equal parts water and white vinegar, pour it into a spray bottle, spritz on windows, and wipe with a cloth or paper towel to make them sparkle.
- Bust garden weeds: Spray vinegar on weeds to make them shrivel up.
- Clean coffee cups: Make a scrub that will get rid of coffee and tea stains on mugs by mixing vinegar with salt or baking soda.
- Kill germs: Spray straight vinegar onto bathroom fixtures, toilets, tubs, and tile floors to sanitize.
- Freshen socks: Add 1 cup vinegar to a large pot of water, boil the solution, and drop in stained and stinky socks. Let them soak overnight.
- Energize spent flowers: When cut flowers begin to wilt, add 2 tablespoons vinegar and 1 teaspoon sugar to a quart of water. Pour the solution into the vase, and the flowers will get a second life.
- Deodorize the litter box: When you clean the litter box, pour a little vinegar into the bottom of the empty box, let stand for 20 minutes, and then rinse and dry before filling with litter.
- Brighten your smile: Dip your toothbrush in distilled white vinegar and brush your teeth like you would with toothpaste.
- Clean an electric oven: Warm your dirty oven to 150 degrees Fahrenheit, then turn off the heat. Place a large pot of boiling water on the bottom shelf and a small bowl with a half-cup ammonia on the top shelf. Shut the oven door (always open windows when you use ammonia), and let the bowls sit overnight. In the morning, open the oven and let the fumes diffuse a bit, then wipe the oven clean with a wet cloth and a bit of liquid dish soap. You can scrape off any stubborn burned bits with a spatula. (Warning: Don’t use this method with a gas oven.)
- Remove fingerprints from glass: Mix two drops of ammonia into 2 cups of water and wipe the solution on a glass surface. Rinse thoroughly, and dry with a soft cloth.
- Shine kitchen hardware: Over time, cabinet knobs, pulls, and hinges become coated with grease. Dip a toothbrush into a small dish of ammonia and scrub off this scum.
- Do the windows: Add 1 cup ammonia to 3 cups water, and wipe windows clean with the solution. Then dry with a lint-free cloth.
- Refurbish gazed tile: Add a quarter cup ammonia to 1 gallon water, and use it to wipe down tiles,
- Help your garden: Ammonia is rich in nitrogen, which your plants need to grow strong and leafy. Mix 1 cup into a 20-gallon hose-end sprayer, and douse plants. Also, wash your garden tools with straight ammonia (outside) to kill plant diseases that you could spread when you dig and hoe.
Liquid dish soap
- Mop floors: Add a few drops of dish soap to 1 gallon warm water, and mop floors.
- Clean stone counters: Soapy, warm water does a great job cleaning granite and marble. Wipe with a wet cloth, and dry quickly with a microfiber cloth for a surface that shines.
- Unsqueak doors: A few drops of dish soap will lubricate door hinges and end annoying squeaks.
- Remove grease stains: Rub dish soap onto clothing grease stains, let set overnight, then toss into the washer.
- Clean grills: Add gunky grills to a trash can or plastic bag filled with 1 cup soap and 2 cups water. Let them soak overnight, then scrub with steel wool.
- Kill aphids: Make a solution of 2 tablespoons liquid dish soap to 1 gallon water, and spray on roses infested with aphids.
- Trap fruit flies: Add 3 drops of soap to a bowl of white vinegar, cover with plastic wrap, and poke a few holes in the top. Fruit flies will wander in and never get out.
- Clean tools: Soak greasy tools in a bucket of soapy water. Rinse and dry.
- Defog eye glasses: Rub a drop of liquid soap on lenses, then wipe (don't rinse) off with a microfiber cloth.