Unless you’re one yourself, or have been married to a farmer, landscaper, or other dirt worker, you have no idea the amount of dirt that can come off one body during a single shower. My husband was born into a farming family and continued to farm until we left the Garden State to head for the Tahoe hills. He now works in landscaping and excavation, and the amount of filth that can coat our shower can be daunting if I don’t keep up with it.
After trying practically every commercial cleaner in creation, I came across a list of cleaning tricks and found my miracle cleaning combo: a 50/50 mix of vinegar and liquid dish detergent in a spray bottle. I never thought old-school-home-cleaning remedies could compare to products chemically engineered to break down dirt and destroy germs and bacteria. I could not have been more uninformed! Basic pantry staples are super-cleaners in disguise. The best part: No inhaling unhealthy chemicals.
Baking soda: Remember when you used to go to Grandma’s house when you were a kid and she’d have that yellow box of baking soda in the back corner of the fridge? Turns out, Grams was on to something. Baking soda is known for its deodorization properties, but its uses extend beyond smelly stuff. Make a paste with baking soda and a bit of water. Scrub your way around the kitchen as it’s said to effectively clean your oven, microwave, and tile. Shine tarnished silver or scrub stubborn stains from coffee mugs, tile, toilets, sinks, and showers. It’s also a great way to remove pet stains (and odors) from carpet.
Lemon juice: Mold and mildew be gone, with a 50/50 mix of lemon juice and water. Spray on shower curtains, tile, and porcelain sinks and bathtubs, letting the acidic properties of the lemon kill mold and cut through nasty mildew buildup. This combo can get hard water film off of plumbing fixtures, and also deodorizes both your hands and your cutting board after chopping onions or garlic. Have you ever stored marinara in a reusable plastic container, only to find greasy red stains left behind? Mix a tablespoon of baking soda with a few drops of fresh lemon juice and scrub away. Lemon peels and essential oils are effective insect repellents and are great for keeping ants and moths out of the pantry.
Olive oil: Use a bit of olive oil to refresh old leather furniture, gloves, or even your old baseball mitt. Pour a few drops onto a cloth and gently rub it in. It can also bring back the sheen of stainless-steel appliances if you simply apply a small amount to a soft cloth and gently rub it on in a circular motion. A light coat will also help preserve wooden cutting boards from drying out and cracking.
Pumice stone: A super-scrubber if there ever was once, pumice is ideal for ridding porcelain sinks, tile, even the toilet bowl of calcium, lime, and rust stains. Its mild abrasiveness is also ideal for removing caked-on grease and buildup in the oven and the barbecue. Do not use pumice on marble, laminate, plastic, or fiberglass.
Toothpaste: You use it to clean and polish your teeth, so why wouldn’t it work just as well as a household polish? Well, it indeed does, but it’s best to use a traditional paste rather than the more gel-like type. Use it to polish chrome plumbing fixtures and even your old jewelry that doesn’t sparkle like it used to. A slightly more abrasive variety containing baking soda is great for scrubbing stains in coffee mugs and on tile. While it won’t kill germs, you can use it in the toilet bowl to scrub away hard water rings.
Vinegar: It’s no secret that vinegar is the wonder all for streak-free, sparkling windowpanes, but really the possibilities are endless. Decalcify your coffee maker, showerhead, or iron. Ideal for berry-stained hands, underarm stains, or red wine on your white shirt. Soak new fabrics for a few minutes in white distilled vinegar to prevent colors from running in the wash. Pour it down the kitchen sink and let it sit to eliminate odors. Treat pet-soiled carpet with a solution of equal parts water and vinegar. Let it sit for 10 minutes; blot excess moisture. Sprinkle with baking soda, vacuum when dry. Throw a cup into the dishwasher for sparkling glasses or use it to polish bronze, pewter, and copper pieces.