Leave it to “Schoolhouse Rock” to teach the basic lessons of life: Mother Necessity, sing it true. Some things don’t come to fruition until necessity, or hard times, makes them impossible to ignore. Such is the case for anyone trying to save a few bucks at the store.
Especially annoying to spend hard-earned dollars on are household cleaners — liquids and scrubs that are supposed to help clean the counters, toilets, windows and floors. The good news? You probably have everything you need to do the job without spending a lot; the items are readily available at local grocery stores, supermarkets and health food stores and are nontoxic. If it’s good for the environment, it’s probably good for you, too.
If you’re almost out of window cleaner or another store-bought cleanser that comes in a spray bottle, keep the bottle when it’s empty. Wash it out well, add one of your new, eco-friendly solutions for handy cleaning in any room and label the bottle with an indelible pen.
Here, without further ado, are your new miracle cleaners:
Vinegar. White vinegar, to be specific. Buy it in the largest container it comes in to save money and trips to the store. Vinegar is a natural disinfectant that is safe to use on most surfaces (not marble or certain tiles). It also acts a deodorizer; its smell disappears when it dries. Mix a solution of vinegar and water to clean all hard surfaces in the bathroom and kitchen, such as counters, floors, sinks and showers. Pour straight vinegar into the toilet and give it a good scrubbing. Add a half cup of vinegar to the washing machine’s rinse cycle instead of fabric softener — especially good for the clothes of those with sensitive skin.
Baking soda. This kitchen staple is a natural deodorizer and scrubber. Make a paste with water and use it as you would any store-bought abrasive. Clean tubs, sinks, stove tops, counters, diaper pails and anything else that needs a good rubdown. Sprinkle baking soda on carpet, let it sit 15–20 minutes and vacuum to help deodorize the flooring. Place a box in the refrigerator and one in the freezer to help keep the fridge odor-free. Add a half cup of baking soda at the beginning of the wash cycle to help get clothes super-clean.
Lemon (or orange or lime) juice. Citrus juice is a fantastic cleanser that’s easy on the budget and ecology of your home. Mix it with either vinegar or baking soda (isn’t that handy?) to make cleansing pastes that smell fresh as you use them. Lemon juice can help get rid of hard water deposits and clean copper pans. When you’re done cleaning with lemon juice, throw the used rind into the garbage disposal and turn it on; the lemon peel will clean the blades of the disposal and get rid of smells.