I’ll admit it, I’m a little bit of a clean freak. I really like things to be organized and clean in an aesthetically pleasing way. Lately, I’ve been finding that using chemical cleaners, even just Windex or 409, makes my hands really itchy and red. Also, most days I have a toddler running around my apartment and so between her putting things in her mouth and touching everything within reach, me having weird hands, and my affection for the environment, I’ve been trying to find alternatives to using harmful chemicals that I can’t inhale or touch. What I’ve found is that you can clean almost anything with distilled white vinegar*, baking soda and other things you probably already have around the house. You’ll save money and sanity and maybe your weird hands and the earth. It’s that easy.
*Unless otherwise specified, use white distilled vinegar.
Cleaning Your Kitchen and Bathroom
Clean counter tops with a cloth soaked in vinegar (don’t use vinegar on marble or your counter will dissolve, seriously).
Use vinegar to clean your the soap and gunk buildup in your dishwasher by pouring a cup into the bottom and running through on an empty cycle.
Vinegar is also a great jet-dry alternative in your dishwasher. I use it every time.
A few tablespoons of cream of tartar with hot water will clean any aluminum pans or rusty drains.
That really gross, greasy glass part of your oven door can be cleaned by pouring on vinegar and letting it soak for about fifteen minutes, then wiping it off.
Clean your microwave the easiest way ever by mixing a 1:1 ratio of vinegar and water and putting it in for about three minutes. That dried spaghettios explosion will wipe right off. I’ll warn you, it smells a little funky after, so open a window and leave the microwave door open for a little while after you wipe it out.
Get the baked on stains out of pans and your oven rack by using dishwashing liquid and a ball of aluminum foil as a scrubber. This is a great way to recycle used aluminum foil.
Do a monthly cleaning of your coffee pot by running through a cycle of a vinegar and water and then another cycle or two of just water to rinse it out again (Pro tip: if you forget to rinse it with at least one cycle of water, your coffee will be really gross. I am personally aware of this.)
If your coffee or tea mugs have stains inside, gently scrub them with a mixture of vinegar and baking soda or the inside of a citrus peel sprinkled with table salt.
Clean out smelly or stained tupperware with a cloth soaked in vinegar.
Prevent and clean water stains on your faucet by rubbing it with wax paper.
A lemon cut in half is the best thing to clean off water marks or buildup on faucets and knobs.
Deodorize your garbage disposal and clean your drains by pouring in a bit of baking soda and vinegar, then let it bubble for about five minutes. Pour in really hot water to rinse it all out.
Toss citrus peels into the garbage disposal and grind them up for a quick deodorizer.
Get food stains off of light colored cutting boards by rubbing the area with half of a lemon. Let it sit for twenty minutes, then rinse.
Buff streaks on stainless steel away with a cloth dipped in olive oil, then dry with a dry paper towel.
Clean the toilet by combining baking soda and vinegar, then pouring it into the toilet and scrubbing with a brush.
Get soap buildup off glass shower doors by putting a few drops of water on a used dryer sheet and wiping off the glass.
Remove scuffs from linoleum by scrubbing them with a bit of white toothpaste.
Scrub your bathtub and sink with a paste made up of equal parts baking soda and cream of tartar and a little bit of lemon juice. Let it sit for thirty minutes, then scrub.
Scrub grout with lemon juice and an old toothbrush.
Get the icky buildup off of the shower head by rubber banding a baggie full of vinegar around the shower head and letting it sit overnight.
Cleaning You and Your Clothes
Get small stains off of suede shoes with a nail file. Run either side gently over the stain until it comes off.
Get grease stains out of clothes or upholstery by pouring some cornmeal on the area and letting it soak for fifteen minutes, then vacuum up the grains. If the article is washable, rubbing some chalk on the spot before tossing it in the washing machine also works.
Substitute lemon juice for bleach to brighten up whites in the laundry.
Use vinegar instead of fabric softener in the washing machine — it removes soap residue, sweat stains and eliminates manufacturing chemicals.
A mixture of sugar and lemon juice is the best facial scrub.
Pouring table salt onto a wine spill will help pull the wine out of the fibers. Let sit for fifteen minutes, then soak the cloth or shirt in cold water for thirty minutes before washing.
Cleaning Miscellaneous Junk Around The House
Spray cooking oil on your snow shovel before you shovel off the walkway. It makes the ice slide off the shovel for easier shoveling.
To get the buildup off your iron, run the hot iron (no steam!) over table salt on a plain piece of paper.
Make your carpet smell really good by sprinkling baking soda lightly around the room, then vacuuming it up.
Clean up pet (or human, I won’t judge you) accidents by first blotting up the area and then spraying with a bottle filled with 1:1 vinegar and water. Blot until it is almost dry. Sprinkle baking soda over the area and let it dry overnight, then vacuum.
Get labels off of glass by heating up the area with a hair dryer. For tough, stuck on labels, soak in vinegar and they should peel right off.
Remove water rings from wooden tables with equal parts vinegar and vegetable oil.
Clean and disinfect children’s toys by tossing them in the sink with hot, soapy water and a cup of vinegar.
Get the dust off of candles by running them through the leg of pantyhose or tights.
Get permanent marker off of countertops or walls with cotton balls dipped in rubbing alcohol (make sure you do a test area first so you don’t strip off the paint or anything you can blame me for). For crayon marks, use baking soda sprinkled onto a damp sponge.
Get dust off of the television and screens with a coffee filter.
When in doubt, baking soda and vinegar do almost any job. What other tricks have you guys got up your sleeves for cleaning up the house?
who first discovered that running a candle through the leg of pantyhose gets the dust off and what were they doing?
Speaking of pantyhose, use it as a magical eraser to get rid of deodorant marks on your clothing.
jeez, maybe i need to buy some pantyhose cause i get deodorant on my clothes more than i feel like is normal. and apparently pantyhose are quite useful.
I get deodorant off clothes by rubbing a non-deodorant-covered area of the clothes onto the deodorant-y part until it’s gone. It’s like magic.
This is the only reason I own pantyhose.
Also vinegar tho.
any tips on getting mascara stains off a pillowcase? #femmegirlfriendproblems #notreallyaproblembecauseshesreallycute
Best question ever.
If only I knew the answer to this, my pillowcases would have a lot less mascara marks on them! At least she’s cute, right?
Get black pillow cases?
Just soak it in vinegar. Vinegar does everything. #iveneverdonethisanddontwearmascara #pleasedontruinyourpillowcasesonmybadadvice
Some people use baking soda & hydrogen peroxide as a laundry stain remover. Mascara is dark & gunky so something like a Shout pre-wash might work a little better. Or eye makeup remover maybe? Idk, I always remove my makeup before I get in bed because I hate dirty pillows. No pun intended. I know this one isn’t a household tip, but I do use olive oil to remove my face makeup including mascara….works better than Noxema and isn’t as drying as it.
Try putting a little vinegar on it.
Try putting shout directly on the stain, then rubbing it on a non stained part of the pillow case till it comes out. It’s like magic. It’s often the only thing that works with lipstick. I work in events and I’ve saved both wedding dresses and men’s button up whites right before they walk down the aisle on more than one occasion.
VINEGAR FOR ALL THE THINGS, ALL THE TIME.
I love it! I will be oiling my snow shovel post haste. Although I am wondering how you mix vinegar and oil to remove water rings? Table vinaigrette?
My tip: Cover the bottom of your garbage can with an inch of baking soda before you shove the bag in. It’ll help to deodorize AND soak up the nasty drips so it’s easier to clean later.
You know what? I totally do the baking soda thing at the bottom of my trash can and spaced putting it on this list! We really are the same person, you just remember things better obvs.
We’re gonna have the cleanest cabin ehver…
ARE YOU GOING TO BE MY COUNSELLORS??????????
QUITE POSSIBLY. I have no idea how the cabin arrangements work. We have a few months to figure it out. All I know is that ours will be glittery as fuck.
…and then properly cleaned afterwards.
Lisa Frank stickers only. We have strict demands for these things.
If your drains are clogged, first try washing baking soda down the drain with boiling water. Easy on the pipes and much cheaper than the really heavy chemical drain stuff.
A variation – pour in baking soda followed by vinegar, then cover the drain for a couple minutes. Follow that up with boiling water.
I’ve tried this like 5 times, but every couple of weeks my sink still gets clogged. I live in a student dorm so I’m terrified of trying to butch up and look at the pipes themselves. Also, the way my drain is constructed makes it super shitty to use this method because it’s a + shape, meaning I can’t get baking soda in effectively (and it ends up backfiring and plugging the sink itself).
With all these kitten pictures I was hoping for a magical suggestion like, “rub your cats paws together for a cleaner litter box.”
these cleaning tips are delicious #ihatediets
You can totally make laundry detergent out of borax, washing soda and like, Dr. Bronners soap. It works! And it’s so cheap!
For still wet pet stains I found that pouring salt over the spot and letting it dry pulls everything out of the carpet. Probably not a good idea if you’re going to have someone over. Random floor salt piles are not entirely sexy.
And borax in general. I buy a big box of it and throw it in the dish washer, sink water, whatever. It’s the best.
Vinegar IS magic. I prefer to clean windows and mirrors with it (it’s better than windex you guys) and if you keep aquariums it’s safe to clean the tank glass with and won’t harm the fishies (or shrimp, or frogs, or whatever you’re keeping in there).
Yes! So trying these. Cleaning products make me cough like crazy. D:
Although, on saying that, I’m sure that the smell of vinegar pervading the house is bound to be somewhat similar… haha.
I love this article. My new flatmate does not believe me that vinegar actually cleans stuff. I have all these home made cleaning products that are enviro safe and she went out and bought all sorts of noxious shit. :( we are gonna have to have a talk.
Any tips on cleaning floors? My kitchen floor could use a good scrub.
What kind of floors do you have?
Parquet, I think?
love this, thank you; and also, the fact that you mention you have a toddler in your house (which I am not assuming is yours, but might be); point is i have been wishing lately that autostraddle would acknowledge the existence of queer folks with kids more. i know most of your readers are probably not parenting anyone, but oh how i would love to read an article on how to date as a queer single mother! because the heteronormativity of parenting culture is intense, and i’m trying to get preggo, and it’s a little scary. sorry if this is random!
I agree! I don’t have kids and don’t really plan on having any, but chances are that a good amount of autostraddle readers do have little people to care for. Plus, I just generally find reading about queer parenting interesting.
Laneia has kids and has written about them frequently…
cool- i guess i must have missed that.
All great tips. For motivation, head over to http://unfuckyourhabitat.tumblr.com. I only came across it yesterday, but since have poured through the archives.
You should post this great article on LinkedIn in the group Say No To Toxic Household Cleaning Products: http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=3846736&trk=myg_ugrp_ovr
I use vinegar, baking soda and/or dish soap to clean just about everything in my house.
Also, if you buy a shampoo or body wash or face wash and decide you don’t really like it, use it to clean your toilet.
Yup. Btw… am I the only one that doesn’t really buy into Method and other ‘green’ cleaning products? I feel like I’m just paying for a pretty bottle when I could just buy vinegar and use the rest on booze.
You’re not the only one. I find Method products shady. The ingredients are not listed on the bottle an environmental working group gives their products not great ratings.
Vinegar and baking soda all the way.
Every now and then I feel like I’m taking crazy pills when people tell me about the cleaning virtues of blue water.
The baking soda and vinegar on the carpet works SO WELL! But WARNING!!!!!!!!!!! It has to be super dry before you vaccum. If it’s not all the nastiness you soaked up and the baking soda will dry in gross clumps ALL OVER your vaccum cleaner. I know from personal experience of taking apart and spending 3 hours+ using vinegar to clean my vaccum. So be cautious with that one.
Sarah, I feel like my mother would love you. One of her hobbies is collecting easy and natural household tips.
(Also, this has convinced me that maybe next time I should buy the 5L jug of vinegar…)
You can also wash your hair with baking soda and vinegar. Add enough water to your baking soda to make a paste, mostly just to make it easier to get it from the container to your head. Scrub that in, and rinse it out. Then use apple cider vinegar diluted with water as a rinse. Leave that in for a few minutes while you do other shower things to re-balance the pH of your hair. Rinse that. Once your hair gets used to it, you’ll only have to wash every three or four days since it doesn’t strip the oils so your scalp doesn’t overproduce oils in retaliation.
Also brush your teeth with baking soda and wash your face with coconut oil. I do this partly because I’m a hippie and partly because I ran out of everything all around the same time and didn’t want to spend a ton of money on toiletries.
Experiment with the vinegar dilution to find what’s best for you. I’ve heard everything from 1:4 to 1:9 vinegar:water.
Kristen wrote that exact article like a few months ago.
Excellent advice!!! So is the baking soda/vinegar combo really effective for toilets? Is it better to leave it soak?
VINEGAR IS THE BEST!
No, seriously! I’ve used it to deal with ant infestations, because I can’t bear to hurt little tinies (by that I mean bugs). Basically if you mix water with vinegar and wipe down your counters, it erases ant trails. Then any time you see an ant somewhere in your house/kitchen/wherever, you pick it up with an index card and a tupperware container, and carry it far outside and dump it out (It’s kind of a spin off of something Richard Feynman did in his book “Surely you’re Joking Mr. Feynman”). Because the ant trails are erased with the vinegar, more ants can’t find their way back to the same place, and they end up adventuring elsewhere. I’ve dealt with 3 separate ant invasions this way, without harming a single ant in the process!
How do I get bright red lipstick off a really nice white shirt?
I adore this article. I want to clean my house right now!!!
It’s like “Put a bird on it” but with vinegar.
This is the best, thank you!
Honestly, I can’t remember the last time my kitchen was cleaned. Time to break out the vinegar…
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I had no idea that you could utilize an old toothbrush and lemon juice to maintain your grout. My wife and I have been trying to remove the stains on our bathroom’s ceramic flooring ever since our son spilled juice last weekend, but we need to find some supplies that will allow us to clean our grout before we host a dinner party this month. We’ll rely on a professional that has access to the cleaning equipment needed to maintain our grout.