DIY, Featured, Green Life, Slide Show — March 14, 2011 3:22 pm

Green Life: DIY Household Cleaners


Clean up your act with these homemade concoctions that result in mold-free, streak-free, clean-as-a-whistle floors, surfaces and windows.

This ain't no meth lab, but common items you have in your pantry might be perfect ingredients for an eco-friendly cleaner. Photo Credit: Kevin Wauligman

Whenever I go to the store, I’m always tempted to buy those au-naturale, organic cleaning products. You know the ones: They bear the promise of not having been tested on animals, they’re decked out in the pretty frosted glass bottles and are infused with lavender, chamomile, sage, rosemary, tea tree oil or some fragrant combination of all of the above. My normal ritual: I end up wistfully staring at these products, reminding myself that they’re much better for the environment, then I stare at the price tag, unhappily, until I guilt myself into choosing the cheap, potent, acidic, nauseating lemon-scented alternative.

Lately I’ve been trying to be a little more empowered in my cleaning choices by thinking outside the box: specifically, by making my own cleaning concoctions from household ingredients, which is surprisingly easy, cheap and environmentally friendly. (After all, I’ve collected enough of those cute glass spray bottles to reuse for my next nine lives.) Check out these five common household ingredients that prove to be very versatile in helping you put the sparkle back in your home.

Despite its tendency to make a mess in your stomach, vodka manages to clean grime and leaves your kitchen spotless. Photo Credit: Kevin Wauligman

Have you ever smelled a cheap bottle of vodka and found yourself unable to detect the difference between it and the bottle of nail polish remover your roommate left open in the bathroom? That’s not a good sign for “Cosmo”-style night on the town with your friends, but use it as a household cleaner and you’ve got the perfect excuse to get rid of that $5 bottle of Kamchatka! Try it yourself: Spray a little vodka on your bathroom tiles. If you let it sit for a few minutes, it’ll work wonders on dissolving soap scum. Wet a sponge and scrub. Extra perk: No hangover in the morning.

White vinegar
I promise, if you try this technique, your kitchen floors will only smell like a pickle for a few minutes. Distilled white vinegar is often used in pickling, but it’s also great for cleaning because it dilutes easily. Take a mop bucket full of warm water and add a generous splash of vinegar; it’ll really help get the grime off your floors. You can even safely use the mixture on wood.

Baking soda
Baking soda is the mac-daddy of natural household cleaning products. Its potential seems downright unlimited. “Baking soda” is the more common term for sodium bicarbonate, which helps regulate pH levels, keeping things from being too acidic or too alkaline. You probably know it can fend off odors in your fridge if you stick an open box behind all those beer bottles and yogurts, but it can also work wonders as an elixir for lots of other tasks. If you spot mildew on your vinyl shower curtain, no need to replace it. Sprinkle some baking soda on a wet sponge and scrub—let the shower curtain dry and it’ll be almost like new. You can also soak stained coffee pots and cups in a solution of warm water and baking soda; the stains will fade with a good bath and a little bit of polishing.

Rubbing alcohol
When you need to wipe greasy fingerprints off your windows, just concoct a solution with one part rubbing alcohol and one equal part of water. Add a dab of white vinegar and spray (or wipe) directly on your windows for a perfectly clean view.

Olive oil
You can make a vegetable stir-fry and polish your furniture with the same bottle of olive oil!  Just put a couple of drops on a washcloth and gently wipe away dust from a table. Use lightly, and after polishing wipe the surface with a dry cloth to get rid of any residue. 

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