In the pantry

Published 10:33 pm Thursday, September 23, 2010

Household cleaning problems have surprising solutions

It’s a good rule of thumb to keep your cleaning products separate from your foods, but if that cleaning cabinet has become a bit bare you might want to think about checking your pantry for cleaning supplies.

Now that the dangers of many chemicals are being more widely recognized, many people are making a switch to non-chemical cleaners.

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Whether it’s a bad odor, rust, scuff marks or your silverware just needs a good polishing, chances are there’s an old home cleaning remedy that can save you time and money.

“I use vinegar for everything,” said Jamie Guthrie, who learned the tip from her mother-in-law. “I learned about it six years ago, and use it everyday. It’s simple, cheap and works for everything. You can buy one thing instead of tons of different cleaners.”

Vinegar is an all-time favorite, do-it-all cleaner and sanitizer for many people.

“I use it for cleaning counters, stainless steel appliances — like the fridge — door knobs, to cure athletes foot, yeast infections and you can gargle with it if you have a sore throat,” Guthrie said. “It makes pasta less sticky. It kills bacteria if you cook chicken or pork in it. It even keeps my dog from scratching his ears by dabbing with a cotton ball.”

Because vinegar creates a hostile environment for mold to grow in, it makes a perfect cleaning agent. It can also help combat mineral deposits in a coffeemaker, iron, dishwasher or faucets, as well.

Guthrie suggests adding lemon to it and using the solution to mop your floors with to make them sparkle and smell great.

Besides its citrus smells, the acid in a lemon can act as a natural cleaning agent by removing most rust and dirt, neutralizing the smell of raw fish on your skin and brightening a white load of laundry.

By adding different elements to lemon, you can create a variety of pastes for nearly any dirty job. Adding salt will create a scouring paste for cleaning bacteria in kitchens and bathrooms. Mixing it with cream of tartar will work to clean grout. Adding it to baking soda will remove stains from Formica and porcelain. A word of warning, though — don’t use it on marble; the marble may become discolored.

In its powder form, baking soda can be used to absorb odors in the refrigerator, carpets or on upholstered furniture.

As a paste, sans lemon, baking soda can be a great cleaner for a can opener, for a barbecue grill and utensils, for laundry stains and even as a toothpaste.

Regular toothpaste is another favorite household item used for cleaning. It is good to polish chrome, tarnished silverware and piano keys and even gets stains out of plastic ware.

If it’s copper or brass you need to clean, A.1. Steak Sauce and ketchup can work well.

If your wood, wicker or rattan furniture needs a little hydration, cooking oil can be used to bring it back to life by mixing two cups of vegetable or olive oil with the juice of one lemon and wiping the mixture on with a soft cloth.

The oils can also work double-duty by removing scuffmarks, getting paint off your skin or adding extra sparkle to stainless steel surfaces.

So, next time you reach for that bottle of Windex and find someone forgot to refill it, before you reach for you keys, check the pantry. It’s not just for cooking anymore.