5 Cleaning Products You Should Never Be Without

Make your home sparkle by turning five everyday items into powerful homemade, all-natural cleaning products. From Linda Cobb, author of Talking Dirty With the Queen of Clean

WHITE VINEGAR

Use white vinegar to remove heavy soap scum and mineral deposits from showers, tubs, and sinks. Warm the vinegar and put in a spray bottle. Spray on showers, tubs, and sinks and let soak for 10–15 minutes. Then use a nylon scrubbing sponge to remove scum. Re-spray if necessary. To remove mineral deposits from around drains, close drain and pour in enough white vinegar to cover the drain area. Let soak overnight, scrub with a nylon scrubbing sponge, drain vinegar, and rinse.

To remove scum and mineral buildup from showerheads and keep them free-flowing, put undiluted white vinegar in a plastic bag. Tie around the showerhead overnight. Scrub head and poke any loosened mineral deposits with a toothpick, rinse, and enjoy your next shower.

To remove soap scum and mildew from plastic shower curtains and liners, fill the washing machine with warm water, 1 cup of white vinegar, and your regular laundry detergent. Add the curtains, along with several old, light-colored towels. Run through complete cycle and re-hang curtains immediately.

Add 2–3 tablespoons white vinegar to hot water along with your regular dishwashing liquid to cut grease on dishes and crystal.

Add 1/4 cup of white vinegar to the washing machine during the final rinse to soften clothes and remove lint from dark clothes.

Apply, undiluted, to the skin with a cotton ball to deter bugs — they hate the way you taste, but the odor disappears immediately from your skin.

Neutralize pet urine odor with diluted white vinegar (25 percent vinegar to 75 percent water) sprayed on carpets. Always test in an inconspicuous spot before treating a large area.

Clean stainless steel sinks with a paste of baking soda and vinegar. Don’t let the foaming scare you — it works great!

Make a window cleaner in a spray bottle with 1/4 cup white vinegar added to 1 quart of water.

Make air freshener in a spray bottle with 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 1 tablespoon of white vinegar, and 2 cups of water. After the foaming stops, put on lid. Shake before using.

Clean vinyl floors with 1/2 cup white vinegar to 1 gallon of warm water.

Keep drains free-flowing with 1/2 cup baking soda and 1/2 cup white vinegar poured down the drain monthly. After pouring in baking soda and vinegar, cover the drain for 15 minutes (it will foam). Then flush with cold water.

Clean mirrors with a solution of half vinegar and half water. Wet a sponge, soft cloth, or paper towel, wash, then buff dry. Never spray water onto a mirror. Moisture that gets into the edges and behind mirrors ruins the silvering on the mirror, resulting in dark spots.

Spray vinegar on the underarms of clothes and let soak 15–30 minutes to deodorize and minimize underarm stains.

Make an excellent toilet cleaner with 1 cup borax and 1 cup vinegar. Pour the vinegar over the stained area of the toilet, then sprinkle the borax over the vinegar. Soak for 2 hours and then brush and flush.

BAKING SODA

Baking soda is a great deodorizer, cleaner, and mild abrasive use as you would a soft-scrubbing product or cleanser in tubs and sinks.

Keep food disposals fresh and free-flowing by putting the stopper in the disposal and adding 3 inches of warm water and a handful of baking soda. Turn on the disposal and let water run out.

Remove perspiration stains and odor from clothing by applying a paste of baking soda and water and letting it soak 30 minutes prior to laundering.

Mix 1 gallon of warm water and 1/4 cup of baking soda. Soak freshly washed socks in this for 30 minutes. Spin out in the washer (do not rinse out the solution), dry, and you will have odor-eater socks.

Clean smudges on wallpaper with baking soda and water.

Remove crayon from hard surfaces with baking soda on a damp rag.

Use on any hard surface as a mild abrasive to remove stains.

Use as a bug killer for aphids. Use  1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda per pint of water and apply every 7 days.

To clean grout (any color), mix 3 cups of baking soda with 1 cup of warm water. Scrub grout with a brush and rinse.

Use baking soda on a damp cloth to polish silver.

To remove burned food in casseroles, fill dish with hot water and add 1 tablespoon of baking soda and allow to soak.

To clean up pet vomit, sprinkle on a heavy coating of baking soda. Let it absorb moisture and dry, then scoop or vacuum up. The baking soda will neutralize acids and help prevent stains. Follow with your favorite carpet spotter.

Remove heel marks from hard floors with a damp cloth and baking soda.

Clean screen stain and mineral deposits off windows by dipping a soft, wet cloth in baking soda and rubbing gently. Follow by washing windows as usual.

Remove streaks and greasy film from car windshields with a thin paste of baking soda and water. Rinse well.

Put in the bottom of cat litter boxes to help eliminate odor. Put in a thin layer of baking soda, then add the litter as usual. This works with clay or clumping varieties.

LEMON JUICE

Lemon juice is nature’s bleach and disinfectant.

Apply to clothes, undiluted, to remove fruit-based stains. Let soak 30 minutes and then launder.

Remove rust from clothes by applying undiluted lemon juice and laying the garment in the sun. It disappears like magic.

Bleach spots off Formica® counters by using straight or mixing in a paste with baking soda.

Clean brass and copper with lemon juice and salt. Sprinkle salt on half a lemon and rub metal, then rinse thoroughly. If you don’t have fresh lemons, you can also mix bottled lemon juice and salt.

Make a cleaner in a spray bottle with 2 cups of water, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon of liquid dish soap, 1 tablespoon of baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of borax. Shake before using to clean any hard surface.

Apply lemon juice to chrome and buff to a shine.

As a bleach alternative, use 1/4 cup of lemon juice and 1/4 cup of white vinegar mixed in 1 gallon of warm water, and soak clothes for 15 minutes prior to washing.

Remove stains from hands with lemon juice.

Bleach wooden breadboards by applying lemon juice and letting them sit overnight. Wash and rinse in the morning.

PALACE PENNYSAVERS

Check the unit price before shelling out for that large, economy size. Often that thrifty size isn’t so thrifty at all!

CLUB SODA
Club soda is the best emergency spotter there is. Keep club soda on hand to clean up spills on carpet and clothing. Remember to react as soon as possible to a spill. If you act fast, a spot shouldn’t become a stain. Club soda will remove red wine, coffee, tea, pop (yes, even red pop!), Kool-Aid®, and any other spills you can think of. Lift any solids carefully off carpet or clothes and then pour on the club soda, blotting with an old rag until all the color from the spill is removed. Don’t be afraid to really wet the carpet, it won’t hurt it — carpet goes through countless dippings in water as it is made. Blot carpet easily by folding a rag and standing on it, turning the rag as it absorbs moisture and discoloration from the spill. The carbonation in the club soda brings the offending spill to the surface so that you can blot it up, and the salts in it will help prevent staining.

If you spill something on your clothes in a restaurant, ask for a little club soda or seltzer and use your napkin to blot the stain until it is removed. At home you can pour the club soda directly onto the spot, flushing it out.

I have found that club soda will work on many old stains, too. Always keep several bottles on hand.

20 MULE TEAM® BORAX

Now’s your chance to harness the power of twenty mules for general cleaning and laundry. Borax is a natural additive that will boost the cleaning power of your regular laundry detergent and deodorize your laundry, too. But don’t stop there. It is amazing for all kinds of cleaning. Look for 20 Mule Team® Borax in the laundry additive section at grocery and discount stores.

Borax and water is a great cleaner for porcelain bathroom fixtures. Make a paste, and rub well, then rinse.

Combine 2 parts baking soda, 1 part borax, and 1 part hot water to make a fantastic grout cleaner. Mix together and, using a brush, rub into the grout. Rinse well when you are done.

Remove hard-water rings from toilets by shutting the water off at the tank and flushing the toilet to remove as much water as possible. Spray the toilet bowl with heated white vinegar and then sprinkle on borax. Use a piece of fine drywall sandpaper to remove the ring. Turn the water back on and flush for a sparkling toilet bowl.

To clean white appliances, combine 8 cups of water, 1/2 cup of chlorine bleach, 1/2 cup of baking soda, and 2 tablespoons of borax. Wash white appliances thoroughly (using care around carpets and fabrics), rinse well, and dry.

To keep dishwashers odor free, use a damp sponge and some borax to wipe out the inside of the dishwasher, door, and gaskets. No need to rinse, just do the next load of dishes.

To make your own dishwasher spot stopper, combine the following ingredients in a container with a lid: 1 cup of borax and 1?2 cup of baking soda. To use: Add 1 teaspoon of the mixture to the dishwasher along with your regular dishwasher detergent.

Make your own nonabrasive scouring powder by combining 4 parts baking soda and 1 part borax. Store in a labeled shaker container.

To clean vinyl floors, mop with a mixture of 1 gallon of warm water and 1 tablespoon of borax. This will maintain the shine on floors, even those that are waxed.

To remove odor from training pants and socks, soak in a solution of 2 tablespoons of borax and 1 gallon of hot water for one hour prior to laundering. Then dump the entire contents of the bucket into the washer and add detergent; wash as usual.

To revive table linens, add 1/2 cup of borax to your laundry along with your detergent. It will boost your detergent to remove those mystery stains and that stale odor from storage.

To easily clean cloth hats and baseball caps, put them on the top rack of the dishwasher. To avoid color fading, fill the detergent cup with borax and allow to wash up to the dry cycle. Remove the hats prior to the dry cycle and set on a pitcher or jar to dry, shaping as needed.

Make your own Queen’s Power Paste by lathering Fels-Naptha® Laundry Bar Soap onto stained laundry, fabric patio cushions, etc. Then work borax into the lather, rubbing between your thumbs. Removes most difficult stains.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Previously the owner of a cleaning and disaster-restoration business in Michigan, dealing with the aftermath of fires and floods, Linda Cobb, author of Talking Dirty With the Queen of Clean (Copyright © 1998 by Linda Cobb), started sharing her cleaning tips in a local newspaper column. After moving to Phoenix she became a weekly guest on Good Morning Arizona — then the product endorsements and requests for appearances started rolling in. A featured guest on radio and television shows across the country, Linda Cobb lives in Phoenix with her husband.

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Tang in the Toilet and 17 Other Ingenious Bathroom Cleaning Tricks

Short on bathroom cleaning supplies? Maybe not!: All the tools you need for a good tile-to-tub scrub can actually be found in your garage, laundry basket, kitchen cupboards and medicine cabinets. Linda Cobb, author of Talking Dirty With the Queen of Clean, has done the dirty work to come up with this list of effective — and ingenious — cleaning concoctions.

CLEANING PORCELAIN TUBS
To clean and polish a porcelain tub and remove stains, make a paste of powdered alum (available in drugstores) and water. Rub well, as if using cleanser. For stains, make a paste of powdered alum and lemon juice; apply and let dry, then moisten with more lemon juice and rub well. Rinse thoroughly.

Borax and water is also a great cleaner for porcelain. Make a paste and rub well, then rinse.

CLEANING FIBERGLAS™ SHOWERS AND TUBS
Heat white vinegar until it is hot, but not too hot to pour into a spray bottle and work with. Spray it on the shower and tub heavily. Wait 10–15 minutes and then moisten a scrubbing-type sponge with more of the vinegar and scrub down the shower, using additional heated vinegar as necessary. Rinse well and dry.

REMOVING HARD-WATER MARKS
Many plastic-type tubs have a dimpled, slip-proof bottom that defies cleaning. I have found that using a good gel cleaner or a mild cleanser, and a piece of fine drywall sandpaper (looks like window screen) works the best. Cut the sandpaper into a workable size, apply the cleaner, and rub. Use this only on dimples in plastic and Fiberglas™ tub and shower bottoms.

STUBBORN SPOT REMOVER FOR SHOWERS
For stubborn shower spots and scum buildup, use a dry, soap-filled steel-wool pad on a dry shower. Do not allow water to become involved in this process, as it will cause the steel-wool pad to scratch. Follow up with the previously described vinegar process.

KEEPING PLASTIC SHOWERS CLEAN
To make shower upkeep simple, apply a coat of car wax. Do not use this on the floor of the tub or shower. After showering, use a squeegee to wipe down the shower door and walls, and your shower will stay clean and you’ll have fewer problems with mildew.

KEEPING TILE AND GROUT CLEAN
You can keep ahead of grout cleaning if you use a dry typewriter eraser on dry grout to remove mildew and stains as they appear. For bigger problems, make a paste of baking soda and chlorine bleach and apply to the grout. Let dry and then rinse. Do this in a well-ventilated area, using care near carpet or fabric. Even the fumes of chlorine bleach can remove color from towels left hanging in the tub area.

TILE AND GROUT CLEANER
Combine 2 parts baking soda, 1 part borax, and 1 part hot water, adding additional water as necessary to form a thick paste. Apply to the tile and grout, and scrub with a soft brush. Rinse well.

This is a handy spray-on grout cleaner for frequent use, good for removing soap scum and cleaning tile counters:

1/2 cup of baking soda
1⁄3 cup of ammonia
1/4 cup of white vinegar
7 cups of water

Combine all the ingredients in a labeled spray bottle and shake well to mix. Do not use this in conjunction with chlorine bleach or where chlorine bleach has been used. Simply spray it on and then wipe with a damp sponge or cloth. No rinsing required.

REMOVING SOAP SCUM FROM GLASS SHOWER DOORS
Removing soap and scum buildup on glass shower doors is always tedious. Lemon oil or even plain old mineral oil will remove it quickly and easily, and will help to keep it from coming back. Apply the oil to a rough cloth, such as an old washcloth, and rub it across the dirty shower door surface. Next buff with a soft cloth or paper towels to provide a haze-free shine. The oil provides a protective coating that keeps the water beading and the soap scum from adhering. Never put oil or allow it to drip on the floor of the shower; this will prevent good traction in the shower and may cause someone to fall.

CLEANING SOAP SCUM AND MILDEW OFF PLASTIC SHOWER CURTAINS
Put the shower curtain in the washing machine with 1 cup of white vinegar, 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 cup of your favorite liquid laundry detergent, and several old, light-colored towels. Fill the washer with warm water and run through complete wash and rinse cycle. Remove from the washer and hang on the shower rod immediately.

CLEANING MINERAL DEPOSITS FROM THE SHOWERHEAD
Fill a plastic sandwich bag with undiluted white vinegar. Tie this around the showerhead and leave overnight. In the morning, remove the bag, scrub the head with a brush, and it’s ready to use.

Put 1/2 cup of baking soda down the bathroom drain and follow with the vinegar from the plastic bag — great drain opener! Wait 30 minutes, then flush with water.

CLEANING CHROME FAUCETS
Use white vinegar on a cloth or sponge to remove water spots and soap scum. Dry and buff with a soft cloth. Rubbing alcohol is also a great spot remover. Apply, then dry and buff.

To shine chrome or any metal fixture in a hurry, use a used dryer fabric-softener sheet on a dry fixture.

Apply some lemon juice to chrome fixtures and buff with a soft cloth to a brilliant shine.

REMOVING HAIR SPRAY RESIDUE
You can use this formula to remove hair spray residue from any hard surface — vanities, tile, floors, walls, etc. Mix a solution of 1⁄3 liquid fabric softener and 2⁄3 water in a spray bottle. Spray on the surface to be cleaned and wipe. Not only does it remove hair spray, it also acts as a dust repellent and shines vanities beautifully!

Mix 50 percent rubbing alcohol and 50 percent water in a spray bottle and use it to remove styling product residue.

REMOVING BATHTUB DECALS
Lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the decals and heat with a blow-dryer on high. Work up the edge of the decal with a dull straightedge (credit cards work great) and keep applying the heat as you pull. If the decal is stubborn, lay down the foil as necessary and heat well and peel again. To remove the residue, try petroleum jelly, denatured alcohol, or nail polish remover. Test these products in a small area first before applying.

PALACE PENNYSAVERS
HAIR TODAY: Dilute your shampoo and conditioner with water to save, save, save. No need to watch all that money go down the drain!

CLEANING SHOWER DOOR TRACKS
Plug the drain holes in the door track with a little bit of paper towel made into a ball. Pour in undiluted white vinegar. Let this soak for 30 minutes, unplug the holes, rinse the track with a spray bottle of water, and run a rag down it. This will flush the accumulated buildup out of the track.

TOILET TIPS

If you have indoor plumbing, then you have to clean the toilet once in a while, whether you like it or not. Follow these tips and it will be a breeze:

Tang® Tune-up
To keep your toilet clean and your dog happy, put several tablespoons of Tang® Breakfast Drink in the toilet before you leave for work or at bedtime. Let it soak, use your toilet brush to swish around under the rim, and flush. The great thing about this is you don’t have to worry if the kids get into the toilet bowl cleaner.

Removing Hard-Water Rings

Shut off the water at the toilet tank and flush. Spray undiluted white vinegar around the inside of the toilet, then sprinkle borax onto the vinegar. Let soak about 30 minutes and then scrub with a piece of fine drywall sandpaper (looks like window screen — available at hardware stores and home centers). If you have an old hard-water ring, you may need to repeat this several times.

Plop-Plop-Fizz-Fizz Cleaning
Drop a couple of denture-cleaning tablets into the toilet and let sit overnight. Brush under the rim with your bowl brush and flush.

To clean stubborn stains from a toilet bowl, first shut off the water at the tank and flush the toilet to remove as much water as possible. Combine in a bucket:

1 tablespoon ammonia
1 cup of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide (drugstorevariety)
1 1/2 quarts water

Pour the solution in the toilet bowl and use a brush to apply it to the sides of the bowl. Let stand at least 30 minutes, then scrub the inside of the bowl with a scrub brush. Allow to remain in the toilet for up to several hours, reapplying the solution to the sides of the bowl frequently as needed. Do not use this with chlorine bleach or products that contain chlorine bleach. This solution cleans and disinfects.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Previously the owner of a cleaning and disaster-restoration business in Michigan, dealing with the aftermath of fires and floods, Linda Cobb, author of Talking Dirty With the Queen of Clean (Copyright © 1998 by Linda Cobb), started sharing her cleaning tips in a local newspaper column. After moving to Phoenix she became a weekly guest on Good Morning Arizona — then the product endorsements and requests for appearances started rolling in. A featured guest on radio and television shows across the country, Linda Cobb lives in Phoenix with her husband.

MORE ARTICLES BY THE AUTHOR

LEARN MORE