We have a huge amount of choice when it comes to commercial cleaning products these days – supermarket and hardware stores are stacked to the brim with different brands and types, some formulated for specific problems and most using harsh, powerful chemicals to do their job.
However, in many cases, it is possible to clean just as effectively using natural products, which are less harmful to your health and the environment. Here are some suggestions.
In many cases, especially if the dirt or stain is fresh, just flushing with lots of water will do the trick. This is something that is often forgotten as people rush to find some powerful commercial stain remover – rinsing and/or soaking in water can lift off many types of dirt and grime, without the need for stronger chemicals.
This is a wonderful product that is sadly often forgotten about and under-used in the modern household. Mixing baking soda with lemon juice, vinegar or even just some water and making it into a paste will create a fantastic all-purpose cleaner and stain remover. Baking Soda is also an incredible deodoriser – it doesn’t just absorb odours but it also neutralises them as well, making it a great cleaner for the refrigerator. You can also use it to deodorise the dishwasher (sprinkle one-half cup baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher between loads) and to help with masking any odours from pet stains.
Sprinkling it onto carpets 10 minutes before vacuuming will also help with any general unpleasant lingering odours in the room. Baking soda is also great for cleaning stainless steel items and is remarkably effective for removing tannin stains from tea and coffee in crockery. You can even use it to remove crayon marks from walls and wallpaper, just by gently scrubbing with a damp sponge sprinkled with baking soda.
White vinegar is easily available, cheap and harmless to use. It is very particularly effective on solid stains, such as limescale and calcium deposits (“soap scum”) from hard water, because it is a mild acid. Use it to clean the shower and the bath and even to unclog the washing machine (Once a month pour one cup of white vinegar into the washing machine and run the machine through a normal cycle, without clothes). It will also help to remove mildew and mould from bathroom tiles and shower curtains.
Vinegar is a great all-round stain remover, whether it is food stains in pots and pans, stains in toilet bowls, perspiration from clothes, scorch marks or animal urine stains in the carpet. Like baking soda, it is also a great natural air freshener – if you have a room filled with smoke or paint fumes, place a small bowl of vinegar in the room or spray some into the air and this will help to deodorise the area.
Like vinegar, lemon juice is mildly acidic and dissolves grease very effectively. It also has a bleaching and deodorising effect. Use lemon juice to clean and deodorise cutting boards, clean kitchen sinks and brass, copper or stainless steel cutlery. Combined with salt, it can shift a whole host of stains from fabrics and rubbed straight into your hands will help you get ride of any stains from berry juices. To get the best results, choose a lemon that feels firm and heavy and which has a fine-grained skin, as these tend to have more juice.
Salt is another common household product that, like baking soda, is not appreciated enough for its cleaning properties. For example, mix with turpentine to form a paste and use this on any white enamelled fixtures that may have gone yellow, such as bathroom sinks, bathtubs and toilets. Leave the paste for 15 minutes and then wipe off with a damp sponge. Mixing salt with alcohol (1 part salt to 4 parts rubbing alcohol) creates a great product for tackling grease.
Salt is also a fantastic stain remover and the first port of call when you spill red wine or find a blood stain – pour a generous amount over the stain and watch it absorb and lift the stain.