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December 21, 2014

Make This: Cut the chemicals with DIY cleaners

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Posted: Sunday, March 23, 2014 1:10 am

I have an on-again, off-again relationship with homemade cleaners. Homemade cleaners have lots of benefits — they’re dirt cheap to make, and most people already have the ingredients on hand (namely, distilled white vinegar and baking soda). Homemade cleaners are typically free from the chemicals that can be harmful to children and pets. Really, the only downside to homemade cleaners (and the reason it’s an “off-again relationship”) is that well, you still have to do the cleaning to see results.

White vinegar is effective because it’s acidic, so it cuts through grime and grease. It’s also a natural deodorizer — although you will initially smell that acidic vinegar-y odor, but only until it dries. I use it often enough that I buy it by the gallon jug, usually for less than $3.

My favorite (read: easiest) homemade cleaner is made of equal parts white vinegar and water. I put it in an empty spray bottle and add some drops of lavender essential oil. Then I just shake and spray every surface that needs to be cleaned. This cleaner is safe on everything I’ve tried — countertops, hardwood floors, dining room table, walls, bathrooms, the microfiber furniture, booster seats that are covered with dried food …

Another idea I’ve seen for an all-purpose cleaner suggests soaking orange peels in white vinegar for two weeks, then pouring the vinegar into a spray bottle. That’s a great idea for using up all the peels from the Cutie mandarins we eat — and since it’s just vinegar, you can even compost them afterward and complete the green cycle.

I’ll also add a couple tablespoons of white vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser in my washing machine when I clean a load of towels. Traditional fabric softener does make towels nice and fluffy, but the buildup of detergent and softener can make the terrycloth less absorbent. The vinegar cleans out all that crud and brings the towels back to life.

Vinegar is great for cleaning the appliances themselves, too. Run a cup or so through your washer on the hottest cycle, without any clothes. After the cycle clean the gaskets and seals with a dry cloth. This is especially helpful for high-efficiency machines (front- or top-loading), which are more prone to mildew. For your dishwasher, put a couple tablespoons of baking soda in the soap dispenser and a cup or bowl of vinegar on the top shelf. Run a cycle without dishes, and then clean the gaskets and seals and anywhere else you see remaining grime. To clean the most important appliance in the house, the coffeemaker, run a cycle substituting vinegar for water (make sure to remove old grounds from the basket first). You’ll need to do a couple cycles afterward with water to rinse out all the vinegar before brewing a fresh batch of java.

To refresh your rugs, sprinkle baking soda over them and let it sit for a while. The powder absorbs odors, and if you add some essential oil before sprinkling, it’ll leave a fresh scent, too.

Baking soda can also be used to clean glass-top stoves. Sprinkle some on the surface and scrub with a warm, damp, slightly soapy rag. You can let it sit for a while to help, or just use some elbow grease and scrub. Repeat if necessary until it shines like new.

For more homemade cleaner recipes, including dishwasher tabs, laundry detergent and glass cleaner, check out our “Home — Cleaning” board on Pinterest at www.pinterest.com/starfeatures.

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