Tackle 40 Household Tasks With Only These 5 Items


Household CleaningIt’s easy to get overwhelmed by cleaning products.

Glass cleaner, floor cleaner, bathroom cleaner, stovetop cleaner, disinfectant, deodorizer … each one has  a never-ending list of chemicals, insisting you need it for the task at hand.

But do you need it, really?

Nope. Instead of spending on cabinets full of specific, expensive (and toxic) cleaning products, you can use these five basic supplies to cover 40 different household tasks, from removing tea stains to getting rid of ants.

  • Baking soda
  • White distilled vinegar
  • Ammonia
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Cleaning Pads (the brand name for melamine foam pads, which are non-toxic and can be purchased at a discount in bulk)

Below, we’ve listed each product with the tasks it accomplishes. Now, you’ll have a much nicer problem to tackle: What will you do with all that empty cabinet space—not to mention the money you’ve saved?

Baking Soda

  • Keep bouquets fresh by adding a teaspoon of baking soda to the water at the bottom of a vase.
  • Fresh BouquetRemove grease from baking sheets by combining baking soda with hydrogen peroxide and scrubbing (detailed instructions here).
  • Ward off mustiness in your linen closet by placing an open box of baking soda in the back.
  • Dust your mattress with baking soda to remove dirt and moisture (detailed instructions here).
  • Eliminate fridge odors by placing an open box of baking soda on the back shelf.
  • Relieve baby’s diaper rash by adding 2 tablespoons of baking soda in the little one’s bath water.
  • Polish your own silver with a solution of salt, baking soda and hot water (detailed instructions here).
  • Clean your toilet bowl by scrubbing it with a two-to-one ratio of baking soda and olive oil.
  • Use as anti-itch ointment for insect bites, poison ivy or rashes by mixing baking soda with water to create an anti-itch paste.

White Vinegar

  • Deodorize your kitchen drain by flushing it weekly with white vinegar (detailed instructions here).
  • Tie a baggie full of white vinegar around your shower head to remove grime and built-up
    fresh-bouquet residue
    in an hour (detailed instructions here).
  • Add a cup of white vinegar to your dishwater and soak for 20 minutes to shine glassware.
  • Mix equal parts white vinegar and warm water to wash windows.
  • Clean your dishwasher by getting rid of detergent buildup and hardwater stains: Pour 1 cup of white vinegar into your dishwasher and run on empty with hot water (detailed instructions here).
  • Get rid of ant infestations by spraying ants with a 50/50 solution of water and white vinegar.
  • Soften and freshen laundry by adding white vinegar to the wash water (detailed instructions here).
  • Clean chandeliers by creating a spray out of water and white vinegar (detailed instructions here).


  • To clean jewelry, soak in a solution of one part ammonia and one part cold water.jewelry
  • To clean grease from stove burners: Place the burners in a Ziploc bag with 1/4 cup ammonia and let sit overnight (detailed instructions here).
  • Remove scuff marks and dirt from white shoes by scrubbing with a solution of equal parts water and ammonia.
  • Lift carpet stains by spraying with a 50/50 mixture of ammonia and hot water (detailed instructions here).
  • Wash bathroom and kitchen tile floors with a solution of water and ammonia (detailed instructions here).
  • To shine crystal, mix two cups water with a few drops ammonia and wipe. Rinse with cold water.
  • Remove sweat stains from clothing by dabbing with ammonia before washing (detailed instructions here).
  • Clean hairbrushes by soaking in a mixture of 1/4 cup ammonia and one cup water.

 Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

  • Remove crayon marks and fingerprints from walls. fingerprints
  • To clean leather car seats, saturate Mr. Clean pad with water, making sure to squeeze out any excess, then gently rub onto leather.
  • Remove tea stains from mugs and teapots by rubbing with a damp Mr. Clean pad. Rinse clean and dry.
  • Remove adhesive residue left by stickers by rubbing with an eraser.
  • Apply the eraser to porch columns and gutters to remove mildew and moss residue.
  • Remove water rings from wood by dabbing the spot with mayonnaise, then wiping with a Mr. Clean pad (detailed instructions here).
  • Apply to plastic toys to disinfect, rinsing well with water afterwards.
  • Use on your car to clean the steering wheel and dashboard (detailed instructions here).

Liquid Dish Detergent

  • Kill weeds in your sidewalk by mixing 1 teaspoon liquid dish soap with 1 gallon of white vinegar and 1 cup salt. Pour the solution onto weeds.
  • Make your own icepack that stays colder longer than regular icepacks by filling a Ziploc bag with dish soap and freezing for at least half an hour.
  • To wash cloth diapers, add a few drops of dish soap to your washer and run with hot water (detailed instructions here).Sidewalk Weeds
  • Prevent car repair tools from rusting by soaking them in a mixture of dish soap and water.
  • Wash ceramic and linoleum floors by adding a drop of dish soap into cold mop water. (Don’t use on hardwood floors!)
  • Prevent eyeglasses from fogging up by rubbing a small drop of dish soap to lenses. It will leave a small layer of film that prevents them from fogging.
  • Create a powerful DIY cleaner for showers and bathtubs by combining white vinegar and dish soap (detailed instructions here).
  • Jess

    Finally, an article I can actually use!  

  • lizlemony

    I didn’t think the Mr. Clean Magic Erasers were safe to use on dishes/things that go in your mouth? (or child’s mouth, like toys)… Given how ridiculously strong the chemicals are in those things, I personally wouldn’t want them near my dishes.

    • ranavain

      Actually, they don’t have many chemicals in them at all. They don’t really work chemically. Here’s the Snopes on the Magic Eraser: http://www.snopes.com/medical/toxins/eraser.asp, and a general article about how they work: http://home.howstuffworks.com/magic-eraser.htm.

      Basically, it’s an abrasive. It can hurt your skin if you, you know, rub it vigorously on your skin, but it’s just melamine foam, which has been around forever. It works like microscopic sand paper. It’s actually better, chemical-wise, because you can clean things like your bathtub using ONLY the sponge and NO chemicals at all. Just water and the sponge. 

      • lizlemony

         Thanks for proving me wrong! :) cool stuff

  • Brother Earth

    Or maybe get rid of ants by putting your food away, cleaning up your spills, and vacuuming your baseboards?!  Spraying vinegar in the ants’ little eyes and airways is unnecessarily cruel.  Imagine choking to death on that acrid, burning stink?  How heartless to suggest such a thing.

    • Scurvyjoe

      So I guess my childhood solution of burning them to death with a magnifying glass and the sun would be heartless?  But it’s a green solution!!

    • Peggysue038

      Or maybe do it as my husband does, let them crawl up on the stick of a bottle rocket and send them soaring into the great outer space.

    • http://nosacredc0w.wordpress.com NoSacredCow

      sugar, water and boric acid makes an effective ant poison. They carry it back to the nest and poisons the colony. Leave caplets of it along the path of ants but keep away from pets. Don’t use if you have little children.

    • Wishing1

      My home is spotless but line ants were everywhere & I heard they were attracted to water & my land is very wet. Anyway, I bought powdered ant killer, crawled under my home & sprinkled it all around the perimeter. Still, they came! Finally used RAID in both the bug bomb & spray & haven’t seen one all year. Also, I’ve learned to keep bags of sugar & anything that contains sugar in the fridge.

  • EtsyMamma

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

  • http://fitorama.wordpress.com/ Lauren Lever

    Wow this is a great list of things to try. I know what my weekend plans are now! 

  • Jessica Bowers

    This is a great compliation of tips. I can’t wait to print this out to keep handy. Thanks!

  • elvira

    What about wood floors?

    • Abbie Keating

      You can use the white vinegar mixed with water to clean wood floors, that’s what I do. I use about a cup of vinegar to a gallon of hot water.

      • sheryll morris

        Wood floors vinegar is the worse thing you can you use! You are cleaning the sealer not the wood. When you damage the sealer vinegar damages the wood. Vinegar is used by crafters to make wood look like drift wood. Great visual so you understand what vinegar actually does. It will start etching your sealer leaving it cloudy looking. Also remember the underneath of the wood is not sealed so when it reaches the bottom the damage has already started. If you want natural cleaning for wood floors, spritz water on the bottom on your micro fiber mop. If you need more than that put a few drops of dish soap mop, rinse and dry. Water is the enemy to wood floors always always dry.

        If your grandma used vinegar to clean and it was fine with her she probably used a paste wax and sealed her floors several times a year. Also your warranty will be voided if you use it.

        This is a good article, vinegar and natural cleaners are great if used right. But if used wrong you just damage your surfaces.

    • Abbie Keating

      You can use the white vinegar mixed with water to clean wood floors, that’s what I do. I use about a cup of vinegar to a gallon of hot water.

    • Slmbecker

      Vinegar and water – learned this from a housekeeper years ago.

    • sheryll morris

      Never use vinegar on wood. If they are new it will void your warranty. Your cleaning the sealer that protects the wood not the wood itself. Once you damage the sealer and you will with vinegar it damages the wood floors. It will etch and make your floors cloudy. Use a micro fiber mop spritz water on the bottom of it and mop. If it is really dirty use a few drops of dish soap in a bucket of water use a micro fiber mop, rinse and dry. This is key because you don’t want to create damage to the floors. Manufactories give you directions to clean your floors or just google installation and cleaning instructions and they will give you the right way to clean and to protect your floors.

  • http://www.theflipsideofdevelopment.wordpress.com/ PalB

    These are cool. However, could you please provide a home remedy for small roaches that I have in my household by the dozen at least. We have tried combat and liquid repellant however nothing seems to have worked so far. Thanks. 

    • politewoman

       According to Billy the Exterminator, you have to vacuum up all the dead ones, because their eggs hatch even if the host is dead.

    • Tricia Blazy

      if you can find it, i hear boric acid sprinkled in the corners and cracks along the floor boards & under appliances will help fight them. It’s an eye wash that’s non toxic to humans, but the powder eats at their exoskeleton.

    • Aritokma

      Boric acid is a white powder that you can buy in the grocery or hardware store. It repels everything south Texas, especially the roaches, of any variety. I prefer the Hot Shot brand of this stuff because it doesn’t clump in the container as like the other brands do.

    • Rhonwyn

      Roach Prufe from ACE hardware.  It will continue working (apparently forever) unless it gets wet.

    • Debragoffrose

      20 mule team borax (found in detergent area) helped me! 

    • EliseV.

       You can try Diatomaceous earth (use food grade if using in your kitchen). It’s a really fine powder, no chemicals, just basically crushed shells/fossils. I put it in the holes around my outlets where I found Chinese Roaches and in my basement storage rooms and I haven’t had any problems since. Also, orange essence is poisonous to a lot of bugs. Squeeze orange peels or drip essence (or get OrangeGuard) around your doorways and windows and it’ll ward off bugs too. These are supposedly ok around pets and kiddos.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lydia.blais.1 Lydia Blais

      I bought a house that had been empty for over a year in a neighborhood infested with roaches. I opened all the outlet and switch covers and put boric acid into all the holes. I also use a granulated roach/bug killer all around the house every three months. In the beginning it also took bombing the empty rooms regularly but now it is completely under control and I never see even one. :)

  • Kelsey

    I’ll have to give that weed killer recipe a try!

  • Steve

    Oxi-clean (generically, sodium percarbonate) is one that should be on the list. Great for dishwasher/laundry detergent!

  • Llevar62

    Ammonia? Really? As a chemist i am scared of ammonia. Theres more natural solutions out there, you didnt even mention borax or baking wash.

    • desertgirl

       Agreed…I have asthma and anything with ammonia in it sets off an attack almost immediately. Borax and washing soda (basically a more concentrated form of baking soda, you can find it for sale in the cleaning section at Whole Foods and many other natural markets) work just as well as ammonia without the noxious fumes, just follow the directions on the box.

      Hydrogen peroxide is also a great cleaner. It is especially great for blood stains; when my significant other was in the Navy, he cut his hand badly and bled all over his dress whites. The corpsman who sewed him up told him to take his soiled clothes home and soak them overnight in a bucket of equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water, then launder them. They came out good as new! I have saved more than one pair of panties from menstrual accidents this way!

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/TVCIWBEVF7WFSDRPZO54NDVNFI MK

        Funny how peroxide wasn’t listed, but is combined with baking soda or dish soap…

  • Debbie

    Vinegar smells HORRIBLE!!! Sorry but this would leave you with one very sad smelling dirty house! And ammonia is DANGEROUS!

  • Rob

    The smell of vinegar evaporates almost immediately. We used it for years and no one would ever know unless we told them.

  • Kahna

    Great article! It’s in my Favorites. Thank You.

  • Guest

    I cannot stand the smell of white vinegar. I really don’t think it evaporates all that quickly. However, liquid dish soap, especially Dawn is an amazing pre treater for laundry. It seriously get almost every stain out.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/TVCIWBEVF7WFSDRPZO54NDVNFI MK

      It IS an awesome cleaner, but anyone with a sulfa allergy should avoid contact.  I use it to clear out build-up in my shower drains, but make sure to flush it a FEW times before I step in.  The welts are bad enough, but my niece actually has her skin peel of in angry layers, leaving raw and inflamed skin behind.

      Sure, use it.  It’s great stuff; there’s a reason it’s what they use on animals effected by oil spills.  Just be careful when handling, if you have allergies.

    • http://nosacredc0w.wordpress.com NoSacredCow

      Dawn is excellent for cleaning the stove and the range hood especially. Just apply directly to a sponge. Wipe down the surface and let it sit for about fifteen minutes then wipe down with a wet cloth. It actually cuts through grease build up that collected for years. I lived in an apartment whose range hood was actually much lighter in color than I thought. :)

  • Leighbell322

    This is fantastic!  Hands down the most useful cleaning-related thing I’ve ever read.


  • Lboesen2

    Not sure on the ammonia one but definitely agree with oxyclean or equivalent generic and a good degreaser dish soap. We use dluted vinegar  for household cleaning on most services including our hard woods and mirrors/windows. Diluted it still works and the smell evaporates much quicker than ammonia or scented cleaners. And a soft scrub cleanser for toilets and tubs. My husband is very allergic to scents. But I realized once the diluted vinegar evaporates, you don’t smell anything – it’s rather neutral. There is no lingering scent that just makes your house seem clean. I do enjoy the Caldrea cleaning products – earth friendly and not too overwhelming for my husband’s allergies.

  • Abby

    This is a really fabulous list, but dish soap can have some very harmful chemicals too. Triclosan, an ingredient in many soaps, may be acting as an endocrine disruptor in fish and other organisms. This article was just published last week about how it may impair muscle function at the cellular level:  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120813155515.htm

    So it’s better to use all-natural dish soaps without triclosan. 

  • Jjones1118

    Agree with this list hands down.  I’d also add bleach.  A small amount in water does wonders to deoderize.  I’ve been using these staples for years and contributes to a significant savings. 

  • Jeanne

    Don’t forget good old hydrogen peroxide. Peroxide removes most organic stains (including animal and human feces) and is FANTASTIC for removing blood stains.

  • Cory Waltmathe

    This is definitely a helpful post. You had a long list of household tasks, but used just five natural products. That’s pretty awesome! Vinegar and baking soda are really the finest combination when it comes to cleaning a home naturally. Using ammonia on a stained carpet is an amazing idea, too. Thanks for sharing these useful tips! – http://www.desertoasiscleaners.com/

    • Scott

      Mixing baking soda and vinegar is a waste. You’re basically neutralizing the acetic acid (a very good sanitizer, mold cleaner, and scale remover) and turning it into sodium acetate and a little carbonic acid (much weaker than acetic).

  • Miss Edwards

    Do not try this with cheap “silver.” If you’re not sure if it’s real silver, then don’t use ammonia to clean it. I used 1/2 cup ammonia and 1 cup of water to clean some of my jewelry. Everything that was real silver and real gold came out clean and shiny, but the fake jewelry is ruined. Fortunately, I only ruined two pairs of earrings, costing about $ 16. I just thought you might like to know. It works very well for real silver and gold!