Removing the staples: Cleaning the house, naturally

Health & Beauty

Note: This is the third installment of a three-part series on alternative uses for common kitchen staples

When it comes to doing chores, deep cleaning the bathroom and kitchen are arguably two of the worst tasks. Scrubbing the tub and sinks, wiping off greasy counters and cleaning the floors aren’t only a physical headache — they give you a literal headache. The culprit? Most likely your commercial household cleaners.


“Natural” cleaners, such as J.R. Watkins’ line of products, are often looked at as better than commercial cleaners, such as Clorox and Windex. However, this is not always the case

Whether they are used for glass, floors, bathroom appliances or any purposes, an overwhelming majority of commercial cleaners contain toxic substances like phenol, formaldehyde, phosphates, ammonia, chlorine bleach, arsenic, naphthalene, hydrochloric acid, paradichlorbenzene, lye, phosphoric acid and sulfuric acid. When breathed in, they can irritate the entire respiratory system, making you dizzy and nauseated. According to the Organic Consumers Foundation, in 2000, cleaning products were responsible for nearly 10 percent of all toxic exposures reported to U.S. Poison Control Centers, accounting for 206,636 calls.

People who realize these side effects and dangers often pitch their toxic commercial cleaners to replace them with “natural,” “organic” and “eco-friendly” cleaners, such as Method’s line of products. Although this may give the buyer a peace of mind, the labels don’t necessarily equate to safer products. In fact, the foundation said that while “organic” in the grocery store refers to foods grown without synthetic pesticides, in chemistry, it refers to chemicals that are carbon-based, including volatile organic compounds that release harmful fumes and may cause brain damage or cancer.

So, if common household cleaners such as Windex and Clorox are out of the mix, and organic, all-natural products are deceptive marketing ploys, what are some safe, acceptable cleaning alternatives? According to Sarah Aguirre, they can be found right in your kitchen cabinet.

While it’s initially as potent as bleach, vinegar “cleans much like an all-purpose cleaner,” Aguirre wrote, adding that a solution of equal parts of water and vinegar in a spray bottle is a great natural cleaning product, cleanser and deodorizer for most areas of the home. Some rooms she suggested were the bathroom, kitchen and laundry room, where adding ½ cup of vinegar to a rinse cycle in the place of store-bought fabric softener “has the added benefit of breaking down laundry detergent more effectively.”

Not shockingly enough, lemons are also present on Aguirre’s list, and they have a multitude of uses.

“Lemon juice can be used to dissolve soap scum and hard water deposits,” Aguirre wrote. “Lemon is a great substance to clean and shine brass and copper. …One of my favorite uses for the fruit is to put a whole lemon peel through the garbage disposal. It freshens the drain and the kitchen.”


When life gives you lemons, use them to clean your bathroom, kitchen and garbage disposal

Aguirre suggested mixing lemon juice with vinegar or baking soda to make cleaning pastes, and cutting a lemon in half and sprinkling baking soda on the cut section to scrub dishes, surfaces and stains. She did caution, however, that lemon also acts as natural bleach, so she advised to test it out on hidden areas before using it.

The last item on Aguirre’s list is a no-brainer, especially when it comes to refrigerator and freezer odor-repellent: baking soda.

“Baking soda is actually one of the most versatile cleaners on the planet,” Aguirre wrote. “Baking soda can be used to scrub surfaces in much the same way as commercial non-abrasive cleansers. I’ve used it in trashcans, laundry, and even my sons’ super-smelly sneakers. Baking soda makes a great addition in the laundry room, as well.”

In addition, Aguirre listed ketchup, coffee grounds and rice as other cost-effective ways to clean the house naturally. So, save the baked goods; clean your house with your ingredients, instead.


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