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Your Cupboards Have You Covered | Fall 2006 Out Here Magazine

"Home brews" can be just as handy as specialty cleansers by purchasing spray bottles and clearly marking them.

Use kitchen staples to clean just about anything

By Teresa Odle

Photography by Jeff Frazier

The kitchen sink is backing up and you don't want to go to the store just to buy drain cleaner. So reach into your kitchen cabinet instead, says Chris Kilbride, family and consumer sciences agent for the University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service in Stuart, Fla.

Pour one-half cup of baking soda down the drain followed by one-half cup of white vinegar. Cover the drain for a few minutes, then flush with water. Most clogs will disappear.

You've just saved time, a little money, and the use of a chemical-based product. "We're trying to promote environmentally safe products for you and your children," says Kilbride, a champion of time-tested uses for household items in the home and garden.

A little elbow grease and creativity, she says, can turn household staples into cleaners and fixer-uppers.

Clean, Safe, Convenient

One part white vinegar to one part water kills germs, soap scum, mildew, and grime from bathroom fixtures, floors, bathtubs, and tiles. Just spray fixtures and floors with the mixture and wipe clean.

Wipe other surfaces and rinse with water. Pour a cup of white vinegar into the toilet bowl, letting it stand for five minutes before flushing. The mirror will sparkle from a solution of one-half cup vinegar and one-third cup clear ammonia in one gallon of water. Wipe it dry with a lint-free cloth or paper towel. You've now cleaned an entire room with vinegar and a little ammonia.

Sound convenient? It is, yet convenience is why consumers choose assorted specialty cleansers. Make your "home brews" just as handy by simply purchasing plastic spray bottles, Kilbride says. "Put a nice label for your concoction on the bottle, including ingredients and the percentage mix," she says.

Other kitchen staples also perform household work:

  • Instead of spraying air freshener to eliminate cooking odors, boil one tablespoon of white vinegar with one cup of water.
  • Meat tenderizer removes bloodstains from fabrics. Wet the stain and sprinkle with tenderizer before laundering.
  • Baking soda is a safe scouring powder for nearly any surface.
  • Lime removes onion or garlic odors from cutting boards.

Take it Outside

Replace items used outside with household staples too. "Put used coffee grounds in standing water and damp areas. They'll discourage mosquitoes from laying eggs," Kilbride says.

Love azaleas? They love acidic soil. So water them occasionally with two tablespoons of white vinegar mixed in one quart of water.

Clean and sanitize your garbage cans with three tablespoons of liquid bleach, one tablespoon of liquid soap, and a gallon of water. Rinse with the hose and spray with ammonia to repel animals and insects.

Buying items such as baking soda and white vinegar in bulk saves you even more money. "Most of these products won't go bad," says Kilbride. "And if they might, just buy the large quantity and share with your neighbor."

Teresa Odle is a freelance writer in Albuquerque, NM.