Blog, Home Care, Solutions

Natural Products: A fresh start to cleaning


Home, sweet, home? Not always.

Sometimes, it goes sour. Our busy lives leave little time to clean thoroughly. Still, any freshening does wonders for the eye and mind.

“Freshening up,” delivers a sense of calm and order to homes, says Elizabeth Goldsmith, professor of family resource management at Florida State University and author of Green Cleaning for Dummies.

She suggests using scent-free natural products — baking soda, white distilled vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil and cream of tartar — as home-cleaning agents. The use of such pantry staples as cleaning agents goes back generations, but the current interest in sustainability, as well as food and home safety have renewed their popularity. “This generation of younger parents is very aware of what their kids eat and what their toddlers put in their mouths as they crawl on the floor,’’ Goldsmith says. “People stay home more. The rooms are more lived in. We notice more, such as dirt.’’

A solution of baking soda and water cleans sinks. Remove tannin stains (red wine, coffee, tea, juices, ketchup, soft drinks) by blotting with club soda. A mixture of salt and baking soda clears drains. A paste of water and baking soda or cornstarch removes greasy oven stains. A dusting of baking soda absorbs odors from rugs, carpet, even running shoes. Fresh grapefruit cuts grease in garbage disposals. For sparkling windows and glass surfaces, use a solution of warm water and vinegar in a spray bottle.

Novices eager to make their own cleaning products need to follow “recipes,” advises Susan E. Taylor, extension educator and consumer and family economics advisor with the University of Illinois Extension in Matteson. “Careless mixing, such as using bleach mixed with acids, can be hazardous.’’


Taylor urges consumers to check with the product manufacturer when in doubt. Many universities with domestic-science departments and extension services offer excellent resources of online information on household cleaning.

When time is scarce Goldsmith recommends focusing on the area people notice first. In the kitchen, start with counters, the refrigerator and range. Polish the doors and handles. Remove stains from sinks, polish faucets and keep counters clutter-free.

In the living room, concentrate on the sofa. Remove pillows, re fluff and air them outside. Vacuum all surfaces including corners. Open doors and windows. Shake drapes and dust blinds. In the bedroom, strip the bed and move it away from the wall. Dust and vacuum all surfaces and open windows before relocating furniture.

In the bathroom, target shiny surfaces such as mirrors, faucets, toilet (inside and out) and shower/tub. Rub mirrors and glass surfaces with a vinegar/warm water solution. The vinegar odor dissipates in hours. If aroma is critical, add essential oils (peppermint, lemon, lavender, eucalyptus) to scent solutions. Remove stains from tile grout with a paste of water and baking soda. Let it dry, then scrub with a toothbrush.