Yes, I do mean Monica from the television show Friends. She was an idol to many of us twenty-somethings who relish a clean home the way Imelda Marcos did a new pair of shoes. You know who you are, whether you hide you obsession with a clean house in fear of being persecuted by the filth tolerant half of the human race or you wear your yellow rubber gloves proudly in the war against dirt, this article is for you!
The real question is how to achieve a Monica clean house minus all the scary chemicals. Can this be done with out buying all the organic and designer detergents that come with the hefty price tags? Well, what did people do before Clorox wipes and Windex? The answers are probably in your home already! The following article is not for the faint of heart or those with low blood sugar, the number of uses for these everyday household products are endless, just when you think there cannot be one more application, there will be. So go grab one of those frozen things because this is going to be a long journey!
Ok, lets go ahead attack the monster while you are still with me. Vinegar. Yes, vinegar. To most people this is merely a pungent liquid reserved for the occasional recipe or their salad dressing. Vinegar is one of the most versatile liquids on this planet. The uses for this 10, 000 year old elixir are unbelievably varied.
The construction industry uses vinegar to clean their automobiles and equipment. Restaurants and food establishments use vinegar to clean walls and ceilings. So why are these establishments using vinegar instead of Mr. Clean? Well, there are a number of reasons. First, vinegar is non-toxic to the user. You know that burning feeling you get when you breath in bleach fumes while you are mopping? That is not going to happen with vinegar. This also means that vinegar does not leave a harmful residue or odor. Important also is how easy vinegar is to dispense and use. It is convenient and effective. Lastly, there are no worries about the environment when using vinegar. It is biodegradable and can be used in large amounts with out worrying about those little warnings written on the backs of most cleaning agents on how to dispose of properly.
So, now for the good stuff: Applying vinegar as a cleaning agent and all around miracle liquid in our home! I am going to aim for some of the unusual applications, because most avid cleaners know that vinegar can give you sparkling windowpanes! In all instances here we are using regular old white distilled vinegar in all of our concoctions. White vinegar is highest in acetic acid, which is effective at not only deodorizing, but sanitizing as well. Now there is double the bang for your buck.
Let’s start in the kitchen. Soak a sponge in ½ cup water and ½ cup vinegar and place in a bowl in you microwave. Microwave for 1 – 2 minutes and then remove. This will loosen the goo zapped onto your microwave and now you can wipe it off easily. This trick can also be used in the oven with an oven safe bowl of half vinegar half water. Heat on the warm setting for 1 hour, and then carefully wipe your oven down with a damp kitchen towel. Can’t get rid of those funny smells in your kitchen? Of course you can clean your kitchen surfaces with a mixture of vinegar and water, but how about setting out a bowl of straight vinegar, this will absorb smells while you are cooking the offensive item! Have you been cooking and can’t get the smell of onion or garlic out of your hands? Rub a little white vinegar in your hands and the smell will disappear. This will also clean you hands of any stains left from fruits, like blueberries or raspberries. Want to clean your tea kettle, but afraid you won’t be able get all the soap out and you next cup of tea will have a little more flavor then the lemon you squeeze into it? Pour ½ cup of vinegar into your teakettle and then fill up with water. Gentle boil this solution. Pour liquid out and rinse with water. Vinegar is acknowledged as a useful sanitizer, killing bacteria and molds. Use a mixture of salt and vinegar to clean your cutting boards. You will be sanitizing and deodorizing your boards at the same time. Before we leave the kitchen, here are a few other uses for full strength vinegar: shining those new stainless steel appliances, soaking caked on pots and pans and removing the haze on your glassware and coffee pot.
Moving onto our second most time consuming cleaning area, the bathroom, vinegar is equally as useful. Let’s go ahead and tackle the grossest first, the clogged drain in you shower! Mix ½ cup baking soda with ½ cup salt and pour into the offending drain. Next, pour ½ cup vinegar into your drain. You will notice bubbling and foaming, allow to sit for 2 -3 hours then rinse with hot water. Vinegar is also a great agent for cutting through soap scum and molds. Thought that old shower curtain was beyond keeping. Make a solution of 50% water and 50% vinegar and use to scrub that shower curtain down. The vinegar will also inhibit the growth of future molds. Any surface in your bathroom can be cleaned with this mixture from the toilet to the walls, and yes of course the mirror! To keep that fresh smell lasting put a glass of vinegar somewhere discreet in your bathroom, like behind the toilet. Just like in the kitchen, this will help absorb those not so pleasant smells.
We will quickly move through some of the other various uses of vinegar throughout the house, so we can move onto our next miracle agent. To clean wood floors repeat the mixture of 50% vinegar and 50% water, then mop. This same solution can be sprayed on that lovely wallpaper that came with the house when you bought it. Drench those puppies and allow to soak for twenty to thirty minutes and then peel and scrape to you heart is content, or at least your eyes! Got an old blanket that has seen better days? Wash as normal, but pour in 2 cups of vinegar along with your regular detergent. This will breath new fluffier life into any blanket.
Ok, had enough vinegar? Let’s move onto our next elixir, whom you may have noticed when we were in the bathroom cleaning. Baking soda. Yes, no home style cleaning remedy would be complete without it. Baking soda has any many uses as vinegar in cleaning the home. Returning to our nemesis the bathroom, baking soda is great for cleaning the floor. Mix ½ cup of baking soda into a bucket of water and watch your floor gleam. Try sprinkling baking soda into your toilet and using your regular toilet bowl brush. It removes grime and freshens the smell of your toilet on the inside where it counts! Out of vinegar? Use baking soda directly on your sponge to scrub your shower curtain. The abrasive action helps remove soap scum and leaves your curtain fresh. This method can be used on any surface in the bathroom to clean it. Run out of toothpaste and have a hot date? Use your baking soda on your toothbrush and brush away. Baking soda cleans and whitens teeth safely.
Ok, ok. Had enough of the bathroom, and maybe you have already heard of those? Well, here are some other uses around the house. Sprinkle baking soda on your upholstered furniture and allow to sit for 15 minutes, then vacuum. This absorbs smells from your furniture and traps those pesky pet hairs as well. This can also be sprinkled on you carpet and allowed to sit anywhere from 15 minutes to 24 hours depending on the odor problem. This is a great substitute for those overwhelming scented carpet powders that can leave you gasping for fresh air. With baking soda you are removing an odor, not covering it up. Mix ¼ cup baking soda with a bucket of warm water and use this to scrub your pet’s toys. It cleans and deodorizes and doesn’t leave any weird chemicals on you pet’s toys. This is also a great way to clean your baby’s plastic toys or bottles, basically anything they might put in their mouths. This way you know your baby isn’t ingesting any harsh chemicals or soaps. Baking soda is also a great grease remover. Sprinkle the powder on grease spills on you garage floors and scrub with a wet brush. Now that your house is clean, why not take a relaxing bath with ½ cup of baking soda in it? The baking soda washes away oils and perspiration and will leave your skinny silky smooth.
Ok, not impressed yet. Heard it all before? Run out of baking soda and vinegar cleaning every surface in your chemical free home? Well, here are some unusual ones. Pour a can of Coca Cola in your toilet and let it sit as long as you have time to. Next scrub as usual with you toilet bowl brush and then flush. Ah ha, a gleaming toilet. Have a pet that somehow acquired fleas while out on it’s daily stroll? Wash him or her in Skin So Soft. This is great for killing fleas and leaves your pet and you smelling great. This is great for puppies and kittens as well as you, because there are no harsh chemicals for your skin to soak up, after all, you don’t have fleas. Have a couch covered in pet hair, but no vacuum? Put on a pair of rubber gloves and start wiping your hands across the cushions. The rubber will cause the hairs to bunch up as you move along, making a nice tidy roll of pet hair, which can be easily picked up. Use a lint brush or tape sticky side turned out to also remove pet hair.
Now for an area we all cringe when a stain happens: the carpet. Have a mystery spill on your beautiful carpet? Grab a baby wipe and blot at the stain. They are extremely affective on stains ranging from motor oil to blood. If you have an ink stain on your carpet, try pouring alcohol on it, then blot. Do not rub around or you will just spread the ink. This is effective on small ink stains, but not so effective if you have spilled an entire bottle of ink. Red wine spill on the carpet? If it is still wet try pouring some white wine on top of the spill. The white wine will counter act the red wine and eliminate any staining. Remember to blot with a clean dry colorfast cloth.
Tired yet? Well, I have a few more. Pour a cup of rice grains into your coffee grinder and turn it on. This will clean and sharpen you blades. Put ice cubes and lemon rinds in your garbage disposal and grind away. This will clean and sharpen as well. Love cooking on your George Foreman grill, but hate cleaning it? Immediately after cooking put a paper towel soaked in water on each warm cooking surface. Let this sit while you eat dinner. When you are finished just remove the paper towels and the grime will easily wipe away. Splatter your stainless steel fridge while cooking on your George Forman? Wipe it down with a piece of aluminum foil dipped in Coca Cola. This removes rust as well as shines. Any kind of soda is also great for cleaning indoors grills and griddles. Pour some soda on the still warm surface and start wiping with your sponge. Has Great Grandmother’s silverware seen better days? Polishing with strange lotions is smelly and time consuming. Try lining a baking pan with aluminum foil. Next, fill it with a mixture of 1 tablespoon of baking soda per 2 cups of water. Put this in the oven and heat to 150 degrees. Lay your silverware in the warm water mixture and watch the stains disappear.
My last suggestion for the environmentally conscious cleaner is the great invention of the micro fiber clothes. These can be found at any grocery store. These great little gadgets clean effectively with only water. The trick is they use static electricity to attract dirt, grease, and pet hair. They are safe on any surface that water is safe on and can be washed and reused. A clean house can be achieved without all the harsh chemicals. With a little research and elbow grease we can all achieve the chemical free clean house of our dreams.