photo: charles chan *
The next time you find yourself in need of a household product like stain remover, shower cleaner or ant deterrent, check the pantry before heading to the store. You might just find what you need, in the form of a common kitchen ingredient.
From a green perspective, going the DIY route eliminates some of the harsh chemicals in your home, reducing your family’s exposure to them. It can also save you money. In a pinch, using cinnamon or cayenne pepper could save you the $5 needed to buy a set of ant traps. And in the long run, buying bulk containers of multi-task products like baking soda and vinegar is cheaper than shelling out for bottles of specialized, one-task cleansers.
Post your own tips below, and try these household uses for common foods:
* Jan Patterson of Cotati, Calif., uses it to remove “stubborn sticky stuff of any kind” from furniture and other household items. Make a thick paste of baking soda with a little water, and spread thickly over surface. Cover with plastic and let sit for a couple hours. Scrub clean.
* Add vinegar, and the mixture works well as a drain cleaner, says Leslie Reichert, a.k.a. The Cleaning Coach.
* “Use it as your first treatment when you spill fruit juice or wine,” says lifestyle consultant Joshua Duvauchelle. Just pour baking soda on the wet stain. “It’s a natural deodorizer and will quickly start soaking up the juice and pigment on a fabric level,” he says. “Flush the area with hot water to lift away the baking soda and the stain.
* Mix with vinegar, and the resulting paste is powerful enough to clean grout, says Maureen Smithe of “Homemade Mothering.”
Use the inside of the peel to polish silver, Reichert says.
Place a cup of it in the garden to catch and drown slugs, says Jan Patenaude, the director of medical nutrition for Signet Diagnostic Corporation.
Along the baseboards and points of entry as an ant deterrent, says Karen Eschebach, the president of home organizing company Clever Container.
Use it as an ant deterrent. “Just use a stick in an ant trail and then spread powdered cinnamon around where you saw them,” Reichert says.
Spread on burns and other minor wounds, honey make a good substitute for antibiotic cream, Patenaude says.
Use for cleaning copper-bottomed pans, Reichert says.
* Run slices or entire fruits through the garbage disposal to clean and freshen it, says Judy Woodward Bates, a.k.a The Bargainomics Lady.
* Work into dish cleaner. “The citric acid in lemons helps cut into and lift away oils, which make this invaluable for cleaning your kitchen,” says Duvauchelle. “Add a squeeze to your favorite green dish detergent, or fill a greasy pot or pan with hot water and add a lemon wedge.”
* Clean microwaves. CouponSherpa.com suggests combining three tablespoons of lemon juice and a cup and a half of water. Cook on high in the microwave for five minutes, and then wipe down the appliance.
Use to remove a broken light bulb. Cut the potato in half and jam it onto the broken part of the bulb, then twist, Bates says. Just be sure to turn off the breaker first.
In lieu of a dusting spray, Reichert suggests boiling a few cups of water and adding two tea bags until it cools. Pour into a spray bottle with a teaspoon of lemon juice.
* Spray on glass surfaces instead of glass cleaner. Duvauchelle suggests mixing one cup of warm water, an eighth of a cup of white vinegar and a quarter teaspoon dish soap in a spray bottle. “You have a non-toxic cleaner that shines without leaving streaks,” he says.
* Rochelle Rucker of Houston, Texas, uses it as weed killer. “I apply it straight to the weed, let it get down to the root, and in about three days, they’re gone,” she says.
* Mixed with castile soap, vinegar serves as a multipurpose bathroom cleanser for the toilet, sink and floor, Smithe says.
* VinegarTips.com suggests using it to remove build-up on tea kettles and coffee machines.
Frugal Foodie is a journalist based in New York City who spends her days writing about personal finance and obsessing about what she’ll have for dinner. Chat with her on Twitter through @MintFoodie.