Monday, November 24, 2014

Cheap and Clean Home Cleaning Products: Vinegar, Baking Soda, Veg Oil, Salt, and Castile Soap

Frazzled cleaning?
When I lived in the city, I had a whole pantry full of smelly cleaning products. Now that I live remotely, I use only four, exceptionally versatile products. Imagine the cost and space savings as well as the lack of chemical smells! Whether your interest is in downsizing or escaping smelly fumes or questionable additives, consider the following prices, uses, and links to additional information and recipes.

Today, my cleaning supplies consist of:
(Prices at Walmart today):
Vinegar (1 gallon costs a bit over $2)
Baking soda (1 lb $0.56)
Generic vegetable oil (48 oz $2.50)
Castile soap (32 oz $8 – 22, depending on brand)
Salt (104 oz $5.20)

By contrast, I used to buy products like:
(prices at Walmart today)
Windex (26 oz $3.12)
Tide laundry detergent (138 oz $9)
Palmolive, (52 oz, $3)
Lysol multi-purpose cleaner (28 oz, $2.87)
Copper, brass cleaner (10 oz  $2..60)
silver cleaner, Shine Bright (8 oz, $6)
rug and carpet cleaner, Arm and Hammer (30 oz $?)
shampoo: Suave, (28 oz $2.88)
soap: Dial, (4 oz $3)
Suave hair conditioner (28 oz $2.88)
Rutland brick and stone cleaner  (16 oz $7.98)
Murphy's Wood Floor Cleaner (32 oz $3.48)
Lysol toilet bowl cleaner (24 oz $4.97)

Below is a partial list of household uses for these versatile products.  For more details, including recipes and proportions, see the embedded links.

See common uses including wash windows, shower stall, plastic shower curtains, clean brushes and combs, deodorize and clean sinks and drains, clean grease and ash from the wood stove and propane stove, clean greasy pans (hot vinegar), diffuse odors, brighten rugs, remove grease stains in carpets and fabrics, clean grease/ash off of and then brighten brick and stone work, clean hard water out of coffee maker or tea kettle, brighten up glass, china, silver, brass, clean gunky can openers and knives, kill and deter mildew in refrigerators, showers, etc, brighten white laundry, eliminates static cling, clean washing machine drum, eliminate or reduce stains of wine, ketchup, remove rust from metal tools, soften hard paint brushes, kill dandelions, mixed with sugar: create a bug trap, scrape off decals, keep flowers fresh, rinse hair, add acid to soil of acid loving plants (like azaleas and blueberries).
Organic cleaning supplies

Baking soda:
See common uses.  Like vinegar, baking soda is a great cleaner and can often be used interchangeably. I particularly value it for its scraping quality, like on crusty pot residue, even cast iron, or stove top.  For extra scrubbing texture, add salt. Boiling water with baking soda poured into a really dirty pan can be very effective, followed several hours later by scrubbing with a baking soda and water paste. Also cleans brass, crayon marks, and grout. It can soften hard water (makes it more alkaline) for more effective clothes washing. Also like vinegar, it is an effective odor reducer, in refrigerators, thermoses, etc. Either one will do.

As a toiletry, baking soda mixes with other ingredients, starting with water for a paste, as an exfoliant. It can be used as a toothpaste and tooth whitener, too, but tastes really salty and I worry about abrasion.  I have used it in solution with salt as a mouthwash which certainly works to clear the breath but it tastes salty and requires a clear water rinse. In solution, it is a long used treatment for sore throats and acid reflux/heartburn (reduces the acid).

In cooking, its uses are by no means limited to baking. A little bit (¼ to ½ teaspoon) will prevent milk from curdling and will speed up bean cooking. Added to spinach, the cooked vegetable will retain its bright color. Added to some stewed fruits/veggies (like rhubarb), less sugar is required.

Vegetable oil
See common uses.  It shines up the woodstove (after it is cleaned), reduces rust, lubricates squeaky hinges, seasons cast iron pans, moisturizes skin (look at the ingredients – ones you will recognize, in contrast to cosmetics), shine leather goods, keep snow or dirt from clumping on shovels, soften skin with a splinter in it before applying tweezers.  I also make a salad dressing like combo of vinegar and oil to rub wood furniture. 

Castile soap
See common uses.  It is found in the “health” product section of supermarkets. A $6 bottle will last a long time.  Reviews on Amazon make this product sound like a wonder product. I am still exploring its uses.  

Shampoo (a single use size is 1 TBS of water: 1 TBS soap: 1 TBS honey (for dry hair) or 1 egg (normal hair) or 1 TBS vinegar (oily hair), depending on hair type)
dish washing soap ( 1:1 water/soap + citrus juice or scent, if desired)
clothes washing soap (1 soap:1 baking soda: 2 water: 1/3 salt

It can be used for household cleaning, too, but I generally just use vinegar.

Update Note:  I have not found Castile soap as effective as I want for super greasy dishes, like pans that roasted meat or for greasy, dirty hands after cleaning machines.  I buy Dawn dish washing soap.  This particular brand has been recommended by Alaskan fishermen for excellent grease cutting.  It also is a recommended antidote to bear spray(pepper spray) residue (and I had to use it for that once!).  

See common uses.  Like vinegar and baking soda, salt, in a paste, by itself,  or in a liquid solution, can clean glass, greasy pots and pans, stoves, bathtub and other ceramic stains. See clothes washing recipe above, under Castile soap. A salt solution will set colors of new clothes washed before mixing them with other items.

In the yard, it deters slugs and kills weeds (in solution).

With food, it has more uses than just flavoring. It binds to spills, like raw egg, making them easier to clean up. I read that a pinch of salt in the pan will keep bacon from spattering – I need to try that! It can extinguish a grease fire and help a smoldering fire in the fireplace go out sooner. It can clean up coffee and tea stains in cups and red wine stains on fabric. Salty water helps clean the crevices and grooves in wrinkly green vegetables.

As the links above and any Internet search indicate, there are many more uses for these inexpensive, easy to find and store products.  I have endeavored to limit my list to uses I have already tried myself, and will likely add to this in the future.  Next time you are out of some chemical product, give one of these a try instead. 

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to link to your favorite media site.  
Also, I welcome any additional uses you would like to share, through the option below this post. 


  1. It’s very good that you use only the natural cleaning products as these natural products don’t contain harmful chemicals. My house cleaners also use homemade cleaning products. I really like their work.

  2. I am hoping the same best effort from you in the future as well. In fact your creative writing skills has inspired me.
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  3. When you will consider replacing your general cleaning products with the Plant Based Cleaning Products, you will get the additional benefits of home cleaning with such natural cleaning

  4. nice bLog! its interesting. thank you for sharing....
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  5. I also use the same products receipe. But i have a question: How much amount of castile soap you add? I have heard that if you add catile soap too much then it can hurt your produts.
    home cleaning edmonton

  6. Thanks for asking. I would be interested in your experiences, too. I now use Castille soap only for washing my hair and body, not for other purposes. My shampoo/hair rinse is 1/2 and 1/2 water: vinegar, + a few shakes of Catille soap drops, and then rosemary (from the spice rack) or other herbs in summer (horsetail, cleavers).