- Rubbing Alcohol. If you're looking for one-stop household cleaning, the vinegar-water solution previously mentioned can solve all your glass and mirror issues. To go a step further, for added shine, add one-part rubbing alcohol to a spray bottle with the solution. For added greenness, use newspaper instead of paper towels. Newsprint doesn't streak or smear as might be expected, and it actually makes the surface a lot cleaner. Note: Since this liquid is mostly alcohol, it is flammable, so store in a cool, dry place away from heat and sparks. Also, be sure to spot-test surfaces as rubbing alcohol may react with certain plastics and other substances.
- Bathroom. Using the formula described above, polish mirrors and glass surfaces. Slightly diluted rubbing alcohol also works great as a germ killer, which comes in handy when someone in the household is sick.
- Home Office. A dab of rubbing alcohol on a lint-free cloth can clean your printer head. It is also safe for LCD screens (only when diluted) and dry-erase boards, and works to remove ink (even permanent marker) from most surfaces. Be sure to spot-test first as some materials may not react.
- Kitchen. Use to disinfect and cut grease off switch plates, phones, and other frequently handled items. If vinegar and baking soda have failed to remove a stain, try rubbing alcohol, but spot-test to avoid potential damage to the surface. Remove dust from candles by rubbing with a cloth dampened with rubbing alcohol. (Be sure candle dries before lighting.) You can also use it to tackle soot in jar candles.
- Outside the Home. Carry in a small spray bottle and use it to disinfect shopping carts or other items in public places. A cotton swab and rubbing alcohol go far in giving your car's interior that professional, detailed look.
Cost Comparison (per ounce):
Commercial disinfectant: $.32
Rubbing alcohol: $.11
- Kitchen. Sprinkle on lemon to scrub pots and pans; rinse to avoid stickiness. Pour a strong concentration of warm salt water down sink drains to avoid grease buildup. Rub pure salt on cups and mugs to remove stubborn tea and coffee stains. A salt-and-soda-water solution will freshen your refrigerator and won't scratch enamel. Rub tarnished silverware with salt before washing. Stains on copper pans come off more easily if you rub salt into them with a vinegar-soaked cloth. Get rid of old odors by running your coffee maker with a mixture of water and four tablespoons of salt; be sure water goes all the way through. You may also want to run the coffee maker again with fresh water to make sure your next cup of joe has no salty residue.
- Living Room. A paste of salt and vinegar can be used on brass and copper to restore shine. If wine is spilled on a rug, dab up as much as possible, then immediately sprinkle the stain with salt, which should absorb most of the remainder. Rinse with cold water.
- Laundry. Sprinkle salt in laundry starch to keep iron from sticking to fabric. Linens and cottons shine after a good salt-ironing. Salt in the color cycle will brighten colors.
Skeptical? So was I, so I decided to experiment before putting my name on this article. By the end of my cleaning foray, I'd decided to permanently ditch several of my steadfast commercial cleansers, including the glass cleaner and spray disinfectant. Here's a quick rundown of some of the more significant results:
- My favorite tip by far was the baking-soda-in-the-microwave trick. Holy timesaver, Batman! It took me less than a minute to clean out the crud.
- My mom turned me on to using vinegar in the dishwasher, and I haven't bought a commercial glass brightener since. For some reason, I failed to make the connection with other glass surfaces until I began my research -- and, once again, I was pleasantly surprised. When I cleaned one side of my mirrored closet doors with a name-brand glass cleaner and the other with my homemade vinegar solution, I couldn't tell the difference.
- The experiment I was most wary of trying was the lemon/olive oil furniture polish, so I offered up the back of my Ikea bookcase as sacrifice. I was so pleased with the result that I quickly went to work polishing my brand-new entertainment armoire. My furniture is shiny and my living room now smells like a lemon grove.
- I had to call in my scouring pad for backup with some of the tougher baked-on foods, but scrubbing dishes with lemon otherwise went as smooth as can be.
- A bonus tip for having read this far: For added greenness -- and cost savings -- throw sponges in the dishwasher to extend their life.