Commercial cleaning products often get the thumbs down in cleaning books. Somehow, using a lemon to shift scum from a metal tap is seen to be that bit more wonderful than reaching for a can of bathroom mousse. The trade-off, however, is time and effort versus a clean, green feeling.

Using quality branded cleaning products saves you significant time and effort, principally because you don’t need to rub commercial cleaners in, and if you do have to rinse them, you can do that quickly without waiting 30 minutes and then repeating. If you choose to go the natural route, prepare to squeeze citrus fruits and make up pastes and solutions.

Just because a product is natural doesn’t mean it’s gentle. You can damage surfaces with green cleaners. The humble lemon can fade fabric and leave streaks on untreated wood.

Health concerns may dictate that you avoid the strong chemicals in commercial cleaners. Asthmatics in particular have good reason to avoid irritants that may make them struggle for breath.

Environmentalists are concerned about the effect that all the toxins in commercial cleaning products may have on our planet. Scientists continually discover that more and more chemicals pose potential cancer threats. The latest ban is on fifty products used indoors to kill flies and moths.

What you cheerfully spread onto your kitchen worktops today may be on the health hazard list tomorrow. If you want to avoid those dangers, you may want to test out some natural cleaning solutions.

Ingredient Properties Uses Tips and Cautions
Bicarbonate of soda Deodorises; absorbent; gently abrasive Clean and deodorise the fridge (leave a small pot to neutralise food odours); remove stains from hard surfaces, such as crayon and ink from painted walls; mix with water to form a paste to polish silver or clean the grout between kitchen and bathroom tiles. By weight it’s pricier than top-brand scouring powder, so don’t use more than you need.
Lemon High acidity makes it an excellent grease cutter and stain remover. Good bleaching ability Remove soap scum and limescale from taps, rust marks and fruit-based stains from white fabric, tarnish from brass and copper; disinfect hard surfaces that can safely withstand bleach, such as untreated wood chopping boards Bleaches out coloured fabrics.
Salt Abrasive and absorbent. Cheapest scouring powder you can buy! Shift stubborn stains from worktops; provide extra power on hard surfaces such as food baked onto a casserole dish; unblock drains Can rust metal; creates a permanent damp patch, so never sprinkle it on a wine spill on a carpet
Vinegar Cuts grease; dissolves scum Shine windows and glassware; cut scum in showerheads, dishwashers, coffeemakers; remove mildew from plastic shower curtains; clean vinyl floors; replace fabric conditioner Boiling strengthens the stain-removing properties, but splashes of cold, concentrated vinegar can acid-burn your hands, so take care; Use distilled white vinegar. The brown variety is cheaper and just as good a cleaner but the smell lingers and lingers.

To get more juice from a lemon, cut it in half then pop into the microwave for 15 seconds. You can use this tip whether you’re cooking or cleaning with this little yellow fruit.

Look for bicarbonate of soda in your local chemists or pharmacy (sold as an antacid) – it’s cheaper here than in the supermarket (sold as a cooking ingredient).