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How to Make Your Own Household Cleaners

You don't need a cabinet full of commercial products to clean your kitchen and bathroom appliances. You can make your own household cleaners out of a few simple components. Here's what they are and what they do:

  • Baking soda: This is sodium bicarbonate, an alkaline substance produced naturally in mineral springs. Its mild abrasive and foaming action is a gentle but effective favorite.

  • White vinegar: The acetic acid in vinegar gives it a tart taste — and great cleaning properties! The vinegar in the following recipes is distilled white household vinegar with a standard 5 percent acidity. For tough jobs, you can increase its acidity (and cleaning power) by boiling off some of the water content. Just remember: Higher acidity requires more careful handling.

  • Lemon juice: Next to vinegar, lemons are the hands-down favorite for all-around cleaning and freshening. The secret ingredient of this wonder fruit is ascorbic acid. By comparison, vinegar is inexpensive and has a sharp odor, while lemons cost a bit more and smell a heck of a lot better.

  • Salt: Salt's mild abrasive and absorbent action makes it a cleaning natural.

Even though these homemade cleaning solutions are made with natural products, they still contain mild acids that can sting and burn eyes and skin. Always wear rubber gloves, protect your eyes with goggles, and have plenty of ventilation when using any type of cleaner, whether store-bought or homemade.

All-purpose, handy dandy cleaner

You can use this solution to clean and freshen just about any surface. It works especially well for day-to-day cleaning of range tops and cooktops. Mix up the following ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon borax

  • 1⁄2 teaspoon washing soda

  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar

  • 1⁄4 teaspoon dishwashing liquid

  • 2 cups hot water

You can replace the washing soda with baking soda and use lemon juice instead of white vinegar, depending on what you have lying around the house. The former is a bit stronger than the latter.

D-I-Y cleanser scrub

This cleaning formula is especially well suited for cleaning baked-on spills on glass or porcelain ranges and cooktops when you would normally pull out the cleanser. Start with the following ingredients:

  • 3⁄4 cup borax

  • 1⁄4 cup baking soda

  • Dishwashing liquid to moisten

Combine the two powders and moisten them with just enough dishwashing liquid to create a gooey paste. You can use all borax or all baking soda if you wish. For a more pleasing and lingering aroma, add 1⁄4 teaspoon lemon juice.

Gentle glass cleaner

The following solution works well for cleaning the glass shelving in your refrigerator, glass cooktops, and the windows in range and oven doors. You need the following materials:

  • 2 tablespoons ammonia

  • 1⁄4 teaspoon dishwashing liquid

  • 1⁄2 cup rubbing alcohol

  • Hot water

Mix the ingredients and add enough hot water to make 1 quart of cleaner. If you prefer, you can avoid the smell of ammonia by using white vinegar or lemon juice. However, this substitution will make the formula less powerful.

For super-duper window cleaning — especially in cold weather — add 1 teaspoon of cornstarch to the formula.

People-friendly oven cleaner

The following is a safe alternative to conventional caustic oven cleaners. It's also great for cleaning barbecue grills and grungy pots and pans.

  • 2 teaspoons borax or baking soda

  • 2 tablespoons dishwashing liquid

  • 1-1⁄4 cups ammonia

  • 1-1⁄2 cups hot water

Mix the ingredients, apply generously to spills, and let soak for 30 minutes or as long as overnight. Loosen tough spills with a nylon scrubber and then wipe up with a damp sponge.

Super-duper disinfectant

This solution works well anywhere you would use a store-bought disinfectant, such as appliance pulls and handles and the inside face of the refrigerator where the gasket seats. Mix the following ingredients and then scrub:

  • 1 tablespoon borax or baking soda

  • 1⁄4 cup powdered laundry detergent

  • 1⁄4 cup pine-oil-based cleaner or pine oil

  • 3⁄4 cup hot water

For kitchen use, dilute with more hot water.

Easy mildew remover

This mildew formula works great on painted and other washable surfaces. Wear gloves and eye protection and have plenty of ventilation when working with this solution:

  • 1⁄3 cup powdered laundry detergent

  • 1 quart household liquid chlorine bleach

  • 3 quarts warm water

Apply the remover by using a spray bottle, a sponge, or an old toothbrush. Allow the solution to sit for five to ten minutes, but don't let it dry. You'll know the solution is working when the black mildew stains turn white. Rinse all the surfaces well with hot water and then towel-dry.

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