Spring-Cleaning Naturally: 6 Ingredients

January 29, 2019
Cleaning and Scrubbing

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When it comes to spring-cleaning or any kind of housecleaning, I use an array of six admirably versatile natural cleaning products: vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, salt, borax, wood ash.

I started using these products many years ago, mostly because so many commercial cleaning products gave me headaches and irritated my eyes and nasal passages. The headaches stopped, the natural products worked well, and they’ve saved a lot of money over the years.

Also, let me admit that I count myself among the “good-enough” group of rural dwellers. I live with a wood stove (smoke, ash, wood chips, sawdust), solar greenhouse (dirt, dust), and garden (time!) which makes maintaining high cleaning standards challenging.

Astonishing versatility

I continue to love the fact that this half-dozen of natural products singly or in combination will clean my toilet, tub, teeth, upholstery, carpets and windows, super-clean our grubbiest laundry, deodorize our pets and our car’s interior while they also soothe sunburns and insect stings, relieve an itch, gargle away many sore throats, and wash and condition my hair.

And please note: four of the six are pantry staples and safe enough to eat.

Below, I remind you of just a few of the ways I use these products for tough cleaning and deodorizing tasks.

I use white vinegar in a spray bottle to sanitize kitchen and bathroom surfaces, prevent or remove hard-water scale from the coffee pot, tub and toilet, as a window cleaner, and to remove labels from products or stickers from walls. It will unplug most drains by pouring half a cup of baking soda, followed by a cup of white or cider vinegar. (Don’t use a commercial drain product first, as you could create toxic fumes.)

I’ve learned those tough, longstanding, tough limescale stains in sinks and toilets that no amount of scouring will clean will eventually give way after repeated, long soakings with white vinegar.

Oh, and a couple of tablespoons of ordinary olive oil in a cup of vinegar works well to dust and polish wood furniture.

baking_soda_quarter_width.jpgBaking Soda
Especially in combination with salt, baking soda works well for scouring sinks and tubs, brushing your teeth, wiping down and deodorizing the refrigerator, removing smells and stains from carpets and upholstery (rub in, leave for an hour, shake or vacuum out).

Lemon Juice 

Half a cup in a gallon of water helps brighten white clothes without bleach (es

pecially if you hang the clothes in the sunshine.) Sprayed or rubbed on straight, lemon juice removes stains from countertops and rust stains from clothing. Clean toilets with a paste of baking soda and lemon juice; squirt lemon juice for fresh smell.

Half a cut lemon left on a shelf will deodorize the fridge. Sprayed or rubbed on with a cloth, straight lemon juice (or straight vinegar) will remove mold and mildew from many surfaces.

One part table salt mixed with four parts each of borax and baking soda makes a good scouring powder for tubs, sinks and toilets. Adding a little vinegar to a teaspoon of salt makes a good scrub for removing coffee or tea stains from mugs and cups. (And don’t forget the health benefits of salt.)


Borax helps clean the tub, remove tough stains in laundry. I add it to baking soda and salt to make a general purpose scouring powder.

wood_ash_quarter_width.jpgWood ash
In a paste with a little water, cleans glass! Sprinkled on and scrubbed into pavement, bricks, and stone, it will help remove oil stains.

Actually, when you come up against challenging cleaning or deodorizing tasks, try one or more in combination and you’ll probably find something that will do the trick. That’s what I do, and it almost always works. Read more about the surprising uses of wood ashes for the home and garden.

About This Blog

"Living Naturally" is all about living a naturally healthy lifestyle. Margaret Boyles covers health tips, ways to avoid illness, natural remedies, food that's good for body and soul, recipes for homemade beauty products, ideas to make your home a healthy and safe haven, and the latest news on health. Our goal is also to encourage self-sufficiency, whether it's relearning some age-old skills or getting informed on modern improvements that help us live better, healthier lives.

Reader Comments

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How to clean - Kitchen Cabinets

What do you use to clean the front of your kitchen cabinets?

Kitchen Cabinets

Hi Bev,

I have old-fashioned painted wooden beadboard cabinet doors (handmade many decades ago by the previous resident), which I wipe down with a wet, soapy cloth every so often. I use a soft brush to scrub into the grooves. I repaint them every few years to keep them looking fresh. (In fact, they could use a new coat about now.)

There are so many materials used in kitchen cabinets these days. Consider checking with a building-materials supplier to learn the best way to clean yours, especially if you have a lot of stains. You probably can’t go wrong with a soap-and-water or a dilute, white vinegar wash.

very old grandfather clock

Hi ,
How do we clean the brass face of a very old grandfather clock and also the brass chime weights. The clock is over a hundred years old and is beautiful but, has lost it wonderful brass shine. There are many little nooks, and crannies on the face and around the raised numbers.

Think twice

Hi, Cece: Bear in mind that if you remove the beautiful patina on this clock, you will almost certainly reduce its value. That being said, you could try some tiny test areas on one of the chimes, always being very gentle and drying thoroughly afterward. First, try just plain warm water. Sometimes the culprit is just built-up dirt. Next, try just plain lemon juice or vinegar. If that doesn’t work, add ½ teaspoon salt to ¼ cup water, then add enough flour to make a paste. Apply for 15 minutes, then wipe and dry. Remember, just try a little patch at a time. FWIW, we would leave the patina as is–but good luck and thanks for asking! 

Hair tips

So where are the tips about washing and conditioning hair?

I missed that, too! But I've

I missed that, too! But I've got one you may like....especially if you are dealing with well water. Try making a paste of a little of your normal shampoo and some baking soda....about equal parts of each....and apply it all over your head like shampoo. Leave it on for a few minutes, then apply just shampoo and rinse thoroughly. Gets rid of hard water residue really well. You could also try rinsing with cider vinegar....get all the shampoo off first, and then rinse with straight cider vinegar....be sure to close your eyes....and do a final water rinse right after that. The vinegar odor won't last if you do a quick final rinse with water,and it will get all the mineral deposits off your hair without drying it out.

How do i remove paint I 'scraped' onto my white car???

I made a boo-boo by hitting my parking fence by accident...didn't dent my car, but brown paint got onto my white car! How do I remove it? Looks terrible, considering I try to keep my car nice! Any suggestions, please?

You can soak orange/lemon

You can soak orange/lemon peel in the vinegar ,prior to clean ups .Usually a week or better .You'll have a pleasant citrus smelling cleaner .

EO's in cleaning.

I have found that organic essential oils like lemon, orange, lavender and peppermint also work to give natural cleaners
a nice scent. They also help to disinfect and some EO's
have anti-fungal properties.

Wonderful article!! I find

Wonderful article!! I find it interesting that we are moving back to the, more natural, ways of our grandparents and great grandparents. I wish that, when I was a child, I had written down all of what my grandmother did and said. Worth a gold mine today!!
Sheila :)


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