You can take those store-bought cleaning products off your shopping list. Here is a list of basic supplies that can get you through many domestic tasks.
Old housekeeping manuals and books on simple living often talk about the soap jar. This is a place where all those slivers of hand soap go when you are about to start a fresh bar. Pour in a little boiling water and you get a soft jelly which can be used for dishwashing, clothes, or diluted as a spray for aphids that attack your house plants.
This is endlessly useful around the house. Buy a box from the drugstore rather than the tiny ones you get for baking. It is a water softener, can be used as a scouring powder on sinks and bathtubs It's effective and easy to rinse away. It can be used as a coating on ovens to make them easier to clean, as an excellent polish for chrome. It also makes a good tooth powder and can be used in solution as a garden fungicide (half a teaspoon per pint of water).
Salt is a mild disinfectant, and makes an abrasive but benign scouring powder. Keep drains clear with a weekly handful of salt and a kettle full of boiling water.
Clear distilled vinegar
Mix vinegar 50/50 with water in a spray bottle for cleaning windows and mirrors. Polish with clean cotton or linen rags or with newspaper. Use vinegar and water to descale your pots and pans or to remove stains from a teapot. The ring in your toilet comes from hard water and can be removed wiht an acid like vinegar, left to stand.
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This can be bought at supermarkets and is recomended as an all-purpose alternative to bleaches and disinfectants. Use borax to soak diapers, whiten clothes, soften waters and increase the effectiveness of plain soap. It is also good at keeping down mold and preventing odors. A water and borax solution can be used as a disinfectant to wipe down the bathroom.
Cleaning cloths and scourers
Round knitted nylon scourers last forever. A metal scourer can stand in for a lot of scouring powder. Use plain steel wool rather than steel wool pads impregnated with chemicals. You can tear off the small piece that is all you really need.
Don't equate the smell of bleach or other harsh cleaners with freshness. Try these ideas.
-- Allow plenty of ventilation. Opening windows at least once a day is the best way to clear stale air or offensive odors. An extractor fan can help in the kitchen and bathroom.
-- Keep things dry and reasonably warm. Borax inhibits the growth of mildew and mold, so you can sprinkle it around or wipe surfaces with a borax solution.
-- Empty your trash frequently and sprinkle a little borax or baking soda in the bottom of the bin. Once you start composting, your garbage can stays dry and is very unlikely to smell.
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