A home that is clean and well-maintained is a healthy place for a family to live. But you don't have to spend a lot of money on fancy cleaners to get the job done. While store shelves are filled with many different types of cleaning products, a few basic supplies are all that's needed to clean many surfaces in the home.
These five products will help you deal with many household cleaning tasks without breaking the budget:
Liquid dish detergent. This inexpensive detergent used for hand-washing dishes makes a good all-purpose cleaner for many hard surfaces. It removes dirt and cuts grease and, in addition to cleaning dishes, it can be used to clean sinks, bathroom fixtures, countertops, floors, windows and other home cleaning chores.
Vinegar. White (or cider) vinegar is a mild acid which helps remove hard water deposits. Use it diluted or full strength to loosen crusty hard water build-up and remove hard water spots on sinks, shower doors and windows. Boil a teaspoon of white vinegar in a cup of water to help eliminate unpleasant cooking odors. Or rub a little vinegar on your fingers before and after slicing onions to help remove the odor.
Baking soda. Baking soda is a mild alkali and a mild abrasive. Sprinkled dry onto a damp sponge, it makes a good powdered cleanser that doesn't scratch surfaces. Dilute two tablespoons of baking soda in a quart of water to make a mild cleaning solution which removes odors and stains from plastic containers. Place an open box of baking soda in the refrigerator to remove food odors. After two months, replace with a new box and pour the old box down the kitchen drain to keep it smelling fresh, too.
Ammonia. Liquid ammonia is a powerful household cleaner. It is frequently used for cleaning ovens and soaking items to loosen baked-on grime. When mixed with water, it can be used as a window cleaner that leaves a streak-free shine. Prepare an all-purpose cleaner by mixing one tablespoon ammonia, one tablespoon liquid detergent and two cups of water. Note: Never mix ammonia and chlorine bleach — toxic fumes will be produced. (This also applies to any product containing chlorine bleach, such as commercial cleansers, toilet cleaners and antibacterial sanitizing products.)
Chlorine bleach. Bleach is not used as a cleaning product, but as a sanitizer. It will kill bacteria that may remain after surfaces have been washed and rinsed. A little bit is all that's needed, so mix one teaspoon of bleach in a quart of water to use in a spray bottle or to apply with a clean cloth. At this dilution, just let the surfaces air dry — no further rinsing is needed. Resist the temptation to mix the bleach solution stronger — too much bleach leaves a chemical residue on surfaces and may cause damage to clothing or other textiles if accidentally splashed.
Great for gifts, too
This is the time of year when a collection of cleaning products could be a great gift! Arrange the five basic cleaners in a bucket with a sponge and a pair of rubber gloves and give for a wedding shower or housewarming gift or for the graduate moving into a first apartment. Tuck in a copy of this article for ideas on how to use the products effectively.
Carefully label all products
Be sure to carefully label all cleaning or sanitizing mixtures that you prepare. Keep all chemicals, including household cleaners, out of the reach of children. Remember, homemade cleaning products may require a bit more "elbow grease" to be effective, but the result can be a home cleaned to a sparkling shine on a budget.
For more information on helpful home issues, see my Living Well blog at SWKTalk.com/livingwell.