Part of this article was featured in a live segment on ABC Action News, Tampa’s local ABC affiliate. Scroll to the bottom of this post to watch the video.
Forget spending hundreds of dollars a year on cleaning supplies and soaps. Let me tell you: baking soda & vinegar get the job done, and they’re waaaaay cheaper than your average household cleaner. They’re also safer for the kids to use and no harsh chemicals to inhale.
28 things to clean with baking soda and vinegar
1. Grout. This is liquid magic. I pour a few tablespoons of baking soda into a mug. Then add a little white vinegar. Just enough to make a thick vinegar-baking soda paste. (In case you’re wondering, that’s only 9 cents worth of cleaning supplies.) Get out a toothbrush and rub this magical potion onto your nastiest tile grout. It’s a little tedious, but soooo worth it. The key is, after you scrub the paste onto the grout, LET IT SIT for 30 minutes to an hour. (Check out my nasty coffee-grimed grout getting so fresh and so clean in the picture below.) When you rinse it off, it’ll be so bright white you’ll be pinching yourself, wondering if your husband really did let you sleep in today and you’re still dreaming. No, you’re awake. You’re welcome.
2. Pillows. Did you know you’re supposed to wash your pillows twice a year? Hilarious, right? I’m lucky if my mattress pad gets cleaned twice a year, much less my pillows. Well, my friend Raleigh in St. Pete, Florida shared this trick with me: use vinegar to wash your pillows. Put the pillows in your washing machine, fill with hot water and add about a 1/2 cup of vinegar. Let them soak, do a double rinse and then let them air dry in the sun. In addition to conserving energy, the sun also naturally deodorizes the pillows and kills germs!
3. Outside kid toys. Save yourself some time, and let the kids hold their own “car wash” in the front yard, like my friend Taryn in Nebraska did with her son Carson. Genius, right? All it takes is a hose and a spray bottle of vinegar and water. Fill the bottle about a tenth of the way with vinegar, and the rest with water. It’s natural so it’s a cleaning product the kids can use, plus it’s one less thing for you to do! WIN.
4. Mirrors and windows. While you’re at it, just keep that spray bottle of vinegar and water handy and use it for your glass and window cleaning. Yes, it does smell a little funky, but it’s better than that harsh chemically, ammonia smell that you get with Windex. Plus, it’s waaay cheaper.
5. Garbage disposal. Pour a cup of baking soda and a cup of hot white distilled vinegar down the drain. Wait a half hour, then turn on the disposal and run hot water on the tap for 2-3 minutes. This also deodorizes the disposal. When I worked as a TV news reporter, I once did a story on clogged kitchen drains, and the plumber I interviewed said the most kitchen sink plumbing issues arise because people simply don’t run their garbage disposals long enough. You should turn on the hot water and run the disposal for 1-2 minutes anytime you put significant garbage down it.
6. Toilet bowls. Pour about 3 cups of distilled white vinegar into the toilet bowl and let it sit for about an hour before flushing.
7. Baby toys. I wish I was one of those moms who cleaned her kids’ baby toys every week or even every month. Nope. More like once a year. Usually, I finally feel guilty enough to do it right before our annual Christmas party. Mostly because I don’t want to be shamed when one of our mini-guests emerges from my son’s room with an applesauce-gucked race car or wooden blocks covered in an unknown bodily fluid. So here’s what I do: fill the kitchen sink with hot water, add about a 1/2 cup of white distilled vinegar, and throw all the toys in it. Let them soak for 5 or 10 minutes, then set them on a towel to air-dry. Done. (No I don’t even rinse the vinegar off. It’s not poisonous. Easy, simple, no need to make it more complicated than it is.)
8. Glass baby bottles. Fill the bottles with half hot water, half vinegar. Let sit for at least an hour, and then scrub with a bottle brush to remove film.
9. Coffeemaker. If you’re a coffee freak like me, you need to make sure your equipment is always in good working order. Once a month, I take a cup of vinegar and put it through my coffeemaker to clean out the old coffee and hard water. Then, after the vinegar goes through, I send two to three pots of water through the coffeemaker to clean it out. Much cheaper than buying a new coffeemaker every year.
10. Microwave. Put a mug of vinegar in the microwave and turn it on for 5 minutes. Wait 20 minutes (for full steaming), and then open the door and wipe off the guck.
11. Fridge. Mix a quart of water with 2 tablespoons of baking soda, and use a sponge to scrub it onto your fridge shelves and drawers. Cleans and deodorizes, a double win! You can also clean the shelves and walls of the fridge with a half-and-half solution of water and white distilled vinegar.
12. Dishwasher. Every month, my friend Raleigh pours a cup of white distilled vinegar inside the empty machine and runs it empty for one cycle. Another blog post recommends setting a cup of vinegar in the dishwasher and letting it run on one full cycle, with the hottest water. Then, sprinkle baking soda in the bottom of the tub and let it run for one shorter cycle with hot water.
13. Hardwood floors. My cleaning lady’s husband spent most of his life as a carpenter, working with wood and even making custom wood furniture. She uses a cup of vinegar mixed with warm water in a bucket to clean our hardwood floors. She does it old school. She puts a terry cloth towel in the water, rings it out very well, and then folds it onto the bottom of an old mop, and wipes it onto the wood floors. This is not for deep-cleaning, but more for maintenance cleaning and to help the hardwood floors shine.
14. Kitchen sink. Just sprinkle baking soda into your wet sink, scrub with a sponge and let sit for about 10 minutes. Then rinse with hot water. It will shine! This is especially great for stainless steel sinks!
15. Sterling silver jewelry. I couldn’t believe this one really worked! Pour boiling water into bowl of sterling silver jewelry, just enough to cover the jewelry. Add a tablespoon of baking soda and a piece of aluminum foil. A bubbling, that smells like rotten eggs, should start, which means the cleaning is working! Use a wooden utensil to make sure all the jewelry comes into contact with the foil. Rinse under tap water and polish dry!
16. Inside your oven door. Just mix 1/4 cup of baking soda with water, just enough to make a runny paste. Scrub it onto the inside of your oven, and then wait 15 to 30 minutes. Wipe it off and it will be clean and sparkly!
17. Toothbrushes. Yes, we need to clean our toothbrushes. (Don’t feel bad. I never do either.) But in the event that you are a crazy overachiever with this spring cleaning thing, and you really want to go full-board, why not just clean those brushes too? All you do is pour several tablespoons of white vinegar into a mug and let the toothbrushes sit in it for 15 to 30 minutes.
18. Your teeth. Speaking of teeth, I love this one. When asked about her beauty regimen, Julia Roberts recently said that she brushes her teeth with baking soda. Well if it’s good enough for Julia, it’s good enough for me! Mix a little baking soda with just enough water to make a paste, and brush. It’s a great way to naturally whiten your teeth, and the slightly-abrasive paste can help rub away stains.
19. Hair. Yep, just shampoo and condition your hair like normal, then do a vinegar rinse. Vinegar makes your hair shiny by removing building up other hair products. Ummm, yes please! My mom used to visit her grandmother’s house and has wonderful memories of rinsing her hair with vinegar and then sitting out on the front steps of their historic estate to let the sun air-dry her dark locks. Doesn’t that story just make you smile and remember simpler times? This is a picture of my mom and her family around that time. She’s the cutie in the middle.
20. Door handles and trash can lids. With toddlers running around, my interior door knobs get greasy fast. (Eeeeww!) Fill a spray bottle with straight white distilled vinegar, spray onto germy surfaces and wipe clean.
21. Bathtub pipes and drains. We’ve all been there. In the shower and water up to our ankles. Time to clear the bathtub drain, from the inside out. Unscrew the drain insert and use needle-nose pliers to clear the gunk out. Then, pour a 1/2 cup of baking soda into the drain, followed by enough white vinegar so that it foams and bubbles out the top. Let it sit for 15 minutes and then pour almost-boiling water into the drain.
22. Washing machine. Raleigh shared this one with me too. Pour a cup of white distilled vinegar in the washing machine and let it run one cycle, once a month.
23. Reusable grocery bags. This is a good maintenance strategy to sanitize those reusable grocery bags, since you can’t launder them after each store trip (unless you’re Superwoman). Mix water with white distilled vinegar and spray into the bags, paying special attention to seams and corners. If you want, you can even use drops of essential oils in the spray as well. The bags will be sanitized, fresh and smelling good!
24. Bathroom loofas. You can pop these guys into the washing machine, or just fill a bucket with hot water and a 1/4 cup of vinegar. Let it soak for an hour and it’s ready for your next shower.
25. Bottom of your iron. All these years I thought it was just me with the gunk on the metal plate on my iron. Well now I don’t feel so bad. Combine 3 tablespoons of baking soda with 3 tablespoons of vinegar and put it into your iron. Then let the iron steam it out. This blog post says it helps clear out the gunk that can build up on the inside of the steam holes. After that, put some water in the iron and steam it out again to get the vinegar completely out.
26. Litter box. Just sprinkle some baking soda in with the cat litter, and you have a natural deodorizer.
27. Your grill. To rid your grill’s of caked-on remnants of last weekend’s barbeque, sprinkle the grill with some baking soda, scrub with a sponge and then set out for 10 minutes before soaking and scrubbing again in hot water.
28. Yellowing nails. Painting my nails is one of my favorite ways to look put together when I have very little time. That being said, my nails can get pretty yellow because I never do a base coat. (When will I learn?!?) One of the best ways to whiten your nails at home is by making a paste of 2 1/2 tablespoons of baking soda and 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide. Use a wet paper towel to rub it onto the nail, and let it sit for three minutes before rinsing with warm water. Another idea is soaking your nails in lemon juice, or in a cup of water with 1 to 2 denture tablets in it.