Cheap 'n clean: Common household alternatives to name-brand cleaners

ConsumerReports.Org offers a list of seven common household products that can also be used to clean your home. These include ammonia, baking soda, borax, Castile soap, cream of tartar, lemon juice and white vinegar.

The article suggests that a mixture of rubbing alcohol and ammonia in a spray bottle is good for cleaning glass, which may be true, but I find the simpler solution to be vinegar and water.

Ammonia or vinegar are also good for removing sweat stains from clothes. You sponge the stain with the liquid of choice, rinse well and wash with a fabric-safe bleach.

Baking soda is right up there with vinegar as an all-purpose cleaner. Consumer Reports lists removing stains from tile, glass and china and loosening baked-on food from pots and pans among its attributes.

To that I would add its odor absorbing qualities. You can sprinkle it on carpets before you vacuum to help freshen them. I've also used baking soda to scrub the kitchen and bathroom sinks. Use equal parts of baking soda and vinegar to open a clogged drain. Let it sit five minutes and then rinse the drain with boiling water. Doing this will also remove odors from a smelly kitchen drain. You can also use baking soda on a damp sponge to remove crayon, pencil, ink and furniture scuffs from painted walls. Wish I had known about that when my daughter was two and decided to use a bare wall in the living room as a canvas for her Crayola art!

A half cup of lemon juice in the wash cycle will brighten your whites. Remove rust stains from fabric by applying the undiluted juice liberally to the stained area, then sprinkling cream of tartar on top, patting it with your fingers. Let this sit for 15 minutes or so until the stain is gone then run through the wash, as usual. A lemon juice-soaked cleaning cloth will dissolve hard water deposits on kitchen and bathroom faucets. Deodorize and disinfect a wooden cutting board by rubbing it with a cut lemon. Use the other half of that lemon, sprinkled with salt to clean tarnished brass and copper.

But the champion of all the kitchen cupboard cleaners has got to be vinegar. Not only does it clean glass and floors, it helps to kill germs, too. To keep your coffee maker clear of hard water deposits, run vinegar through it then clear water a couple of times to rinse.

Recently, when my dishwasher wasn't cleaning the dishes the way it should, I poured some vinegar into the bottom of it and run it through a cycle empty. Voila! It's working like new again. You really don't need those fancy dishwasher cleaners to remove mineral deposits and soap residue from the inner workings.

Got stained coffee mugs? Two tablespoons of vinegar swished around in the cup will remove coffee or tea stains. Dip a cloth into vinegar and use it to remove salt stains from your boots and shoes. A couple of capfuls of vinegar in the rinse cycle will make your wool sweaters fluffier. Remove stubborn price tags or stickers by coating them several times with vinegar and letting it soak in for about five minutes. Kill weeds by putting undiluted vinegar into a spray bottle and spraying them regularly until they are dead.

Marlene Alexander is a freelance writer and dollar store diva. She writes tips and ideas for home decorating using only items from the dollar store.

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