Up until recently, under our sink was a messy, confusing collection of various sprays, polishes and other so-called miracle cleaners. Sound familiar?! Don’t worry, most homes are the same! The companies who make cleaning products like us to believe that, not just every room, but every item in that room, needs a different cleaner (and a different type of cloth if you’re really dedicated!).
Just take the kitchen…you ‘need’ hob cleaner, counters cleaner, stainless steel cleaner, oven cleaner, drain cleaner, limescale remover…and the list goes on!
The truth is, they’re just trying to sell us products, that’s their job and they’re very good at it! But, you don’t NEED them. Two very simple ingredients are all you need to have, and they do the job just as well, if not better. Plus they’re cheaper and a whole lot better for the environment.
The Science bit
Bicarbonate of soda is a mild alkali which causes dirt and grease to dissolve easily in water for easy removal. When it is sprinkled on a damp sponge, bicarb is mildly abrasive and acts as a gentle scrubbing powder. Because it’s gentle, it is safe and effective as a cleaner for glass, chrome, steel, enamel and plastic. Being a pure, natural product, it is non-toxic and safe for children and animals, unlike many other household cleaners.
Vinegar is an acid, perfect for cutting through grease and soap scum stains. It is also a natural disinfectant, getting rid of many of the harmful bacteria in our homes. When combined with bicarb the two react to form a liquid acidic solution, the perfect cleaning powerhouse!
So, let’s get started…grab your cloth and off we go!
Did you know that washing your windows in full sun can actually cause streaks?!
So wait until a cloudy day and then grab some newspaper and a spray bottle of 1 part vinegar to 8 parts hot water. Spray the windows and wipe with a ball of newspaper in circular motions. This will leave you with glistening, streak-free windows, and no harsh chemicals required!
Glass shower doors are notoriously difficult to keep looking their best. But there is one trick which will keep them cleaner for longer.
Firstly, wash them down with a vinegar and water solution, getting rid of all the soap scum and limescale build-up. Then take a sponge and dab a few drops of lemon oil onto it. Gently massage this into the glass, adding more as needed, to create a beautiful shine which will also repel the dirt and water.
To descale your shower head, partly fill a sandwich bag with distilled vinegar and place the bag over the shower head until it is fully submerged. Tie the bag with a twist tie or piece of string and leave overnight.
Bonus tip: If you use dryer sheets, keep the used ones for cleaning glass and stainless steel, it cuts through water marks and brings up a lovely shine!
Ideally, your mattress should be turned every time you change the sheets, but who has the time (or strength!) for that?! However, spring cleaning is a good time to get it done, giving you a chance to clean under and around the bed as well.
Once you have turned your mattress, it's time to freshen it up. You could just use straight bicarb, but I like to pour about 1 cup of bicarb into a jar and drop in 4 drops of lavender essential oil. Put on the lid and shake it all up. Then take a sieve and sprinkle it across the surface of the mattress. Leave it on for a few hours, while cleaning the rest of the room, and then hoover it off.
Cleaning the dishwasher is one of my least favourite jobs in the house, I just get weirdly squeamish about it!! But, it still has to be done!
For a deep clean, take out the drawers and empty any filters first. Then clean around the edges and rims with a vinegar and water solution, removing any build-up of food (this is where I struggle!) and dirt.
Next, put the drawers and filters back in and fill 1 mug with vinegar and sit it on the top rack. Sprinkle another mug of bicarb along the floor of the machine, and set on a short, hot wash. This will clean both inside your machine, and the drainage pipes too.
Firstly, plan this for the day before you go shopping so that you won't have as much to take out. I try to do this every week before going grocery shopping as it’s a great way to clear out any unused leftovers! To get started, remove all the food and place all shelves and drawers in the sink.
Then pour about 1/2 cup of bicarb into the small bowl and add enough white vinegar to make a thick paste. Stir the ingredients well until you combine them completely. Saturate a cloth with warm water and wipe down the inside surfaces of the refrigerator.
Place a small amount of the bicarb and vinegar paste onto a damp cloth and begin rubbing the inside surfaces of the refrigerator -- including the insides of the doors -- with the paste to clean it. Continue cleaning all interior surfaces with the paste until you remove all visible stains.
Rinse the cloth with warm water and use it to rinse away the bicarb and vinegar. Continue rinsing the cloth often with warm water until you finish removing all remnants of the paste.
Use the bicarb and vinegar paste to scrub any shelves you removed from the refrigerator. Rinse the shelves well with warm water after you finish scrubbing them, before placing everything back in the fridge.
To quickly defrost your freezer, turn it off and take everything out. (Use freezer bags to keep it all cold) Next, place a bowl of hot water on top of an old rag inside.
Once all of the ice is gone, remove the bowl and cloth and use the same instructions above for cleaning a fridge, making sure to dry it all off before returning the food and switching it back on.
7. Washing machine
If you have a front-loading machine, add 2 tablespoons of bicarb into the detergent drawer and 1/2 cup white vinegar into the drum then run a normal wash (hot). You may find it suds up a lot inside due to the build-up of soap residue.
Next clean out the filter (follow the manufacturer’s instructions). Clogged filters is the leading cause of problems in washing machines and is easily prevented.
To prevent mould build-up on the seals of the machine, keep the door slightly ajar in between uses. This allows air to flow into the machine and allows any water or dampness to dry. If any mould is present, use equal parts of hot water and vinegar to wipe it away with a cloth.
Most front-loading machines have removable soap and fabric softener dispensers and this is quite often an area loved by mould. Most pull out quite easily (don’t force it!). To clean, either place in the top basket of your dishwasher or rinse in hot soapy water and allow to dry in the sun.
Measure about 1/2 cup of water into a measuring cup or bowl. Slice a lemon in half and squeeze the juice into the water. Drop the lemon halves into the bowl. Place the bowl in the microwave and turn on high power for 3 minutes so the liquid comes to a boil.
Once it's finished, let it stand for 5 minutes without opening the door; the steam trapped inside will help loosen food gunk.
Open the door and carefully remove the bowl with the lemons. If your microwave has a turntable, lift it out and wipe it clean. Wipe the inside of the microwave clean with a damp cloth, starting with the ceiling and the sides. If you come across stubborn spots that won’t easily wipe away, dip the corner of your cloth in the lemon-water and scrub until the spot comes away.
For a hassle-free and cheap way to remove limescale, fill the kettle with a mixture of half white vinegar and half water, and leave to soak overnight. Make sure to unplug the kettle and leave a note so nobody uses it!
In the morning empty the kettle along with any loose bits of limescale. Refill with water and boil, repeating 2/3 times to get rid of any lingering vinegar taste. If you find there are any heavier deposits of limescale, try using an old toothbrush to scrub them loose.
This is best done every 6 weeks to prevent a buildup.
Even if you have a no-shoes rule in your home, freshening up your carpets is still a good idea as it can trap a lot of lingering smells.
Firstly clear the area as much as possible and give it a really good hoovering. Next, generously sprinkle bicarb over the carpet using a sieve, making sure to cover every inch.
Leave this to sit overnight, without walking on it (again, a note to remind family is a great idea!). In the morning, hoover in small sections, making sure to get it all up.
These don't use vinegar or bicarb...but they're still handy to know!
Plastic toys can become quite grubby from being played with on the floor, with Nutella covered fingers! Luckily, most plastic toys can go on a low-temperature setting in the dishwasher. Just watch out for stickers as they may come off or fade when they come in contact with water.
For wooden toys, a quick wipe over with a vinegar and water solution will suffice. Wood has a natural antibacterial quality so they will not be as affected by germs as plastic toys. Leave them to air-dry in a sunny window.
12. Wall marks
Our hallway walls are definitely the most abused walls in our house! And being the first place you enter in the house, it's nice to keep it looking clean and fresh.
Dirty fingermarks, scooter handle marks and scuffs from carrying things up and down the stairs, means it is in constant need of a touch-up. For this, I use Magic Erasers! Just rub gently, no water needed, and most marks will disappear.