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    Unexpected items you can use for cleaning

    Jenny Xie

    THE WASHINGTON POST – Keeping a clean house requires an ongoing effort and an arsenal of cleaning sprays, scrubs and powders. But if you want to make some natural, non-toxic, earth-friendly swaps, you don’t have to look much farther than your own kitchen or pantry.

    Most of us have heard of the effectiveness of lemon juice, vinegar and baking soda at disinfecting surfaces and cutting through grease and grime, but the cleaning agents that are already at your fingertips go beyond those basics. We asked cleaning expert Jill Koch of Jill Comes Clean and home organising professional Caroline Solomon – and scoured the Internet – for lesser-known ways to use kitchen essentials. These hacks will have you thinking about your grocery list in a whole new way.


    Because it’s so spongy and absorbent, bread is a great way to sop up spills before they seep too deeply into a tablecloth. “It’s great for dabbing up oil, sauces and really most liquids,” Koch wrote in an e-mail. The next time you’re at dinner and something splatters the tabletop, reach for a piece of bread to limit the damage.

    In the same vein, Country Living reported that the gluten in bread acts as a magnet for dirt. Indeed, if you’re plagued by smudges of mysterious provenance on walls, cabinets and door frames, a balled-up slice of white or rye bread works as a natural eraser. Take the crust off a slice, roll the remainder into a sponge, and dab it against the offending mark to lift it. Koch warns against rubbing too hard, though, to avoid leaving behind crumbs.

    Bread also picks up broken glass like a champ. “If you aren’t sure you got all the pieces, just press a slice of bread around the area, and any shards will stick to it,” wrote Koch. Take care not to use too much pressure, to protect your fingers from getting pricked.


    Starchy, granular white rice is an ideal ingredient for cleaning oil and dust left from old coffee beans in your coffee grinder, according to Koch. Before grinding a new roast or using the machine for spices, pour enough uncooked rice in the grinder to cover the blades and power it on for about a minute, then pour out the pulverised rice and wipe out the excess with a wet cloth. If you don’t have rice, a good substitute here would be – you guessed it – bread.

    If you don’t have a bottle brush for your reusable containers and water bottles, uncooked rice works here, too. Pour a small amount – about an eighth to a quarter of a cup – into the vessel, along with a few drops of dish soap and a dash of water (“I wouldn’t cover the rice,” Koch wrote. “Just add enough that it swirls around easily.”). Shake the mixture around for a minute, then rinse the container again with water.


    Koch suggested using mayonnaise to remove the water stains and rings on wood that happen when moisture penetrates the protective finish – like when someone neglects to use a coaster on your coffee table. After testing a small area, spread a layer of mayonnaise on the blemish and let it sit overnight. “The oil displaces the moisture and makes the mark go away,” she wrote. (Applying vegetable oil itself won’t work because it dries too quickly). In the morning, wipe the mayonnaise away with a dry cloth.

    If there are any remaining marks, you can also lay a cloth over the surface and place a hot iron on top, using the steam feature. After a few seconds, pull the iron away and wipe the area; the heat removes moisture caught underneath the finish. Feel free to use both methods to address the most stubborn stains.

    Woman’s World reported that the oil found in this hard-working sandwich condiment also makes it effective at breaking down adhesives and grime, so slather it wherever you need to remove sticky residue: labels on glass jars, price stickers on ceramics, decorative stickers on water bottles – even gum tacked to the soles of shoes. Let the mayonnaise sit for about 20 minutes (or more if needed) before wiping it off with a wet cloth. Koch has heard of peanut butter being used to the same effect, though “it takes a little bit of elbow grease,” she warned.


    “The tannins in tea remove grease and naturally shine surfaces,” Solomon wrote in an e-mail. Before tossing used tea bags, she suggests brewing a batch of weak tea to pour into a spray bottle and using it to remove dirt and fingerprints from glass. Spritz it on mirrors, windows, glass tabletops and eyeglasses, then wipe the surface with a microfibre cloth for restored shine. According to SF Gate, wiping hardwood floors with a stronger brew of black tea will also add lustre.

    The polishing power of tea can also be harnessed to lift stains in the toilet bowl. “Throw a few tea bags in the toilet and let them sit for 10 minutes,” Solomon wrote. “Then scrub away!”

    Once you’re done with those tea bags (although we recommend tossing the ones you’ve steeped in the toilet), squeeze some extra use out of them by letting them dry and placing them in a bowl at the back of the fridge. This will absorb odours much like baking soda does, according to Solomon.


    The coarse nature of kosher salt makes it a powerful scrubbing agent. Both our experts recommend using it to scour rust and food remnants from a cast-iron skillet. To do so, pour a half cup of salt onto the pan and use a sponge or paper towel to work the grime away. Then rinse it clean and wipe it dry. “It’s also an excellent abrasive when it comes to cleaning your stove,” Solomon wrote. Or for oven grates, sprinkle salt liberally over grease or burned food that have built up and clean them with a damp rag.

    Salt can also be useful for cleaning cutting boards, since “it gets into the grooves and cuts that knives have made for a deeper clean”, Koch wrote. After dusting the surface with salt, use half a lemon to spread the natural exfoliant around.

    To scour the garbage disposal, she suggests tossing in a quarter cup of salt, a handful of ice cubes, a drizzle of dish soap and just enough cold water to lubricate before allowing it to run for a few minutes. “The salt will help scrub gunk off the blades, which are actually more like teeth,” Koch wrote. The same cocktail of ice, salt and soap can banish the stains in a coffee pot, too.

    Another clever way to use salt is to pour it over a broken egg, according to Koch. This will help the yolk and whites clump up, making it easier to wipe off the counter or floor.


    Okay, so they technically aren’t a pantry staple, but they are a common household item, and we thought this tip was clever enough to merit inclusion. In addition to protecting your hands from water or harsh cleaning agents, rubber gloves work wonders for removing pet hair from upholstery, according to Solomon. The next time you don them to scour the sink, wet the gloves under the faucet, then rub your palm across your furniture, almost as though you were petting it. The fur will lift from the fabric to form clumps that you can then gather and toss in the trash.

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