With the spring season upon us, it’s time to throw open the windows, roll up our sleeves, and get cleaning—using common kitchen ingredients and everyday items! Lemon, olive oil, rice and more: when you’re not cooking with them, these items have surprising cleaning superpowers. Even better, using food-based cleaners is an environmentally conscious choice. Here’s some inspiration to get started.
Lemons are nature’s antiseptic: bacteria isn’t fond of their natural acid. So don’t discard those peels. To clean a cutting board, rub the peel across the wooden surface, scrubbing stains and wiping away residue. Then rinse with soapy water and let dry. Paired with a paste of baking soda, lemon peels work fabulously as a stain remover (and natural scrubber!) for stainless steel cookwear and sinks, too.
2. Baking Soda and White Vinegar
Say farewell to clogged drains. Sprinkle baking soda into the drain of a slow kitchen or bathroom sink and then slowly pour white vinegar after it. Let sit for five minutes, and then flush with boiling water. The combination of the ingredients creates a bubbly, volcano-like reaction that will flush out the pipes.
3. White Vinegar
This acidic wonder kills germs, lifts stains and attacks grime. Remove coffee or tea stains by swishing vinegar inside your mugs, and then rinse them as usual with water. To clean the water chamber of your coffee maker, combine equal parts of water and vinegar and run a brew cycle halfway. Now switch off the machine and let it sit for at least half an hour. Then turn the machine back on to let the cycle finish. Discard the mixture and run two more brew cycles with clean water. You can also disinfect your dishwasher by running an empty cycle with a cup of vinegar in the reservoir.
4. Club Soda and Vegetable Oil
Make cast iron cleanups easy! Pour club soda into the skillet while it’s still warm, letting the bubbles lift food bits and keep them from sticking. Once dry, rub the empty pan (inside and out) with a little vegetable oil, and bake for an hour at 350°F to reinforce the non-stick surface.
5. Cream of Tartar
Try this trick to make worn-out aluminum cookware shine. Fill a dull pot or saucepan with one litre of water, add two tablespoons of cream of tartar and boil for 10 minutes. For stainless steel, polish with a paste made of a little water and cream of tartar and rinse for a gleaming finish.
Gritty grill? An onion is a good option for cleaning it all away; especially one that’s leftover or a little worse for wear (we don’t recommend fresh produce as the first choice for cleaning). Once the barbecue is sizzling, stick a large fork into half of a raw onion and vigorously rub baked-on grime off the grill. Discard the onion when done.
Here’s an ingenious (and green!) technique for freshening grinders. Place uncooked rice into the machine, grind until powdery, then discard the dust to remove coffee or spice residues from the grinder. Clean off the rest of the machine with a damp cloth, and it’s good as new.
If red wine spills onto cloth furniture or clothing, grab the salt shaker. As a natural water absorbent, this superstar mineral can lift stains from washables. Just place the fabric over a bowl, and cover the soiled spot with salt until it begins to absorb the stain (the salt will start to turn pink). Then slowly pour boiling water over the area. If the stain is stubborn, soak the fabric in a solution of one part white vinegar to two parts water. Once the spot lightens, wash the item as usual.
9. Tomato Sauce or Ketchup
Every notice how the pot or pan you cooked tomato sauce in is shinier than usual after being washed? That’s because the natural acidity of tomatoes helps buff copper and brass vessels to a tee. A dollop of ketchup also works. Squeeze some onto a cloth, and then gently scrub cookwear. Rinse with warm water and let dry.
For stain removal, this technique is a champ, because cornmeal can soak up grease marks on carpet, fabric or upholstery. Just pour over the soiled area and let sit for 15 minutes or longer. Vacuum to remove the grains.