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Make your home sparkle with 10 things you already have

Everybody loves a good DIY project. We love this one for its dual benefits: A squeaky-clean house and a break for your wallet (it's virtually free!).

The truth is, you can tidy up your home using all-natural, nontoxic ingredients you already own (or should). Face it: If they were good enough for your great-grandmother, they’re good enough for you!

1. Vinegar
Save the balsamic variety for your salads, but use distilled white vinegar to clean (and deodorize, believe it or not!) a slew of household surfaces, from sinks to floors.

  • Clean windows and mirrors: Pour one cup of vinegar into a gallon of water. For a streak-free finish, use a squeegee to wash and a microfiber cloth or piece of newspaper to dry.
  • Deodorize drains and garbage disposals: Pour a cup of baking soda (see more uses below) followed by a cup of heated vinegar down the drain, then flush with hot water.
  • Dissolve lime scale deposits: Get rid of this hard water and mineral buildup by scrubbing away with vinegar. For coffee pots, run a cycle of water and vinegar only. For empty dishwashers, run a cycle with vinegar instead of detergent.

2. Baking soda

Deodorizing is one of baking soda’s strong suits (which is why you keep an open box in your fridge). But its granular properties also make it great for scrubbing.

  • Deodorize trash cans: Stick your smelly trash can in the shower and fill it with water. Then toss in a cup of baking soda and let it soak for a few hours to overnight. Rinse it thoroughly before reusing it.
  • Clean and deodorize carpets: Sprinkle baking soda on carpets, let it sit, then vacuum it up.
  • Clean cookware: To finally get rid of burnt food and stains in your cookware, sprinkle the vessel with baking soda and add a few cups of water. Bring the solution to a boil, let it cool, then scrub stains away.

3. Lemons
There’s nothing like a lemony-fresh smell, but that’s not all this sassy citrus has to offer. Lemons fight mildew, cut straight through grease and leave a streak-free shine.

  • Remove mildew from bathroom surfaces
  • Clean the inside of your microwave
  • Clean wooden cutting boards and butcher block countertops

4. Borax
This all-natural ingredient acquired the nickname “the miracle mineral” thanks to its . Borax is a peerless disinfectant, pesticide and mold fighter, to name a few.

  • Clean outdoor furniture: Cut grime and rust from patio furniture by filling a spray bottle with one teaspoon dish detergent, a quart of water and a teaspoon of non-abrasive Borax.
  • Get pots and pans spick-and-span: Baked-on grease is no match for borax. Add a teaspoon of the mineral to a quart of warm water and get that cabinet full of cookware spotless.
  • Keep critters away: Sprinkle borax on the floor along the wall to ward off spring pests, like ants and mice. (Skip this if you have small children or animals. Borax is natural, but can still be harmful if ingested.)

5. Hydrogen peroxide
The same properties that make this solution great for cleaning cuts and scrapes also make it fantastic at disinfecting your home. Just make sure it’s 3 percent; if it’s higher, dilute it with water.

  • Sanitize kitchen surfaces: The kitchen sink is one of the dirtiest places in the home — so your countertops and stovetop can’t be far behind. Scrub them all down with odorless peroxide (but skip delicate marble).
  • Disinfect anything: Soak sink brushes, toilet brushes, loofahs and litter boxes in hydrogen peroxide, or scrub away icky bacteria living inside your fridge.
  • Remove mildew from hard surfaces: Fill a dark, opaque bottle with peroxide and spray directly on the surface affected by mildew. Let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse.

6. Olive oil
It’s supertasty and great for your skin — but did you know olive oil is also helpful around the house?

  • Polish furniture: Forget Pledge! Mix together a cup of olive oil with a cup of lemon juice, than use a lint-free microfiber cloth to buff wood surfaces.
  • Clean stainless steel appliances: Pour a teaspoon of olive oil onto a cloth and rub your stainless steel to shiny perfection.
  • Give houseplants a boost: Already spritzing your houseplants with water? Go a step further by dabbing healthy olive oil on their leaves.
Coarse salt suitable for grinder use in a bowl

7. Salt
Just like in your diet, regular table salt can be a pick-me-up for your spring cleaning routine, when used in moderation.

  • Shine metal fixtures: Clean metal faucets and sinks with a mixture of equal parts salt, white flour and vinegar. Scrub away tarnish with a half lemon sprinkled with salt.
  • Remove rust: Start with one teaspoon lemon juice and add salt to create a paste that you can use to tackle rust stains on hard surfaces.
  • Clean vase buildup: You know that gunk that sticks to the inside of your vases and won’t let go? Make a paste using 1/3 cup of salt with two tablespoons of vinegar, rub it inside the vase, let it stand for a few minutes, then scrub it away.

8. Rubbing alcohol
Isopropyl alcohol (a.k.a. the stuff in your medicine cabinet) is an all-natural antibacterial. Sure, it smells pretty pungent, but it’s great for tackling your germs and stains.

  • Clean your telephones: Whether it’s your landline or your cellphone, you press it against your face daily and it builds up grease and germs. Swipe it with alcohol to clean and disinfect.
  • Remove ink stains: You may have heard about using hair spray to remove ink stains. That’s because it contains alcohol, so go straight to the source.
  • Make chrome and steel fixtures shine: Swab your faucets and fixtures with rubbing alcohol and let it evaporate to a streak-free shine.
  • 9. Tea tree oil
    Invest in a bottle of this essential oil, which is sold at health food stores and pharmacies. It’s a great antifungal and antibacterial agent.
  • Banish mildew smell: Fill a spray bottle with two teaspoons of tea tree oil and two cups of water. Spritz the affected areas and don’t rinse. Then say goodbye to that musty odor.
  • Disinfect laundry: For heavy-duty cleaning, add a teaspoon of tea tree oil per load of laundry.
  • Use it as an all-purpose cleaner: For seasonal cleaning, when you want to make sure everything is germ-free, use a solution of two teaspoons tea tree oil and two cups of water in a spray bottle.

10. Castile soap
Here’s something you may not have in your pantry, but you should. Liquid castile soap is a plant-based all-purpose cleanser. You can use it for personal hygiene too, but here are some great household uses.

  • Clean marble countertops: Many all-natural cleaners, like vinegar and peroxide, are too corrosive for marble. But one teaspoon of castile soap and one quart of warm water will do the trick.
  • Gentle floor cleaner: For everyday mopping, mix a few tablespoons of castile soap into a bucket of about a quart of warm water.
  • Clean leather furniture: Use a teaspoon of castile soap, a quart of warm water and a soft sponge to refresh leather upholstery without damaging it. (Tip: Don’t use this solution on untreated leather or suede.)
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