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Mix it up: Safe cleaning products are easily whipped up from ordinary kitchen ingredients.

Oil and Vinegar

Cleaning recipes from the old school

Compiled by Traci Hukill

A woman I know says her horrible headaches went away when she tossed out all her strong cleaning supplies and started using baking soda, vinegar and other old-fashioned, nontoxic ingredients for cleaning instead. Wondering what Grandma would do led her into a world where baking soda, a dab of dish soap and vinegar make a scouring cleanser (it works, but don't use too much dish soap because it's hard to rinse off), a splash of ammonia and a drop of Prell shampoo in a gallon of water become window cleaner, nongel toothpaste removes stains from wood furniture and salt mixed with grapefruit juice takes the rust off chrome. I can't vouch for all these recipes, but I can say they make for entertaining reading.
Dishes that have become brown from baking may have that brown stain removed by soaking in strong borax and water. A good way to whiten bread or meat boards which have become discolored is to rub them with lemon rinds turned inside out. Then wash with clean warm water. They will be a beautiful white when dry.

For dirty grout, use Listerine.

To unclog a drain, drop three Alka Seltzer tablets down followed by a cup of vinegar and wait a few minutes, then run hot water down the drain.

Robbie's Handy Household tricks (
Fish or Spoiled Food Odor: Place a bowl of white vinegar on the counter for a few hours. The odor will disappear for good.

Stickers, Decals, and Glue: To remove them from furniture, glass, plastic, etc., saturate with vegetable oil and rub off. Dryer Tip: Include a few tennis balls in each dryer cycle. The tennis balls not only cut drying time by 25 to 50 percent, but also fluff the clothes to a delicate softness, and towels will be especially fluffy.

Pest Repellents
Fleas hate Stash Earl Grey. Tear open a few bags, scatter the tea about on your carpet and vacuum up in a few days. (

To get rid of fleas, put a baking sheet full of warm soapy water under a nightlight and leave overnight. The fleas are attracted by the light and drown in the water.

To keep flies out of the house, fill a ziplock baggie half full of water and drop a few pennies in it. Staple it over the doorway. (Courtesy of my husband's cousin Franc)

To get rid of ants, get in your car, drive to the store and buy a bottle of OrangeGuard. Made from orange oil, it's nontoxic, smells good and works incredibly well.

From old country lore compiled in 'Country Notions & Potions of East Texas' (1994, NeT Publishing)
Burn sulfur in old dishpan in a closed-up house to get rid of bedbugs.

Make a good stove polish from hog lard mixed with soot. Break open biscuits baked with hog lard and rub on shoes for nice shine.

Burn cowchips to keep mosquitoes away.

Beeswax rubbed on sewing thread or string increases its strength and makes it waterproof.

Corn meal sprinkled on floors soaks up grease spots. Sprinkle corn meal on a dance floor to make it smooth for dancers.

Boil black walnut or pecan hulls in water, then pour on wooden floors to stain them to a dark finish. This also makes a nice stain for plain wooden rocking chairs and rope bottom straight chairs.

Sprinkle cayenne pepper on dew-laden plants to protect from bugs.

To witch for clear water use a pussy willow limb.

To witch for soft sweet water use a peach tree switch.

Plant borage to strengthen neighboring plants' resistance to insects and disease.


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