Have you heard of Heloise? Like her mother before her, Heloise is an author and columnist specializing in making life easier for the rest of us. I used to enjoy her columns back in the “olden days” when I regularly read a newspaper.
Well, I’m no Heloise but I have collected some great household tips and tricks over the years in my quest to avoid harsh or toxic cleaning products. I’ve also had to turn to the internet on more than one occasion to find substitutions for essential ingredients I realize I don’t have halfway through a recipe.
So, without further ado, here are my best household hints!
Viva a la Vinegar!
Having a jug of distilled white vinegar on hand at all times is essential in my home, as it has proven to be a very versatile cleaning ingredient that fights bacteria and mildew. Put a solution of half vinegar/half water in a spray bottle and use to clean most household surfaces (avoid using vinegar on marble, granite, soapstone and solid wood). When in doubt, spot test a surface before using.
You can also use vinegar as a substitute for liquid fabric softener in your washer.
Find more great uses for vinegar here.
Baking Soda Isn’t Just for Baking
Next time you buy some baking soda, you’re going to want to get a large box as it is also handy for tackling tough cleaning jobs. It’s mildly abrasive which makes it a great non-toxic solution for scrubbing tubs, sinks and toilets. My other favorite gentle cleaning powders are those made by Bon Ami.
Got a stinky or clogged sink? Grab the kids for this one. Pour 1/2 cup baking soda and 1 cup of our friend vinegar down the drain and be entertained by the “volcano” reaction. When the fizzing stops, pour a pot of boiling water down the drain. If you suspect the clog is due to solidified fat, you can try pouring a little dish soap and a pot of boiling water down first; it just might solve the problem.
Out of laundry soap? For one load of laundry, mix 1 and 1/2 tablespoons each of baking soda and borax into a 16 ounce bottle of hot water and shake until dissolved.
For more great non-toxic household and garden hints with a humorous twist, check out these books by Duluth’s very own Ellen Sandbeck.
In a Pinch?
Maybe you’re a better planner than I am, but if you are in the middle of baking and discover you are out of brown sugar, you can make your own out of 1 cup of white sugar and 1-2 tablespoons of molasses, depending on how dark you want your brown sugar to be. Need an egg for that recipe? You can make an egg substitute by mixing 1 tablespoon ground flax seed with 3 tablespoons water, letting it sit for 15 minutes prior to mixing into your recipe.
I made Stephanie Goldfarb’s Cut Out Christmas Cookies this year and wanted to decorate them with pretty colored icing. When I found a recipe, I was disappointed to discover I needed light corn syrup to make a glossy icing that hardens in just minutes. I turned to the internet and discovered I could make my own corn syrup out of 4 parts sugar to one part warm water – mix until dissolved.
Need to Clean Up in a Hurry?
So we were off to Christmas Eve services and I wanted the kitchen to look nice when we got home. I didn’t have time to wash all of the pots and pans so decided to hide everything in the oven. “I won’t be using the oven tonight so this will work great” I thought.
The next day I wondered what the odd smell was when heating up my oven. I guess you can’t win ‘em all!
Got some great ideas to make household chores a little easier? Please share in the comments!