Cleaners in Your Kitchen Cabinets: Vinegar and Baking Soda

You may not know it, but your kitchen cabinets may be stocked with cleaners to tackle a myriad of home cleaning projects. Not only can everyday groceries provide low-odor and non-corrosive alternatives to commercial cleansers, but household and food items might be just the spot or stain remover you've been looking for.


Vinegar is useful all over the house from the kitchen and bath to even cleaning the family pet. Vinegar naturally kills bacteria and molds, and neutralizes unwelcome smells. Here are some helpful ways to clean with vinegar.

Note: For these cleaning projects, white, distilled vinegar is recommended.

Running a solution of vinegar through your coffee pot removes lime and deposits left from water, removes old coffee stains and freshens the internal mechanisms of the pot for fresh tasting coffee. Fill the pot to the six cup line with white vinegar. Pour into the reservoir and let the vinegar run half way through the cycle. Turn the coffee maker off, and let it sit for ten minutes. Turn the pot back on and complete the brew cycle. Discard the vinegar and run two or more brew cycles through the maker with fresh, cold water. Repeat monthly or any time brewing is slow.

To clean tea kettles, boil one part vinegar to one part water and let sit overnight; rinse the kettle well in the morning with water (the same procedure works using water sprinkled with cream of tartar).

Vinegar is very effective in eliminating musty odors in the washing machine, too. Front loading washers are especially plagued by this problem. Add eight ounces of white vinegar to the laundry soap when you wash a load; this also helps to eliminate stubborn odors from clothing.

Vinegar is a great cleanser choice for refrigerators. Wipe down your refrigerator inside and out to clean, remove and prevent mildew, and kill odors. The vinegar kills bacteria and is safe to use around your stored foods.

For film and hard water stains on glass and crystal, wash in a solution of one cup vinegar mixed with three cups warm water and allow glasses to air dry.

Vinegar solves bigger kitchen problems, too. To clean a garbage disposal, freeze a mixture of half water and half vinegar in ice cube trays. Run the cubes through the disposal. To rid the disposal of odors, pour one cup of vinegar into the disposal and rinse for three minutes with cold water.

The same method can be used to deodorize a kitchen sink drain, but if the sink is plugged, mix one-half cup vinegar with one-half cup baking soda and pour it down the sink. The bubbling action works to dislodge the blockage.

The benefits of cleaning with vinegar extend into the bathroom, too. Vinegar can be used to break down lime and hard-water scale. To open a clogged shower head or water fixture, soak the heads in a bowl or Ziploc bag filled with vinegar overnight. Rinse and replace in the morning for free flowing faucets.

Using vinegar to scour and clean tubs, sinks, and toilets kills mold and mildew, prevents mildew growth, and removes soap and water scum. Simply spray or wipe the vinegar on, wait and rinse clean. Pour vinegar into toilet bowls, let sit for an hour, brush to clean and flush away. Your home may smell as is you've colored dozens of eggs, but the smell dissipates after a few minutes as the vinegar evaporates.

When pet odors and accidents become an issue, break out the vinegar bottle. A half and half mixture of vinegar applied to cat urine and potty stains neutralizes the odor, eliminating it so kitty won't keep returning to its designated bathroom spot. The same 50-50 mix works well as a wash when your pets have been the victims of a skunk's spray. Shampoo the dog and wash with the vinegar mix. Let the vinegar sit to neutralize the smell for fifteen to thirty minutes, then rinse.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is as useful as vinegar for home cleaning projects and odor control. Baking soda is well known as a way to absorb odors in the refrigerator and freezer, and is a mild abrasive useful on delicate surfaces and counters.

To clean spills in the oven, make a paste with baking soda and water; apply to baked on spills and scrub. Wipe the mess away with damp cloths or paper towels. Use a soda and water paste to clean a dirty oven door, too. Wipe the mix on the oven window, let sit for 10 minutes and rinse with water.

Mix together one-half cup baking soda, one-half cup bleach and a cup of water; apply with a cloth to whiten appliances, sinks, counters, and baths.

Baking soda easily removes caked on grease from pans, electric skillets and small appliances. Cover the grease with baking soda, let sit for 15 minutes, then wipe with a wet cloth. Rinse with water.

Pans with food burned onto them are difficult to clean without ruining them and scratching surfaces. Try this more gentle baking soda approach. Scrape as much burned food from the pans as possible, then cover the burned area with soda. Add one and a half cups of water, then let sit overnight. Scrape the pan using a rubber spatula to remove debris.

Here's a great tip for tea-lovers. Rub tea-stained china gently with a cloth sprinkled with baking soda (this also works using salt).

Clean and refresh thermoses by mixing two tablespoons baking soda in warm water and soak. Rinse away odors and lingering tastes.

Sensitive counters and surfaces that are easily scratched are best cleaned with a mild baking soda and water paste. Let the paste sit on stains for 15 minutes, then wipe clean.

A last baking soda cleaning tip is another alternative for a clean and fresh coffee maker. For an odorless option, run eight cups of water mixed with two teaspoons baking soda through the coffee maker. Rinse the appliance with fresh, cold water afterwards.