Instead of buying expensive commercial cleaning products, every-day products that are all relatively nontoxic and inexpensive can be substituted.


General cleaning


  • Vinegar can be used for cleaning anything from floors, to bathrooms to kitchen counters and windows. Dilute one tablespoon of vinegar and one teaspoon salt to about 4l hot water; this is great for cleaning most things.
    • Hard lime deposits around taps can be softened for easy removal by covering the deposits with vinegar-soaked paper towels. Leave the paper towels on for about one hour before cleaning. Leaves chrome clean and shiny.
    • Kitchen and bathroom tiles can be cleaned with vinegar without scrubbing and doesn’t leave a film. Use 125 ml vinegar to 3 liters of water.
    • Metal Shower Heads – To remove deposits which may be clogging your metal shower head, combine 250 ml white vinegar and 1 liter of water. Then completely submerge the shower head and boil 15 minutes.
    • Plastic Shower Heads – Combine equal amounts of vinegar and hot water. Completely submerge the shower head and soak for about a couple of hours.
    • Rust Stain and Hard Water Deposit Remover – Apply full-strength vinegar and let stand until spot disappears, rinse. Repeat if necessary.
    • Mildew Remover – Dissolve 259 ml vinegar with 250 ml borax in about 500ml of warm water. Soak the item overnight, or if using on tiles apply and leave overnight before rinsing.
    • For windows put some undiluted vinegar in a spray bottle instead on ‘windowlene’.


  • Bicarbonate of soda is useful for many more cleaning jobs:
    • Use a paste to polish silverware, an old toothbrush is great for getting into grooves and difficult to clean areas.
    • A mixture of bicarbonate and vinegar will remove rust from cast-iron pots and pans. This will also quickly loosen grease, dirt and grime from your braai grill.
    • A thin paste of bicarbonate and water can be used to safely remove crayon marks from most surfaces.
    • Deodorize bottles, by putting 1tsp of bicarbonate in and filling up with warm water, give it a good shake and let stand for a few minutes. This is especially good for baby bottles that tend to have a sour milk smell after a while. Baby’s teats can be deodorized and cleaned by making up a solution of 5tsps bicarbonate to 500ml water, let nipples soak overnight in this.
    • Sprinkling some bicarbonate in the bottom of the nappy pail is a great way to control odours.
    • Bicarbonate of Soda and dry table salt are mild abrasives and can be used as an alternative to chlorine scouring powders. Simply put either baking soda or salt on a sponge or the surface, scour and rinse.
    • Bicarbonate of Soda and Vinegar toilet cleaner: Sprinkle baking soda into the bowl, then squirt with vinegar and scour with a toilet brush. Cleans and deodorizes.
    • To clean tile grouting, put 3 cups bicarbonate into a medium-sized bowl and add 1 cup warm water. Mix into a smooth paste and scrub into grout with a sponge or toothbrush. Rinse thoroughly and dispose of leftover paste when finished.
    • To clean stainless steel, chrome, fiberglass, ceramic, porcelain or enamel fixtures, dissolve 2 tbsp baking soda in 1l of water. Wipe on fixtures then rinse.


In the Kitchen



  • Use solar-heated hot water for most dishes and only use dish liquid for the really greasy stuff.
  • Lemon and bicarbonate of soda work pretty well too as a grease cutter and are brilliant for burnt-on pots. Just sprinkle some bicarbonate add a teaspoon of lemon and cover with 5mm water; soak over-night.
  • Salt is anti-bacterial and, added to hot water, will kill any bacteria – especially useful if you have been preparing meat.



  • Sprinkle on bicarbonate of soda and spray with vinegar, leave for 20 minutes and wipe off. Any stubborn patches can be scrubbed with extra bicarbonate.


In the Laundry


Along with your soap-nuts, you can use:

  • Borax – great for removing acid stains like red wine, curry, coffee, cocoa and chocolate; also works well as a fabric whitener.  Simply add ¼ cup of Borax to your wash or, for particularly stubborn stains, make a paste and leave on stain for 30 minutes before washing.
  • Cream of tartar ~ great for removing stains like ink and grease. Make a paste and leave on stain for at least 30 minutes before washing.
  • Use half a cup of vinegar instead of fabric softener.


Air Fresheners

  • Add a couple of drops of essential oil to the inside of the cardboard toilet tissue roll. With each turn, fragrance is released into the room.
  • Make a lemon and baking soda spray. Dissolve baking soda in 2 cups hot water, add lemon juice, and pour into spray bottle.
  • Bicarbonate of soda placed into an open container will freshen any area – works well in the fridge. If your carpets are smelly, sprinkle sodium bicarbonate over them and leave for 20 minutes before vacuuming.

Drain Cleaner

For slow drains, use this drain cleaner once a week to keep drains fresh and clog-free.
Pour a cup (500 ml) of baking soda (Bicarbonate of soda) down drain, followed by 1 cup of vinegar. Allow the mixture to foam for several minutes before flushing the drain with 3 liters of boiling water.


Multipurpose cleaner (especially useful for removing odours – like cat smells)


In a 2 liter recycled bottle, put 1liter of vinegar, 250 ml ammonia, 20 drops tea-tree oil, 20 drops other essential oil (like Geranium) and 250 ml of salt. Mix all the ingredients together in your bottle. Use 50ml of this diluted in 1 liter of water instead of tile cleaner for floors, and instead of bathroom cleaner, etc.  Works for most non-porous surfaces and can also be used on carpets, furniture, etc. (but check for color fastness on a non-conspicuous area before using).