How To Clean Your Stuff with Natural, Safe, House Hold Ingredients, and Food

Alphabetized Guide to Natural Cleaning Recipes


Acetate – Acetone dissolves acetate, and acetate colors often bleed. Wash by hand with a gallon of water in which you dissolve ¼ cup of baking soda. Or wash with very mild liquid soap and water. Dry on a flat surface to prevent wrinkling. Perfumes containing acetone also will destroy fabric. See the “Howstuffworks” Web site at:, particularly the article titled, How to Clean Synthetic Fabrics for more information on washing acetate and related fabrics such as acrylics, modacrylic, fiberglass fabrics, and nylon. Soak colored items separately from white items and wash white items with other white items because the colors may bleed. Don’t dry with heat. Hang the acetates and acrylics on a line or flat surface away from direct sunlight and hot air.

Acrylic – fabrics- Wash fake fur with mild liquid soap and water. Dry on a flat surface to prevent wrinkling.

Acrylic paintings – Dust gently with compressed air to prevent chipping or dust lightly with a soft watercolor brush.

After shave – Make your own after shave lotion with equal parts of lemon grass tea, green tea, and lime juice.

Air – Green plants, trees, and bushes filter polluted air somewhat. Use air purifiers that don’t emit ozone or clog the air with so much moisture that your nose closes up.

Air conditioners – Turn off electricity. Vacuum the appliance. Wash filter with vinegar and water, about ¼ cup vinegar to a quart of water.

Air Freshener – Dissolve ½ cup of baking soda in 2 cups hot water. Add the juice of four lemons. Pour into spray bottle, spray into air as air freshener. Or leave a cup of vinegar in a room to absorb odors. See the Clean and Green Web site for many more recipes to freshen air at:

Alabaster – Don’t use water. Clean with a wedge of lemon or lemon juice on a cotton ball. Porous alabaster is ruined by absorbing water.

Animal Hides – Brush to dust. Cornmeal rubbed into animal hide works well to pick up dirt. Then brush or shake out the cornmeal out of doors on your grass lawn.

Answering Machines – A bit of rubbing alcohol or vinegar and water on a microfiber cloth works wonders to clean off the dust.

Audio Equipment- Rubbing alcohol on a microfiber cloth works well. Watch out for static. Wipe back to front or use compressed air gently.

Autos- Dilute ¼ cup of ammonia with a gallon of water. Wash your car out of the sunlight with a chamois cloth or microfiber cloth. You also can use a mild, transparent dishwashing soap and water or plain water.


Baking Pans – Start with a paste of baking soda and water. Use a plastic pad to remove burnt-on foods, and rinse. Vinegar and water after the baking soda paste also works well. Baking soda also removes tea stains from dishes and cups as well as pots and pans. Make a paste, soak, and rub off burnt-on foods gently with a plastic pad, never a scratchy metal pad.

Barbeque Stoves or Grills- Wash with a paste made of baking powder and water followed by vinegar and water rinse.

Bath Mats – Salt and vinegar for the mildew. Then wash with mild dishwashing soap and water.

Bathtubs and Sinks – Cream of Tartar and hydrogen peroxide for mineral stains. Or clean with baking soda and water. For mildew, mix salt and vinegar in equal parts and apply to mold and mildew on tiles, grout, and shower curtains.

Beds – Vacuum beds and dust around bed boards. Look in back of bed boards to check for bed bug or spider colonies. Use compressed air to clean mattresses. Frames can be washed with water and vinegar. A bit of linseed or olive oil on frames can be used to ward off mold. Keep the room from any dampness or moisture by frequent vacuuming and cleaning. Microfiber can pick up dust balls from under the bed. Launder fabrics and keep bedding clean to prevent too much dust mite infestation.

Buy a mattress and pillow cover encasing that is treated to prevent dust mites from breeding if you’re not allergic to the products used on the mattress cover. Otherwise keep dusting or use a can of compressed air and launder the mattress covers and pillow protectors frequently. Keep dampness down in the room.

Vinyl or sealed natural flooring keeps out more dust mites than carpets and rugs that can’t be washing in very hot water. Long pile rugs hold more mites than short pile rugs. Wool carpets hold more mites than synthetic flooring. To keep out mites, leave your bedroom floor hardwood or tile and use throw rugs that don’t slip to cause falls that you can launder at high temperatures if you need rugs in your bedroom.

Blankets – Wash with mild soap and water with a little baking soda or borax added to the water, about ¼ cup.

Blinds – Dust and then wash with ½ cup of vinegar poured into a quart of water or use mild dishwashing soap and water and rinse with ¼ cup of vinegar to a quart of water.

Bone Handles – Whether it’s ivory or any other animal bone, clean with a damp cloth. Bone is so porous that water will be absorbed and discolor the item. So use only a damp microfiber cloth.

Books – Wipe with a microfiber cloth. For bleaching stained book jackets, see chapter 5 on rescuing old or water damaged documents, discs, tapes, and photos.

Butcher Block Cutting Boards – Wash with salt and vinegar. Also noteworthy are lemon juice and water or vinegar and water. Don’t have butcher block countertops installed, especially not above your damp dishwasher. Bleach is a quick way to disinfect a cutting board. After washing off the bleach, rinse with vinegar, salt, and water, then plain water. Dry thoroughly so mold and mildew won’t form on the wood. A wooden pestle used with juicers should be dried before storing in a plastic bag to prevent mold growth.

If you use wooden cutting boards, wash them with materials that are anti-microbial and yet somewhat edible– such as salt, baking soda, vinegar, olive oil, turmeric, cinnamon, or the old stand- by, salt and vinegar. If you make your own colloidal silver, you can wash your boards with colloidal silver water. Let stand a half-hour, and then dry.

Ball Point Pen Stains on Fabric or Dryers – Rubbing alcohol or milk… Wipe with a soft cloth.


Cabinets in your kitchen – Polish with linseed or jojoba oil.

Camcorders – Fungus can get into your camera, camcorder, especially behind the lens if you keep your item in a damp environment. Clean your camera or camcorder lens with anti-fungal sunlight, a dry room with very low humidity, and a gentle bit of compressed air on the outside of the lens. You need a non-liquid that absorbs oily residue.

Gently wipe off dust on the lens with a soft brush or satin-sheen microfiber cloth. Attach protective filters against salt water and sand. The standard photographic blower-bulb-brush product works well for camera lens and camcorders.

Candle Sticks – Melt wax with a hairdryer set on hot. Don’t use hot air on wood as the wood will crack. Instead use the warm setting. Freeze the wax on silver candle sticks. Set candlesticks in hot water to melt wax. Careful with wood that absorbs water. With old wood, a spatula can be used. If you have felt on your candle sticks, keep it from getting wet.

Carafes – Baking soda removes tea and coffee stains. You also can mix the baking soda with salt and water.

Cards – playing – Clean playing cards with a damp cloth. To remove a stain dab with vegetable oil and wipe clean if the card has a plastic coating. Also a paste of ¼ teaspoon of baking soda in a ½ teaspoon of water can be wiped over the card. Dry by wiping or air drying the card. Don’t let the card become saturated with water or oil.

CashmereWater and ¼ cup of vinegar in the rinse after you’ve hand-washed the item with gentle, transparent liquid dishwashing soap.

Cat Litter Box – Wash with baking soda and water. Rinse with vinegar and salt. Rinse with water. Wipe dry.

Never use chlorine bleach to clean a cat litter box. The chlorine fumes mix with the ammonia fumes in the cat urine collected in the litter from what is left after scooping and forms a deadly gas that can be fatal.

Cat Shampoo – Dry – Mix on a large baking pan a cup of dry raw oat bran or cornmeal. Dry oatmeal also can be used. Bring in a towel and your cat brush. Put the baking pan spread out with the meal or bran in your oven and bake it only until it is warm.

Test on your own inner wrist to make sure it is not too hot for the cat’s skin or yours. Apply the warmed meal to the cat’s fur from the back of the head to the tail. Gently massage your cat with the meal. Rub the meal down to the skin. Don’t leave the mixture only on the fur. You want the meal and bran to absorb the dirt on the cat’s skin.

Rub the cat gently massaging with a bath towel. The meal will absorb the dirt and oil. Brush out the remaining debris and meal until the cat’s skin and fur is clean and no meal or bran remains on the cat.

CDs and DVDs – Compressed air dusters are the best way to clean discs.

Ceramic Tile Floors or Countertops – Vacuum dust from a ceramic tile floor before wetting it, and wipe the crumbs from a countertop before washing it. Wash ceramic tile floors with plain warm water. For countertops, use a soft microfiber cloth.

The commercial product way to clean ceramic tile floors is with a gallon of warm water into which you spoon a table spoon of borax and two tablespoons of ammonia in your bucket. Use a micro-fiber mop or a rag, according to the Do It Yourself Web site at .

To follow an all natural, greener method, wash your ceramic tile floor with plain water and nothing else. Otherwise, you’ll smell the aroma of ammonia and borax in water. If you have allergies, warm water alone is fine for washing tile floors. Don’t use vinegar, salt, tea, lemon, olive oil, or baking powder to clean your ceramic tile floor or your vinyl floor.

Coffee Pots – Baking soda, vinegar, salt, and water paste. Then rinse.

Coins – Soak the coins in olive oil for a few days and then rinse them well with clean water. Dry thoroughly. Clean coins with isopropyl alcohol if soaking doesn’t remove the stains or dirt. Blow or pat dry without rubbing coins. Do not use paper towels or tissues as they scratch coins.

Compact Discs- Brasso Metal Surface Polish removes stains from plastic eyeglass lenses and works okay on CDs and DVDs. Sometimes creamy peanut butter or mashed banana also works on tiny CD and DVD scratches. See the Web site at CD Repair Kits at: Check out what’s in the ingredients of what you choose to fill in scratches. You can use a tiny bit of peanut butter or a banana to see whether the food items will fill in small scratches on your discs.

Dentures – Dip your toothbrush in a paste consistency mixture of a teaspoon of baking soda, pinch of sea salt, ½ teaspoon of water, and a ¼ teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide and brush gently.

Never use vinegar on your teeth—your own teeth or false teeth. Don’t use any other acid that dissolves calcium. Keep your mouth alkaline. Brush with a natural toothpaste containing calcium.

On dentures made from synthetic products, baking soda and water with a bit of hydrogen peroxide works fine. Soak dentures in water and baking soda. Coat your toothbrush with hydrogen peroxide before brushing.

Deodorant – Lemon wedge or half a lemon rubbed in the armpit. If you don’t shave frequently, rubbing alcohol also can be used from time to time on the skin, but never near the gums, nose, or private part as it burns and damages skin other than on the unshaved armpits or on the feet or hands.

Baking soda, cornstarch, and green tea at times have been used as underarm deodorants. In the past century a mixture of equal parts of baking soda and cornstarch was used as a deodorant for arm pits or sprinkled on pads used for external feminine hygiene on long travels.

In the 1940s an equal mixture of cornstarch and baking soda was mixed with a bit of petroleum jelly and rubbed like a crème in the arm pits as a deodorant. During the nineties, green tea was added to some stick-type “natural” product deodorants.

A 1940s-style deodorant formula is basic to make about a cup of deodorant. Mix the following dry ingredients and add four drops of essential oils such as rose or orange:

1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup cornstarch
4 drops of antibacterial essential oils such as rose, olive oil, sweet almond oil, orange blossom oil, or your favorite scent if that oil is safe to dab on your skin. Check out the Aromatherapy Web site which lists and describes essential oils and tells you which are safe for the skin.

One example would be as sweet almond oil used by massage therapists, and other oils which you can consume in small amounts such as grape seed oil, often added to vegetarian mayonnaise containing grape seed oil found in many health food stores and some supermarkets. The Aromatherapy site is at:
Place the baking soda and cornstarch in a glass jar. Add the essential oils; stir and cover. Dampen cotton ball and sprinkle the mixture on so you don’t get bacteria in the jar with a contaminated cloth or sponge. Pat the mixture under your arms.

You can buy essential oils in most health food stores or order online from herbalists, aromatherapists, or various natural food stores. Search under key words “essential oils.”

Choose edible oils. A few drops of edible oils can be added to your home-made mouth wash. To make mouth wash, mix four drops of clove oil, 2 drops of myrrh essential oils, a folic acid vitamin tablet dissolved in water, and a zinc mineral tablet dissolved in water. You can purchase all these ingredients at a health food store.

Mix oils and tablets in a pint of distilled water until the folic acid and zinc tablets are dissolved. Use as a mouthwash. Don’t swallow any. Store your mouthwash in a covered glass jar in your refrigerator for up to a week.

Various oils such as cinnamon, rose, orange, or lemon are described as being suitable to put on the skin—for external use. Other oils are for scent/aromatherapy and are not to be put on the skin. Check out the Web sites to see which essential oils are anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and safe to use on your skin or in a mouthwash.

You can use a paste of green tea, cornstarch, baking soda, and olive oil or petroleum jelly as an external deodorant. Don’t put it on areas that might burn from the baking soda. You might consider using a half lemon kept in a waterproof bag as an underarm deodorant to be applied three times a day if you need to freshen at work.

Check to see how your skin reacts to putting food externally on your arm pits. Anything you put on your skin is absorbed. So you could be allergic to any of these ingredients or break out from baking soda on your skin.

If so, remove the baking soda and keep trying until one combination works well for you. Again, you could react badly to any food ingredient rubbed externally on your skin at any time. Don’t take any of these items internally, ever, especially baking soda and vinegar that could cause acid or salt poisoning to your sensitive system.

The best advice is to try different foods on your skin externally to see what works as a deodorant. Remember that your skin absorbs anything you put on it, and you never know what you’re allergic to at any time.

For feminine hygiene, use baking soda on a sanitary napkin, but don’t let the salty baking soda touch your skin in those parts. Cornstarch doesn’t burn the skin. A lemon wedge was used as an armpit deodorant in the early 1800s by those who don’t shave.

Dandruff – Olive oil may be smoothed onto the scalp and let set there for 40 minutes. Then shampoo twice. Also mink oil soap can be used. Make your own mink oil soap. See the Web site titled, How to Make Mink Oil Soap at: To make a basic soap, first put on your rubber, plastic, or latex gloves.

You’ll be pouring lye into coconut oil. Ingredients include two cups of coconut oil, an 8 ounce cup of coconut oil at room temperature, and an equal amount of mink oil. You’ll need two ounces of lye, an 8-ounce cup of water, a non-metal bowl (plastic or enamel is okay), plastic or wooden spoons, and your basic soap molds.

Carefully pour the lye into the coconut oil because to make home-made soap you need two basic ingredients—lye and oil or melted fat. Stir and keep the mixture a soft liquid. Don’t let it get thick or begin to harden. Now add the mink oil. Stir, and now wait until it thickens. You pour the thickened mixture into your soap molds which can be of any shape. If the soap doesn’t slide out when it hardens, then store the molds in your freezer. The soap will come out when chilled.

You don’t only have to use only mink oil to make basic soap. You can make soap with any safe essential oil to use on the skin such as olive oil, rose oil, or various scented oils safe for use on the body. Just substitute eight ounces of any type of safe scented or unscented oil such as sweet almond oil, grape seed oil, rice bran oil, olive oil, or whatever you choose from descriptions on the aromatherapy web sites.

Diamond Rings – Rubbing alcohol. At the turn of the century, a drop of ammonia in a cup of water was used to clean diamond jewelry.

Dishes – Baking soda, vinegar and salt, and rinse water. Remove food with a plastic pad that doesn’t scratch. You can also rub the dish with a lemon wedge after washing and before serving food on the plates.

Dishwashers – Baking soda first to wash down the dishwasher, and then ½ cup vinegar in the rinse water.

Dog Shampoo – Mix a pint of gentle dishwashing soap such as Dove with a pint of water and a pint of apple cider vinegar. Add four ounces of glycerin sold in most pharmacies. (I also saw it in a discount store pharmacy.) Mix all ingredients. Put it in an airtight bottle or jar and label it “Dog Shampoo.”

You also can use distilled water and store the generic dog shampoo in your freezer until the next shampoo so it won’t get full of bacteria. Don’t put this mixture inside your dog’s ears. Use veterinary ear wash such as OtiCalm to wash your dog’s ears.

Keep the shampoo away from the dog’s eyes as vinegar stings the eyes and nostrils or private parts. Rinse with water. For fragrance, you can use rose water extract or rose essential oils, about four drops, but dogs usually don’t like the scents humans like.

Drains – Baking soda, vinegar, or vinegar and salt rinsed well. Never leave salt in your drain. Get yourself a metal drain pipe snake for rooting out the clog. Use a plunger for toilets. Keep a separate sink plunger.

Dryers – Vacuum lint frequently and wipe with a soapy cloth. Rinse with a damp rag. Don’t get water in the lint filter slot. Clean the filter often to prevent common dryer fires when the lint trap gets clogged and overheated or the vent gets stuffed up with dust and lint.

Most people forget the vent to the outside, and that’s where most fires start when the lint filter inside the dryer is cleaned and the vent and screen to the outside gets clogged and forgotten.


Eyeglasses – Clean with liquid dish soap and water. Never rub glasses with a paper towel. It scratches. Hairspray damages A/R coatings on some eyeglasses. Dry with a soft cloth made for cleaning eyeglasses. You can get this type of cloth from your optometrist.

Enamel Teapots –Baking soda and water in equal parts makes a solution or paste for wiping out enamel teapots. Rinse with a quart of water to which you add ¼ cup of vinegar.


Fans – After dusting, brushing, or vacuuming the fan, put ¼ cup of vinegar in a quart of water and wipe with a damp microfiber cloth. Don’t get liquid in the fan.

Fax Machines – Wipe with a damp cloth moistened in rubbing alcohol. Careful, alcohol is flammable. Dry. Cover. Keep machines away from damp rooms.

Flatware- Stainless Steel – 1 teaspoon of baking soda and plenty of water for the dishwasher or mild dish soap if washing by hand. In a dishwasher, use your normal dishwashing solution or water and baking soda.

Don’t use any salt and vinegar cleaning solutions around stainless steel because it makes grooves and pits in the metal. Save the salt and vinegar to remove mineral stains from your bathroom fixtures that aren’t made of steel. Don’t use bleach on the Urban Kitchen flatware stainless steel.

Fleas – repellent- Mix ground cloves with 2 drops of eucalyptus oil to form a paste and put onto the item infested with fleas. Or wash the item containing fleas with a cup of wormwood tea. Purchase wormwood leaves at a natural food or herbal store. Add ground herbs of rosemary, bay leaves, mint leaves, lavender leaves, lemongrass, and rue.

Mix together and rub or brush gently onto the item that has fleas on it. You can put this mixture in your cat’s bed. Never use lemon on a cat as it could be fatal. Rosemary, cloves, mint, lavender, lemongrass, and especially rue, are cat repellents. Cat nip herbs attract some cats. Parsley also may attract cats. Cinnamon repels mosquitoes and ants.

For dog beds, lemon isn’t as toxic as it is to cats. For your dog’s bed, boil four lemons in a pot for 45-minutes to an hour. Cool and strain. Use the water to wash your dog’s bed and playthings.

Floor – Hardwood – Dark – Vacuum dust and pet hair from your floors. Then damp mop with a small amount of water and black tea. (Soak 3 tea bags in hot water and let cool. Use a very small amount of water on a wood floor.) Dry thoroughly. Then rub a small amount of linseed oil or jojoba oil on the hardwood floor until it shines. Test floor to make sure you can’t slip and slide or take a fall. Remove any excess oil. Dry the floor.

Don’t use black tea on light hardwood floors. Use a light-colored, weak tea such as green tea or chamomile tea bags and a bit of water. (Soak 3 tea bags in hot water and let cool. Use a very small amount of water on a wood floor.) Dry thoroughly. Rub your floor with a small amount of linseed, Tung, or jojoba oil on a microfiber cloth or other soft cloth.

Floor PolishHardwood Floors – Use linseed oil. It comes from flax seed. Let your washed floor dry to prevent mildew. Then use only a bit of linseed oil and polish twice.

You also could use jojoba oil or Tung oil that comes from the Tung trees of China. If you’ve used jojoba oil to moisturize your skin or hair, you know what it can do to polish other objects made from organic cells such as wood. Also see the Green Living Ideas Web site at: for many more ideas on making your own hardwood floor polish. For centuries people have used oils that come from plants to polish hardwood floors, long before commercial products came with the industrial age.

Floors, Vinyl – Vinyl floors should be washed with plain water alone, or use the commercial version by cleaning your vinyl floor with a gallon of warm water into which you spoon one tablespoon of borax. Use a bucket to hold the solution and wash the floor with a mop or cloth and let dry.

You can use an alternative to borax. Simply use plain water. Never use soap on a vinyl floor. Soap damages the vinyl floor and removes the shine coating that came with the new vinyl. Plain water is best. In India, turmeric is sometimes mixed with water and used to mop hospital floors to sanitize the floors. But don’t use turmeric on vinyl. Plain water will do.

According the Linda Cobb, hairspray can be removed from floors and furniture or other “hard surfaces” by using “one part fabric softener and two parts water.” But if you want a more natural way of removing hair spray instead of using a commercial product, try plain whole milk. The milk solution may or may not work, but give it one try. Milk sometimes works for removing ball point pen ink from inside your dryer or from some fabrics.

At the Do It Yourself Web site, the way to fill in scratches on your hardwood floor or furniture is to crayon the scratch with the same hue as the floor color. Then take your hairdryer and click it on high heat until the crayon melts a bit from the warmth. After that, you buff the area with a soft cloth. See for more tips for removing scratches or hairspray and cleaning different types of floors.

My more natural solution would be to use a nontoxic crayon or simply match the stain on the hardwood floor or furniture surface in your local hardware store. Scratches can be fixed with a variety of ingredients from crayons to toothpaste or even marking pens that exactly match, but crayons or candles are easier to remove from a floor scratch by heating the wax then trying to bleach a marking pen stain with the wrong color.

I highly recommend the book titled, Talking Dirty With the Queen of Clean, by Linda Cobb, Simon & Schuster/Pocket Books. Riverside, NJ. 2001. Also see the Web site at: There also are several more recommended books listed on cleaning topics by Linda Cobb and also additional cleaning tips at the Do It Yourself Household Tips Web site at:

FurFake – Follow directions on the manufacturer’s label since fake fur can be made from several different synthetic ingredients. Don’t dry fake fur in a hot dryer as it will curl up like burnt hair. Find out what the fake fur is made of and look on the back of the label for washing directions.

If there are no directions, wash by hand in cool water to which you may add ¼ cup of white vinegar and a teaspoon of mild dishwashing soap. Air-dry outdoors if colors don’t bleach in the sunlight. Test colors for bleeding when wet before you wash the fake fur.

Fur – Natural – Brush with a damp cloth and soft brush that won’t pull out the hairs. Don’t wet fur.

Furniture – Vacuum, brush, and wash lightly without wetting too much using a damp cloth. Wooden furniture can be polished with linseed or jojoba oil. Linseed oil is less expensive. Cream of tartar and hydrogen peroxide can remove rust stains from some metal furniture.

If your furniture is sealed with polyurethane, dust and wipe with a damp cloth dipped in dishwashing soapy water. For leather furniture, wipe with a damp cloth.

Getting oil-based stains out of leather furniture without removing some color from the furniture is difficult. So try milk on a cloth and don’t rub too much.

For wooden furniture, teak oil also works well on teak furniture. Other types of wooden furniture do well with a small bit of oil such as linseed. Don’t use lemon oil on oak furniture. Remove excess oil after leaving a thin coating of oil on for a few hours.

Futons – Wash in ¼ cup baking soda and a washing machine full of water if the fabric is washable. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions as all futons aren’t always made of cotton. Wash the covers according to the label’s instructions.


Garbage Cans – Wash with baking soda and water. Rinse with vinegar and water. Equal solutions are fine.

Glass Objects – Water, dish soap, rinse. Rinse again with ¼ cup of vinegar to 1 quart of water. If stained, use baking soda to remove food, beverage, or tea stains. Wash glassware of all types in a plastic basin or other plastic container to prevent chipping from rubbing or bouncing against a hard surface.

Gold – Water (warm) followed by a jewelry-polishing cloth.

Gold-or-Silver-Plated Objects – Dust with a soft, pliable watercolor brush that won’t scratch the item. Wash with a bit of water (warm) followed by a jewelry-polishing cloth.

Granite Countertops or Floors – Wipe with a damp cloth soaked in mild dishwashing liquid and water. Rinse with a damp cloth soaked in water.

Grass stains – Buy a container of digestive enzymes (capsules) found in most local health food stores. Open the capsules to fill two teaspoons.

Add a tablespoon of water. Mix the water and enzymes until it forms a paste. Rub the paste on the grass stain. Let stand an hour and rinse.

Repeat the same treatment if necessary. See the Web site for more instruction and a video on removing grass stains at: the Web site at:
What also works well on grass stains is alcohol. But never use alcohol on certain types of fabrics such as silk and wool. See the How to Remove Grass Stains Web site at the E How Web site at:

Digestive enzymes sold in health food stores mixed with water removes a variety of plant-based stains. Grass, leaves, flower stains, and some plant-based food stains such as salad leaf stains are dissolved by digestive enzymes taken by people as health food supplements. Digestive enzymes help you to digest foods when your stomach doesn’t make enough natural digestive enzymes or acid to properly process your food.

Gum Remover – To remove chewing gum from long or short hair, work a tablespoon of peanut butter mixed with a tablespoon of any vegetable salad oil such as olive oil into the hair around the gum. Work the peanut butter and oil gently into the hair around the chewing gum site until the gum loosens. Remove the gum. Shampoo the hair twice.


Hair – Conditioner – Mix a jar of real mayonnaise with a tablespoon of olive oil and ½ of a ripe avocado. Mix together in a bowl or glass jar. Apply to your hair. Put on a shower cap. Wait an hour and then shampoo twice. This recipe also is edible with corn chips. It really conditions your natural hair. Don’t use it on a wig.

Another type of hair conditioner used at the turn of the century, circa 1900, is the egg conditioner. To make it, beat one egg yolk with one teaspoon of olive oil (or baby oil) and add to a cup of water. Beat the mixture until frothy. Massage into your hair.

Leave on for an hour and shampoo out twice. Rinse thoroughly. In historic times women usually washed their long hair about once a month. If you make more than you use at one shampoo, store the mixture in your refrigerator for up to a week.

Heating and Air Conditioning Systems – Vacuum filters regularly for hair, dust, and mold. Hose down filters with water and let dry in sunlight. Dry thoroughly. Replace filters when they become too dusty and moldy to thoroughly clean.

Have your heating and air conditioning ducts cleaned professionally at least once a year as well as inspected for mold, bits of leaves, and other debris. Heating/air conditioning systems also get full of dust mites.

Humidifiers – Clean with equal parts of white vinegar and water. Appliances that moisten indoor air using minute water droplets also harbor bacteria, mold, and dust mites.


Inkjet printers – Your manual from the manufacturer will give cleaning directions. Otherwise, swab with a soft microfiber cloth that won’t leave lint, fibers, or residue. Moisten swab or cloth in water. Don’t leave moisture inside your printer.

Irons (steam) – Dissolve minerals with an equal parts mixture of vinegar and water. Follow manufacturer’s directions on cleaning the inside of a steam iron clogged with mineral deposits. Use distilled water, not tap water in your steam iron.

Insect Repellent – Turmeric or cinnamon powder. Peppermint and peppermint oil also repels insects and rodents.

Ivory – Dust ivory trimmings. If ivory trimming or frames surround your mirror or photos, use rubbing alcohol and a soft brush or cloth on the mirror and dust the ivory so you don’t remove the patina.

Alcohol removes the patina from the ivory. Sunlight may cause ivory to crack, but may prevent it from turning dun-color. Don’t put hairspray or cologne/perfume on ivory as it will change the color.

Jewelry – Dust with a soft brush, chamois, or microfiber cloth. Wash soiled jewelry with a damp cloth using plain water. Use a plastic bowl, not the sink.

Too many pieces have gone down the drain. Wash each piece separately. Strain the water in your bowl just in case a tiny stone or part has become loose. Don’t use bleach as it damages metal. Don’t buy jewelry cleaners that could remove the lacquered areas. Don’t put cameos, pearls, turquoise, or opals in water as water damages them.

Jute purses or rope – Vacuum dust from items made of jute fiber or jute rope, and wipe clean with distilled white vinegar on a soft brush without rubbing.


Keyboards – Computer or plastic musical instrument keyboards need to be vacuumed and dusted with compressed air. Clean soiled keys with rubbing alcohol to disinfect or a 50-50 white vinegar and water solution to remove soil on the keys.

Dry with compressed air. Use a dust cover. Never put a dust cover over moist computer or piano keys. Keep humidity in the room low.

Knives – Hand wash with a 50-50 mixture of vinegar and water or mild dishwashing liquid soap. Don’t put vinegar on plastic handles.

Dishwasher detergent sometimes pits and rusts the blades. You can oil the knives with a bit of olive oil on a paper towel or soft cloth.


Lace – Wash lace in cold water and borax or baking soda. Hot water ruins and shrinks lace. Smooth out the lace on a flat surface to dry and shape it to prevent shrinking and curling.

Lacquered Products – Dust with a microfiber cloth dampened in plain water. Don’t apply any solution that dissolves or discolors the lacquer or patina. Use compressed air for dusting if there are no stains on the item.

Laminated Counters – White vinegar cleans away most stains. Wipe with a damp cloth and rinse with plain water. Also mild dishwashing soap diluted with water gets rid of the acidity of the vinegar. Don’t let full-strength vinegar dry or remain too long on a laminated surface.

Lamps and Shades – Dust with compressed air. Hairdryers on cool or warm and never on high heat also work if you’re out of compressed air in cans.

Laptop Computer Monitors – Follow manufacturer’s instructions. Or dust gently with a moistened cloth, soft dusting brush, or compressed air.

Laser Printers – Vacuum dust. Then with a soft cloth or brush moistened slightly with rubbing alcohol, clean the outside plastic parts. Follow manufacturer’s cleaning instructions if you are cleaning inside.

Make sure what you use to clean a printer doesn’t damage plastic. Clean most printers with compressed air. White vinegar mixed half and half with water also can clean outside plastic parts if used on a barely moistened soft cloth. Don’t use vinegar on metal surfaces.

Compressed air works best to clean computers, fax machines, and printers. Make sure the compressed air released from the can isn’t so forceful as to destroy and break parts inside your printer or computer.

Lawn Mowers – Clean out the build-up of grass clippings with a plastic trowel or similar instrument. The grass clippings block the airflow. Follow manufacturer’s directions as some mowers are run by gasoline (flammable) and others by electricity. Change the oil annually.

Damp weather also ruins performance. Don’t hose down your lawnmower, clean it with a moist cloth or trowel. Don’t spill out the highly flammable and toxic gasoline or oil onto your lawn.

Leather – Make your own leather conditioner by rubbing olive oil into worn leather. After a half hour, wipe excess oil with a soft polishing cloth. See the Web site on 25 Alternative Uses for Olive Oil at: See the Mother Earth News Web site at: for many recipes on making your own soap.

Also condition leather furniture with lanolin on a dampened cloth. Wipe off excess. According to the Understanding Leather Products Web site at:, “Saddle soap speeds up the demise of upholstery leather by breaking down the fibrous structure through chemical reaction.”

The instructional Web site also notes that beeswax replaces natural oils from upholstery, but provides waterproofing. Wax hardens leather. Mink oil waterproofs leather hiking boots.

Lice – Remove lice from a child’s head by combing with a fine comb and tweezers and then covering the hair and scalp with a mixture of equal parts of mayonnaise and olive oil. Leave on overnight under a shower or swim cap. Wash out the next day. Another folk recipe is to leave petroleum jelly mixed with olive oil overnight on the child’s scalp and wash out the next day.

Keep a plastic cap over the hair until you shampoo the next morning. Never put petroleum jelly near anyone’s nostrils as it might induce pneumonia and similar nasal infections. It’s for the scalp and hair only and washed out the next morning with regular shampoo. Peppermint oil repels insects, but may burn a child’s tender scalp. Olive oil and mayonnaise are edible, and the mayonnaise takes away the peppery sting of some olive oils. In India, a drop of Neem oil also helps as does a drop of tea tee oil in the shampoo. But only one drop. Never put Neem or tea tree oil directly on anyone’s scalp. You can buy these oils online from health food stores and distributors.

Also olive oil works by itself to get rid of lice and knits. Apply and let the olive oil set for 40 minutes, then shampoo twice. See item #16 on the Web site titled, 25 Alternative Uses for Olive Oil at:

Also in India, turmeric found ground/powdered in your supermarket can be mixed with water as a paste and put on the scalp for an hour. However, do not put turmeric on blonde, red, silver, or white hair as it permanently turns light-colored hair a harsh, unnatural, bright yellow. Only use a turmeric paste on black or dark brown hair. If color starts to change, wash out.

Lipstick – Remove lipstick stains by blotting with rubbing alcohol or alcohol-based hairspray. Also ammonia on a cloth moistened with water dissolves lipstick. Don’t let the stain set for long. Blot the stain. Never rub it into the fabric where it will become a permanent stain.

Leather – A tiny bit of olive, jojoba, flax, walnut, or linseed oil on a cloth polishes leather. Be gentle and don’t pour oil on the leather. Never put hairspray, alcohol, or heat near leather products or furniture. Don’t cover leather with plastic or store leather clothing in plastic bags. The plastic will destroy the leather. Rubbing the leather ruins it. Dust the leather with a soft microfiber cloth.

Linens – Wash linens and cotton in cold water with ¼ cup of baking soda to a washer full of water. A cap of transparent, gentle liquid dishwashing liquid also may be used. Drying white linens in the sunlight is a turn-of-the-century folkloric technique for whitening the linens. But sunlight bleaches fabrics with different colors.

Lingerie – Follow manufacturer’s directions on the label. Otherwise wash in cold water by hand with gentle transparent liquid dishwashing soap or with ¼ cup of vinegar to each gallon of water. Also ¼ cup of baking soda can be added to laundry water when not using vinegar as the vinegar will neutralize the baking soda.

Linoleum – Water is the enemy of linoleum and vinyl flooring. Damp mop with a small amount of water, but don’t soak the flooring.

Don’t use alkalis such as ammonia or chlorine. They crack and dissolve the linoleum or vinyl flooring. Clean scuff marks or heavy dirt using a small amount of a citrus-based cleaner such as orange oil on a cloth.


Marble – A paste of baking soda and water cleans marble. Also try dry cornmeal and wipe off. Porous marble is ruined by moisture. Use a dry dust cloth or mop. Stone sealers sometimes wear off. Use water on a cloth to wipe down marble and dry quickly or used compress air or a hairdryer to dry the marble.

Don’t leave marble in wet state. Soap leaves a film and permanently streaks the marble, ruining it. If you have marble in your bathroom, use a nonskid bath mat on marble floors to keep them dry, and check under the mat for water damage. Is your marble item sealed? Don’t wipe wetness. Blot.

Wiping instead of blotting spreads water streaks that permanently mark the marble. Test a tiny area of stained marble to see whether hydrogen peroxide will remove the stain or make it worse. Sealed and unsealed marble acts differently with various cleaning solutions.

Metal bake ware – Wash with a paste of baking soda and water. Dry. A dab of olive oil polishes stainless steel pots and bake ware by ‘tempering’ the metal.

Mirrors – Equal parts of white vinegar and water clean mirrors and windows. According to the book, “How to Clean Practically Anything,” (by the editors of Consumer Reports), Roundtable Press, Inc. 2002, the editors recommend “one part vinegar to eight parts of water.”

Old folklore recipes handed down by family members swear by one part water to one part vinegar for wiping down mirrors and windows. So research what works best for your glass. Don’t use vinegar on the frames surrounding mirrors or windows as they are not glass.

Mother of Pearl – Make a paste of calcium and water or powdered chalk and water and clean gently with a soft cloth. Dry thoroughly.

Mouthwash – Mix 4 drops of clove oil, 2 drops of myrrh, one tablet of zinc, and one tablet of folic acid (that you buy in a health-food store) in 16 ounces (473 mil.) of water. Let the tablets dissolve in the water and oils mixture, and then shake well. Rinse your mouth, but never swallow the mouthwash.

Naugahyde – Clean this vinyl-coated fabric with a bit of linseed or olive oil on a soft cloth.

Needlework – Dust and vacuum first. Then hand wash colorfast needlework with plain water to which you add ¼ cup of baking soda. Always test the baking soda as a paste on the fabric first as some needlework is so old that the colors may run.

Any type of old needlework should be treated like a museum piece and conserved/stored in acid-free paper, never in a plastic bag. Some old needlework consists of embroidery combined with locks of human hair and ribbons. If so, just dust these objects and treat them like museum pieces that need acid-free and/or moisture-free and light-free conservation.


Oil Paintings – Dust with compressed air. Rubbing with a cloth might chip off the paint.

Oriental Rugs – Cleaning depends on the fiber. Is it wool? From what is the backing made? Do the colors bleed when you rub a damp washcloth over the rug?

Ask a professional what the rug contains and whether it’s colorfast before dry cleaning or washing it in soap friendly to wool or other fabrics and threads. The worst nightmare for an expensive rug is washing it only to see the colors bleed and the rug shrink and curl. Never wash a sheepskin rug in water.

Some rugs need to be professionally cleaned based on what they are made of. Other rugs can be steam cleaned with warm water. And still other rugs can be vacuumed after sprinkling baking soda on them to get rid of pet odors. You can rent or buy a rug steam cleaner. But find out how to wash your individual oriental rug, especially if it’s expensive compared to synthetic rugs bought from discount stores that can be steam cleaned.

Ovens – Clean inside ovens with ¼ cup of baking soda mixed into a pint of water followed by a vinegar and water rinse using ¼ cup of vinegar to a quart of water.


Painted (Latex) walls – Alcohol will remove latex paint from walls. So use only plain water after dusting. Gentle dishwashing soap and water also is safe. Test the wall first to see whether what soap or dishwashing liquid that you’re using is removing the paint.

Pearls – Clean natural pearls with a bit of olive oil soaked into a microfiber cloth. Don’t spray your hair or put perfume on your skin and then put on your pearls as all these changes the color of the pearls. Instead put the pearls on after everything dries. Alcohol discolors pearls and dissolves them. Vinegar and wine also dissolve pearls. Acid dissolves pearls. Don’t scratch the pearls by rubbing with powdered calcium or chalk. Just wipe gently with vegetable oil and a soft cloth similar to lens and eye-glass cleaning cloths.

Oil is good to pearls. So clean with any type of safe, edible oil, even corn oil. But olive oil works best. Test the olive oil or vegetable oil on one pearl first to make sure it won’t take off the top layer or any coating or discolor the pearls. Polish with a soft cloth to remove excess oils from the pearls. Keep the pearls dry. Dust with a soft cloth.

Pet food bowls – Use stainless steel bowls and wash in hot water with dishwashing soap and rinse with equal parts of vinegar and water. Clean stains on bowls with baking soda and water as a paste and rinse thoroughly.

Paper-based sculpture – Vacuum all dust first and then polish gently with a bit of linseed, jojoba, or olive oil.

Pewter – Wash in plain water and use a mixture of equal parts of salt and vinegar to remove mineral stains from pewter. Vinegar and salt mixtures get off mineral stains also from bathroom tile, grout, and tile floors or walls, sinks, and toilets. Don’t let vinegar and salt stand on any surface or remain in your toilet. On pewter, it’s meant only to remove a stain and quickly be removed. Keep the pewter dry.

Photos – See Chapter 5 – Document, Tape, and Disc Rescue and Recovery for further instructions on document, photo, disc, and recording tape conservation and rescue. Interweave photos with waxed paper or polyester web covered blotters. Store photos away from overhead water pipes in a cool, dry area with stable humidity and temperatures, not in attics or basements.

Keep photos out of direct sunlight and fluorescent lights when on display. Color slides have their own storage requirements.

            Keep photos from touching rubber bands, cellophane tape, rubber cement, or paper clips. Poor quality photo paper and paper used in most envelopes and album sleeves also cause photos to deteriorate. 

Instead, store photos in chemically stable plastic made of polyester, polypropylene, triacetate, or polyethylene. Don’t use PCV or vinyl sleeves. Plastic enclosures preserve photos best and keep out the fingerprints and scratches.

            Albumen prints are interleaved between groups of photographs. Matte and glossy collodion prints should not be touched by bare hands. Store the same as albumen prints—interleaved between groups of photos. Silver gelatin printing and developing photo papers are packed in plastic bags inside plastic boxes.

Carbon prints and Woodbury prints are packed horizontally. Photomechanical prints are interleaved every two inches and packed in boxes. Transport color photos horizontally–face up.

            Chromogenic prints and negatives are packed in plastic bags inside boxes. If you’re dealing with cased photos, pack the ambrotypes and pannotypes horizontally in padded containers. Cover the glass of Daguerreotype photos and pack horizontally in padded containers.

            Pollutants from the air trapped inside holders and folders destroy photos and paper. Use buffered enclosures for black and white prints and negatives. Use non-buffered paper enclosures to store color prints and color print negatives or cyanotypes and albumen prints.

            Store your tintypes horizontally. If you have collodion glass plate negatives, use supports for the glass and binders, and pack horizontally in padded containers. The surface texture of photos stored in plastic can deteriorate. It’s called ferrotyping.

So don’t store negatives in plastic. If you store your photos in paper enclosures, be aware that paper is porous. Instead of plastic or paper storage, put photos in glass plate negative sleeves in acid-free non-buffered enclosures.

            Then store vertically between pieces of foam board. Where do you find glass plate negative sleeves that can be stored in acid-free non-buffered enclosures? Buy storage materials from companies catering to conservationists, such as Light Impressions ®. They’re the leading resource for archival supplies. Also look in local craft stores.

Photo Albums – Don’t make or buy photo albums with “peel-back” plastic over sticky cardboard pieces because they are chemically unstable and could damage anything stored there. Instead, use photo-packet pages made from chemically stable plastic made of polyester, polypropylene, triacetate, or polyethylene. An excellent album would contain archival-quality pages using polyester mounting corners. Acid-free paper mounting corners are next best.

Pillows – Vacuum for dust mites and put the pillow in a clothes dryer, to air out the pillow without heating the stuffing. Don’t wash a pillow in water or the stuffing will clump together in hard lumps. Foam-filled pillows can be washed.

Dry thoroughly to prevent mold and dampness inside the pillow. Feather pillows often clump when washed, but sometimes they can be washed with cold water. If pillows aren’t dried inside, mildew will quickly multiply. Keep pillows dry and use a pillow cover. Wash the pillow cover rather than the pillow whenever possible.


Quilts – Look at the washing directions on the label. If you made the quilt yourself, the fabric determines the method of washing. Don’t put a patchwork quilt in the washing machine as it usually tears or the colors bleed. Wash cotton quilts in warm water with ½ cup of baking soda in a washing machine full of water. Add eight ounces of vinegar to the rinse water. Hand wash quilts whenever possible to prevent ripping, shrinking, curling, or color bleeding.

Quill – Clean feathery art or wear such as hats and costumes, cat toys with feathers, and antique quill pens with compressed air.


Radiators – Dust with compressed air or vacuum. A brush cleans the corners and crevices. Wash with a cloth soaked in white vinegar and water—50-50 solution.

Ranges – Make your own range top orange oil cleaner or lemon cleaner by boiling or soaking orange and/or lemon peels in water for 45 minutes. Let cool and stand for a few days. Strain the liquid from the peel.

Use the citrus water as a cleaner for ranges, ovens, and stove tops. You can rub the orange or lemon peel directly on the stove top or oven stain to dislodge it. You can buy cold-pressed orange oil used for cleaning ranges and similar appliances.

Also baking soda and water on a cloth cleans ranges as do vinegar and water or borax and water on a cloth or sponge. Orange oil (citrus aurantium dulcis) also is used as a natural refreshing aroma as well as a mild preservative. Don’t drink supermarket orange oil that you buy as a cleaner. It’s toxic.

Use orange oil for cleaning stove tops and ranges. It’s also used as a fragrance. Make your own perfume by dabbing a bit of orange oil, but not the supermarket cleaner type of orange oil. Rinse well and don’t put it near flames or heat.

You also can buy orange oil as an essential oil. It contains the essence of oranges. It takes 1000 lbs of fresh oranges to make 10 lbs of pure orange oil. This oil is cold pressed from orange peels. Look for orange oil fragrance that is 100% pure, USP undiluted. See the Herbal Remedies Web site at:

Refrigerators – Use baking soda and water as a paste to clean your fridge. Then rinse with white vinegar mixed half-and-half with water. Dry. Wash the vegetable bins in your refrigerator with a paste of baking soda and water, rinse with white vinegar mixed with water half and half, and dry.

Rodent repellant – Peppermint oil keeps mice and rats away, but a better solution is a stocking ball filled with Bob cat and/or fox urea which you can buy in a shaker and put in any type of container. See the Critter Web site at:

Their product, Shake Away is a safe, easy organic and natural way to repel rodents such as mice and rats. It’s based on creating fear in the rodent from the scent of Bob cat or fox urine without harming the rodent. The worst enemy of rodents is the Bob cat and the fox. It’s scientifically tested as a mouse repellent.

Rubber Items – Dust or vacuum and wash with plain water. Dry quickly. Rubber is destroyed by acidic solutions, dried soap, and rubbing with a mop to get out stains.

Rugs – Moisten hand-made with a little water and brush with a microfiber cloth. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for washing. Don’t wash rugs if the colors will bleed. Find out whether the rug is colorfast. Otherwise steam clean the rug if the fibers allow for steam cleaning.


Shampoo – Dry – Make your own shampoo by using cornstarch. Sprinkle the cornstarch in your hair. Let it absorb the oil. Then brush it out.

Shampoo – Wet – Simple – Mix a ¼ cup of glycerin with 1 quart of warm water. Shake and rinse your hair with the mixture. Buy pharmaceutical or food- grade glycerin in most pharmacies or in the pharmacy and sundries sections of most large discount and department stores and some health food stores.

You also could add scents such as two drops of rose essential oil or ¼ cup of edible orange blossom water found in Middle Eastern groceries. Or you could add four drops of sweet almond oil. This formula can be used as a soap-free shampoo or as a rinse after shampooing with your regular shampoo.

Shampoo – Wet – Soap-Free – Your health food store usually carries soapwart (saponaria officinalis). The saponins in this plant lathers somewhat like soap. If you want a fragrance, use catnip or lemon verbena. Catnip is good for hair growth. Use two cups of distilled water, 1 ½ tablespoons of dried, chopped soapwart, and add 2 teaspoons of the catnip or the lemon verbena.

You’ll find this recipe for shampoo and more recipes on the Pioneer Thinking Web site at: You boil the water, add the soapwart, and simmer, covered for 20 minutes. Cool and strain the liquid. Save the liquid in a glass jar or bottle. Store it in a cool, dark place, but use up the shampoo within a week. Put it in the refrigerator. This recipe makes 6-7 shampoos for the family.

My favorite recipe for shampoo requires no cooking. Just mix two tablespoons of glycerin that you can buy in most pharmacies with two cups of distilled water. Shake and wash your hair with it.

You can also wash your head with green tea or chamomile tea. Cool a quart of green tea (you make a pot of green tea in the usual way with one or two tea bags in boiled water). When cool, add your two tablespoons of glycerin. Besides green tea, you can use chamomile tea bags or ½ cup of fresh chamomile flowers. Black tea also may be used to wash your hair. Don’t use turmeric on light or white hair. It turns white hair bright yellow, but never a natural looking yellow. For hair conditioner, see “Hair – Conditioners above under the letter ‘H.’

Shells – Sanitize sea shells found on the beach by boiling for a few minutes, and clean out any meat or seaweed on them. Dry them on a cloth in sunlight. You can disinfect them with rubbing alcohol for about five minutes. Test one to make sure the alcohol doesn’t harm the shell.

If you buy seashells, they are probably coated with seals, colors, and lacquers. So just dust them or if stained, use a damp cloth or a small brush dipped in water. Test to see whether the colors will bleed.

Sheepskin rugs – Cover your vacuum’s nozzle with fabric and vacuum through the light weight fabric, or used compressed air. Rub the backing of the rug with cornmeal outdoors and brush well. Use wool cleaner if the hairs and fibers react well to a test patch. Keep water away from sheepskin rugs. The rug will shrink.

You can clean sheepskin rugs with various powders, meals, baking soda, or other dry means. Don’t put the rug in your clothes dryer or use heat. Hang the rug over a clothesline to air out. Then brush. Be careful not to pull out the hairs with the brush.

Shoe Polish – Clean leather top or plastic shoes with a water or vegetable oil-moistened cloth. Wipe dry. To shine shoes, put a dab of petroleum jelly, olive oil, or jojoba oil on a clean microfiber cloth and smooth the oil over your leather or plastic top shoes. Rub and shine. Then wipe dry.

Shower stalls – A solution of vinegar and salt 50-50 can be used to wash down shower stalls and shower curtains. It will eat up that mildew. Rinse with water and let dry in a well-aired room. Use salt and vinegar to clean tile and grout. Rinse the salt and vinegar off the grout and let dry.

Get rid of excess moisture in your bathroom by opening a window or turning on the fan or installing bathroom vents. A hairdryer on a wet shower curtain also helps to dry the item.

Silver – Clean silver with ½ cup of baking soda to each gallon of water. For a small amount of silver cleaner, put two table spoons of baking soda into two quarts of hot water. To polish tarnished silver, line your sink or a glass baking dish with aluminum foil. Fill with hot water. Add one teaspoon of salt and two teaspoons of baking powder to the hot water. Put your silverware together on the aluminum foil in the hot water/salt/baking soda mixture and soak for five minutes.

You’ll see the tarnish disappearing. Rinse and dry by buffing with a soft cloth. For more information on polishing tarnished silver see the Make Silver Polishing Dip article at the Web site at:

Skunk spray – Tomato juice wash and water rinse followed by washing again with ¼ cup of baking soda mixed into a teaspoon of 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide. Add a teaspoon of liquid dish soap. Wash.

You can use this on a dog’s fur, but keep it away from the animal’s eyes, nose, and mouth or private parts. Baking soda stings on the skin, especially on a cat or dog. So use tomato juice first and then smell the animal after you’ve dried the pet with a hairdryer.

Soap – Make your own mink oil soap. See the Web site titled, How to Make Mink Oil Soap at: To make a basic soap, first put on your rubber, plastic, or latex gloves.

You’ll be pouring lye into coconut oil. Ingredients include two cups of coconut oil, an 8 ounce cup of coconut oil at room temperature, and an equal amount of mink oil. You’ll need two ounces of lye, an 8-ounce cup of water, a non-metal bowl (plastic or enamel is okay), plastic or wooden spoons, and your basic soap molds.

You carefully pour the lye into the coconut oil because to make home-made soap you need two basic ingredients—lye and oil or melted fat. Stir and keep the mixture a soft liquid. Don’t let it get thick or begin to harden. Now add the mink oil. Stir, and now wait until it thickens. You pour the thickened mixture into your soap molds which can be of any shape. If the soap doesn’t slide out when it hardens, then store the molds in your freezer. The soap will come out when chilled.

You don’t only have to use mink oil. You can make soap with any safe essential oil to use on the skin such as olive oil, rose oil, or various scented oils safe for use on the body. Just substitute eight ounces of any type of safe scented or unscented oil such as sweet almond oil, grape seed oil, rice bran oil, olive oil, or whatever you choose from descriptions on the aromatherapy web sites.

Spandex – Wash with dishwashing soap and cold water. Don’t use any type of bleach. Let dry outside of your clothes dryer.

Stainless Steel Sinks – Clean stainless steel sinks, countertops, and gadgets with rubbing alcohol. Wipe dry as water destroys stainless steel sinks and countertops by spotting the metal.

Keep drying any wet places and use a tiny bit of olive oil or other vegetable or mineral oil to shine the stainless steel, and wipe off excess oil. Keep the surface dry.

Straw accessories – Cover your vacuum nozzle and vacuum or use compressed air to remove dust. Don’t use hot water. Wipe with a moist cloth and dry with air.

Suede – Brush, dry clean, or use a suede protector. Don’t wash in water unless the label tells you to. Test any liquid before you touch it to your suede furniture or garments.


Teak – Polish with teak oil which also may be a combination of Tung or linseed oil with polymers added. Or use Briwax Danish Oil. See:

Tea Pots – Use a paste of baking soda and water to get tea stains out of tea kettles or tea pots. Vinegar and salt gets out mineral deposits. Also try ¼ teaspoon of cream of tartar mixed with ½ teaspoon hydrogen peroxide to get mineral stains out of porcelain tea pots. Test on a small patch first to see how it affects the metal or porcelain. On metal tea pots, a paste of baking soda and water works best to get rid of stains.

TV screens – Dust with a microfiber cloth. Then wipe glass screens with rubbing alcohol or white vinegar. If you have a liquid crystal display flat screen TV, use compressed air to blow off dust. Don’t rub a non-glass TV screen. It will become scratched.

When you clean your LCD computer screen with compressed air without scratching it, the same method may be used on LCD TV sets. Also a soft cloth used to clean eyeglass lens can get small specks or stains off of a LCD screen. Touch the spot gently with the soft cloth or brush without poking, denting, smudging, or scratching.

Terra cotta – Wash with plain water. Use a soft brush or cloth to wipe dry.

Thermos Bottle – Wash with baking soda and water. Rinse with vinegar and water or vinegar, salt, and water. Final rinse is with plain water. Dry.

Tiles – Wash mildewed or moldy tiles with vinegar and salt. Wash with plain water, and dry. Mildew in the grout may be cleaned with vinegar and salt. If you have tiles painted with various paints or colors, wash with plain water and dry.

Toilet bowls – Pure vinegar cleans toilets. For tough stains, first put baking powder in the toilet (about a ½ cup) and brush stains. Then rinse with white vinegar. For tough mineral stains use vinegar and salt, and quickly flush away the salt before it eats into the pipes. Strong acids eat up porcelain.

Never mix different cleaning products, especially commercial cleaning products as the gas created from mixing them can be deadly. Use natural food products to dissolve calcium deposits.

Pumice stones also scratch off stains from toilets, but could scratch the porcelain. Citric acid also cleans toilet bowls, such as the orange juice powder called “Tang.” Lemon juice also cleans toilet bowls, but lemons are expensive. Tang also cleans dishwashers. It’s the citric acid that does it.

A less expensive cleaner for toilets as well as dishwashers is plain white vinegar. If vinegar isn’t strong enough for your mineral deposits, try Tang.

Also try teaspoon of cream of tartar mixed with a teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide to remove mineral stains from metal surfaces. However, cream of tartar is relatively expensive. A small amount I bought in a supermarket cost four or five dollars. Compare the price to white vinegar or even a jar of Tang.

Toothpaste – Combine equal parts of baking soda, salt, and crushed sage in a glass jar and shake. Store the dry mixture in the covered jar.

When you’re ready to brush your teeth, put a teaspoon of the mixture in a small cup or bowl and dip in your moistened brush. Also, you can moisten the mixture in a separate bowl or cup with a ¼ teaspoon of water and dab your toothbrush in the mixture. Other anti-bacterial spices or herbs that don’t stain teeth can be used in place of sage. To make a paste, mix three teaspoons of glycerin to ¼ cup of dry ingredients consisting of three parts of baking soda to one part of sea salt. Add enough water to make a paste. Use the paste as a toothpaste as it is, or add two drops of peppermint oil.

In India, toothpaste used to be made from sesame seed oil or clove oil. You massage the oil on your teeth and gums with your finger or use a soft tooth brush. See the Home Remedies Web site at: Some Asian countries used black sesame seeds, crushed and mixed with salt as a tooth powder. You can see a video titled, How to Make Organic Toothpaste online on the Web site called Videojug at:

The site also recommends mixing baking soda with hydrogen peroxide added, but many dentists advise against peroxide because hydrogen peroxide destroys DNA and may be carcinogenic if used repeatedly in the mouth.

So to be on the safe side, stick with baking soda and salt and add an anti-bacterial essential oil such as peppermint oil for taste. Or just use baking soda, salt, and water. Then rinse with a safe mouthwash such as those mouthwashes you make without alcohol. You might try mouthwash containing a bit of clove oil for its anti-bacterial quality and taste. Your dentist may use clove oil on your mouth or gums before injecting you with a numbing solution.

Another natural home-made toothpaste recipe is to open a few calcium carbonate capsules and mix with a small amount of water, an equal amount of glycerin, a ¼ teaspoon of Xylitol, (which is a sugar substitute you buy in health foods stores that is supposed to prevent cavities and is added to some toothpastes), a zinc capsule, a drop of peppermint oil, and a ¼ teaspoon of baking soda (bicarbonate of soda/sodium bicarbonate). Mix ingredients in a bowl or cup to a paste consistency and brush gently with a soft toothbrush. Rinse well.

Turtle and Tortoise shell jewelry or art objects – Clean with rubbing alcohol on a soft cloth. Polish with a tiny bit of mineral or olive oil. Also dry borax on a microfiber cloth polishes this type of shell object.

Towels – Use mild transparent dishwashing soap and cold water or baking soda and cold water. Add ½ cup of vinegar to the cold rinse water.

Toys – plastic – Wipe with vinegar and salt. Rinse with vinegar and water. Wash plastic toys with baking soda in a paste made with water. Rinse with water and vinegar.

Wooden toys can be washed with soap and water if the water is wiped off immediately. Oil the wood to prevent mildew and mold. Wipe of excess oil and dry the wooden toy totally before storing.

Turquoise – Don’t use water on turquoise objects or jewelry because water is destructive to turquoise. Wipe with a microfiber cloth. Brush jewelry crevices that have become filled with debris.

Twine – Wash in cold water with ½ cup baking soda to each gallon of water. Rinse with ½ cup vinegar to each gallon of water.


Umbrellas – Hose down small umbrellas with water and dry to prevent mold and rust on the spokes. Brush dry umbrellas to remove dust. Outdoor umbrellas can be washed with mild dishwashing soap and water or vinegar and water. Oil spokes with a bit of mineral or olive oil to ward off rust. Wipe off excess oil and dry.

Underwear – Wash with liquid soap and baking soda in cold or warm water. Rinse with ½ cup white vinegar and washing machine or basin full of water. For fragrance, do a final rinse with a bottle of rose petal or orange petal extract or rose water.

Uniforms – Wash in water and baking soda with vinegar rinse. Use mild liquid soap. Final rinse can be orange peel extract or rose, lavender blossom, jasmine, or rosemary leaves extract.

Upholstery – Vacuum frequently, then sponge or brush with unsweetened plain club soda. Lemon juice also removes sweat and grease. You also can use ¼ cup of vinegar to a quart of water on a sponge or cloth to wipe down upholstery.

Heavily soiled, smelly, and stained upholstery may need professional upholstery cleaning. Upholstery that has been covered by fabric may only need dusting.

Soaping fabric only leaves a white residue, lint, or dried powder stains. You could also try a tablespoon of dry baking soda on the fabric and vacuuming it to get rid of odors. Don’t cover your sofa with plastic. Try a small area first with each method.


Vacuum cleaners – One of the biggest problems with many vacuum cleaners is the mop strings and rug fiber strings that get caught in the machine. Another problem is damage caused by a wet carpet or metal objects getting caught in the vacuum cleaner or dust clogs. To solve these problems, first pull the electric plug and then gently snake a mop handle into the hose without tearing it to push out dust clogs.

Pull or cut out the pieces of string wrapped around the rotating brush. Use large plastic bags to empty the dirt in from the vacuum cleaner bin or bag. See the How Stuff Works Web site at: Also see the How to Maintain a Vacuum Cleaner article at the wikiHow site at:

Vases with Narrow Necks – Wash vase with vinegar and water in equal parts. A bottle brush gets out debris from a narrow-necked bottle or vase. Traditional folklore for dissolving sediment from bottles and vases include adding crushed eggshells so the calcium absorbs the debris or using dry, uncooked rice grains for narrow-necked bottles to absorb sediment. See the iVillage Garden Web site at: on cleaning a crystal vase with crushed eggshells that are abrasive. Also see page 92 of the book titled, Feather Your Nest, by Cerentha Harris, Marlowe & Co., 2005, mentioning using crushed egg shells or uncooked rice and vinegar to dislodge stains from glass objects. Page 92 paragraph 2 is online at one of the Google book Web sites at:

The raw rice and crushed egg shells solution also appears in Consumer Reports book titled, How to Clean Practically Anything, 2002, on page 121. So the rice and crushed eggshells method has gotten popular.

The problem with the rice and crushed eggshells used to clean vases or glassware is that you may not be able to get out the rice or eggshells from the narrow, long neck of a vase or other glassware when the rice or shells get wet or swell. Narrow-necked bottles, jars, and vases have been cleaned with dissolved denture-cleaning tablets in water (soaking).

A white vinegar rinse or a small amount of baking powder dissolved in a lot of water often is the simplest solution to clean stains inside vases. Sediment is more difficult to root out. In the case of sediment, the rice and eggshells would absorb the pieces of debris.

Video Tape – Transfer old video and audio tapes to DVDs and/or CDs and back up on Flash Drives and on removable computer hard drives. Store away from magnetic influences and away from heat. Tapes only last a few years. They go bad just like floppy discs saved from the early 1990s era. So transfer the content to newer technology. To store the old video or audio tapes, put them in plastic cases.

Cardboard cases get eaten by bugs and mice or get moldy from damp rooms. Make sure you have a backup copy of your only old master video tape, such as a tape of your wedding from a few decades ago.

Label tapes and keep them in a dry environment where they won’t become moldy. Keep the tapes in waterproof and fireproof library type containers. See the Web site on Damaged Audio Video Tape – Restoration Recovery at: Oxide shedding is a big problem for aging video and audio tapes. To clean tapes, dust the outer cases and store. You may have to have mold removed from your tapes.

According to the Damaged Audio Video Tape – Restoration site, at:, “Properly cleaning an old video tape is best accomplished by gently passing both sides over Pellon ® tissue or a simple lint free fabric. Pellon is the trade name for a cloth like material, made of synthetic fiber, that was originally designed and produced to be used as a shirt collar stiffener, though it makes an ideal tape cleaner.  Pellon ® (a trade-name) is low abrasive and non-dusting.” See the Web site’s articles for detailed instruction on tape restoration and cleaning.

Vinyl floors – Also see: Floors – Vinyl listed above right under the Floors- Hardwood listing.

To clean vinyl floors, first sweep or vacuum. For sweeping, use a microfiber cloth. Then damp mop. Don’t spill a pool of water on the floor. Water ruins vinyl floors.

A bit of baking soda on a sponge removes heel and scuff marks. Don’t use soap. Find out from the manufacturer what the recommended cleaning method is for your particular vinyl floor if the floor changes color or is very dirty.

Some no-wax floor products are made from vinyl. To stay organic and natural using food as a cleaning product, use a damp mop and gently sponge off dirt with baking soda on a sponge or cloth that doesn’t grind in the salt into the vinyl or damage it.


Wallpaper – Since most wall paper is coated with vinyl to keep soil from being absorbed, wipe clean with a cloth moistened with a bit of warm water. Greasy areas can be blotted with cornstarch. Let the starch absorb the grease. Then brush away the starch. Rubbing alcohol usually will take off crayon marks or ball point pen ink. Test a small area to see whether it will stain.

Walls – Is your wall tile, ceramic, painted or papered? Generally water will wash walls. Mix ¼ cup white vinegar in a gallon of water. See “Wallpaper” above for washing wall paper. See “Ceramic Tile” for cleaning ceramic tile walls.

Washing Machines – To clean your washing machine, first rinse the empty machine with a cup of vinegar. Then add baking soda to your usual laundry. Use ¼ cup of vinegar for a final rinse of your laundry. For stained machines use vinegar and salt to wipe around the inside. Use milk or rubbing alcohol to get ball point pen ink out of your washing machine or dryer. Too often pens are left in shirt pockets which fall apart in the washing or drying process.

Watercolor art – According to the Canvas and Pen Web site by Levi’s Rain ™ at:, at your own risk, you may clean dirt from a watercolor painting with fresh white bread crumbs. Take the painting outside and lay it on a drop cloth.

Numerous watercolor artists also report that the fresh white bread crumbs act as a mild eraser of dirt, but do not erase the watercolor paints. If the painting is expensive, turn it over to a professional art cleaner or framing shop for cleaning. If you want to take the chance with your child’s kindergarten watercolor paintings, try the fresh white breadcrumbs method to pick up soil from the painting.

Test a small area first to see whether or not the color comes off on the crumbs. Dust gently. Shake off the crumbs on the drop cloth. It may or may not work with different water color paintings.

This bread crumb cleaning method for watercolor paintings also is mentioned regarding cleaning oil paintings on the Ask Mrs. Biddington Web site at:

Ask yourself whether expensive paintings should even be cleaned at all. The Conservation register Web site at:, cautions about attempts to restore works of art on paper yourself with such warnings as, Dubious traditional remedies such as using bread crumbs to clean off dirt, or the use of commercially produced tapes to repair tears will do more harm than good.”

Wicker Baskets – Wash gently by hand with mild dish soap and water and let air dry.

Wigs – Wash wigs in cold water with mild dish soap and air-dry. Use sulfate-free hair conditioner. Don’t use hot water on wigs.

Window Frames – Vacuum. Polish window frames with a bit of olive or linseed oil on a cloth.

Windows – Wash windows with white vinegar or rubbing alcohol on a sponge or cloth. Be careful with the alcohol as it is highly flammable. Never mix alcohol together with vinegar. Use one or the other.

Wood floors – To wash hardwood floors, dilute ¼ cup of distilled white vinegar in one gallon of warm water. Mop and rinse with water. Apply a bit of linseed oil on a cloth and polish when floor is dry and clean.

Wood furniture – Mix two parts of olive oil to one part of lemon juice. Don’t use extra virgin olive oil. Dip a soft cloth into the mixture and rub in the direction of the wood grain. A toothbrush or bottle brush will get the mixture into narrow crevices. Rub with another fresh/clean cloth until the wood shines.

Wood panels – Dust and clean with oil soap and water or vegetable oil on a cloth. Don’t use furniture polish on wood panels. Danish oil can be substituted for vegetable oil. Wipe dry or oily residue will leave more fingerprints and marks.

Wood plates and salad servers – Don’t let wooden bowls or utensils soak in water. Don’t wash in your dishwasher. To clean your wooden salad bowls and serving utensils, wipe out food particles with a cloth or plastic pad dipped in a mixture of mild dish soap and water. Dry right away. A bit of vegetable oil protects the wooden plates or utensils.

If you put a damp wooden bowl or utensil away, it will soon turn black with mold and mildew. Don’t leave wooden bowls or utensils in the sun. Treat dry, splintering, flaking or rough wood with vegetable oil such as olive oil to season/temper the utensil or bowl. Blot the excess oil.

Wool – A hot dryer will shrink wool and ruin it. Read manufacturer’s label on whether your wool rug or garment can be hand washed or should be dry-cleaned. Wool carpets and some wool garments shed loose fibers. Don’t put a wool garment or rug in your clothes dryer. Don’t use soap on a wool carpet.

Have a wool carpet cleaned professionally. For wool garments such as sweaters, if your wool garment is washable, use cool water, and see the Organic_Clothing Web site at: The Web site reports that, “The type of soap or detergent is important and you want to use a detergent that does not have an alkaline pH.  An alkaline pH causes the wool scales to open and this leads to fulling.  Woolite is alkaline and strips wool fibers so avoid Woolite.  Most soaps are alkaline so we recommend using a mild detergent.  Dishwashing detergents and shampoos usually have a base, rather than alkaline, pH and many recommend them for washing wool sweaters.”

Look for a natural detergent, but not a soap. The site mentions Ecover natural products for wool. See the site at: See Ecover products for wool at:

Wrought Iron – Wax to prevent rusting. Wash wrought iron with hot water. Also a rust-inhibiting paint can be used.


X-Ray Photos/Negatives – Preserve your old medical x-ray negatives or photos if you need them for travel, genetic counseling, genealogy, or storage or if you’re creating a family time capsule medical genogram for future generations by interweaving x-ray negatives or photos with waxed paper or polyester web covered blotters. Store any film products between sheaves of acid-free paper.

A genogram contains the medical history of one or more family members. You put it into a time capsule, living legacy, or genealogy gift box to give to the next generation so they can learn various aspects of family history and medical family history of ancestors.

Store photos away from overhead water pipes in a cool, dry area with stable humidity and temperatures, not in attics or basements. Keep photos out of direct sunlight and fluorescent lights when on display. Color slides have their own storage requirements.

            Keep photos from touching rubber bands, cellophane tape, rubber cement, or paper clips. Poor quality photo paper and paper used in most envelopes and album sleeves also cause photos to deteriorate.  Instead, store photos in chemically stable plastic made of polyester, polypropylene, triacetate, or polyethylene. Don’t use PCV or vinyl sleeves.

Plastic enclosures preserve photos best and keep out the fingerprints and scratches. Some public elementary school students were given X-ray photos when lung x-rays were once given to school children in the 1950s, and they may want to put these photos in a genogram, time capsule, or family history gift box.

Xylophones – Clean your xylophone with home-made non-caustic furniture polish such as a teaspoon of olive, jojoba, or linseed oil on a clean, soft cloth. Keep your musical instrument away from windows.

Direct sunlight fries and ruins the instrument. Cold weather also ruins musical instruments. Don’t store your instrument near any heating ducts or radiators. Heat, cold, and dampness ruin musical instruments. Don’t leave your xylophone in a car or van. Store it in a dry, dark place at room temperature and low humidity.


Yardage – Fabric – Pre-wash fabric yardage in cool water using ¼ cup of vinegar to a wash basin or washing machine full of water in order to see whether the fabric shrinks or whether the colors bleed before you sew the fabric into a garment.

Yarmulke/Kippot – Clean this skull cap by hand washing the hat using a table spoon of a mild liquid dishwashing soap using a gallon of water to which you add ¼ cup of baking soda. Rinse with ¼ cup of vinegar in a gallon of water.

Year Books – Clean old school, corporate, or family yearbooks with laminated covers by wiping the covers only or book jackets with olive oil on a cloth. Book jackets can be wiped with a dust cloth.

Stains will come out with bleach, vinegar, or lemon juice, but the bleach may ruin the book jacket. Test a small area first. Oil may remove a stain from a book jacket by absorption. Wipe first with a cotton ball soaked in olive or mineral oil. Test to see whether the oil will bleed through the jacket.


Zippers – Oil zippers with a dab of olive, sesame, linseed, jojoba, or any other vegetable, or mineral oil to make them slide smoother after washing garment or before sewing a zipper into clothing.

Zircons – According to the How to Clean Jewelry and Care for What You Have article at the Web site at:, “soak your zircon jewelry overnight in (undiluted) grease-cutting dishwashing liquid. In the morning brush with a soft toothbrush, rinse clean, and dry.” The Consumer Reports book titled, How to Clean Practically Anything, 2002, notes that zircons can be cleaned “with a solution of one part mild detergent, one part household ammonia, and three parts water.” Be sure which ever cleaning method you use for zircons to dry the zircon thoroughly with a soft, lint-free cloth.

Zithers – Clean your zither, which is described as a stringed music instrument with stringed instrument cleaner for zithers or use violin and/or guitar string rosin on the strings Wipe gently and with a cloth dabbed in olive oil, clean the wooden parts by dabbing. Follow manufacturer’s directions for cleaning that came with the zither. If you have no directions, polish with olive oil and cloth and wipe off any excess oils.

Zuccettos – Clean these small, round skullcaps worn by Roman Catholic clergy by gently dusting and then washing in cool water with mild dishwashing soap. Add ¼ cup of vinegar to each gallon of water. If the cap is not made of washable material, follow directions on the label or from the designer or manufacturer on cleaning.