Cleaning House

Essential products for every home

Cleaning your home is not a task many look forward to doing, with all of the rags and towels and cleaners that you have to have to use. Preparing ahead of time, with a few simple, yet essential, cleaning products will help bring great results - and, you can even get the most difficult cleaning projects completed with recycled, reusable and environmentally-friendly products.

Virtually every cleaning task requires rags or towels of some kind. For best results on surfaces that can scratch, all-cotton cloth (such as that in diapers) or microfiber rags will give the best, lint-free results. If you are not familiar with microfiber rags, you can readily find them in stores that are geared to automotive work, specifically body work. If the job requires heavy scrubbing, take an old thermal undershirt, cut off the front and back, seam the edges, and you have a reusable, ribbed rag.

A two-gallon bucket and a short, hand-held squeegee with a washable wet head will help making washing windows and the shower a snap. Make sure to keep a couple of those lint-free rags dry for the final wipe-down to get a sparkling shine. The same combination will make washing the car a breeze.

Two of the best, natural cleaners are vinegar and lemon juice. Both are mildly acidic, dissolve readily in water, and can be mixed together safely. Both are also natural sanitizers, capable of killing a wide variety of common household bacteria and molds. For those tougher jobs, the diluted ammonia available at the grocery store is an even more effective disinfectant.

As a last resort, household bleach will whiten porcelain as well as kill virtually any organism it comes in contact with - including you if used improperly. Never use bleach on plastic or other synthetic materials. The active ingredient in bleach is chlorine, and it can chemically "chew up" synthetic fibers. Wear non-porous gloves in a well-ventilated space when using bleach.

Safety Tip

Never mix ammonia with bleach, as the chemical reaction between the two releases chlorine gas, which is highly poisonous in low concentrations, and can permanently damage your eyes and lungs.

One of the toughest cleaning jobs is removing wax from carpeting, upholstery or walls. What parent hasn't had a toddler draw on the wall with a crayon? Peanut oil effectively dissolves common waxes, and with a little patience, the surface will be nearly-new after a few applications. Dab the wax stain, do not rub it, or you will spread the color around - the color is merely embedded in the wax, not part of it. For wax on furniture or carpeting, apply an ice cube, which will cause the wax to stiffen, allowing you to gently pull it from the surface.

By W Thomas Payne