Snowed In? Get Your Clean On

By Kate Riley January 8, 2010

I read yesterday that somewhere in North Dakota the snow and wind chills registered at 52 below zero.  If you’re snowed in like half of North America, make the best of it, and get your deep clean on.  No need to brave the snow and sleet to go out and buy chemical cleaning products.  Got lemons, vegetable oil, white vinegar and baking soda ?  You’re in business. 

I’ve read a few books and done a lot of research online over the last few days on natural cleaning agents.  I am now a virtual Cliff Clavin on the use of household products for all natural cleaning.  Of course, this is spoken by someone who believes just about everything she reads online.  Like this internet shocker from Erin, did you hear ? Scrunchies are back

But come to think of it, if you’re snowed in, a scrunchie might make a great dusting tool, wrapped around the tip of a toothbrush.  Just close the blinds so your neighbors don’t catch you on camera holding such a relic of bad fashion.  Of course, that’s assuming anyone still owns a scrunchie.  I think some gals still do.  But if you ever leave your house wearing a scrunchie, do not admit this, because I might have to defriend you on Facebook.  

Lemons are not just for cocktails, my friends. Oil and vinegar are not just for salad dressing.  Baking soda is not just for making cakes and removing odor from the fridge.  These handy household kitchen staples work wonders as natural cleaning agents. 

country living lemons Lemons

Wipe half a sliced lemon onto cutting boards to freshen and clean. 

Toss peels in your garbage disposal and rinse with hot water to freshen up your kitchen sink in no time. 

Clean grout stains by mixing lemon juice with a few tablespoons of baking soda. 

Out of bleach ?  Need to whiten whites in the wash ?  Add a few tablespoons of lemon juice to your rinse cycle instead. 

Mix the squeeze of a lemon with a full spray bottle of water for a quick all purpose cleaner. 

Got ants?  Squeeze lemon juice at their entry point to repel them. 


cooking oils cooking light Vegetable and Olive Oils

Use cooking oil mixed with coarse salt to clean a cast iron pan.

To keep fingerprints off stainless steel, or to remove streaks, buff with olive, vegetable or baby oil. 

Mix 1 part lemon juice and 2 parts of vegetable oil to make your own furniture polish.  Speaking of wood furniture, have you ever tried to use a dry paintbrush dipped in wood cleaner to clean and polish those nooks and hard to reach places ?   Try it, it works ! 

Rub a small amount of vegetable oil on your grater before using it.  It will clean up quicker. 

baking soda ehow Baking Soda

Lightly sprinkled on carpets, it makes a great deodorizer.  You can also mix it with a few tablespoons of cornstarch or baby powder to make a homemade carpet freshener. 

Scorch your nonstick pan ?  Mix a paste of baking soda and a few tablespoons of water.  Allow to set overnight, and rinse away the burn in the morning. 

Clean your oven window with a paste made from baking soda and water.  Allow it to sit for 10 minutes to remove stubborn oil spatter and grime. 

1 teaspoon to 3 cups hot water will deodorize stinky plastic containers.

Remove coffee or tea stains from ceramic cups with a cloth dipped in baking soda. 

Remove greasy buildup on your kitchen cabinets with a paste made from baking soda and water.  Wipe down with a small amount of white vinegar. 

Clean stove burner grates by soaking them in your sink with 1 gallon of hot water and 1/2 cup of baking soda for an hour. 

Whiten lace that has yellowed by bringing to a boil 1/4 cup baking soda, 6 cups of water and 1 tsp laundry soap.  Dip lace in hot water and remove with tongs. 

distilled vinegar quick and simple Distilled Vinegar

Make an all purpose cleaner for kitchens and bathrooms by filling a water spray bottle with water and 1/2 cup of white distilled vinegar.  You can add a squeeze of lemon too, if you want to neutralize the vinegar smell.  This solution cleans chrome, tile, enamel, glass, just about anything !  You can even spray your vegetables with it, then rinse them, to clean off your produce from the grocery store. 

Run 1/2 cup in empty dishwasher to deodorize and steam clean.

Rinse 1/4 cup vinegar with 12 cups of water through your coffee maker to keep it fresh. 

Clean just about any floor except marble with 1/4 cup of vinegar in a large bucket of water.  I do this with my wood floors about once a month. 

Moisten a cloth with vinegar and wipe down your fridge shelves.  This also helps to prevent mildew. 

Use distilled white vinegar to remove soap scum from shower doors.

For many many more uses for distilled vinegar, click on over to


 – More Household Items that Double Duty as Cleaners –


 Mouthwash (1/2 cup) mixed with a bucket of water makes a great cleaner for tile countertops and floors. 

Toothpaste on a dry cloth removes crayon marks from your walls, buffs tarnished silver and chrome, and even claims to repair CDs that skip (that last one I’m dying to try). 

Hairspray removes ball point pen ink stains from garments. 

Mayonnaise removes water rings from wood.  Use a tablespoon to cover the ring and allow to sit for 4 to 6 hours.  I’ve used this trick before, it works ! 

Shaving cream renders your bathroom mirrors fogless.  Of course, that information is so January 7th.   If you followed me on Twitter you’d have learned this by now.  I actually tried this, and it works.  Try cleaning and then buffing them with shaving cream to avoid having to wipe off steam after your hot shower.  Shaving cream can also be used to remove carpet stains. 

smirnoff vodkaWant more cleaning tips using ordinary household products?  Real Simple is the best at revealing new uses for items you already have in your home.  Click on over here to read about smart uses for old things, like cooking oil as a substitute for Goo Gone.  Or how about this article as a resource for cleaning solutions, like using rice to clean your coffee grinder. 

In truth, I was disappointed with this tip, recommending I spray my vintage sweaters with vodka to remove musty odors.  Fat chance I’ll part with my Smirnoff for that. 




This ends my overly ambitious series on getting a fresh start in 2010.  Thanks so much for all your kind comments throughout the week.  I’m tired.  I think I’ll have some of that Smirnoff now.  Cause it’s 5 o’clock somewhere. 

five days

 Top Five Images 1) Country Living 2) Cooking Light 3) EHow 4) Quick and Simple 5) Beverage Warehouse

Feel free to share your best cleaning tip so we all might benefit from your expertise !  Know of another household item that works double duty as a cleaning agent ?  Do share. 

Have a great weekend all.  Be safe and stay warm !


  1. Love these tips! Here’s mine: pour 1/2 c. baking soda down your bathroom drain, follow with a cup of vinegar, then a teapot of boiling water. Cleans drains beautifully! (Measurements approximate. I think the original said a cup of each baking soda and vinegar, but I just put in what seems like enough, then flush with a full teapot of boiling water.)

  2. Yikes…I still own one. In fact, I’m wearing it now. I promise I only wear it to bed. NO ONE, but my hubby, sees me with it. I live in the south, so that should explain everything!

    Love all the tips on cleaning. We’re not snowed in, but it’s too cold to leave. I’ll be getting my clean on here in Georgia!

  3. Before I can comment on your subject matter for today, I must first say:
    1. Love the Cliff Claven reference. Golden!
    2. Scrunchies?! I can’t believe it…but when I saw Sienna Miller and Catherine ZJ sporting them, my mouth dropped open. I guess everything comes back in style, huh? I’ll fill you in on a little secret…I have a scrunchie that I sometimes wear to keep my hair out of my face when I go to sleep or when I clean. I guess I just knew all along that I was being uber-fashionable. ;)

    I had no idea vinegar had so many uses. Somewhere there is a website devoted to Baking Soda, but I can’t remember what it’s called….

    Don’t blame you for keeping your Smirnoff for drinking. ;)

  4. Spoke to my ND relatives yesterday, and yes, it was -50 there!

    Scrunchies….if you have girls with curly hair that ends up all in tangles during the night, a scrunchie is a good thing….and easier on the hair than your average elastic. Only for bedtime though….not to wear out of the house.

    LOVE vinegar and baking soda for cleaning! I have a spray bottle (2 actually) filled with a 50/50 vinegar and water solution that I use to clean and disinfect just about everything. I also use it as a fruit and veggie wash in the kitchen. You can also use hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol for many cleaning chores. I’ll have to try the shaving cream on the bathroom mirror trick too.

  5. You did a great job with this series. I learned some things I didn’t know and was reminded of some I’d forgotten. Thanks for putting in all the effort!


  6. One other thing I know white vinegar is good for is removing salt stains from your leather shoes/boots. Mix a 50/50 solution of warm water and vinegar, dip a soft cloth or make up cotton round in the solution and then wipe it on the salt stains on the shoes. It really works.

    This is useful of course if you live in an area with lots of snow where they use salt on the roads :-)

  7. According to Dr. Oz, by the time we buy our fruits and vegetables they have probably been touched by 20 people. Yuck! I keep 2 spray bottles by my sink – one has distilled vinegar and one has hydrogen proxide. It doesn’t matter which one you spray first but combined they are great at killing germs and bacteria. I did buy a bottle of fruit wash which when I got it home realized it was just the two products mixed together. After an internet search I found out they are much more effective if sprayed seperately. And much less expensive.

  8. I”m a HUGE fan of the book “Organic Housekeeping,” which gives similar tips to yours for all kinds of cleaning needs and organizational needs.

    I use vinegar and baking soda and water on my tub. I like a bit of Murphy’s Oil Soap on my wood floors (mixed into a gallon of warm water). It just seems to get them shinier than anything else!

  9. Thanks for the tips! I used white vinegar in my wash the other day to remove the mildew smell from towels. Wash with the hottest water possible with just 1-2 cups vinegar. Then wash again using detergent (using hot water again) and dry completely. Worked like a charm!

  10. I soaked my grimy kitchen blinds in my bathtub with hot water and vinegar for 10 minutes Drained the water and wiped them clean with baking soda, rinsed and dried. They were like new!

  11. did you ever leave clothes in the laundry overnight by accident? I use vinegar in the washer to rewash if this happens and It gets rid of that musty smell. My kids swim in the winter and towels turn up musty all the time. I just pour a little vinegar 1/2 cup or so in with my regular detergent and the smell is gone! Love all the other tips!

  12. oops just notices someone else had the same idea! great minds think alike i guess. sorry to be a copy cat Brie!

  13. great post! love all the tips. I have one of my own .. scrub either a small piece of lemon or the remains of a lemon after being squeezed on to a cast iron pan.. then wash with a soapy sponge. it gets real clean and definitely gets any stains left behind by food you’ve made .. (burned). :)

  14. You truly our censational! This is the only blog i follow daily- it never disappoints. You’re series on organizing and cleaning out is inspiring and i swear it was as if you were reading my mind! Each post was pulled from my subconscious! So i’m all over it- especially the paper nemesis!
    Thanks so much for sharing- hoping you and your family have a happy, healthy new year :)

  15. Windex (or any type of window cleaner) removes blood stains. I am not sure what it is but something in it reacts with the iron in blood and causes it to bubble. Once that happens, rinse with cold water and the stain completely disappears!

  16. Love the safe-cleaning tips!
    A glass container with water and lemon slices in your microwave for a couple of minutes makes tough splatters wipe off easily! (not that I cook in the microwave much anymore…but….)
    I really like 7th generation or Shaklee cleaners for ones I can’t recreate at home, like dishwashing detergent, laundry softner, etc..

  17. I absolutely love cleaning with homemade products! Vinegar is my best friend. I love learning as many more as possible. (or the book) have some good idea’s as well.

  18. Baby powder is a miracle worker with any type of oil stains. Just take the garment off, cake some baby powder on it, let it sit (I usually leave it overnight). I then just flick the back of the garment to remove it before throwing the item to the wash. It hasn’t failed me yet.

    Also, I am a huge fan of the vinegar/water mixture. It did wonders for the grout in our guest bath. It looks like new!

  19. Wow! Such great tips here from you and from your readers. I had no idea that Windex cleaned blood stains and baby powder oil stains. Genius. What an awesome community.

    And I refuse to believe that Scrunchies are back. I also refuse to participate in any such trend. The memories are just…too…painful.

  20. Yup! I (unfortunately) live in ND. We were gifted with 25.1″ of dense, heavy snow w/in 2 days at Christmas!!

    Great “recipes”. Thanks!

  21. Hydrogen peroxide is great at removing carpet stains (as well as blood stains). If you have granite counters and really want them to shine buff them with a dry brillo pad – sounds strange but I received this tip from our granite installer and it works! Love all of the great tips!

  22. I think you would love the book Gorgeously Green by sophie Uliano, many wonderful tips just like yours!

  23. I have more hair (curly, red, thick) than God gave another human being – I need my scrunchies! Seriously folks. It sometimes takes two, yes two, scrunchies to keep my hair up and under control when I take a shower, work in the garden, paint, etc. I wouldn’t be caught dead in public with one, but in my personal space they’re my saving grace!

    LOVE this post with the awesome cleaning tips, Kate!

  24. Love, love, love your blog Kate! It’s my daily read every morning with my breakfast. I love your ideas, inspiration, and wit! I grew up part of my life in the bay area (Half Moon Bay) and then lived in the North Bay (San Rafael) earlier in my career. The references to “the city” and the bridges, the wine country and the outlet shopping in the north bay all bring back great memories and make me smile! :) Thanks for the inspiration on the declutter and the cleaning…I’m starting with one closet, one room at a time because the clutter monster so lives in my house and I think she even gave birth to a litter of clutter monsters in each room.

    Here are my home remedy cleaning tips:

    1. hyrdogen peroxide will take red wine out of white carpet! Yes! If you spray the hyrodgen peroxide on the stain and set something heavy on the stain, then layer with a white towel and some heavy books, the stain is lifted from your carpet. Voila! Who will know that you were talking with your hands whilst holding a glass of red wine and some joyfully jumped from your glass to the carpet.

    2. baking soda may be used in lieu of toothpaste when in a pinch (tastes oooky)

    3. aluminum foil crumpled up and slighty damp with water will remove rust from one of those fancy schmancy $60 – $100 curved metal shower curtain rods. True story!

    Keep writing, keep diying, keep inspiring and keep sharing. I love it and you have inspired me…my hardwood floors are coming to acclimate in my house on Monday. Squeal! Happy dance! Oh, and I bought bbq high heat spray paint and painted my ugly brass pieces on my gas fireplace thanks to your inspiration! Okay, back to decluttering and then I can plan some diy projects like new thick white base molding after the floors are in….

  25. Great tips!
    Here’s one I discovered to work just a few days ago: Use toothpaste to remove permanent marker stains on wood surfaces. Just glob toothpaste onto the marks and leave for about 5-10 min. The marks will literally just wipe off with the toothpaste when you’re done. I tried everything else on the masterpiece my two year old made on our dining room table. Toothpaste worked great and didn’t ruin the finish.

  26. STOCK-UP on TOOTHPASTE when its’ on sale all you DOG OWNERS of dogs that like SKUNKS!!

    Rub a generous amount all over the dog where the “Stink” is [usually the face] and let it stay on a short time. Lather up with water as you wash the dog off. The baking-soda in toothpaste adheres to the stink, removes it and the “minty freshness” replaces the stink.

    Toothpaste is great to rid your hands of garlic and fish smells when your cleaning or preparing fish.

  27. Wish I had time to clean being home with three on a snow day here in Atlanta. These tips are so handy that I’ve had to bookmark them for the day that I do have some free time. Thanks for merging them all in to one spot!

  28. thank you!!! i love it. I am excited to clean with inexpensive stuff now. forget all that toxic junk that could hurt the kids, right? I am glad you have this all in one place. I am going to bookmark this post or print it off so I have it ready to go. you’re fabulous!

  29. I live in North Dakota & it is freezing! I have been using baking soda & vinegar to clean for the last couple of years, and I swear my family is healthier! Baking soda is awesome for cleaning the glass top stove, bathtub & sink! Love your blog!

  30. Love these tips! Here is mine:

    To clean the stove top grates on my gas stove the manufacturer recommended this tip with ammonia. Take a cup of ammonia and place the cup inside a plastic bag. I use an old cottage cheese container or something. Place the grates inside the bag along side the cup o’ ammonia and tie shut. Leave for 12 hours, or more if they are really bad. Remove grates and clean with a cloth (or more recently i have used a magic eraser) and some hot water. Mine are gray so you can tell when they are dirty. After this process, they look almost like new!

    I had a lot of trouble with their instructions because i thought i was submersing the grates… no its the ammonia fumes that do all the work. I actually had to call their 800 number to clarify this. That was 10 years ago or more, but i use this method a couple times a year at least. If there is seriously baked on carbon, it comes off with some good elbow grease. The longer they spend in the ammonia fumes the better also. I would suppose that you could do a fairly good job on the inside of an oven by letting a container of ammonia sit inside for 24 hours to loose up the baked on gook.

    Just remember not to mix anything with ammonia with anything with bleach! Safety first!

  31. I love all the cleaning tips. My problem with our new home is dust. They told us that we would have a lot of dust for about a year. I saw on HGTV that you could put cheese cloth in the vents and it would cut down on the dust. I think I might just try that. I was snowed in this week and I haven’t left the house. I didn’t clean but I did paint our guest bedroom. So I got something accomplished and am happy.

  32. Seeing the bowl of lemons reminds me of the post I did today on needing some sunshine so I suggested bright yellow flowers and a bowl of lemons to bring in at least the color of sunshine, now I see I can use lemons for lots of things,who knew. Kathysue

  33. Another good use for vinegar–wipe down the inside of your oven after cleaning it with oven cleaner and all the cleaner odor will disappear. You can use WD-40 in place of GooGone also.

  34. OMG, this is a lot of very useful info. I’ve been using homemade cleaning products for two years now, but your post is so detailed and full of new ideas that I am saving it right now. On the other hand, I have not had luck with a homemade glass/window cleaner. None I tried actually does the job. Any advice? Thanks for posting.

  35. We’ve used the vodka trick on costumes in the theater for years! Many costumes can’t be cleaned, and many times the shows run so close together that you can’t get them to the cleaners and back, so a garment might get worn for a month or more before it’s cleaned. We buy the cheap vodka and mix it one cup of vodka to half cup distilled water and shake it up in a spray bottle. Besides checking for color fastness, we also turn the garment inside out and only spray the interior of the garment. It also works great around the house for odor control and there is no sicky sweet perfume in it.

  36. I wasn’t aware of the mayonaise trick for water stains on wood furniture. Good to know; however, you can also use toothpaste. Works like a charm and doesn’t damage the wood. If you don’t want to treat your mirrors with shaving cream, but don’t want the streaks from wiping, use your hair dryer. The mirror is crystal clear in seconds with no streaking. Also, I’ve learned that a combination of table salt and peroxide will remove almost any stain. Salt alone with very hot water will pull red wine out of a garment. The peroxide trick with carpet is a good one to know!

  37. I just tried the furniture polish (1 part lemon juice/2 parts cooking oil) for the first time and it’s AMAZING! My antique furniture soaked it up and it left a beautiful and amazingly nongreasy shine. For windows, the absolute best cleaner I’ve found that leaves a totally streakless shine is Shaklee H2 (I don’t sell it or work for them!) – I just use it. Am currently searching for something that will get tape-like adhesive off carpet – DH put a cord cover on his office carpet and when removed, the adhesive left a tacky film. Thanks for all the tips!!

Leave a comment!

Keep the conversation going! Your email address will not be published.*


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Lately on Instagram (@centsationalstyle)