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3 Natural Ingredients That Clean (Almost) Anything in Your House

05/18/2015 08:03 pm ET | Updated May 19, 2016

What includes a sprig of mint, a twist of citrus, and packs a real punch in every room of the house? Here's a hint: It's better suited to a spray bottle than a cocktail glass.

We're talking about DIY all-natural household cleaners, of course -- the kind that side-step harsh fumes and chemicals in favor of kitchen staples.

If your home is on the market, you might want to be careful to avoid offending a potential buyer's sensitivities (ahem, please put down that bottle of industrial-grade bleach). If you rent, you might be looking to save money by making your own cleansers -- or maybe you have roommates who can't stand the smell of that lemon floor cleaner you've been using. Either way? These tips are for you.

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1. White vinegar

The granddaddy of natural, eco-friendly cleaners, vinegar is, by definition, a water-based solution containing about 5% acetic acid -- a powerful solvent. Translation: The secret ingredient in your mom's recipe for potato salad spells "lights out" for most bacteria, viruses, mildew, and mold.

  • Concoct an all-purpose cleaner: Fill a spray bottle with equal parts white vinegar and water (distilled is best), upping the amount of vinegar for tougher jobs. Spray it anywhere that could use a good cleaning, but steer clear of marble surfaces.
  • Disinfect and deodorize cutting boards: Spray full-strength vinegar onto wood cutting boards, let it sit, then rinse with clean water.
  • Deodorize dishwashers: Add 1 cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle of your dishwasher. The vinegar smell will dissipate, de-stinkifying dishes in the process.
  • Soften clothes and reduce static: Add 1 cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle of your washing machine in lieu of store-bought fabric softeners.
  • Sweeten garbage disposals: Freeze white vinegar in an ice cube tray and then run the cubes through the garbage disposal to deodorize and clean drains.
  • Remove mineral deposits from showerheads: Unscrew your showerhead, then place it in a plastic zip baggie filled with ½ to 1 cup of warm white vinegar. Let it sit for one hour to remove mineral buildup. For showerheads that can't be removed, secure the baggie onto the showerhead using a rubber band. (This also works for sink faucets.) Postsoak, use an old toothbrush and a toothpick to further loosen deposits.
  • Clean fresh produce: To help remove pesticide residue, gently wash fruit and vegetables in a solution of 2 tablespoons of white vinegar to a pint of water.
  • Clean your coffeepot: Fill the reservoir of your automatic coffeepot with white vinegar, then allow the machine to go through a brew cycle as usual. Follow the vinegar with two cycles of fresh water to rinse.
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2. Citrus

Like vinegar, the key to citrus's cleaning power is its acidity, which proves the little lemon to be a cleaning powerhouse. What's more, the peels of citrus fruit (grapefruit, oranges, lemons, limes, and the rest) contain limonene, the active ingredient of citrus oil, which is especially effective as a degreaser.

  • Soap scum and rust remover: Banish soap scum and rust from your shower by rubbing affected surfaces with the cut surface of a halved lemon. Allow the juice to work its magic for about a minute, then use a scouring pad to finish the job.
  • Scented all-purpose cleaner: Add enough citrus peels to fill one-half of a large Mason jar. Pour white vinegar over the top to fill the jar, then place the lidded jar in a cool, dark place to infuse for at least two weeks. Strain the solution, pour it into a spray bottle, and use it as you would an all-purpose cleaner.
  • Hands-off microwave cleaner: Add a few tablespoons of lemon juice to one cup of water in a microwave-safe bowl, then heat the mixture to boiling in the microwave. Allow the steam to penetrate baked-on grime for 10 minutes before opening the door and giving the interior a good wipe.
  • Surface whitener: Gently "bleach" stains from surfaces by rubbing the surface with the cut surface of a halved lemon. (Don't try this on marble and granite.)
  • Fabric whitener: Add 1 cup of undiluted lemon juice to your laundry to whiten and brighten clothing.
  • Furniture polish: Combine one part undiluted lemon juice with two parts olive oil, pour a little onto a lint-free cloth, and use it to shine wooden furniture and fixtures.

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3. Baking soda

The superfine grit of this powdery white substance, better known as sodium bicarbonate, comes in handy for those jobs that require extra-gentle abrasion. And what other ingredient do you know of that can make cookies rise, soak up bad odors, and sweeten a drain? It's all in a day's work for this wallet-friendly ingredient.

  • Clean hairbrushes and combs: Coat hairbrushes and combs in a paste of baking soda and water to remove product buildup.
  • Deodorize carpets and rugs: Sprinkle a thin layer of baking soda all over your carpets, then allow it to sit, preferably overnight. Vacuum to reveal fresh, odor-free rugs.
  • Shine silver: Make a paste of three parts baking soda to one part water. Massage onto tarnished silver to polish and shine, follow with a rinse of warm water, then dry.
  • Rejuvenate plastic food containers: Give new life to stained food containers by scouring the surfaces with baking soda, then soaking them in a solution of water and baking soda.
  • Clear a clogged drain: Sprinkle baking soda down a clogged drain, chasing it with double the amount of white vinegar. Let it sit for a few minutes, then follow the fizzing mixture with boiling water.
  • Fight household odors: Sprinkle a little baking soda into cat litter pans, into clothes hampers, and over the bottom of garbage cans to help ward off bad smells.
  • Remove crayon marks: If your pint-sized Picasso uses walls as his canvas, sprinkle a little baking soda onto a damp sponge and gently buff away the crayon.
  • Clean your oven: Coat the surface of your oven in a paste of baking soda and water, avoiding the heating elements. Allow it to sit overnight and then use a damp rag and a silicone spatula to remove as much paste as possible. Complete the task by spraying down the oven top with vinegar, then wiping with a rag once more.
Want to find out how to clean with essential oils, Castile soap, and salt? Read more on Trulia!