PUBLISHED: 3:58 PM on Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Spring cleaning: Products you should never be without

The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and spring is in the air.

Finally, we can open our doors and windows to enjoy the fresh clean air. With spring, our thoughts turn to cleaning. According to the Soap and Detergent Association's Spring Cleaning Survey, more than 65 percent of the participants indicated that they routinely engage in spring cleaning. Consumers rated the following as priority areas: Kitchen (37 percent), living room (19 percent) and bedrooms (14 percent).

With spring cleaning comes potential hazards. Some household cleaning products contain chemicals that could put the safety of children and animals at risk.

Rather than using harmful chemicals, there are common household products that will handle most of the cleaning problems in your home. Here's your shopping list: White vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, club soda, and 20 Mule Team® Borax. We'll take a look at how each of these products can be utilized in your spring cleaning routine. The following discussion focuses on each of the identified priority areas.

White vinegar

Add 2-3 tablespoons to hot water along with the regular dishwashing liquid to cut grease on dishes and crystal. In the living room: Make a window cleaner in a spray bottle with ¼ cup white vinegar added to 1 quart of water. In the bedrooms: Make air freshener in a spray bottle with 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 1 tablespoon of white vinegar, and 2 cups of water. After the foaming stops, put on lid. Shake before using.

Baking soda

Keep food disposals fresh and free-flowing by putting the stopper in the disposal and adding 3 inches of warm water and a handful of baking soda. Turn on the disposal and let water run out. In the living room and bedrooms: Clean smudges on wallpaper with baking soda and water.

Remove crayon from hard surfaces with baking soda on a damp rag.

Use on any hard surface as a mild abrasive to remove stains.

Lemon juice

Clean brass and copper with lemon juice and salt. Sprinkle salt on half a lemon and rub metal, then rinse thoroughly. If you don't have fresh lemons, you can mix bottled lemon juice and salt. In the living room and bedrooms: Make a cleaner in a spray bottle with 2 cups of water, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, ½ teaspoon of liquid dish soap, 1 tablespoon of baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of borax. Shake before using to clean any hard surface.

Club soda

Club soda is the best emergency spotter there is. In her book, "Queen of Clean," author Linda Cobb suggests keeping club soda on hand to clean up spills on carpet and clothing.

Reacting quickly to a spill should prevent the spot from becoming a stain. Club soda will remove red wine, coffee, tea, soda (even red soda), Kool-Aid?, and any other spills.

First, lift any solids carefully off carpet and then pour on the club soda, blotting with an old rag until all the color from the spill is removed.

Cobb stresses not to be afraid to really wet the carpet as it won't hurt it.

After soaking the carpet with club soda, blot the carpet by folding a rag and standing on it. Turn the rag as it absorbs moisture and discoloration from the spill. The carbonation in the club soda brings the offending spill to the surface so it can be blotted up.

The salts in the club soda help prevent staining. You might consider keeping several bottles of this product on hand.

20 Mule Team® Borax

To clean white appliances, combine 8 cups of water, ½ cup of chlorine bleach, ½ cup of baking soda, and 2 tablespoons of borax. Wash white appliances thoroughly (using care around carpets and fabrics), rinse well, and dry. In the living room and bedrooms use borax to remove stale, musty odors in washable fabrics. For heavy duty cleaning, soak in a solution of 2 tablespoons of borax and 1 gallon of hot water for one hour prior to laundering.

Then, dump the entire contents of the bucket into the washer and add detergent; wash as usual. For washables, such as linens, that are stored over the winter months, add ½ cup of borax to your laundry along with the detergent. This added boost helps to remove those mystery stains and stale odor that occur from prolonged storage.

This spring, give these household products a try. You'll be amazed at how well natural ingredients can clean. Discover how clean your house can be without spending a lot of money and using a ton of harsh chemicals.

Dr. Koukel is the Juneau District Agent for the Home Economics Programs of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service.