Vinegar, lemon juice and baking soda are undoubtedly the three most common household items used for green cleaning, and for good reason. With these simple household products around, you can clean, polish, deodorize and sanitize almost any surface in the house.


Lemon juice polishes brass and copper, freshens up your stinky disposal, gets rid of hard water deposits, cleans glass and smells great. The citric acid in lemon helps to get rid of stains in clothing, countertops and many other household surfaces.


Vinegar doesn't smell great, but due to its acidity it does a great job getting rid of hard water and mildew stains, brightening sinks and floors, and even getting rid of pesky fruit flies (leave a small bowl of vinegar on the counter).  


Baking soda straight up or mixed with water to make a paste cleans tough stains from cookware, ovens, tubs and countertops. And of course, a box in your closet, under the sink or in the fridge is a great odor absorber.


But let's face it. Cleaning is tedious and boring. What could be cooler than using something different to accomplish your cleaning goals? Here are a few ideas I've found to be tried and true:


Coca-Cola canCoca-Cola: It’s the real thing — for cleaning corroded car batteries and polishing chrome. I've had several mechanics ask me for a Coke while trying to restart a battery, and watched in awe as the corrosion literally bubbles and washes away. It also works wonders on cruddy tile grout.


The Barefoot Lass of Ephrata Pennsylvania shares a huge list of other uses for Coke, including these next two cleaning tips. Try boiling Coke in a pot that has burnt food on the bottom. And in Alaska, there's a laundromat that charges a buck to add Coke to your load. Apparently it helps to remove fishy odors from clothing.  


Aluminum foil: Honestly, I don't know why they sell those tedious silver polish creams anymore. The secret is out that foil, baking soda and boiling hot water will miraculously lift the tarnish off your old silver in minutes. Fill a large basin with boiling hot water, shake in some baking soda, and add a large piece of aluminum foil slightly crumpled. Add silver pieces, wait a few minutes, and turn to make sure all sides make contact with the foil. (Heavy duty and better quality foil tend to work better than the cheaper versions.)


Dryer sheets: Use these handy sweet-smelling cloths to dust computer monitors, television screens and blinds. They tend to grab the dust rather than just move it around, and are just as effective with pet or human hair and dust bunnies. 


Used dryer sheets can be reused to wipe away soap scum in bathrooms from the sink, tub or shower, or to freshen up a car odor by placing under the seats. 


When your beautiful new dishes are covered in sticky residue from price tags, try a dryer sheet to wipe away the goo. And best of all, a dryer sheet in your pocket helps to keep away pests. By the same theory, you can use them in a cupboard or pantry to keep away ants and other unmentionables.


Hair spray: OK, maybe only a few of us use this anymore. But if you've got a can sitting around, try it out on a stain in the rug. Alcohol-based hair spray will help lift an ink stain off of most clothing or furniture, but tends to work best on polyester blends. Spray, let it sit for 30 seconds and blot or wipe away. Further laundering with soap and water will finish the job.


baby wipesBaby wipes: While we're on the topic of wiping, these wet ones are super handy for more than little bottoms. Use to soak up spills on carpets, couches or clothing. For deeper stains, a second and third wipe may be necessary.


You can also grab a baby wipe to clean away fingerprints, smudges and stains on walls, doorframes and appliance surfaces. Best of all, you can rest assured that there are no toxic chemicals in these sensitive cleaning wipes. Want to be super eco-friendly? Rinse, let them dry out in the sun and then use again for your next cleaning job.


Bottom line for green cleaning is to keep the basics on hand — vinegar, baking soda and lemons — but know that there are so many other items in your house that have creative uses for helping you keep your home and belongings in top form.


Photo: Wade Rockett/Flickr; lovelihood/Flickr


Got more ideas for weird and creative cleaning solutions using household items? Share them in the comments section below.

Sarah F. Berkowitz Sarah F. Berkowitz was born in Jerusalem, raised in Detroit, and currently lives in Atlanta with her Manhattan born and bred husband. Her dream of becoming a psychologist was traded in for a laptop and chef’s hat when she decided to pursue her passion for writing and food. Sarah enjoys cooking, trying to get food to stay still for a good photo, and convincing her kids that they're lucky to have a chef as a mom. (They're still waiting for dinner.)

Green cleaning with household items
Vinegar, lemon juice and baking soda are undoubtedly the three most common household items used for green cleaning, and for good reason. With these simple house