7 Surprising Pantry Items Naturally Clean and Freshen Your Home

Household cleaning is a never-ending chore. And while it may not be our favorite pastime, it's absolutely necessary. With cleaning being such a large part of home maintenance, the cleaners we use are worth serious consideration. More and more people are turning away from traditional chemicals and buying more eco-friendly, non-toxic alternatives. But did you know that you can keep green by making your own homemade cleaners—for a fraction of what you pay in a store or online? And you can do so with things you may very well already have in your pantry.

Most household cleaning requires a combination of things: grease cutters, abrasives, surfactants, disinfectants, and deodorizers. A grease cutter is just what it sounds like: anything that will clear grease. Acidic ingredients in homemade cleaners like lemon juice, vinegar, rubbing alcohol, and even ketchup can cut grease, whether it’s on your windows or in your oven. Abrasives are what give most cleaning agents their edge. Baking soda, salt, and even coffee grounds are common household abrasives used in homemade cleaners, ready to scour away crud at the bottom of your pots or along the bathtub. Surfactants reduce the surface tension between liquids or liquids and solids; in other words, they attach to dirt molecules and make them slippery, so they slide off of you or your kitchen counters. Coconut oil would be just one example of such a surfactant in a homemade cleaner. And then there's the staples you probably already know from grandma's cleaning methods: Hydrogen peroxide and tea tree oil are commonly used in homemade cleaners for disinfectant purposes, and both vinegar and baking soda are natural deodorizers.

Missing the scent that comes along with the commercial cleaner? You can customize the smell of your homemade cleaners with natural and essential oils, too. A few drops of peppermint, lavender, or rosemary will leave your home smelling naturally great after your cleaning chores—consider it motivation to keep going back. It really is as simple as a trip to the pantry! So check out these recipes for homemade cleaners from Karyn Siegel-Maier’s "The Naturally Clean Home.” They’ll empower you to freshen, clean, and disinfect without the chemicals. It’s never been so easy to be green.

The Naturally Clean Home

DIY Cleaning Products

Karyn Siegel-Maier can often be found in her kitchen, creating concoctions of common household ingredients that vanquish dirt, germs, and odors. The results of her efforts are compiled in The Naturally Clean Home: 150 Super-Easy Herbal Formulas for Green Cleaning, where we found some of our favorite fixes that freshen with no chemicals!




Sprinkle salt on fresh grease stains in the oven. When the oven cools, wipe clean with a soft cloth.



Lemons on Cutting Board

Sanitize wooden cutting boards by rubbing them with half of a freshly cut lemon. For a cleaning bonus, toss the rind in the garbage disposal to keep it smelling fresh.


Cream of Tartar

Cream of Tartar

To remove stains on tablecloths or clothing, combine two tablespoons of cream of tartar with two drops of peppermint, eucalyptus, or lemon essential oil. Add just enough water to make a paste. Spread the paste over the stain and allow it to dry before washing.




To clean and remove tarnish from copper, mix a half-cup of ketchup with two tablespoons cream of tartar. Spread on the copper and let stand for an hour. Rinse first in soapy water and then in clean water. Dry thoroughly.


Aluminum Foil

Aluminum Foil

For an easy silver tarnish remover, place silver pieces in either a sink or a pan filled with water. Add two tablespoons cream of tartar or baking soda, plus a few strips of aluminum foil. Let the silver soak for an hour or until tarnish-free. Rinse well and dry thoroughly with a soft cloth.

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Vanilla Extract

Vanilla Extract

To preserve a fresh-smelling refrigerator, pour two ounces vanilla extract (imitation is fine) into a saucer or a small, shallow bowl. Place the vanilla on a lower shelf and leave it for a few days.


Olive Oil

Olive Oil

To keep terra-cotta pots looking clean and new, coat them inside and out with a light layer of olive oil.


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