Also known as bicarb, carb soda or baking soda, Soda Bicarbonate is good at absorbing odours from the refrigerator, drawers, upholstery and carpets. Since this cleaner is in a powder form, it can be used even in water sensitive items, such as cardboard boxes. When used on carpets, the dirt sticks to bicarb which can easily be brushed away, leaving the carpets dry, clean and odour-free. It is mildly alkaline and abrasive and hence, is excellent for light scrubbing. It is low in toxicity and works as a detergent on a greasy or oily surface. It can be used to clean and polish metals and plastics too.
Lemon, being acidic, has antibacterial and antiseptic properties. It is also a natural bleaching agent. It can be used for dissolving soap scum and hard water deposits. A half cut lemon dipped in salt acts as a good agent for cleaning spots on copper fixtures. Lemon rinds can be placed in the garbage disposables. Hot water with a little lemon poured down the drain will also open up clogged pipes. Put lemon juice onto white linen or clothing and allow them to dry in the sun. Stains will disappear through a bleaching act. It also works as an excellent deodouriser and inhibits mould formation.
Borax, an alkaline mineral salt, is a wonder cleaner! It dissolves grease, removes stains, disinfects, deodourises and inhibits mould. It can be used as a water or fabric softener. It loosens the dirt stuck on the fibre and makes sure the soil dissolves in the water. Even a small amount of chlorine in water could cause significant fading of coloured fabrics. Borax neutralises the chlorine and keeps clothes looking new. It kills odour-causing bacteria and fungi. It is also good for cleaning carpets. In fact, Borax can be used as an insecticide to kill roaches and other pests. It can be toxic if eaten, but this toxicity dissipates quickly in the environment.
It’s a wonder liquid cleaner which cleans almost everything. It is a natural disinfectant and deodoriser and a great all-purpose cleaner for any surface except marble. Mix equal parts of water and vinegar to use on the kitchen surfaces, appliances and stone or brick surfaces. Add half a cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle instead of the fabric softener. When applied around the inside rim of the toilet bowl and scrubbed, it helps get rid of rings of uric acid. It removes stains of lime, soap, oil & grease from taps, tiles and other metal surfaces too. Mopping the floor with vinegar diluted in water makes them shine and become germ-free. It is excellent for cleaning windows. It also helps in repelling ants and fruit flies.
Salt works as a mild stain remover. For example, perspiration marks on clothing could be removed by pre-soaking the fibre in salt water for two hours or overnight. Adding a cup of salt to the regular washing cycle softens fabric. Salt helps to remove coffee or tea stains on the inside of a teapot. A preparation of one cup of crushed ice, 1tbsp water and 4tsp of salt when poured into a teapot and swirled helps remove the stains in a teapot. Rock salt on a paan stained surface works wonders. By rubbing the salt on the stain continuously helps remove the stain. Using rock salt with water for mopping floors is an excellent and ancient Indian method of cleaning homes.
Essential oils as air fresheners
Essential oils are obtained from plants, flowers and herbs. They smell wonderful and have a soothing effect. Instead of using aerosol air fresheners which are very harmful for people having breathing problems, these are more effective as they are free of irritants. The best way to use essential oils is in a diffuser but it’s also easy to put a few drops in a bowl on the kitchen counter or add drops to a spray bottle with water. The best way to keep indoor air clean is by airing the room. Opening the windows and letting in fresh air and sunlight help in getting rid of foul smell and air-borne bacteria.
Sarah Hussain, Lecturer, BCIHMCT, New Delhi.