“Green cleaning” – vinegar and baking soda

Part of the Hyppocratic Oath reads “Never to do deliberate harm to anyone”, and to my way of thinking, that seems like pretty sound advice for every human endeavor, including cleaning house.  In this article, we’ll look at some non-toxic products and ways of completing the onorous but necessary task of housekeeping.


What is it and where does it come from?  All vinegars are produced by the fermentation of alcohol and can be found in concentrations from 5% (table vinegar) to 18% (pickling vinegar).  The FDA requires it to be at least 4% to be labled as vinegar.  White vinegar can be made by dissolving acetic acid in water but some state laws require it to come from fermentation.  It is usually made from fermenting maize.

How is it used?

  • To clean no-wax floors, in a solution of ½ cup to ½ gallon of water.
  • To clean non-greasy carpet stains, with 1 teaspoon of liquid detergent, 1 teaspoon in a pint of lukewarm water.
  • To clean windows, equal parts white vinegar and water.
  • To clean alcohol or water marks off wood, equal parts white vinegar and mineral oil.  Any vegetable oil would work (olive, almond), but mineral oil doesn’t go rancid.
  • To clean the coffee maker, run vinegar through it instead of water (without the coffee, of course!).  Run water through a couple times after to get rid of the traces of vinegar.  This will dissolve the mineral deposits.  Because it dissolves mineral deposits, you can also use it to clean the bathroom tub or toilet bowl.
  • To unclog a shower head, soak a terry cloth towel in vinegar and wrap it around the shower head overnight.
  • To clean wood cutting boards or deoderize the sink drain, use full strength.
  • To clean brass, dissolve a teaspoon of salt in a cup of white vinegar and add enough flour to make a paste.  Leave the paste on your brass for a half-hour before washing it off.
  • Remove wine stains on your cotton clothes with full strength white vinegar.  You need to do it in the first 24 hours.
  • With a wash load of baby clothes, add a cup of white vinegar because it helps break down uric acid and remove soap residue.
  • Cotton and wool blankets will be fluffier and have less soap residue if washed with a cup of white vinegar.

Baking Soda

What is it?  Also known as bicarbonate of soda (Grandpa’s remedy for an upset stomach), NaHCO3 is produced commercially from soda ash, mined from the ore trona and treated with carbon dioxide.  Since it is mildly alkaline, it can used to neutralize acids, including battery acid.

How is it used?

  • Extinguishing grease fires in the kitchen (oops, maybe the bacon shouldn’t have cooked that long…)
  • With an acid (like cream of tartar, vinegar or lemon juice) to make baked products rise from carbon dioxide.
  • To neutralize the acidity of tomato sauces or minimize the flatulence caused by beans.
  • Put a little in the bottom of the bathroom wastebasket as a deoderant, and then add some water to it when you want to clean the wastebasket.
  • It can used as a deoderant in your kitchen sink drain.
  • Put it on a damp cloth to clean shower curtains.
  • But, because it absorbs moisture and odors, it can also be used:
    • As a substitute for talc as a foot powder
    • To remove the odor from vacuum flasks
    • To clean your hands (or the inside of a microwave) to remove food odors
    • And, as you know, in the refrigerator

This is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg and next time I’ll see if I can’t dredge up a few more uses for these products and we’ll tackle what can be done with ammonia.