Old approaches have new appeal

In the beginning, there were simple basic cleaners. They may have required a bit of elbow grease, but they didn't contain toxic chemicals. In the '90s, as the environment has become a major concern, these cleaners have become popular once again.

Two of the most useful are baking soda and vinegar. Baking soda, in dry form, provides a scratchless, abrasive action. This helps in removing soil because the baking soda crystal is harder than soil but softer than fragile surfaces such as fiberglass. Baking soda can also deodorize refrigerators and freezers, where it destroys and absorbs food odors.

Vinegar, which has been known for centures for its medicinal and cooking uses, is also one of the most versatile household cleaners.

Other basic household cleaners include:

AMMONIA: is a volatile alkali and hence leaves no solid residue on drying, making it easier to rinse off completely. The combination of volatility and mild alkalinity is the reason why low levels of ammonia are frequently found in formulated glass cleaners. Ammonia can also be used in wax-stripping.

BORAX: is a white, crystalline, mildly alkaline, water-soluble salt that can be used as a deodorizer and household cleaner.

BLEACH: particularly liquid chlorine bleach, is useful in treating stains on fabrics and on hard surfaces. It

is a strong disinfectant and kills mildew and many other fungi.

Baking soda, ammonia and borax are all weak alkalis. Since some soils are acidic in nature, these alkaline materials can be particularly helpful in their removal.

Remember that even though these products are old standbys, some cautions should be observed in using them. Household cleaning products should never be mixed; particularly avoid mixing products containing chlorine bleach with products containing ammonia or acids. All household products should be stored in their original containers.


Baking soda proves it's powder with power

When the Statue of Liberty restoration committee was looking for a method to clean the interior surface of the statue without using chemical solvents, it turned to Church & Dwight Co., makers of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda. The statue was cleaned using a low-abrasion blasting product that contained baking soda and water.

In addition to its cooking properties, baking soda has long been known as a useful cleaner. Though most projects won't be on the same scale as the Statue of Liberty, environmentally friendly baking soda can serve a number of uses around the house.

Baking soda is derived from a naturally occurring mineral left behind after evaporation of an inland lake in Wyoming 50 million years ago. This mineral is converted and purified into sodium bicarbonate.

Here are a few of its uses as a cleaning agent:

- Sprinkle baking soda on a damp sponge and gently scour the surface of your stainless steel or porcelain kitchen sink. Rinse.

- For fiberglass sinks, bathtubs and showers and bathroom tile, sprinkle baking soda on a damp sponge and gently scrub. The baking soda crystals are hard enough to remove soil, but too soft to scratch delicate surfaces.

- To remove burnt-on food from pots and pans, sprinkle 1/4 cup baking soda or as much as needed over burnt-on spots. Add enough hot water to moisten the pan. Let soak for 10 minutes, longer for stubborn soils. Scrub with sponge. Rinse and dry.

- To wash dirty dishes and utensils, add two tablespoons baking soda to the dishpan together with the usual amount of dishwashing detergent. Baking soda cuts through the grease and helps clean dishes faster.

- Sprinkle a handful of baking soda in your garbage pail to help control odor.

- To keep your septic system working smoothly and help avoid clogging, backups and corrosion and septic odors, pour a cup of baking soda down a toilet every week. Baking soda creates the optimum pH environment for bacterial digestion of household solid wastes.

- Baking soda can be used to extinguish small cooking fires. If one breaks out, turn off gas or electricity and toss handfuls of baking soda at the base of the flames in order to extinguish them. Don't use baking soda in deep-fat fires as grease could splatter and spread flames.

- To remove tarnish from silver, mix 1/4 cup baking soda with 1 1/2 teaspoons water and apply paste with a damp sponge. Rub, rinse and buff dry.

- To clean your microwave oven, dampen sponge dipped in a solution of 1/4 cup baking soda mixed with one quart of warm water.

Arm & Hammer has designed a wheel that contains other environmentally sensible cleaning and deodorizing routines. For a copy, send $1 to cover shipping and handling to Arm & Hammer Use Wheel Offer, P.O. Box 4533, Department E, Monticello, MN 55365-4533.


Clean up your cleaning act

Here are some safe substitutes for hazardous household products:

All purpose cleaner: In one quart of hot water, mix 1 teaspoon liquid soap, boric acid (borax), lemon juice and/or vinegar. Make stronger according to the job to be done.

Glass cleaner: Mix 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice in 1 quart water. Spray on and use newspaper to wipe dry.

Drain cleaner: Pour boiling water down drain once a week. Use a plunger or snake.

Oven cleaner: Clean spills as soon as the oven cools using steel wool and baking soda. For tough stains, add salt. Do not use this method in self-cleaning or continuous-clean ovens.

Toilet bowl cleaner: Use a toilet brush and baking soda or vinegar.

Furniture polish: Wipe with mixture of 1 teaspoon lemon oil in 1 pint mineral or vegetable oil.

Plant sprays: Wipe leaves with mild soap and water.

Roach and ant repellent: Sprinkle powdered boric acid in cabinet edges, around baseboards and in cracks.

Mothballs: Use cedar chips, lavender flowers and rosemary, mint or white peppercorns.

Flea and tick removers: Mix brewer's yeast or garlic in your pet's food; sprinkle fennel, rue, rosemary or eucalyptus seeds or leaves around animal sleeping areas.


Vinegar offers pungent solution

Vinegar was discovered some 10,000 years ago when wine left too long turned sour. Since that time, hundreds of uses for vinegar have also been discovered - not only in food and in cooking, but in household chores as well.

Here are some of the ways that the standard white vinegar can lend a hand with your cleaning.

- To help keep the drain line on your dishwasher clean and fresh-smelling, add one-half cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle.

- Remove soap and stain buildup on chrome and plastic fixtures by cleaning with a mixture of one teaspoon salt dissolved in two tablespoons of vinegar.

- To remove film buildup on bathtubs, wipe with vinegar and then soda. Rinse with clean water.

- To remove corrosion from showerhead or faucet, soak them in diluted white vinegar overnight. For convenience, saturate a cloth in vinegar and wrap it around the faucet or showerhead.

- Clean formica tabletops and counters by rubbing with a cloth soaked in white vinegar. The finish will shine.

- To clean wood paneling, mix one ounce of olive oil with two ounces of vinegar and one quart of warm water. Dampen a soft cloth with the solution and wipe the paneling. Then wipe with a dry, soft cloth to remove yellowing from surface.

- Your brass, copper and pewter will shine when cleaned with the following mixture: Dissolve one teaspoon of salt in one cup of vinegar. Add enough flour to make a paste. Apply paste to brass, copper or pewter and let stand for 15 minutes. Rinse with clean, warm water and polish dry.

- Get rid of excess suds that billow up during hand laundry by adding a splash of vinegar to the second rinse. Then rinse again in plain water.

- To help keep your garbage disposal clean and fresh-smelling, try vinegar cubes. Mix one cup of vinegar in a sufficient amount of water to fill an ice tray. Freeze the mixture and run the cubes through the disposal. After the grinding action has stopped, flush with cold water for a minute or two.

- Dampen your cleaning rag in vinegar and water and use it to wipe out your oven. It will prevent grease buildup.

- Wash countertops, cabinets and floors with equal parts of vinegar and water to deter ant invasions.

- A detergent solution made of one teaspoon liquid detergent, one teaspoon of vinegar and one pint lukewarm water will remove non-oily stains from your carpet. Just apply to the stain with a soft brush or towel. Rub gently. Rinse with a towel dampened with clean water and blot dry. Repeat the process until the stain is removed. Dry quickly, using a fan or hair dryer.

- To remove stubborn rings resulting from wet glasses being placed on wood furniture, rub with a mixture of equal parts olive oil and vinegar. Rub with the grain, then polish.

- To remove chalky deposits left on dinnerware and glasses, place affected pieces in the dishwasher. Place cup filled with vinegar on bottom rack. Run the machine for five minutes. Stop the machine and empty cup, which is now filled with water. Refill with vinegar and complete cycle. Follow by a complete cycle with dishwasher detergent.

- Keep exhaust fan grills, air conditioner blades and grills dust-free and blowing clear, clean air by sponging away grease and dirt with a sponge dipped in full-strength vinegar.

- Greasy residue formed on the tops and sides of your stove and refrigerator come clean with a wiping of vinegar. Apply full strength.