It’s cheap. It’s available in every supermarket and home center in the universe and so useful around your home, you may have a difficult time believing it. That’s the power of white vinegar—the same vinegar you cook with and pour on your salad!

 

 

1. Windows

Add 1/4 cup white vinegar to a quart of very warm water to make a good window cleaner. Wipe with a microfiber cloth and your windows will sparkle.


MORE: Best Inexpensive™ Microfiber, Electronics, Automobiles


2. Computer mouse

Clean your mouse that has a removable tracking ball with a 50/50 vinegar-water solution. First, remove the ball from underneath the mouse by twisting off the cover. Dip a clean cloth into the solution, wring it out and then wipe the ball clean. Next, remove fingerprints and dirt from the mouse itself. Then use a vinegar-moistened cotton swab to clean out the gunk and debris from inside the ball chamber. Allow all parts to dry a couple of hours before reinserting the ball.

3. Laundry

Instead of fabric softener or dry sheets, add 1/2 (one-half) to 1 cup vinegar to the last rinse in your washing machine (as you would liquid softener). Your clothes will come out soft because the vinegar helps to remove every trace of laundry detergent, which causes fabrics to stiffen.

4. Watermarks

Vinegar will dissolve hard-water marks like those on shower doors, faucets and in vases. If the vinegar is hot (heat in the microwave) it works even faster.

5. Ballpoint pen ink

Got ink marks from ballpoint pen adorning a wall, desktop, or other inappropriate space? No worries. Dab full-strength white vinegar on the ink using a cloth or a sponge. Repeat until the marks are gone. Then buy your child a nice big sketch pad.

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When all three messages landed in my inbox on the same day, the problem of soap scum, shower mildew, and hard water buildup grabbed my attention.

I’ve been told that if one person actually writes to me with a problem, that represents a thousand other readers with a similar situation. True or just slightly exaggerated, either way, three in one day tells me there’s a lot of this problem going on!

 

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How do you remove soap scum from shower walls and fl00r—and the hard water spots from shower doors? Diane

My shower mat has turned almost black. I have tried to clean it, but unsuccessfully. Can you help me? Ronnie

We recently remodeled our kitchen with stainless appliances. We have treated well water. The very first week we had a large water stain in the water dispenser area that I can’t get off. It looks terrible! Is there any way to remove it? Help! Pat

 

Quite possibly one of the best tips to ever land my mailbox, it came from a guy who is a professional property manager. He handles rental apartments and lots of them. As an apartment is vacated, his job is to see that it is thoroughly cleaned and made ready for the next occupants. 

This reader told me that the biggest challenge is always the bathroom, specifically the tub and shower. He kindly left specific details to my imagination but let me know that “gross” is not strong enough to describe what he often finds.

And that’s when he gave me his super magical potion—the only product he uses to return showers, tubs, tile, enclosures, faucets, and doors to their sparkling clean and sanitized selves.

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What do vacuum sealers and apartments that smell like a stale ashtray have in common? Absolutely nothing other than these two messages showing up in my mailbox at the same moment—both of them in response to earlier posts.

I just read your column on simple science that makes Nok-Out work to eliminate really difficult odors. Can you give me some quick advice on how to apply that method to rid my apartment of the smell of smoke? The apartment is new. The problem is that the crew smoked in here during construction. It’s yuk! Thank you, Judy

 

 

Dear Judy: You do have a terrible problem, and I’m so sorry about that. Have you contacted the owner or manager? Assuming you have but that hasn’t worked out very well—and you do not want to move—Nok-Out absolutely can oxidize (neutralize) the odor of tobacco smoke. The challenge is to make sure Nok-Out comes in contact with every square millimeter of a surface that the smoke has penetrated. And that’s a real challenge!

When treating a large open area where the odor became airborne and most likely is now clinging to every bit of the ceiling, walls, flooring, cracks, and crevices—Nok-Out must do the same in order to reach and then oxidize all of the stink.

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EBATES: Today, April 15 is EBATES 10% Back Day—Details Here: Ebates—an Awesome Way to Build a Cash Stash 

Most people are well familiar with the term “generic” when it comes to medications, a term referring to any drug marketed under its chemical name without all the fancy packaging and advertising. We know that by law, for a medication to be labeled as “generic” for a name branded prescription, it must be chemically identical to its branded cousin.

Today I want to offer you cheap generic alternatives for these three popular cleaning products—Bar Keepers Friend, Super Washing Soda, and OxiClean.

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Bar Keepers Friend

It’s been years since I learned about oxalic acid. Sounds scary, doesn’t it? Like something in the chemistry lab that could blow any second. Relax. It’s not what you might think. In fact, if you look on the back of a can of one of my favorite cleaners, Bar Keepers Friend, you’ll read: Contains oxalic acid.

That miraculous product, Bar Keepers Friend, which costs about $5.50 for a 12-ounce can is nothing more than generic oxalic acid. Are you familiar with Zud, another household and garage cleaner? It too contains oxalic acid.

The minute I learned this generic fact, I went online and ordered a 2-pound bag of oxalic acid for about $15 (price varies) and marked Bar Keepers Friend off my shopping list forever. I keep my oxalic acid in a well-marked little bucket that has a tight-fitting lid. I use a standard pint-size mason jar with a shaker lid as a dispenser and use it most sparingly while wearing gloves, keeping in mind that it is highly concentrated!

Mixing oxalic acid for household use is simple and takes just a few moments to complete. The strength of the oxalic mixture depends on the cleaning and bleaching needs of the project.

Oxalic acid is often used to bleach stained wood. Here’s a quick tutorial from our friends at Hunker for how to do that:

Oxalic Acid Paste

Step 1. Mix three parts oxalic acid crystals with one part warm water to create an oxalic acid paste. The paste can be used on wood with dark stains created by watermarks. This paste can also be used as a spot treatment but should not be used to cover an entire surface. Work on a small area at a time.

Step 2. Apply the paste to the stained areas with a paintbrush and allow to dry.

Step 3. Remove the oxalic acid paste with a wet sponge. Thoroughly clean or discard the sponge after removing the oxalic acid paste.

Oxalic Acid Wash

Step 1. Create an oxalic acid wash to bleach larger sections of wood that do not require the deep bleaching the oxalic paste creates. For small areas mix 1 ounce of oxalic acid with one-cup warm water. For larger areas mix 8 ounces of oxalic acid crystals with one-quart warm water.

Step 2. Apply the wash to the wood surface using a sponge. The wash will bleach the surface of the wood evenly. It is important to cover all areas of the wood to achieve the desired result. Be certain to get the wash in trim pieces and into corner pieces.

Step 3. Remove oxalic acid wash with a clean sponge and clean water.

Caution: Keep in mind that a bag of oxalic acid is 100% oxalic acid, while Bar Keepers Friend contains oxalic acid (plus inert fillers). You can use much less oxalic acid to get a great response than the amount of BKF you might use to accomplish the same result. And please make sure you always wear gloves when using either BKF or oxalic acid!

 

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Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda

One of the ingredients in our homemade detergent for both standard and HE washers (get the recipe HERE), Super Washing Soda is not always easy to find. And when you can find it, it’s pricey—$5.50 for a 55-oz. box is typical. You can stop looking for it. Super Washing Soda is a brand name for sodium carbonate (which is NOT edible and should NOT to be confused with sodium bicarbonate, which is baking soda).  Read more

It looks and feels for all the world like laundry detergent. White. Coarse. Powdery.

A mineral mined from vegetation in dry lake bottoms in the Middle East, kelp from Scotland and seaweed from Spain, it’s used to make glass, bricks, paper, rayon, and toothpaste. It cleans silver and softens water.

Its real name is sodium carbonate, but this stuff also goes by soda ash, Na2CO3, and good old Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda.

Washing soda and I go way back. For years, I have added washing soda to the washer for cleaner, whiter, brighter laundry. More recently, it has become one of the ingredients in our homemade laundry detergent.

Best of all, washing soda (aka sodium carbonate) is cheap. Depending on the source, expect to pay around $.10 per ounce.

More recently, I am discovering that washing soda is much more than a laundry detergent booster. With a powerful pH of 11, washing soda acts as a solvent all around the house, garage. Sodium carbonate removes dirt, grime, greasy build-up and a range of stains.

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My husband and I moved into our new home in April 2015, just in time to experience our first Rocky Mountain spring. There are no words to describe this adequately, but this picture does a great job.

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The thing I noticed the first time I walked into this house—windows. Tons of windows framing our new view and every one of them dirty. It looked to me as if no one had ever washed them.

I did my due diligence in researching local professional window washers. For sure we would have to pay to have them cleaned properly. But it would be one and done. We would keep them clean and that would be an easy task. Of course.

The price was ridiculously high, but the job got done and the windows sparkled. That’s when I set out to discover the best (easiest, fastest, cheapest, sparkly-est) way to keep these windows clean—not only dust-free but also clean.

Surprise. It’s not with Windex, paper towels, newspaper or other methods I may or may not have recommended in the past, which produce a big mess—dripping, soggy, dirty paper towels and windows with streaks that can be difficult to remove.


MORE: How I Dry Cleaned My Windows


The right tools

I have invested in the right window-washing tools. You need the right tools, too, or you are going to waste a lot of time and money trying to get your windows streak-free and sparkling like diamonds. Look for tools like these at your local big box store, home improvement center, or online. For your convenience and also so you can see what I’m referring to below, I have provided Amazon links for each of these specific tools. Read more

multi-ethinic arms outstretched to ask questions.

If it’s Friday, it just might be Ask Me Anything day when I reach into the mailbag and pull out three recent questions from my loyal, loving readers—two of them with the same name!

My dog recently had a “scare” and piddled on my hardwood floor. I did not catch it right away. I now have a stain. Is there anything you would recommend to get rid of it without refinishing the floor? Thank you. Linda

Dear Linda: This is tough. It’s difficult to know if you have a stain sitting on top of the floor or if the floor’s stain has been penetrated and bleached by the heavy presence of ammonia in dog urine. Regardless, it’s surely worth a try to see if this can be reversed. Here is a recipe and instruction for removing dog urine from a hardwood floor:

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I had a serious déjà vu moment when I pulled today’s first reader tip from my inbox. Roseanne’s tip brought back a memory of my grandfather doing this very thing on the big, black cast iron wood range that sat in my grandparents’ tiny kitchen in Potlatch, Ida.

The stove had a door with a glass window to observe the fire burning inside. When it would get covered with black soot and sticky grime, he would clean that door so my grandmother could see when she needed to add more wood to the stove. Sounds like something out of the dark ages, so for the record, I was a very, very young child!

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Fireplace glass

This is a trick I learned from my mother for cleaning the glass on the fireplace or stove doors that get fouled with smoke and soot, becoming opaque so you cannot see and enjoy the flame.

First spread newspaper on the floor then open the door. Take another wadded up page of a newspaper, wet it, dip it in the ashes and use it to clean the glass. This will remove everything from the glass without scratching or harming it in any way.

Last step: Wad up one last piece of newspaper and use it to wipe away all of the crud and nastiness. The result is quite amazing and the price is right. Rosanne Read more