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14 of the Very Best Homemade Cleaners that Really Work

Items in your pantry like baking soda, vinegar, cream of tartar, lemon juice, and even tea bags, can work as effective cleaners. Even better, compared to pricey commercial products, homemade cleaners cost next to nothing.

So the next time you’re staring down a big mess but you’re out of your favorite product, don’t run to the store—open up the pantry and try mixing up one of these DIY cleaning recipes instead. Step back and enjoy the results and the savings, too!

Ingredient, sponge and rubber gloves for homemade cleaners that really work

Vinyl Siding Cleaner

In a two-gallon bucket, carefully mix together:

  • 2/3 cup Spic and Span Liquid All-Purpose Floor Cleaner
  • 1/2 cup Liquid Tide Laundry Detergent (do not use the Tide liquid that has fabric softeners added)
  • 1 quart liquid chlorine bleach*
  • 3 quarts hot water

Next, using a funnel, carefully pour into an ordinary hose-end wash gun or (garden sprayer) set to the highest concentration and apply to vinyl siding. Then you will see the dirt, film, and mildew just slide off. After five minutes, rinse with the hose and clear water. In all cases, label clearly and keep out of the reach of children.

All-Purpose Liquid Cleaner

  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup household ammonia*
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1-gallon warm water

Mix all ingredients together, label clearly, and keep out of reach of children. Then, use as you would any commercial all-purpose multi-surface cleaner such as pricey Formula 409 or Lysol All-Purpose Cleaner.

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How to Get Rid of Rabbits Ruining Your Lawn and Garden

As adorable as these creatures are, rabbits can wreak havoc on a lawn and garden. Garden centers, home improvement stores, and online resources offer commerical products to help gardeners protect their plants from rabbits.

But here’s the problem: commercial repellents are expensive, they require repeated applications, and some of them may contain chemicals that can pose health hazards to pets when ingested.

Cute rabbit bunny hiding in garden

The solution is to find cheaper options that are equally effective to get rid of rabbits that are ruining your lawn and garden.

Rabbit repellents basically work in two ways to keep rabbits out of your flower and vegetable garden and off the lawn—they produce a smell or taste that is repulsive for rabbits but without harm. Homemade repellents are not only less expensive, but a safe alternative to the commercial repellents.

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Ask Me Anything: Smelly Sponges, Linx Stick Vac, Wood Cleaner, Kids’ Savings Accounts and More

Once again, it’s time to reach into my inbox and pull out a handful of questions from you my dear readers. Every day I get questions galore, great stories, lots of love, and tons of encouragement. Please, never stop writing to me!

Laptop computer illustrating email by envelopes coming out of the screen

While I do read every message, I simply cannot respond to all of them. And honestly, I don’t have specific criteria for which questions to answer in posts like this.

Generally, I select questions with universal appeal and a high likelihood that others have the same or similar questions. And here’s a hint: Well-written, complete messages with a clear situation and question get special consideration.

Here is a quick summary of the questions I’ll answer in today’s post. You can click on one to go straight to it, or just scroll down to read all. Enjoy!

Contents

1. Smelly Sponge Syndrome

2. Which Hoover Linx?

3. Wood Floor Cleaner OK for wood cabinets?

4. Costco or Sam’s Club?

5. Kids’ Savings Accounts

6. Pesky Ant Invasion

 


Q1: Serious case of smelly sponge syndrome

Dear Mary: I was wondering if you had a quick and easy way to keep the dish scrubbers—like ScotchBrite with a sponge on one side attached to a pad for scrubbing pans on the other side—from smelling like mildew.

Mine is fine for a few days and then starts smelling. I try to run it in the dishwasher, but don’t always remember. I sometimes spray it with bleach and let it sit for a minute or two before rinsing, and that seems to work, but I was wondering if there was a better way. I tried microwaving a wet sponge, and that just created a hot smelly sponge. Bronson

Smelly sponge, stinky kitchen sponge

 

Dear Bronson: First, let me congratulate you on discovering a popular cleaning hack that doesn’t work—sponges in the microwave. The theory is that high heat kills most bacteria. However, the amount of time needed in a microwave to reach the desired temperature to kill the bacteria and mildew harbored in the center of a sponge will result in a flaming, incinerated sponge. As reported in The New York Times citing this study, nuked sponges still harbor about 40% of their bacteria, some of which can be life-threatening.

Putting that kitchen sponge in the dishwasher daily, or as often as you run a load of dishes, is a better solution. The heat and detergent are sufficient to kill bacteria and mildew.

I’m going to assume that you use one sponge at a time, and that may be the problem. Let me suggest you have at least two sponges going. This way, one will always be available to wipe the counter and so forth, while the other is getting sanitized in the dishwasher. Do this without fail for a couple of weeks and soon it’ll become a habit.

All that being said, a better choice is to use cotton or microfiber cloths that can be tossed in the washer after every use.

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Questions: Mascara Renewal | Robot Vacuum | Ant Killer | Malfunctioning Oven

It’s time, once again, to reach into my virtual mailbag to read what a handful of my Dear Readers have written. I love to hear from you with your questions, feedback, thoughts, and ideas.

Woman sitting at desk and working at computer hands close up

 

Dear Mary: I am an Ann Arbor News reader—especially on Sunday. Love, love your column. Thank you!

I lost the column from I think two weeks ago, regarding rejuvenating mascara. You used saline solution or something like that.

Please republish the formula if possible.  I have good, not great mascara and it does get clumpy, messy. I’ve thrown away soooooo many mascaras because of that. Sharon

Dear Sharon: First, I should explain to my online readers, that some of my blog posts are syndicated by Creators, and distributed to hundreds of local, independent newspapers such as The Ann Arbor News. I never know which post is going to show up in which newspaper, but I’m pretty sure I know the tip you’re referring to. Here it is:

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11 Quick and Easy Ways to Get Rid of Pesky Ants

If the heat of summer is bringing ants into your home and yard, don’t panic. You may not require toxic pest control products or a professional service to take get rid of these pesky ants.

In fact, chances are good you already have everything you need to do it yourself. Or if you prefer a commercial product that is eco-friendly and really works fast, I’ve got that for you, too.

Ants in the house on the baseboards and wall angle

Soap and water

If you have ants or other bugs around the house, pour a 50/50 mixture of Blue Dawn dish soap and water into an empty spray bottle and keep it handy. When you see the insects, spray them with the mixture. Provided you really saturate those little critters, the soap actually breaks down their exoskeletons, and they die almost immediately. Cheap and easy cleanup, too.

Mop and vacuum

To get rid of sugar ants, start by mopping the floor at least once a day. Mopping and vacuuming helps to remove the ants’ pheromone trails. Cleaning and mopping will also rid your home of the food and crumbs that attract the ants. Make sure you don’t leave any dirty dishes in the sink and empty the trash bin regularly.

Black pepper

To deter sugar ants, sprinkle ground black pepper around the home’s entry points to keep the ants from coming inside.

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How to Make Your Own Swiffer WetJet Refills

If you own a Swiffer WetJet Spray Mop, chances are you absolutely love it. But let me guess: You’re not wild about how expensive it is to buy the refills—the cleaning solution and disposable cleaning pads. Read on for everything you need to know about Swiffer Wetjet refills!

Even more annoying, to the WetJet manufacturer “refill” means throwing out the empty dispenser bottle entirely and having to purchase the refill liquid in a new bottle. Know what I mean?

And just try to pry the lid off an empty bottle to refill it yourself. That thing is impossible to get off without destroying it and yes, I speak from experience. And those refill bottles can be as much as $7.50 each. And the disposable pads? At least $.50 each and that’s on a good (sale) day.

Well, you can forget all that bad news because I’ve learned how to get that bottle open making it totally reusable (it won’t leak!), and how to save money making our own Swiffer solution and reusable cleaning pads, too.

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Make Your Kitchen Look Like New for Around $400 and Some Sweat

When I walked into Amy and Justin’s kitchen, my jaw dropped. It was like I’d stumbled into the wrong house. The gorgeous new cabinets and countertops made it look brand new.

You could have knocked me over with a feather when these friends told us they weren’t new cabinets and counters at all. They performed their kitchen makeover themselves—all for less than $400.

beautiful kitchen remodel with dark cabinets and countertops

You may think that kitchen projects need to be left to the professionals, which of course is fine provided you’ve got thousands of dollars to work with. But if your budget is slightly under that—and you’re willing to contribute some sweat to the project—new products and methods now available can bring do-it-yourself options to any kitchen makeover.

Cabinets

Our friends refinished their existing cabinets (the doors and face frames) with Rust-Oleum Cabinet Coating Transformations Kit that covers 100 square feet, available online and at home improvement centers like Home Depot.

The thing that gave Amy and Justin the courage and confidence to tackle this project themselves was the Rust-Oleum promise of no stripping, no sanding, no priming, and no special skills required. While their cabinets are made of wood, this product will also transform melamine, metal, and laminate cabinetry.

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Cheapskate Gourmet: Salad Dressings

If you think eating well means eating out—home delivery, pick-up, or dining-in—you may be feeling the effects of restaurant dining in your wallet as the cost of restaurant meals is now soaring in ways we’ve not seen before.

Yesterday, I was shocked to read the new (disposable) menu at a small local hamburger joint in our town. The same classic hamburger that was $7.95 pre-virus, is now $11.95. Will prices decline as this thing settles down? I wouldn’t bet on it.

It’s time for us to change our thinking and start digging in to find every realistic way imaginable that we can save time and money every day.

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If I can make the leap from being a diner-in-debt to making irresistible meals at home that often taste even better than those from a restaurant—at a fraction of the cost of eating out—you can, too.  One way to do this is to learn how to make gourmet salad dressings at home.

For many years ( before there was a Food Channel), I was uniquely privileged to sit under the personal tutelage of world-famous gourmet cooks the likes of Julia Child, Christopher Kimball, Martha Stewart, Martin Yan, and Jacques Pepin.

Every weekend I had standing appointments with one or more of them. They came right into my home and demonstrated unique techniques while I assumed a prone position, curled up in my favorite blanket, first-row-center in front of the television. They sparked confidence in me. From that start, my love for making great meals economically has grown.

Today, I want to share my basic recipes for what I consider to be gourmet salad dressings. So fresh and easy. Tasty, too.

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