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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

Some time ago I got a message, which reminded me about the wonder of an ordinary product most people have somewhere in the house. Georgia wrote …

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“I had a cut on my hand that opened up while I was putting my expensive duvet cover (recent wedding gift!) on my comforter, now I have blood stains where I touched it. Is there any hope of getting these stains out completely? I tried using a carpet cleaning solution and washing it but those stains remain. I’m worried they’ll be there permanently. Thanks so much for your help!” Georgia

I responded immediately, directing Georgia to soak the stains with fresh, full-strength hydrogen peroxide. I heard back quickly. The hydrogen peroxide lightened the stains almost immediately, and within hours they disappeared completely.

I’ll be honest that back then, removing blood stains was about all I ever used hydrogen peroxide for. And because it has such a short shelf life, I was forever throwing out old, useless hydrogen peroxide.

Since then, I’ve learned so much and done extensive research and wow. The stuff is downright wonderful—so awesome in fact, I never throw hydrogen peroxide away anymore. It doesn’t have time in my home to age out. That’s how much I use it.

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Last week I heard from one of my readers who wrote about hydrogen peroxide—something I’ve written about in the past, but not so much in the context of this reader’s personal report.

I loved her story and outcome but needed to confirm that hydrogen peroxide is safe, reasonable and recommended to be used as a mouthwash.

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In the process I ran into a whole lot more than I was looking for—multiple uses for hydrogen peroxide around the house, some new some not so new but perhaps forgotten.

Kitchen counters

Clean your counters, table tops with hydrogen peroxide to kill germs and leave a fresh smell. Simply put a little on your dishrag when you wipe, or spray it on the counters.

Cutting boards

After rinsing off your wooden cutting board, pour hydrogen peroxide on it to kill salmonella and other bacteria. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved hydrogen peroxide as a sanitizer.

Teeth whitening

Mix salt, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide to make a paste for brushing your teeth. Not only will this help to reverse the early stages of gingivitis, used regularly, it will also remove stains and whiten your teeth.

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Faithful readers will recall a reader tip earlier this week, in which Julie shared her simple homemade carpet shampoo of hydrogen peroxide, hot water and a tiny bit of liquid laundry soap.

That tip set off a semi-avalanche of responses requesting specific details, and many of which cautioned, wisely, that hydrogen peroxide can have a bleaching effect on some types of fabrics and carpets that are not colorfast.

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Carpet cleaning details

Mix HOT water, and a few drops liquid soap, preferably a simple biodegradable soap, such as ERA, Blue Dawn or Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap. Add enough hydrogen peroxide to make the overall solution from about 1/2% to about 2% hydrogen peroxide*. Fill carpet cleaner reservoir.

(*Use 1 3/4 cup   3% hydrogen peroxide per 1 gallon water; or 3% hydrogen peroxide mixed 50/50 with water.)

In theory, hydrogen peroxide could alter the color in carpet, depending on the kind of dye. However, this is unlikely using 3% peroxide. I have poured 3% hydrogen peroxide directly onto carpet in my home and have not had any problems.

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