If you had asked ten-year-old me what baking soda and vinegar are good for, I would have peered into my mother’s kitchen cabinets, scrunched my face in confusion, and hazarded these guesses: “Baking soda goes in waffles to make them fluffy. Vinegar, who knows? It just smells bad.” And thus I lived most of my life in darkness, never realizing the true power of these two lackluster kitchen staples.
One look at the list of ingredients on any household cleaning product or even your own bottle of shampoo, and your head will start to spin. (Unless you’re a chemistry nerd, in which case, you might actually understand what you’re reading.) You can also bet your bottom dollar that you can save your bottom dollar by making your own cleaning products and even shampoo for a fraction of the cost of your usual products. (Your body and the environment will thank you.) The secret ingredients? Yup, baking soda and vinegar – they form the foundation for most of these recipes, with a few other household products playing supporting roles:
Use in place of Windex, 409, Mr. Clean, Lysol, or any other spray cleaner
- a spray bottle
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups white distilled vinegar
- 3 teaspoons liquid castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s)
- 1 teaspoon of tea tree oil
Pour all ingredients into a spray bottle and shake well. If your spray bottle holds less than four cups of liquid, just cut the recipe in half. The castile soap and tea tree oil are optional, but they add cleaning and disinfecting properties.
Use in place of Comet, Scrubbing Bubbles, Soft Scrub, or any other abrasive cleaner
- a clean glass jar with a lid that seals tightly
- 2 cups baking soda
- ½ to 2/3 cup liquid castile soap
- 5 drops essential oil such as lavender, tea tree, rosemary or any scent you prefer
Mix ingredients together in the jar and store in a cool, dark place. Slap some of it on a sponge whenever you need to tackle some tough grime. The essential oil is optional, but will add antibacterial qualities. * Cheater version: add just enough water to 2 cups of baking soda to form a wet paste and store in the jar.
Toilet Bowl Cleaner
Use in place of Clorox, Lysol, Scrubbing Bubbles, or any other toilet cleaner
- 3 tablespoons to ¼ cup baking soda
- ¼ cup white distilled vinegar
Sprinkle the toilet bowl with baking soda and drizzle the vinegar on top. Let it soak for about a half an hour – go for a run, do some reading, get lost on Pinterest – and then scrub with a toilet brush.
Use in place of Drano, Liquid-Plumbr, or any other drain de-clogger
- ½ cup baking soda
- ½ cup white distilled vinegar
- 2 cups boiling water
Pour baking soda down the drain, then vinegar. Cover with a small plate or jar lid and let sit for 10 minutes to a half an hour, and then pour boiling water down the drain. Don’t worry if your drain seems to “belch up” air bubbles; that’s totally normal.
Shampoo and Conditioner
Use baking soda solution instead of shampoo and vinegar solution instead of conditioner…it sounds weird, but trust me, it’s worth a try. Baking soda strips your hair of all of the grease and gunk, while vinegar detangles, seals your follicles, and makes your tresses shine.
- 2 clean plastic squeeze bottles (reuse empty shampoo and conditioner bottles!)
- baking soda
- apple cider vinegar (not white distilled vinegar this time)
Into one bottle, mix 1 tablespoon baking soda for every 1 cup of water. Pour 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar for every 1 cup of water into the second bottle. Make sure to shake each bottle before squeezing some of the solution onto your hair. Start with the baking soda solution: squirt some onto your hair, massage, and rinse. Use the same technique for the vinegar conditioner. (The intense vinegar smell goes away by the time your hair is dry, I promise. If you’re still nervous, add a drop of essential oil or vanilla essence to counteract the smell.) * Note: the ratio of baking soda to vinegar can vary between hair types. If your hair is too dry after using this ratio, try using less baking soda in your shampoo.
Recipes adapted mostly from Women’s Voices for the Earth and here and here on Grist.org. If this gets you on a DIY cleaning and personal care kick, the possibilities are endless! This primer on DIY household cleaners and this list of homemade self-care products are great places to start.