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The Fantastic Four in the Laundry Room

Baking Soda

Baking soda is harmless to the environment and has mild alkali qualities that help it dissolve grease and dirt. Baking soda can be especially helpful in areas served by hard water: Adding baking soda to a washing machine’s rinse cycle will result in clothes that are better rinsed, softer and more stain resistant.  Add 1/2 cup baking soda to top-loading machines or 1/4 cup for front-loading machines along with the usual amount of detergent to give the detergent a boost. Baking soda can help increase bleach’s whitening power so much that you’ll be able to use less bleach.

 

Vinegar

Like baking soda, vinegar can serve a lot of different purposes in the laundry room. When using vinegar in the laundry, use distilled white vinegar, which generally can be found in gallon jugs near the baking or laundry aisles in the grocery store.  A mixture of half water and half vinegar makes a good stain pretreatment.  Spray a little onto the stain a few minutes before washing and then wash as usual.

Vinegarcan also add a kick to regular laundry detergents. To soften a standard load of wash, add 1/2 cup vinegar during your machine’s last rinse cycle. In addition to softening, vinegar added at this time will help reduce lint buildup, and it tends to help pet owners with hair buildup on their fabrics.

 

Salt

Salt can also be a good stain remover, especially when the stain is still fresh. Salt can also help maintain and restore bright colors, reduce yellowing, and eliminate mildew in fabrics.

 

Lemon Juice

But among the Fantastic Four, lemon juice really takes the leading role for laundry tasks. Add 1/2 cup of it to a regular load of laundry during the wash cycle, and it will make the whole load smell fresher. Add it to a load of whites, and the whites become whiter. Combine lemon juice with cream of tartar and you have a very powerful stain remover.

 

 

Rust Removal

If you’re like many of us (especially many of us with children), perhaps you’ve found a few things that were left out in the rain and snow when they shouldn’t have been. Not to worry — you can clean off any lightly rusted items in an earth-friendly way by using some of the items in our Fantastic Four cleaning kit (baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice and salt).

 

General cleaning

First, mix equal parts salt and cream of tartar, moistened with enough water to make a paste. Use this paste on metal outdoor furniture, for example, or rusted metal parts on an outdoor grill. Apply the paste with a soft cotton cloth and set the item in the sun to dry. Wipe off and repeat if necessary. Afterward, rinse clean. You can also try making this paste using lemon juice and salt, rather than cream of tartar. Be sure to keep the amount of lemon juice or water you use consistent with making a paste thick enough to not slide off any vertical surfaces.

DIY Air Freshener

The human sense of smell is a very sensitive thing, so much so that a clean-smelling home can play a large part in your emotional and physical health. Make your own earth-friendly freshener spray by mixing equal parts lemon juice and water and storing it in a spray bottle you’ve salvaged from some of your old cleaning products (make sure to rinse it out well first). Spray this around your home once or twice a week for odor control, or as needed when cooking or to get rid of smells that have seeped into the draperies, couch, and other fabrics.

 

Patio Furniture

Lawn furniture seems to be a magnet for all the grit and muck that nature can come up with. Outdoor chairs, tables, and loungers can be found caked with dirt, cobwebs, and grease, especially if they’ve been in storage for a while. Clean them off with a baking soda solution, using 1 cup baking soda added to some warm water. Wipe it on the furniture, then rinse thoroughly.

White wicker furniture is lovely to have for your yard and patio, but it can take a beating if out in the sun too much or left in the rain. You can help keep it from yellowing by scrubbing it periodically with a stiff brush that you have first moistened with salt water. Scrub every nook and cranny in the chairs and loungers and rinse thoroughly. Then let the pieces sit in the sun to dry, changing their position (upside-down, sideways, etc.) every so often.

Shower and Sink Drains

Just as with your kitchen sink, you should practice preventative maintenance with your bathroom sink and shower. Once a week, lift the drain cover in your tub and use a cotton swab to remove the hair that has accumulated there. Then pour 1/2 cup baking soda followed by 1 cup vinegar down the drain. Let this sit for 20 minutes, then flush the drain with very hot water. To help keep your tub drain unclogged, buy a plastic or rubber hair strainer; simply place it over your drain and let it do the icky work for you.

If your sink or shower has developed hard-water or mineral deposits, you can get rid of them by soaking paper towels in undiluted vinegar and placing the towels over the stained areas. Let them sit for one hour and then wipe the areas with a damp sponge.