Simple ingredients from the pantry can be used to make cleaning products that are kinder to the environment for a fraction of the cost.

Lemon Juice
For general cleaning purposes, you can substitute lemon juice for white vinegar. Use the outer rind to polish porcelain surfaces and release fragrant lemon oil.

Baking Soda
Baking soda's mild abrasive action and natural deodorizing properties make it a powerful replacement for harsh commercial scouring powders. For tougher grime, make a paste of baking soda and water, apply to the tub or sink, and allow to stand for 10–20 minutes until the deposits have softened and can be removed.

Rubbing Alcohol
Rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol provides the base for an evaporating cleaner to rival any window and glass cleaning solutions. Use it on windows, mirrors, chrome fixtures and for a shiny finish on hard-surface ceramic tiles.

Clear ammonia creates stronger window and all-purpose cleaning recipes than acidic vinegar.

Diluted White Vinegar
Mildly acidic white vinegar dissolves dirt, soap scum and hard water deposits from smooth surfaces, yet it's gentle enough to use in solution to clean hardwood flooring. White vinegar is a natural deodorizer, absorbing odors instead of covering them up. (And no, your bathroom won't smell like a salad. Any acid aroma disappears when dry.) For really tough bathroom surfaces such as shower walls, pump up the cleaning power by heating the solution in the microwave until barely hot. Spray shower walls generously with the warmed solution, allow to stand for 10–15 minutes, then scrub and rinse.

Undiluted White Vinegar
Used straight from the jug, undiluted white vinegar makes quick work of tougher cleaning problems involving hard water deposits or soap scum. Use it to clean the inside of the toilet bowl, shower doors and sinks to remove tough water calcium buildup. Use a pumice stone to remove any remaining hard water rings.

White vinegar can also be used to softens clothes and cuts detergent residue.

Excerpted from Houseworks, by Cynthia Townley Ewer


How Does Your Bathroom Storage Stack Up?

Bathrooms, seem to be the most used room in the house. With all the shampoos, make-up options and other necessary "bath-roomies" it's hard to keep it organized. Here are some tips from Houseworks to help organize your bath using the rules of storage.

  1. "A" is for every day. Active, accessible and meant for daily use — that's the definition of "A" storage areas. "A" storage areas should be user-friendly. They should welcome the groping hand with no hidden hazards, even before the poor, blind shower-taker has inserted his or her contact lenses or found his or her glasses. The vanity countertops, the top drawer, a chrome mesh bucket or hanging organizer in the shower area are all "A" storage areas.
  2. "B" is for occasional. Items that are used weekly to monthly should be given homes in the "B" storage areas. The box of nifty, pore-unclogging strips, the collection of hair scrunchies for exercise-class ponytails, nail care equipment and the battery-operated beard trimmer are all consigned to "B" areas. "B" also stands for "box;" candidates for "B" storage can often be accommodated in labeled boxes underneath or behind their more popular "A" companions.
  3. "C" is for seldom. Storage areas that are designated "C"s are those that require excessive bending, stretching or standing on tiptoe — and home to those items that are seldom used. They're where you stash the gold-flecked makeup for fancy nights out, the foot-massage machine and the upper-lip mustache wax cooker. If you use an item less than once a month but more than twice a year, it belongs in the lowly "C" category, so put it where the sun doesn't shine.


Cutting Bathroom Clutter

For many families, bathroom storage areas are a magpie's nest of scent bottles, sample packets and throwaway cosmetics — but given the high prices for health and beauty products, it's hard to know when to keep, when to toss perfumes, cosmetics or grooming products. Using outdated or stale products can be harmful to your health. Take to heart these issues of health and safety — and get de-cluttering!

  • Perfume loses its potency after 3 years.
  • Liquids can support bacterial growth. Liquid and cream foundations are fine to use for between 6 and 12 months.
  • Using stale eye-makeup or mascara can cause serious eye infections. Once opened, never keep mascara for longer than 3 months.
  • Liquid eyeliner lasts for about 6 months.
  • Powder eye shadow is usually fine for between 14 months and 2 years.
  • Wax-based products such as lipstick and lip balm should be tossed after a year.