If you reach under your sink for a supply of store-bought cleaners every time you need to mop up a spill or freshen your laundry, stop where you are. We know it might seem like there's no other way to get your countertop truly spotless, but in reality you don't need expensive and harmful products to keep your house fresh and clean.
People have been cleaning house for generations without store-bought cleaners, and their laundry might have smelled better because of it. Take a note out of your great-grandparents' book and go back to the basics of old-fashioned house cleaning.
I know -- you love the scent of your fabric softener -- but trust me, you'll love the scent of our old-fashioned tricks even more. First up, let's go back to the basics and learn from nature.
Let Nature Take Control
You've no doubt heard sayings like "Good things come to those who wait" and "Time heals all wounds." Well, don't underestimate the benefits of a little patience when it comes to cleaning dishware and cookware.
You're much less likely to need an abrasive, potentially damaging scrubber or powerful chemical detergent if you simply allow your dirty plates, bowls, pots and pans to soak in hot, sudsy water for 15 to 30 minutes before you attempt to clean them. A good soak will usually make even the toughest caked-on food particles wipe away easily.
As a matter of fact, some of the gunk will slide off by itself. So try slowing down a bit. Fill the sink with dishes, hot water and suds, and then spend some time with your family while nature does some of the work for you.
Naturally Scented Laundry
So many laundry products sold today advertise their ability to leave your clothes, bedding and towels with the "fresh scent" of this or that -- from cherry blossoms and honeysuckle to ocean breezes and spring showers. To infuse fabric with such aromas, manufacturers use a variety of both natural and artificial chemicals, but not a single one truly reproduces the crisp, comforting smell of laundry that has been freshly dried outdoors.
Try giving your senses a treat by drying your laundry the old-fashioned country way: When weather and space permit, hang a load of just-washed clothes (or at least your towels and washcloths) outside on a laundry line or drying rack. You're sure to be pleasantly surprised when you discover the scent that fresh air really gives to fabrics.
Clean and Freshen Countertops at Once
If you think the only way to clean a countertop is with chemical disinfectant, think again. People have been cleaning and disinfecting for centuries with items a lot simpler and cheaper. So think about what your grandmother would do -- or just try one of our old-fashioned tricks.
Wipe your kitchen countertops with undiluted vinegar once a day -- they'll shine and keep the kitchen smelling fresh. You can also cut a lemon in half, sprinkle it with baking soda and scrub the countertop to achieve the same thing. Mind you that this would take quite an investment in lemons if you were to do it daily, but this trick works on any kitchen surface that needs cleaning, whether it is a counter, dish or stove.
To make a rust-preventive coating for tools, outdoor furniture and other metal objects, just combine 1/4 cup lanolin and 1 cup petroleum jelly in a double boiler over low heat. Stir until the ingredients have melted and are thoroughly blended. Next, remove the mixture from the heat, pour it into a clean glass jar with a lid and let it partially cool.
Using a clean rag or cheap paintbrush, apply the mixture while it's still warm. Don't wipe it off -- simply allow it to dry on the object. If there's any of the mixture left over, cover the jar tightly with the lid for storage, then warm the mixture again just before any subsequent use. Coat tools and outdoor furniture at least once a year, in early spring, touching up the coating as needed.
If you're in a pinch and don't have any of this homemade coating prepared, you can help protect new metal tools from rust by smearing a thin layer of petroleum jelly on them before you use them or before you take them outdoors for the first time.
Boil to Disinfect
Boiling has been used through the ages as a standard way to disinfect clothing, bedding, tools and other household objects. While this suggestion may conjure an image of Cinderella slaving over a black cauldron, boiling to disinfect is just as useful today as it ever was (but you'll probably be safe using a simple pot instead of cauldron).
Kitchen sponges and dish rags, for example, are breeding grounds for a host of disease-causing germs, but you can disinfect them by boiling them in water for several minutes every few days. Remember, also, to allow them to dry out thoroughly between uses by having two available and alternating between them.
Adapted from "101 Old-Time Country Household Hints," © 2008 Publications International, Ltd.