The Deep Clean

This post was written by contributor NJ Renie.

Every winter, in the coldest part of the season, Chinese tradition dictates that my family cleans our home top to bottom, lest we sweep our good fortune out the front door during the upcoming lunar New Year.

As you can imagine this kind of cleaning uncovers the neglected and ignored places: the top of the fridge, behind the radiators, and those thingys under the burners on the range. The “cleaning needs” aisle has hundreds of products that promise miracles on the front label and catalog a litany of warnings on the back. When tackling a year of grime it is tempting to go for the quick and easy, but I have found that it is almost always overkill. In fact, everything you need is likely very safe and on hand.

Vinegar

People are unusually passionate about cleaning with vinegar –and why not? Vinegar is a powerful, yet safe, acid and disinfectant, and can be used to break up stains or grease. It also works well on wax (as a beekeeper and someone with crayon-loving child I can promise you that it comes in very handy.) A product of a million uses and dirt cheap, vinegar is an essential home product that you can’t live without.

Club Soda

Tried and true, but harder to come by as the cocktail party has gone by the wayside, club soda is famous for being spritzed on fabric in order to remove wine stains, but it can also be used to clean glass, stainless steel, and porcelain (no need to crack a new one, it will work just as well if it is flat). Club soda and seltzer water are weak Carbonic Acid solutions. Rust, lime, and greasy stains all will weaken or disappear when exposed to club soda. It has many of the advantages of vinegar without the smell and also doubles as a refreshing zero calorie beverage.

Shaving Cream

Not just for grooming and practical jokes, shaving cream is gentle enough for your face or legs, but actually a powerful soap. Great as a foaming carpet cleaner, spray shaving cream on a spill, let sit for half an hour and then rub out with a towel. Dab a little on tough grime and let it work up the dirt as you relax.

Alcohol

Remove ink stains, adhesives, and scuff marks, as well as tree sap from hands and clothing using alcohol. Because of its chemical makeup alcohol acts a powerful solvent which is able to remove many stains which resist other cleaning methods. The rubbing alcohol in your medicine cabinet works fine, but the seventeen year old vodka leftover from your college graduation party will work just as well. Warning: rubbing alcohol is toxic if ingested and please consider all alcohol highly flammable!

Distilled Water

Hard water is better tasting, but distilled water does not contain the ions that interfere with soap’s ability to lather. The softer your water, the better your soap will work. Adding soda ash to hard water works on this same principle and will have like results, if you don’t have any distilled water lying around. But perhaps you should– due to its lacks of impurities, distilled water is ideal for use when diluting homemade cleaning solutions.

This year when you start your family’s Deep Clean, try a few of these and see the results for yourself. The hidden power of our medicine cabinets and pantries are greater than most of us realize.

What are your Deep Clean traditions and best homemade cleaners?

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19 Comments

  1. Sofia's Ideas

    Don’t forget the baking soda! We also use castille soap for everything too! 🙂

    • Kara

      Yes! Baking soda and castille soap are great!

    • NJ Renie

      Baking soda is a really good one. I figured that most of the people here would already use it and vinegar regularly, but I thought I would get a LOT of grief if I left vinegar off, so I played it safe.

  2. Kara

    Frequent vacuuming picks up dirt and dust before they get “jammed” down into the carpet fibers, so that I don’t need to deep clean the carpet as often. I have the same theory with brooms and mops on hard-surface floors. Preventative cleaning, as I call it. 😉

    Also, hydrogen peroxide. I used it in the kitchen as a disinfectant (especially when I’ve worked with eggs or meat).

    • NJ Renie

      Yeah, I’m pretty sure regular cleaning is the way to go; my wife says “a maid” is the best solution 🙂

  3. Kara @Simple Kids

    Yes, vinegar is one of my favorite cleaners – as well as baking soda. I knew about using alcohol for tree sap and things like that, but I don’t know that I’ve heard of shaving cream as a carpet cleaner before. I’m going to give it a try!

    Good tip re: vinegar and crayons/wax, too. We’ve had moderate success with it as our house. Seems to also depend on how much elbow grease we have on supply. 😉

    We usually do a room by room deep cleaning in the Spring and then again before the Christmas holidays.

    Gung hay fat choy! 🙂

    • NJ Renie

      Shaving cream is basically just lathered soap, and it usually smells good. I like it a lot for grime that needs to be worked loose, it’s a lot like the old scrubbin’ bubbles.

      One thing about wax is that so much of your success depends on what it is on. In my case, after cleaning up my hives, everything.

  4. Catherine

    Thanks for the ideas – I’m bookmarking this. Hydrogen peroxide followed by a spritz of vinegar kills most germs on kitchen surfaces. This is substantiated by a study conducted a professor at Virginia Tech on the use of peroxide and vinegar together and the effectiveness of this combination on killing kitchen germs. However, do not use on granite.

    • NJ Renie

      I’m not surprised at all, though I wonder how much less effective either are by themselves.

    • NJ Renie

      Nice one!

  5. Alison C

    We bought two bottles of Everclear while on vacation a few years ago just for this purpose. We wouldn’t think of ingesting the stuff, but it works wonders when cleaning….especially for paint or upholstery stains.

    Fun fact: It also makes an excellent fuel for camp stoves!

  6. jessica browning

    Love the idea of using shaving cream as a spot cleaner for carpets! I will be giving that a try for sure. I am a vinegar fanatic but am forever puzzled about what to use on my kitchen granite (since vinegar is not recommended). Any ideas?

  7. Alicia

    Boy does my home need a top to bottom cleaning. 🙂 I love that idea.

    I’m not sure I’d ever consider shaving cream green though? ITA with the others and the suggestions in the comments.

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