Baking soda and vinegar: the only cleaning products you should ever buy

From getting stains out of carpet to deodorizing the garbage disposal, you'd be hard pressed to find a cleaning problem either baking soda or vinegar can't fix.

Courtesy of Brittany Lynne
Vinegar and baking soda can handle most household cleaning chores, and probably tackle a few other tasks you've never thought of.

Baking soda and vinegar are two things that I always buy in bulk, simply because they both offer up so many uses at such an inexpensive price. Most of this post is going to consist of a list of things you can do with these items outside of cooking, but I’m going to restrict it to things I’ve done myself. There are many more uses out there.

Baking soda alone can be used to remove odors from almost anything, from refrigerators to carpet. Just sprinkle some in the offending area (on the carpet, in your shoes) and let it sit or put some on a plate and let it sit. It just sucks the odor right out of there.

If you mix enough water with baking soda to make a paste, it works well as a toothpaste, a facial scrub, and as a sunburn reliever. I actually have some baking soda paste applied right now to my left shoulder to alleviate sunburn. It will work on pretty much any minor skin irritation, too.

If you’ve got heartburn, mix a teaspoon of baking soda in a cup of water and drink it. It cures my heartburn more effectively than almost anything else.

Pour a spoonful in a dirty or smelly toilet bowl and leave it sit for a couple of hours. The odor will go away, as will at least some of the stain (if not all of it).

There are more esoteric uses as well, such as putting a couple pinches of baking soda in the water you use to soak dry beans to reduce the “gassiness” of the beans.

What about vinegar?

Pour some vinegar on unwanted grass or weeds at full strength and those weeds will shrivel up and die. This works great for sidewalk cleanup.

Use half a cup of vinegar in lieu of laundry softener to make your clothes feel wonderfully soft (there’s no vinegar smell, either). It also helps to brighten up bright colors.

You can remove many stains from fabrics by applying a mix of one part vinegar to four parts water. This mix gets rid of many minor stains. If the stain is tough, apply some pure vinegar directly to the stain (it gets rid of coffee stains, for example).

Mix five parts water to one part vinegar in a spray bottle to wash windows (it’s a lot cheaper than Windex and works just as well).

If you have some wilted vegetables, soak them in water with a teaspoon of vinegar and they’ll freshen up quite a bit.

If you have hard water stains, soak a cloth with vinegar and let the cloth sit on those stains. This does a great job of removing them.

You can really deodorize the garbage disposal by making some vinegar ice cubes. Toss these cubes down the drain, then run the disposal with some cold water.

These uses just scratch the surface – they just happen to be the ones I’ve found useful in the last year or so. A simple Google search will find you many, many more ideas (some untested, I’m sure).

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. Images courtesy of Brittany Lynne Photography, the proprietor of which is my “photography intern” for this project.

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