Have you ever gone to your cupboard to clean out a nasty toilet bowl only to find that you are out of toilet bowl cleaner? Ever scrubbed at dried, baked on food in your oven while inhaling toxic fumes courtesy of oven cleaner? Or perhaps you’ve gotten soap in your eyes while trying to wash off mascara at night. If so, you may be surprised to learn that some common household products can take care of these situations, keeping you from running out to the store and needlessly spending money. Here are some eco-friendly alternative uses for several multi-purpose products that are likely in your home right now: Vaseline, aluminum foil, distilled white vinegar, cornstarch, and boiling water.
Household Uses for Vaseline
- Vaseline can be used for eye makeup remover. Use a tissue to wipe a small amount gently over the eyelid, taking care not to get it in your eye.
- Put Vaseline on cracked heels, then slip some socks over your feet and let them soften overnight. It is also useful for softening lips.
- Another beauty use for Vaseline is to protect skin from being stained by hair color. Smear some around the hairline when applying color or highlights and drips can be wiped right off. It can also protect fingers and toes from nail polish going astray.
- Vaseline is also useful as a lube for squeaky chairs or door hinges in place of WD-40.
Household Uses for Aluminum Foil
- Before painting, mold foil around doorknobs, towel racks, etc, for a good tight seal to prevent paint drips.
- Put your food on aluminum foil before grilling. It will contain any drippings or toppings that could easily fall off your food. Then crumple up and use the clean side of the foil to scrub old bits of food or any escaped drips off the grill.
- Scrub oven racks clean rather than using toxic oven cleaner.
- Clean glass pans with aluminum foil to get baked on food off (if you forgot to line the serving dish with foil in the first place)! Just use a leftover piece and crumple it into a ball.
- Line fridge, veggie and fruit drawers to catch drips or juice from ripe fruit, reducing the number of times the refrigerator needs to be cleaned.
- Protect piecrusts from burning. Fold a sheet of foil in fourths, cut out the middle and round the edges. Unfold and it will be just the right shape to put gently on top of the piecrust during most of the baking time.
- In some cities, aluminum foil can be recycled.
Household Uses for Distilled White Vinegar
- Distilled white vinegar can be used as fabric softener (see my article on homemade detergent for more details). It also helps reduce lint buildup.
- Pour ½ cup baking soda down the garbage disposal, then ½ cup vinegar. Let fizz and then run boiling water down into the disposal. This also works for removing clogs from drains.
- Clean up urine with vinegar.* First, blot up as much urine as possible, flush with cool water and soak up excess liquid. Wash the area with detergent and warm water, and then apply a solution of half vinegar and half water. Blot and allow drying time. (see reference)
- Kill bugs with straight vinegar in a spray bottle.
- Pour a cup of white vinegar in the toilet bowl and swish for a good clean.
- Wipe vinegar at room temperature onto shower walls and tubs to help remove soap scum. This is a much better way to clean your bathroom than using shower and toilet cleaners with harmful chemicals.
Household Uses for Cornstarch
- Sprinkle on grease spots on counters, stovetops, cool ovens, etc. Let it soak up the grease, and then wipe it up!
- Use cornstarch as a thickener for soups and gravies rather than flour; cornstarch does not clump as easily as flour.
- In a pinch, deodorize your carpet by sprinkling cornstarch and vacuuming it up.
- Dust lightly with a brush over makeup as a powder.
- Make a paste of cornstarch and water, then rub it over an itchy bug bite for relief from the itching.
Household Uses for Boiling Water
- To clean food out of the microwave, boil water in a glass measuring cup or bowl for two minutes. Then simply wipe the microwave clean with a dishcloth.
- Bring water to a constant boil on the stove in a large pot to add some humidity to dry winter air. Be careful to not let it boil dry.
- To remove a berry stain from a clothing item, have someone hold the item taut over a sink while you pour a teapot full of boiling water through the stain. Repeat if necessary and launder as soon as possible.
- Kill weeds by pouring boiling water over them, then pull them out when shriveled and/or when the ground is still wet.
Using a little creativity, these common household items can help you be an economizer and be eco-friendly in the process.
*“Stain Busters.” Family Circle magazine, April 20, 2004.
Home-Ec101.com is an Untrained Housewife Site Sponsor. The founder, Heather Solos is a professional chef, turned mommy, who has amazing tips and tricks for all homemakers and families.