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Tomato Sauce… A Cleaner?

We receive lots of letters from readers sharing their low cost cleaning formulas and concoctions but we have come across an excellent summary produced by Bin Inn,

 Read more Oily Rag articles by Frank and Muriel Newman 

We receive lots of letters from readers sharing their low cost cleaning formulas and concoctions but we have come across an excellent summary produced by Bin Inn, which is available on their website ( and in their free in-store flyers.
Here, with their kind permission, is a list of things you can do with baking soda and washing soda:
Baking soda –
cleans, deodorizes, scours, polishes, and removes stains.  To deodorise carpet mix baking soda with a small amount of talcum powder and sprinkle over your carpet before vacuuming. To remove fridge smells pour some baking soda into a small container and place in the fridge. Change the container of baking soda regularly. To clean burnt pots, add some baking soda and water into the pot and then boil for a few minutes. To clean a BBQ, sprinkle onto the cold cooking plate, scrub and then rinse clean. Unblocked drains by pouring a handful of baking soda down the drain followed by a cup of vinegar. Leave for a few minutes then flush thoroughly with water.
Washing soda – cuts grease and disinfects. For a fabric softener add a handful of washing soda to your normal wash. To help remove blood stains from clothing, dissolve a handful of washing soda in some hot water. Once dissolved add cold water and soak. Always wait for the water to be cold or the hot water may set the blood stains. To clean concrete dissolve a handful of washing soda with warm water and some detergent to clean concrete paths and driveways. To clean silverware, add one part washing soda to 20 parts hot water in an aluminium pan or dish. Dip the silverware into the pan, then rinse with hot water and dry thoroughly with a soft dry cloth. Do not use on any jewellery. Dissolved washing soda is a good heavy duty cleaner for floors, walls and hard surfaces. If you have run out of automatic dishwasher powder, try using washing soda instead. Pour into automatic dishwasher dispenser.
Another great web site with lots of basic cleaning products is the Tasman District Council. Their list includes a whole range of low-cost basic household products (even tomato sauce!):

  • Ammonia – cuts grease, strips the wax off floors, and cleans windows.
  • Bleach – whitens practically anything and removes mould and mildew.
  • Borax – alternative for bleach, deodorises, prevents mould, removes stains and boosts the cleaning power of soap.
  • Cornstarch – cleans and deodorises carpets and rugs.
  • Lemon juice – cuts grease and stains on aluminium and porcelain, whitens.
  • Salt – makes an abrasive, but gentle, scouring powder.
  • Tomato sauce – cleans copper.
  • Vegetable oil – a furniture polish.
  • White vinegar – cleans windows, shines metal surfaces, removes mildew, stains, grease and wax build-up

If you are looking for a specific cleaning job, they recommend the following:

  • Ceramic tile cleaner – use a combination of 1/4 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup white vinegar, 4 1/2 litres warm water, and one cup ammonia.
  • Furniture polish – combine 1 teaspoon lemon juice with 500ml vegetable oil.
  • Mould growth inhibitor – dilute 3/4 cup chlorine bleach in 4 1/2 litres of water and apply to affected areas or apply full-strength white vinegar.
  • Oven cleaner – fill a small glass bowl with 1/2 cup full-strength ammonia, place in oven and close.
  • Painted wall and woodwork cleaner – combine 1/4 cup ammonia with 4 1/2 litres warm water OR combine l/4 cup liquid dish detergent with 4 1/2 litres water.
  • Scouring powder – combine baking soda with a touch of salt.
  • Toilet bowl cleaner – combine baking soda and vinegar or use 1/2 cup chlorine bleach.
  • Window or mirror cleaner – combine 3 tablespoons ammonia, 1 tablespoon white vinegar and 3/4 cup of water or 1/4 cup white vinegar and 1200 ml of water. Wipe dry with newspaper.

Send in your recipes, tips, comments and jokes via the oily rag website ( or write to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei.

* Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Readers can submit their oily rag tips on-line at The book is available from bookstores and online at