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Low-Cost Cleaners

Spring is in the air so it's time to get cleaning. The best cleaner we know of is called elbow grease - and best of all, it's free!

Read more Oily Rag articles by Frank and Muriel Newman 

Spring is in the air so it’s time to get cleaning. The best cleaner we know of is called elbow grease – and best of all, it’s free! But when a few everyday household ingredients are added, it can provide low-cost alternatives to expensive cleaners.

In their latest issue of “Barrel Talk” the good people at the Bin Inn have produced some good old-fashioned homemade cleaning recipes using baking soda.  Baking soda is a magic ingredient when used as a cleaner.

Toilet cleaner.
Use 1 cup baking soda and 1 cup white vinegar. Pour the baking soda and vinegar into the toilet bowl. Leave for ten minutes then clean with a toilet brush and flush! It’s as simple as that.

Oven cleaner.
All you need is a cup of baking soda and water. Sprinkle the baking soda on the base of the oven. Mix with enough water to make a paste and spread the paste over the walls and door. Leave it overnight then wipe clean.

Fridge cleaner.

Mix baking soda and water to form a thin paste. Apply the paste to a sponge and wipe the inside of the fringe.

Tile grout cleaner.

Mix three cups of baking soda with one cup of warm water to form a smooth paste. Scrub the paste into the grout using a toothpaste, then rinse clean with water.

Drain cleaner.

Mix two cups of baking soda with two cups of salt and ½ a cup cream of tartar and store in a container. Pour ¼ cup of the mixture down the drain followed by one litre of boiling water. Leave it for five minutes then flush the drain with tap water for a few minutes.

Chopping board cleaner.

To clean and deodorise wooden chopping boards sprinkle baking soda over the board then spray with white vinegar. Leave it for five minutes then rinse clean.

Auto dishwasher powder.
Mix one cup of baking soda, one cup washing soda, quarter cup of salt and quarter cup citric acid. Store in a sealed contained. Use one tablespoon per load. Use white vinegar as a dishwasher rinse aid.

According to Bin Inn, other cleaning products can be made with borax and vinegar as the magic cleaning agents.

Floor and wall cleaner.
Mix a quarter cup of borax with two litre of hot water and wipe on floors and walls.  To make a timber floor cleaner, pour 2 cups of strong black tea and ½ cup of white vinegar into a bucket and add warm water.

Scouring powder.
To make a scouring powder for sinks and bathtubs, mix half a cup of borax with quarter cup of baking soda and one and a half cups of hot water.

Kettle limescale cleaner.
To remove the lime scale, fill the kettle with water and add half a cup of white vinegar. Leave it overnight then rinse thoroughly the next day.

Shower door cleaner.
Mix one cup of water and one cup of white vinegar. Place the mixture into a spray bottle. Spray on, leave for an hour and wipe.

Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag by Frank & Muriel Newman is available from all good bookstores or online at If you have some favourite oily rag tips, share them with others by visiting 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