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may19homespunweb.pngBy Nzong Xiong

RISMEDIA, May 19, 2008-(MCT)-The next time you need to clean your kitchen countertops, don’t rush to grab the disinfectant spray you usually use. Instead, dig around in your cabinets-you might already have natural items that can be used to tackle many cleaning projects around your home.

Five must-have natural ingredients recommended by a couple of local and national cleaning experts are baking soda, borax, lemon, salt and white vinegar.

Baking soda can be used for many projects, from removing stains to cleaning pots and pans. Suzanne Bishop, owner of The Master’s Helping Hands in Fresno, Calif., uses it for cleaning microwaves and refrigerators, as well as getting rid of smells.

As for borax, “it does require some care in use and moderation,” says Michael DeJong, the New York City-based author of “Clean: The Humble Art of Zen-Cleaning” (Sterling Publishing, $7.95). “If abused, it can be poisonous. If you’re not comfortable with it around, don’t use it at all.”

If you don’t have children or pets living in the home, you might give it a try.

One way DeJong likes to use it is on his toilet. He’ll put a quarter of a cup on the inside of the toilet and leave it there overnight before scrubbing it off the next morning.

A mineral, borax also can be used as a water conditioner in your laundry, if you have hard water, and for cleaning porcelain and fiberglass.

With its acidic juice, a lemon can be used to clean and deodorize.

“One of its best properties is that it’s fresh,” DeJong says. “You hack one in half and use it as a scrub brush. It’s also a great way to clean a microwave. Put it in the microwave for about 1½ minutes. (The juice) permeates and softens the baked-on goo. The acid coats the entire interior and all you have to do is wipe it off.”

Bishop also suggests grinding lemon rinds down your garbage disposal to freshen it up.

As for salt, it “is really terrific for all sorts of things,” DeJong says. It can be used to clean and remove smells from cutting boards. You also can use it to keep your shower curtains free of fungus. “Before you hang it up, rinse it with saltwater,” he says.

Salt also can come in handy when it comes to liquid carpet stains, say sisters and co-authors Alison Forbes and Laura Forbes Carlin, who consult nationally on lifestyle and healthy home living.

“We always go with the basic salt,” says Carlin, who lives in Santa Monica, Calif. “You just pour it on top of the stain, wait about 15 minutes. Once it’s dry, just vacuum it up. It’s great for red wine.”

When it comes to cleaning grease, white vinegar is a must. “The acid base will cut through grease really well,” DeJong says.

It’s also good for surface cleaning. Bishop will use it to mop floors and on countertops and mirrors.

© 2008, The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.).
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.