Safe, Effective, and Inexpensive!

Old-fashioned Cleaning Remedies

Here are some old-fashioned cleaning remedies that work just as well today as they did in our grandmother’s day, without all the harmful chemicals!
     With under-the-sink chemicals now seen as a major culprit in the breast cancer epidemic, this is a good time to try using non-toxic cleaners.

All-purpose cleaner:
Mix together 1 quart warm water with 4 tablespoons baking soda and 1 teaspoon vinegar

Glass & Window Cleaner:
Make a mixture of half vinegar and half water or club soda, or half rubbing alcohol and half water.

Carpet Refresher:
Make a mixture of 2 parts cornmeal and 1 part baking soda. Sprinkle on carpet and let sit for one hour, then vacuum up.

Carpet Stains:
Make a mixture of baking soda moistened with water or club soda.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner:
Mix together 1/2 cup liquid soap plus 2 cups baking soda. Add 1/4 cup water plus 2 tablespons vinegar (which will make it foam.) You can also try using a can of cola; let it sit 10 minutes in the toilet bowl and then flush.

Oven Cleaner:
Cover grease spills with baking soda or salt and soapy water (works best while the oven is still warm.) Let sit for 10 minutes and wipe off. A pumice stone can be used on tough spots.

Wood Polish:
Mix two parts vegetable or olive oil plus one part lemon juice. You may also use lemon oil. If you use lemon juice, this mixture must be refrigerated.

Rust & Stain Remover:
Make a mixture of equal parts salt and lemon juice.

Stainless Steel:
Use baking soda and a soft-sided sponge. Toothpaste works well, too.

Copper and Brass Polish:
Mix 1/2 cup vinegar plus 1 tablespoon salt.

Grout Cleaner:
Rub lightly with sandpaper, or use toothpaste and an old toothbrush.

Jewelry Cleaner:
Mix 1 teaspoon salt with 1 teaspoon baking soda in a jar, then fill jar halfway with quarter-sized bits of aluminum foil. Add warm water to cover. Drop jewelry in this mixture for 15 minutes to one hour. Dry and polish with a soft cloth.

Insecticides for Plants:
Mix 2 teaspoons Tabasco Sauce with 2 teaspoons liquid soap. Put into spray bottle and fill with water. Spray on plants, but don’t use too much.

“Feed The Birds –
Tuppence A Bag”

by Nicola Burnell

It’s snowing again! I climb into my snow pants and padded jacket that has me looking like a black version of the Michelin Man, careful not to leave a millimeter of my cotton pajamas exposed. I stuff my fleece-covered feet into tall rubber boots and head outdoors to feed the birds.

I could sip my coffee and pretend that I don’t see the empty bird feeders dangling off tree branches, caked in this latest batch of powdered-sugar snow, but their emptiness haunts me. I think of the scene in Mary Poppins, where the old lady stands in the middle of Covent Garden, pigeons dripping off her arms and perched on her head, and sings: “Feed the birds, tuppence a bag . . . . ”

Bird food may cost more than tuppence these days, but the birds that share my garden are as hungry as ever. I try to tiptoe through the sleeping lavender plants and straddle the rose bushes I replanted last year, but my boots are big and clumsy—I feel like a fairy elephant in a china shop.

Unable to pry the frozen top from the bird feeder, I chew off my gloves and spit them into the snow that is already several inches deep. I scoop the bird seed from the bag with a narrow trowel and tip it carefully into the thin tube. I learned the hard way that pouring the entire bag into the mouth of the feeder results in a mountain of seed on the ground and nothing but a few grains where it is meant to be. This process, despite my frozen fingers, takes lots of love and patience.

A bright red cardinal watches me from the bare stalks of wisteria. The familiar flutter of chickadee wings draws my attention to the gathering of birds on the clematis. My cat peers at me through the study window, her tail curling in anticipation of watching them take their turn at the feeder. I scan the trees for the red-tailed hawk that comes back to my neighborhood each winter, grateful that my cat is safely indoors.

These outdoor friends deserve as much attention as my indoor pets, I realize. It’s easy to forget about them, or hope that my neighbors are filling their bird feeders, but these birds give back so much, especially during the bleakest of winter months.

I never weary of listening to the melancholy sound of owls hooting to each other in the night. And I love to be serenaded by the dawn chorus of chickadees and cardinals and wrens, or watch them chase each other around the brush heaps that I never get around to cleaning up.

Each time I venture out to feed my feathered friends I scan the garden for signs of life. Snowdrops show their faces first, followed by the colorful carpet of crocuses. But it’s the loud sound of beak-upon-chimney-cap that heralds the return of the woodpecker, and the welcome of spring.

I sing “Feed the birds, tuppence a bag” as I shake a few seeds over the snow for the ground feeders. God knows what plants will sprout among the lavender and rose bushes this summer. Right now I am too cold to care. I clamber out of my boots and Michelin Man suit and wrap my hands around a hot mug of coffee. From the warmth of my chair in the study, I watch my cat watch the birds obediently await their turn at the filled bird feeder.

Nicola Burnell is the editor of this magazine. She lives in Harwich.

"First bunch of Daffs," watercolor by Vera Champlin, courtesy of Addison Art Gallery, Orleans



We invite readers to send in your
eco-friendly home remedies
and gardening tips
which we will post in the next issue. 


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