5 Pantry Items That Double as Cleaning Supplies

Yes, it is possible (and easy!) to clean your house and your clothes without chemicals or pricey products. Billee Sharp, author of Lemons and Lavender, shares her secret ingredients for all-natural cleaning.

Save Collection

Distilled Vinegar

"If I could only use one item to clean with, it would be vinegar," says Sharp. A natural disinfectant and “cheap as dirt," vinegar deals with stains, grease and mold — especially in the shower. "I've cleaned my whole house with just a spray bottle of vinegar and a little liquid soap," she adds. To make it smell good, she adds a few drops of calming lavender oil (also a natural disinfectant), which you can find for less than $10 at local health-food stores. Just remember, you're not making gallons, you're making a small bottle. Because they contain no preservatives, DIY cleaning mixes don’t last very long.

Baking Soda

It’s a great deodorizer around the house and can be used on clothing, furniture or carpets. Sharp uses it to make an eco-friendly oven cleaner. “Since the oven is where you cook your food, it’s better to skip the chemicals,” she explains. Make a paste by adding water, or equal parts water and vinegar, to 1 cup of baking soda. Coat the inside of the oven and leave overnight. In the morning, turn the oven on low heat for an hour, then let cool. Use a spray bottle of water and vinegar to soften the hardened paste, and use elbow grease to scrub it off. It can also be used to make veggie wash: Sprinkle into a bowl of water, let veggies soak for few minutes, then rinse. 

Coarse Salt

Some people swear by scouring pots, pans and cooking surfaces with salt. It absorbs oil and grease, making it great for stovetop goop, says Sharp. Sprinkle it on and go to town with a sponge. “Eco-cleaning solutions take a bit more elbow grease sometimes, but it’s worth it in the end,” she adds.


This citrus fruit is a natural lightening agent that you can use in place of bleach, says Sharp. Throw discolored white socks, towels or shirts in a stockpot with water and a few used lemons; simmer for a little while to lighten. Instead of discarding lemon halves after you’ve used their juice for cooking, save them to use as scrubbers for cleaning wood cutting boards without damaging them. You can also use fresh lemon juice mixed with baking soda to brighten white tiles, the sink or tub, or make natural wood polish for floors by mixing a little fresh lemon juice with olive oil.



Sharp uses yogurt to clean and polish copper pans, kitchen accessories and sinks. “Most conventional alternatives are fairly chemical,” she explains. Coat the copper surface with plain yogurt, and let it sit until it turns green (about 30 minutes), then wipe away with an old cloth and the copper will shine brilliantly, she says.

Related Pages