This post was written by contributor NJ Renie.

Every winter, in the coldest part of the season, Chinese tradition dictates that my family cleans our home top to bottom, lest we sweep our good fortune out the front door during the upcoming lunar New Year.

As you can imagine this kind of cleaning uncovers the neglected and ignored places: the top of the fridge, behind the radiators, and those thingys under the burners on the range. The “cleaning needs” aisle has hundreds of products that promise miracles on the front label and catalog a litany of warnings on the back. When tackling a year of grime it is tempting to go for the quick and easy, but I have found that it is almost always overkill. In fact, everything you need is likely very safe and on hand.


People are unusually passionate about cleaning with vinegar –and why not? Vinegar is a powerful, yet safe, acid and disinfectant, and can be used to break up stains or grease. It also works well on wax (as a beekeeper and someone with crayon-loving child I can promise you that it comes in very handy.) A product of a million uses and dirt cheap, vinegar is an essential home product that you can’t live without.

Club Soda

Tried and true, but harder to come by as the cocktail party has gone by the wayside, club soda is famous for being spritzed on fabric in order to remove wine stains, but it can also be used to clean glass, stainless steel, and porcelain (no need to crack a new one, it will work just as well if it is flat). Club soda and seltzer water are weak Carbonic Acid solutions. Rust, lime, and greasy stains all will weaken or disappear when exposed to club soda. It has many of the advantages of vinegar without the smell and also doubles as a refreshing zero calorie beverage.

Shaving Cream

Not just for grooming and practical jokes, shaving cream is gentle enough for your face or legs, but actually a powerful soap. Great as a foaming carpet cleaner, spray shaving cream on a spill, let sit for half an hour and then rub out with a towel. Dab a little on tough grime and let it work up the dirt as you relax.


Remove ink stains, adhesives, and scuff marks, as well as tree sap from hands and clothing using alcohol. Because of its chemical makeup alcohol acts a powerful solvent which is able to remove many stains which resist other cleaning methods. The rubbing alcohol in your medicine cabinet works fine, but the seventeen year old vodka leftover from your college graduation party will work just as well. Warning: rubbing alcohol is toxic if ingested and please consider all alcohol highly flammable!

Distilled Water

Hard water is better tasting, but distilled water does not contain the ions that interfere with soap’s ability to lather. The softer your water, the better your soap will work. Adding soda ash to hard water works on this same principle and will have like results, if you don’t have any distilled water lying around. But perhaps you should– due to its lacks of impurities, distilled water is ideal for use when diluting homemade cleaning solutions.

This year when you start your family’s Deep Clean, try a few of these and see the results for yourself. The hidden power of our medicine cabinets and pantries are greater than most of us realize.

What are your Deep Clean traditions and best homemade cleaners?