5. All-purpose product: Lemon juice.
What it will clean: Removes stains in countertop or breadboard.
What it will replace: "Lemon juice is nature's bleach and disinfectant," says Cobb. Use it wherever you want a deep cleanser.
6. All-purpose product: Diluted bleach and water.
What it will clean: Good for hard surfaces.
What it will replace: Ultra-strong disinfectant sprays you don't want around Baby. Chlorine bleach is the harshest chemical on this list, and should be handled with great care and kept away from kids and pets. Keep in mind that bleach fumes, or bleach-sprayed counters that aren't wiped down well, can destroy fabrics (even when diluted) or be toxic. Never mix with an ammonia-based product (such as window cleaner) or an acid (such as vinegar).
All-purpose product: Baking soda.
What it will clean: "Baking soda is nature's abrasive," says Cobb. Use it on any surface you want to scrub.
What it will replace: Harsh cleansers.
8. All-purpose product: Tang (Yes, the orange-flavored breakfast drink you drank in 1976.)
What it will clean: The toilet, because it's a citric-acid based product. "Put in a teaspoon of Tang once a week, swish, and flush," says Cobb.
What it will replace: Any chemical-based toilet cleaner. Tang is safe—indeed, edible! Cobb says, "You'll never have to worry about kids or pets getting into the toilet."
More Favorite Basics
Sophie Uliano, author of Housecleaning the Gorgeously Green Girl's Way, also has a list of eight simple ingredients to keep your cleaning streamlined and safe. In addition to vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda, she recommends hydrogen peroxide (instead of chlorine bleach), liquid castile soap, borax, olive oil for a polish, and essential oils of geranium, lavender, and tea tree.
Streamline to Save Time
One of the beauties of using multipurpose products is that it spares you a few minutes of cleaning time. Instead of a different product for each cleaning task, the more overlap you can muster the more efficient you'll be. For one thing, when you use multiple types of products you need to be extremely careful about the potential for mixing them. Chlorine and ammonia together, for example, start a volatile chemical reaction that releases some very toxic gases. Read your labels carefully. And remember, urine contains ammonia, so be cautious with diaper pails or litter boxes too.
You'll save time taking out and stowing away (and shopping for) multiple products, and you'll save on storage space.
Everybody's got her own favorite cleaning supplies, of course, minimal or otherwise. Find what works for you and your home, and see how efficient you can be with whatever you choose. It just may leave you more time to enjoy the summer ahead!