Going to the grocery store is a pain. Spending money is a pain. When it’s time to clean, avoid both these nuisances by using cleaners you already have! We’ve complied this list of common household items that may surprise you with their cleaning powers. Next time you’re writing up your shopping list, check this article and see if you can skip buying a commercial cleaner and trade it in for one of these.


12 cleaners you already have at home that are common household items


1. Potatoes

Yes, in another life the french fry is a blemish-removing cleaning machine! Potatoes contain oxalic acid, which makes them great for removing rust or silver tarnish. Just cut open a potato and rub the raw surface on the rust or tarnish until it’s gone. You can perform other tricks with this tuber, which we discuss more fully on our How to Clean with Potatoes Cleaning Tip.


2. Salt

Common table salt can be used for a large number of cleaning chores on its own, or in conjunction with some of the other cleaners on this list. Here are a few examples:

  • Cover just-spilled stains in a thick layer of salt. The salt will absorb the liquid and either lift or lessen the stain when brushed off.
  • You can also remove stains by soaking fabrics in cold salt water for few hours. After the soak, scrub the stain and then launder as usual.
  • Remove tarnish. Use the potato mentioned earlier with a little salt for more scrubbing power. You can also remove tarnish by creating a salt scrub. Create a thick paste from salt, vinegar, and a squirt or two of lemon juice, and apply to the affected area. Let it sit for a few seconds, then scrub off.

There are many more ways to clean with salt! Search “salt” on our website for more examples.


3. Vinegar

White vinegar is the all-powerful cleaning tool! It’s a natural disinfectant. It kills mold. It dissolves mineral deposits. It removes stains. Is there anything vinegar can’t do?! Actually, yes, there are a few things—vinegar is an acid and unsafe to use on things like treated wood or certain countertops. But overall, it’s a pretty wonderful thing.


4. Lemon

The lemon is another cleaning heavy-hitter that can used in a thousand different ways. It does the usual things like remove odor and fight stains, but it can also eat away at soap scum in your bathroom shower or sink. Learn more about the lemon on a separate page.


5. Ketchup

Yes, the potato’s frequent meal partner also moonlights as an effective household cleaner. Just like the potato, ketchup contains acid. It can remove tarnish and polish brass, copper, and silver. Just rub on, let it sit for a few moments, and then wipe away to find a shinier surface underneath.


6. Rice

Do you have vases with openings too tiny for you to put your hand inside them? If you do, don’t worry; you can clean them anyway! Pour in a cup or so of water and a cup of uncooked rice. For more cleaning power, add two tablespoons of vinegar and a squirt of dish soap. Shake the vase and the rice will scrub the inside! Dump this mixture out, rinse the vase, and then let it air dry.

You can also use rice to clean your spice or coffee grinder out between uses. Grind up half a cup of uncooked rice and then pour it out. The rice will dislodge lingering particles and carry them out with it when it gets dumped out.


7. Hair Spray

Use hairspray to remove marker from carpet and some other fabrics (do not use hairspray on silk). Just spray on a rag, then dab at the marker. Continue until the stain is gone.


8. Toothpaste

Toothpaste is a mild abrasive that can remove marks without damaging the surface beneath. It’s especially great for removing crayon from walls or water rings from wooden tabletops. Check out How to Clean with Toothpaste to learn more!


9. Baking Soda

This another one of the common household items that lifts stains. Make a paste with water and apply to the stain. Baking soda also absorbs odors. When you want to naturally absorb a stink, sprinkle some baking soda on it. Let the baking soda sit for a few minutes (or even hours), then clean it up. Your nose will find no trace of the offending smell.


10. Chalk

Pretreat grease stains on your laundry with white chalk. Just rub a little on the stain to absorb it right up. You should then be able to launder the item as usual.


11. Ice Cubes

If your garbage disposal is emitting a gross smell, there could be food stuck somewhere. You can safely dislodge it with ice! Pour ice into the disposal, run a little water, and turn the disposal on. It may make a horrible noise, but it will be clean afterwards.

Of course, ice is also the perfect bubblegum-remover. Just rub the gum with ice until it hardens. Then it’ll be a breeze to remove.


12. Bread

Is the painting in the living room looking a little dusty? Roll a piece of bread into a ball and use it to dab the surface of the painting. The dust will leave, but the paint will remain. You should not use this method if your painting is very old or valuable; instead consult a conservator.

You can also use bread to remove smudges and fingerprints from walls. This is especially helpful if you have a stucco surface or a non-washable wallpaper.


Cleaners You Already Have

Do you know of more common household items that people can use to clean? Share these cleaners you already have in the comments below!