Restaurants are shuttered, schools are closed—and after a long and grueling trip to the supermarket, where you had to wait in line just to get in and where the toilet paper was being guarded like bars of gold, you realize you forgot something at the store.
The truth is, most of us will forget to buy something (or multiple things) over the next few weeks. Or in many cases, stores will be out of the very thing we went there to buy. And right now, cleanliness is top of mind.
Which is why we teamed up with cleaning experts from across the country to bring you a few helpful hacks. Fortunately, a lot of basic household items can come in handy in a pinch. So whether you forgot the shampoo, ran out of disinfecting wipes, or didn’t buy enough hand sanitizer, we’ve got you covered. Here are five common household items that will help you stay clean throughout quarantine.
No, not the kind you drink (although that might not hurt during these times, either). We’re talking about rubbing alcohol, also known as isopropyl alcohol. This all-purpose ingredient is good for more than cleaning cuts and scrapes.
“Alcohol can be used for disinfecting surfaces like counters and toilets, cleaning your mirrors and windows if you run out of glass cleaner, and even as an astringent for your face,” explains Afoma Umesi, editor of Oh So Spotless. “Mix it in equal amounts with water, and use a cotton ball to apply.”
Beyond fighting your acne and dirty windows, rubbing alcohol can also be combined with aloe vera gel to make hand sanitizer. (Be sure to use rubbing alcohol that is 99% alcohol, in order for your sanitizer to be truly effective against viruses, including the coronavirus.)
2. Baking soda
Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is one of those magic ingredients that can be used for much more than the name would suggest. So listen up if you thought this powerful little powder was just for baking muffins.
According to home organization expert Marty Basher of Modular Closets, baking soda can also be used as an oven cleaner, drain cleaner, and even produce wash.
“The combination of baking soda and vinegar works wonders to clean drains,” Basher says. “The foaming reaction cleans out grime and clogs and is a natural deodorizer.”
Pour a mixture of equal parts baking soda and vinegar down the drain, let sit for about 10 minutes, then flush with hot water.
Soaking fruits and veggies in a baking soda wash is also the most effective way to remove pesticides without peeling them, Basher adds.
Make a bath of roughly 1 teaspoon baking soda and per 2 cups water, and let your produce soak for up to 15 minutes.
But wait, there’s more! Running low on dish soap?
“Sodium bicarbonate works wonders cutting grease and foods left on dishes,” says Dean Davies, cleaning supervisor for Fantastic Services. “So next time you’re out of dish soap, dissolve 2 to 3 tablespoons of baking soda in 17 ounces [about 2 cups] of warm water, and use the solution to scrub and hand-wash your dishes.”
We also have it on good authority that baking soda can be used as a replacement for deodorant or mouthwash, as a stain remover, and even to treat heartburn. Forgot the Tums? Baking soda’s got your back.
Much like baking soda, vinegar is one of those awesome multipurpose ingredients that can be used for a lot—and we mean a lot—of different things. But one of the best ways to make good use of your vinegar is as a natural cleaning solution for bacteria-rich surfaces—like your computer or kitchen cutting board.
“That’s right, vinegar comes to the rescue when disinfecting computer keyboards and mouses,” Davies says.
Grab a small bowl, and mix equal parts white vinegar and warm water. Dampen a cotton swab in the solution, and pass it through all nooks and crannies of the keyboard (detach or turn it off first), and over the mouse.
“The smell might be unpleasant, but it will vanish completely within an hour,” Davies says.
Since cutting boards are one of the biggest germ hoarders in your home, you may want to use some vinegar to give it a good scrub once in a while.
“To prevent bacteria from spreading from the chopping board to your meal, soak a clean cotton cloth with undiluted white vinegar and vigorously scrub the cutting board,” Davies says. “Then rinse and wipe dry.”
4. Olive oil
It’s no surprise this natural moisturizer can be used as a stand-in for a handful of skincare products. But it might surprise you just how many. Skin cream, makeup remover, lip balm, and even shaving cream are all well within the use cases for this powerful natural oil.
“You can even use olive oil as a shaving cream,” explains Jon Gibbons, a cleaning consultant for Smart Vacuums. “It’s gentle on the skin and actually moisturizes as well as slicking up the skin for a shave.”
5. Lemons and limes
When life gives you lemons, use them in everything! Lemon and lime juice make for great additions or substitutes for a variety of DIY home cleaners and products. Here are a few creative ways to put those citric acids to work.
“You can use [lime] as a personal deodorant when mixed with baking soda, as a deodorizer for just about any home surface, as a natural hair gel, and it even works as a natural preservative for foods,” explains Norma Capin of Dallas Maids. “If you pour some in a dishwashing mix, [it] will work as a degreaser and give dishes a fresh smell, or you can add it to a natural shampoo—it will help to get rid of dandruff.”
Lemon mixed with sea salt also works wonders as a natural abrasive cleaning agent.