Got Stains? The Solution Might Just Be In Your Pantry

It’s no secret that almost all conventional household cleaners contain some toxic ingredients. Many contain carcinogens or suspected carcinogens, as well. However, the danger the chemicals pose really depends on how often you use the products in which they’re found and the length of time you’re exposed to the fumes.

This bit of “grandmother knowledge” is a great alternative to the toxic cleaners. Most of the following recipes contain ingredients that can all be made right from your kitchen-cabinet!

Note: These Stain Solutions are safe on most fabrics, but do not use alkaline materials (borax or soap) on wool or silk; these fabrics only tolerate acids like vinegar or lemon juice. Spot-test first to make sure the remedy is compatible with the dyes. These basic minerals and acids need time to work their magic; most treatments should be left on the stains for at least half an hour, in some cases longer. After treating the fabric, launder as appropriate.


Natural Solution: White vinegar or lemon juice; washing soda

Instructions: Soak stains in white vinegar or lemon juice for one hour; rinse. If there is some remaining stain, dampen the area with water, make a paste of equal parts washing soda and water, and rub it in gently.


Natural Solution: Cold water; hydrogen peroxide; corn starch

Instructions: Soak in cold water. For stubborn stains, soak in hydrogen peroxide (a natural bleach; spot-test to make sure it won’t affect the fabric). Or use a paste of equal parts corn starch and cold water.


Natural Solution: Vegetable-based detergent or soap; digestive enzymes

Instructions: Mix 1 teaspoon liquid soap or detergent with 1 cup of water, and soak the stained area. To remove the dairy component, buy digestive-enzyme tablets at a natural-foods store, grind up three or four tablets, and add equal parts water to make a damp paste. Gently rub the solution into the stain. Leave for at least one hour.

Coffee and Tea

Natural Solution: White vinegar or lemon juice; cream of tartar

Instructions: Soak the stain in straight white vinegar or lemon juice for one hour. If there was milk in the tea or coffee, follow directions for removing dairy protein under “Chocolate.” Alternatively, clean with a paste made of cream of tartar and water.


Natural Solution: White vinegar

Instructions: Soak the area in white vinegar for one hour. Alternatively, use an enzyme paste (see “Chocolate.”)


Natural Solution: Ice

Instructions: Freeze with a wrapped ice cube, then peel off the frozen gum.


Natural Solution: White vinegar; milk

Instructions: Soak in milk or white vinegar.


Natural Solution: Citrus solvent

Instructions: Soak the area in citrus solvent for 10 minutes.


Natural Solution: Shampoo

Instructions: Saturate the area with shampoo, then launder as usual. If the perspiration stains remain, use an enzyme paste (see “Chocolate.”)

Tomato Sauce

Natural Solution: White vinegar; washing soda; borax

Instructions: Soak in white vinegar. Alternatively, make a paste of equal parts washing soda or borax and water and rub in gently.


Natural Solution: Hot iron

Instructions: Place a clean cotton rag over the wax and iron, making sure not to overheat the fabric. Blot the melted wax with an absorbent rag as you go to remove the residue.


Natural Solution: Boiling water; club soda

Instructions: The carbonation in club soda works wonders as a stain lifter, and doesn’t require much manual labor on your part. If the stain is fresh, absorb extra moisture by first blotting the area with a clean, dry cloth. Next, apply a small amount of club soda to the stain and allow it to fizz for 15 to 25 minutes. Gently blot the area with a damp sponge and absorb excess liquid with a clean, dry cloth.

Spruce Up Your Running Shoes

Natural Solution: Toothpaste

Instructions: Good old-fashioned toothpaste works wonders to whiten running shoes. Just apply a bit to any scuff marks and rub with a damp cloth. Rinse the area gently and wipe clean. Your favorite joggers will be as good as new in no time!

Remove Grease from Leather

Natural Solution: Talcum powder

Instructions: Grease stains are often nightmares. Thankfully, a little talcum powder can help remove grease from expensive leather upholstery, shoes or accessories. First, blot the area with a clean, dry rag. Then, sprinkle just enough talcum powder to completely cover the grease stain. Rub the talcum powder into the stain with a clean scrub brush (a toothbrush works too) using circular motions. Let the powder sit for at least three hours, and then wipe it away with a clean, dry rag.


Natural Solution: Shortening

Instructions: Dab the stain with a small amount of vegetable shortening and then wash the garment with baking soda. Cold cream and even some hairsprays work to get lipstick stains out, too!


Natural Solution: Vinegar, water and dish soap

Instructions: If that delicious condiment happens to drip somewhere it shouldn’t, relax. Simply combine half a teaspoon of dish soap with a half cup of water and a capful of white vinegar. Treat the stain with the mixture, rinse and launder.

Instant Shoe Polish

Natural Solution: Banana peel

Instructions: If your favorite pair of shoes have become stained and dirty, grab your favorite breakfast must-have from the kitchen—a banana! Rub the inside of the peel on your shoes, allow to dry, and buff away any scuffs.

Mildew in Porcelain & Tile

Natural Solution: Lemon juice

Instructions: Mildew stains can be one of the toughest household stains to battle. To treat, douse the area thoroughly with fresh lemon juice and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Scrub with a heavy-bristle brush.

Stubborn Grease Stains

Natural Solution: Baking soda

Instructions: After cooking a feast, grease stains are the last thing you want to deal with. Pre-treat the stains with a baking soda paste (mix with a bit of water) and then sprinkle a bit more to the wash load. Grease stains are gone!

Polish your Silver

Natural Solution: Baking soda and aluminum foil

Instructions: Tarnished silverware can ruin your fancy dinner party. To treat tarnish stains, add 1/3 to 1/2 cup of simple household baking soda to a gallon of water and bring to a boil. Line a pan with aluminum foil. The pan should be large enough to hold the items you are treating. Add your silver items to the foil-lined pan, and then pour the boiling cleaning solution into the pan making sure you cover all of your silver items. Once cool, remove the silver items, rinse with cool water, and dry with a soft cloth. Your tarnished silver will be restored to its high-shine natural stat

Rug and Upholstery Cleaner

Natural Solution: Cornmeal

Instructions: Rather than buying a pricey dry carpet cleaner, sprinkle cornmeal on dry rugs and then vacuum. The powder will help lift dirt stains and grime. Try using club soda to shampoo the rug for extra credit!

Wood Surface Stains

Natural Solution: Mineral oil and lemon juice

Instructions: Wood surfaces are beautiful but can be sensitive to harsh chemicals. To polish your pieces safely, mix 1/2 teaspoon of mineral oil with 1/4 cup of lemon juice, spray, and use a soft cotton cloth to shine and clean surfaces. Use a clean, dry cloth to shine, polish and dry the areas.

Clean a Stainless Steel Sink

Natural Solution: Baking soda and water

Instructions: Water spots and tough stains can make your sink look gross! To clean, mix four tablespoons of baking soda with a quart of water. Wet a clean cloth with the mixture, wring it out until damp and then wipe out the sink. When the sink is clean, wipe it out again with a clean, dry cloth.

Scrub your Oven

Natural Solution: Baking soda, salt and water

Instructions: To nix that baked-on ring on your burner pan, mix 1/4 cup of baking soda and two tablespoons of salt with enough hot water to make a paste. Apply the paste and let it sit for 5 minutes before scrubbing clean with a cloth or brush.

Your Grandmother will be proud!

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