Surprising Pantry Items Naturally Clean and Freshen Your Home

By Marie Proeller Hueston

Household cleaning is a never-ending chore. And while it may not be our favorite pastime, it’s absolutely necessary. With cleaning being such a large part of home maintenance, the cleaners we use are worth serious consideration. More and more people are turning away from traditional chemicals and buying more eco-friendly, non-toxic alternatives.  A few drops of peppermint, lavender, or rosemary will leave your home smelling naturally great after your cleaning chores—consider it motivation to keep going back. It really is as simple as a trip to the pantry! So check out these recipes for homemade cleaners from Karyn Siegel-Maier’s “The Naturally Clean Home.” They’ll empower you to freshen, clean, and disinfect without the chemicals. It’s never been so easy to be green.

The Naturally Clean Home

Karyn Siegel-Maier can often be found in her kitchen, creating concoctions of common household ingredients that vanquish dirt, germs, and odors.


Sprinkle salt on fresh grease stains in the oven. When the oven cools, wipe clean with a soft cloth.


Sanitize wooden cutting boards by rubbing them with half of a freshly cut lemon. For a cleaning bonus, toss the rind in the garbage disposal to keep it smelling fresh.

Cream of Tartar

To remove stains on tablecloths or clothing, combine two tablespoons of cream of tartar with two drops of peppermint, eucalyptus, or lemon essential oil. Add just enough water to make a paste. Spread the paste over the stain and allow it to dry before washing.


To clean and remove tarnish from copper, mix a half-cup of ketchup with two tablespoons cream of tartar. Spread on the copper and let stand for an hour. Rinse first in soapy water and then in clean water. Dry thoroughly.

Vanilla Extract

To preserve a fresh-smelling refrigerator, pour two ounces vanilla extract (imitation is fine) into a saucer or a small, shallow bowl. Place the vanilla on a lower shelf and leave it for a few days.

Olive Oil

To keep terra-cotta pots looking clean and new, coat them inside and out with a light layer of olive oil.

Baking Soda

Baking soda neutralizes scents, can whiten sinks and toilets, and remove dirt and grime, which makes it an excellent cleaning agent with the added benefit of deodorizing your spaces.

Additionally, baking soda can be used to absorb bad odors by simply placing it in the offending area.

For example, a box of baking soda can be placed in the refrigerator to absorb any bad food smells. Sprinkle a little baking soda in the bottom of the trash can when you put in a new bag. It will help absorb the odors of the trash.

Using Flowers and Plants to Naturally Freshen Your Home

Bringing the fresh smell of nature directly into your home is one of the best ways to freshen it. Not only do plants and flowers smell great, but they can even improve the air quality in your home.

Buy fresh cut flowers when you can to keep in your home. If you can grow some of your own flowers, you can use your own instead of spending money on flowers that don’t stay alive very long.

Fresh cut flowers are great, but house plants are even better because they don’t need to be cut to clean the air in your home and make it smell great. Certain house plants are better at improving your indoor air quality than others.

If you’ve never had a house plant before (or you have a hard time remember to keep them alive) start with an easy to care for plant. Make a watering schedule for yourself so you don’t forget to care for your plants, and leave reminders for yourself.

If you don’t want to keep house plants, at least make sure to open up your windows and doors on a regular basis and let your home “air out”. It will help keep your home from becoming “stuffy” and will bring in better quality air from the outdoors.

Fabric Spray

If you don’t have a diffuser, here is another quick and easy way to improve the smells in your home with essential oils. Just fill a small spray bottle with water, a bit of baking soda, and your favorite essential oil. Shake well, and use as a fabric refreshing spray! Lavender is a natural choice because of it’s calming properties, but citrus oils like lemon, tangerine, sweet orange, and grapefruit are a great way to get a natural energy boost!

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