Utah Department of Public Safety

Emergency Management - Recipes for a Healthy Home

Cora Liikala
Joe E. Heimlich

Chemicals are all around us. They occur in nature and in all activities that people undertake. The danger with chemicals in the home is the concentration and combination of synthetic and natural chemicals we choose to use.

There are many alternatives to the commercial chemicals for cleaning and maintaining the household. One alternative is to choose less hazardous materials. A second alternative is to use common household substances for other purposes by creating "recipes" that aid in household use. Many of these recipes are ideas that some of us grew up with, we heard from our parents or grandparents, or that we read in books on "the way it used to be."

In preparing recipes for household use, there are three basic functions of household cleaners: to cut grease, to scour (be abrasive) and to disinfect. These principles come from the purpose of our cleaning. Sometimes we need something that will cut through grease or filmy substances. For these occasions, we often need an acidic solution or a strong base. A second need is for scouring products. For this, we look for things in the house that are abrasive. A third purpose for cleaning is to sanitize or sterilize. To do this, we need some kind of chemical that has antiseptic properties.

Given these assumptions, here are a few recipes for your cleaning file. You may have many others that work equally well for you, or you may find ways to adapt these recipes for your own use.


Drain Cleaner

1 cup salt boiling water
Pour salt down the drain: follow with boiling water. This clears the pipes and avoids clogging.

Oven Cleaner

Vinegar: Wash with straight vinegar. Pour extra vinegar over burned-on areas, shut the oven door and leave to soak. After two hours, wipe off the vinegar, rinsing the sponge or cleaning cloth frequently with warm water.

Chrome and Stainless Steel

Flour: Simply dip a soft cloth into ordinary white flour and rub the object until it shines.
Vinegar: Wipe with a soft cloth dipped in undiluted vinegar.

Degreaser and Scum Remover

Pour vinegar directly on the area and wipe with a damp soft cloth. Do not use on marble surfaces.

Copper and Brass Cleaner

1/2 cup salt 1/2 cup flour white vinegar
Heat vinegar until warm; add to salt and flour, enough to make a paste. Spread cleaner on copper or brass. Let dry; brush off with a soft cloth.

For a quick once-over, a lemon half dipped in salt and scrubbed over the copper surface will do the trick. Polish dry with a soft cloth.

Silver Cleaner I

  • 1 sheet aluminum foil
  • boiling water
  • 1 glass baking dish
  • 2 Tbsp. baking soda

Crush sheet of aluminum foil (shiny side up) and place it at the bottom of a glass baking dish. Arrange cutlery pieces on it so that they do not touch each other. Fill the baking dish with boiling water and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of baking soda to every quart of water used. After five minutes, remove silver and dry with a soft cloth. DO NOT USE THIS METHOD ON PIECES OF SILVER THAT ARE GLUED.

Silver Cleaner II

  • aluminum pan
  • boiling water
  • 1 Tbsp. soda
  • 1 Tbsp. salt

Bring this mixture to boil in the pan. Drop your flatware into it as it boils, doing only a few pieces at a time. Let them boil for three minutes, then take them out and let them drain on a soft cloth, drying them to a shine with a second cloth. Do not overcrowd the pot--it can be confusing to remember which pieces have already done their three minutes and which ones still have time to go; also, it can lower the temperature of the liquid, thereby lowering its efficiency.

Intricately patterned or pieces that are glued should probably be cleaned with a commercial cleaner.

A minute layer of the silver is removed each time you use these methods. However, the conventional method of polishing silver rubs off the same small layer.


Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Baking Soda: Sprinkle baking soda in basin and scrub with a damp soft cloth. Rinse with warm water.

Lime and Mineral Deposit Remover

Soak paper towels in vinegar. Apply the paper towels to the lime deposits around the faucets, fixtures or crevices. Let stand approximately one hour. The deposits will be softened and can be removed easily with a damp cloth. Do not use on marble vanity tops.

General Household


Fresh Lemons: Quantity of Borax and water. Cut a fresh lemon in half. Hold it within a cloth, dipping with cut edge down into warm water and borax. Rub the marble surface with this lemon pad; then polish with a soft dry cloth.

All-Purpose Cleaner

4 Tbsp. baking soda
1 quart warm water

Dissolve baking soda in warm water. Apply with a sponge. Rinse with clean water. Flour or salt can also be used with water to form progressively more abrasive cleansers.

Glass Cleaner

2 Tbsp. white vinegar
1 quart water

Mix vinegar with water. Increasing the vinegar will deepen the cleaning action. Put into labeled spray bottle.

Furniture Cleaner and Polish

3 cups olive oil
1 cup vinegar

Mix together until well blended. Use several drops of polish on a soft dry cloth and apply to furniture. Rub well to remove any excess polish. Do not apply to marble surfaces.

[Last Update - Friday, 08-Mar-2013 16:25:54 MST]