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If you’ve been putting off spring cleaning because you don’t want to spend a fortune on supplies this year, a Saint Louis University germ expert says it’s time to stop procrastinating.
You mostly need vinegar, bleach and soap – and not a bunch of specialized supplies – to spiff up your house, says Donna Duberg, assistant professor of clinical laboratory science at Saint Louis University.
“In addition to being inexpensive and probably ingredients you already have at home, these products are all environmentally friendly,” she says.
Duberg begins her cleaning regime by scrubbing with hot soapy water. She uses Ivory, which is pure soap – no deodorant, no chemicals, no lotions and no colors. “Besides, it’s cheap. You don’t need to be spending all that money for antibacterial soaps,” she says.
Bleach, which many people use in the wash to brighten their white clothes, is the magic ingredient that Duberg suggests to clean most bathrooms, which are magnets for bacteria. Duberg mixes a 10 percent bleach solution – one part bleach to nine parts water – which she puts in a spray bottle. The bleach-water loses its potency after 24 hours, so Duberg makes a fresh solution every day she cleans.
For run-of-the mill dirt, she sprays it on surfaces and lets it sit for about 10 minutes before she washes it off with soapy water. But if she’s cleaning areas where germs like the foodborne bacteria Salmonella are likely to lurk, she lets the bleach solution sit for a half hour before wiping it off.
White distilled vinegar is the other key tool in Duberg’s cleaning kit. She calls it a grease buster because it contains acetic acid, which breaks down oils. She keeps a squirt bottle of 10 percent vinegar solution on hand for general cleaning because it keeps indefinitely.
“It leaves behind a nice shine and a fresh smell,” she says.
She uses the vinegar solution to clean her kitchen counters and remove the waxy coating on fruits and vegetables sold at grocery stores.
“The nice thing about vinegar is it’s natural,” she says.
To clean windows, Duberg spritzes them with the vinegar solution and wipes them with a wad of recycled newspaper. “It takes all of the dirt and oils off the windows,” she says.
You don’t have to scrub any harder with bleach or vinegar solution than you do with more expensive cleaning products, Duberg says. Give the stuff time to work. Spray surfaces and let the bleach- or vinegar-water sit for a while so it can kill germs, de-grease and attack ground-in dirt.
Soap, vinegar and bleach are the staples our grandparents used to use, when specialized products on the market weren’t so plentiful, Duberg adds. Look at scaling back on supplies as returning to a simpler time.
“Cleaning can be a real chore, and spending lots of money to buy fancy products can add insult to injury, particularly if your household budget is taking a beating. Save your money to indulge yourself in other ways.”