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You don’t have to be a fully paid-up neat freak to be interested in natural alternatives to traditional cleaning supplies. Even for the least domestic of goddesses (or gods), it’s helpful to know a couple of tricks using items already on hand in your kitchen pantry. After all, they’re cheap, non-toxic and often save you a schlep to the shops. What’s not to love? With that in mind, here are five tried-and-true, all-natural domestic shortcuts that are such a doddle you’ll find yourself using them all the time.
Deter fruit flies with used wine bottle corks
Most of us hardly need an excuse to crack open that bottle of pinot, but did you know that wine bottle corks can be used to ward off fruit flies? Just sling them into your fruit bowl and, hey presto! Fruit-flies-begone. Not bad for a house cleaning hack that requires the same amount of effort as chucking your bungs straight into the bin – and given that council waste collections generally don’t accept corks for recycling, you’ll also be helping the environment by giving them a handy new purpose.
Repair surface scratches on wood with walnuts
More than just a delicious addition to waldorf salads, walnuts can also be used to repair surface scratches on your wooden furniture or floorboards. Rub a fresh walnut over the damaged area, making sure that you apply sufficient pressure for the oils in the nut to be released. Buff the spot with a soft cloth, et voila, the marks will have faded and the wood will be resealed.
Clean your wooden cutting boards with salt and lemon
Wooden cutting boards are a bit of an all-natural house cleaning hack in themselves, as studies have shown that they contain antibacterial properties which help neutralise harmful bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli. To keep them in top condition, you can give them a deep clean once a month or so using lemon and salt. (You’ll be amazed at the amount of grey gunk it lifts). Sprinkle the surface of the board with a generous amount of coarse-grained salt, such as rough sea salt or kosher salt. Scour the surface with one half of a chopped lemon, squeezing a little as you go to release the juice. Leave the mixture to sit for about five minutes, then scrape it off with a metal spatula or similar implement. To finish, give your chopping board one last rinse with a clean wet sponge.
Fix squeaky doors with olive oil
Next time your doors are squeaking, try dabbing a bit of olive oil on the hinges with a paper towel. You’ll not only avoid a trip to the hardware store for a spray can of lubricant, you’ll also being doing your bit for the planet. Even though aerosol cans in Australia no longer contain ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re good for the environment. They still contain hydrocarbons and/or compressed gases that contribute to global warming. CFC-free aerosol cans also emit volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, that contribute to ground-level ozone, a key ingredient in smog.
Banish cockroaches with essential oils
Most city-dwellers will be familiar with – whisper it – the domestic scourge that is the cockroach. For those of us who have tried to banish this most unwelcome of house guests, it’s all too easy to believe that, in the event of a nuclear winter, it’s the roaches, and not us, who would emerge from the rubble, dusting themselves off. Urban legends aside, cockroaches do appear to have an aversion to some essential oils, such as peppermint, cypress and tea tree. You’ll find a plethora of different methods using these ingredients online, but one popular method is to mix eight drops of cypress oil and 10 drops of peppermint oil in half a glass of water and spray the mixture in areas where cockroaches tend to congregate. This won’t do the trick by itself, though. Your first line of defence is to keep your house scrupulously clean. And, in cases of serious infestation, nothing less than a professional extermination service will deter the little blighters.