30 Things You Can Clean Right Now Using Pantry Staples

updated Nov 20, 2020
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Credit: Sarah Crowley/Apartment Therapy

Sometimes cleaning things can make us feel better, and not just because an item that was dirty isn’t anymore. Seeing the result of our efforts and controlling what we can, along with good old-fashioned channeling our anxious/angry/restless energy into something productive can calm nerves and turn around a sour mood. 

But what if you want to clean, say, your windows; you muster up the energy to go do it; and realize you don’t have window cleaner? Before you resign to do it “another time,” consider this list. We’ve rounded up a bunch of things you can clean in and around your house using pantry items that most people are likely to always have on hand.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

1. Windows

First up? You guessed it … windows! You don’t need a special glass cleaner. Instead, grab 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol, 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, and two cups warm water. Put it all in a spray bottle and shake up the solution. Instant window cleaner.

2. Fake Flowers

Delicate silk flowers can be cleaned with salt. Put some salt in a bag or pillowcase, add your flowers, and shake gently. The salt will dislodge dust. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

3. Fake Plants

Need to shine up waxy fake house plants? Use a bit of mayo as polish and they’ll have new life brought into them.

4. Stainless Steel Appliances

Stainless steel appliances, large and small, can all be cleaned with white vinegar. Pour some into a spray bottle, mist the smudges, and wipe with a soft cloth. Buff dry to avoid streaking. Wiping down with a touch of oil adds shine. 

Credit: Cat Meschia/Kitchn

5. TV Screens

You don’t need a specialty cleaner to get those smudges off your flatscreen. Grab a microfiber cloth, dust the surface of your screen, then dip your cloth in a solution of white vinegar and distilled water and wring so it’s barely damp. Gently wipe the screen down and then buff with a dry microfiber cloth. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

6. Mattresses

Sheet day may bring you face to face with a mattress that’s not so fresh. Sprinkle it with baking soda, rub it in, let it sit, and then vacuum it up.  

7. Leather Furniture

Olive oil can repair scratches, restore color, and add luster to worn-out leather seats (as well as shoes and other leather items). Just dab a little onto a soft cloth and gently rub it in.

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani/Kitchn

8. Jewelry

Have some tarnished silver bracelets? Get them sparkling again with 2 tablespoons of baking soda and 2 tablespoons of salt.

9. Floors and Carpets

A solution of white distilled vinegar and water can clean both your hard floors and carpets. Vinegar helps dissolve stains, and deodorizes. Use a mop for floors and mist your solution onto carpets for stain and odor removal. 

Credit: Erika Tracy

10. Cutting Boards

The next time you use a lemon, don’t toss your extra half. Instead, pull out your wooden cutting boards and grab some salt from the pantry. Sprinkle the salt and scour your cutting board with it, using the halved lemon as your “sponge.” The salt abrades grime, and the lemon deodorizes and cleanses. Scrape everything off with a bench scraper and rinse clean. 

11. Dingy Sheets

Make your white sheets look fresh again by adding half a cup of baking soda directly to the drum of your washing machine. Vinegar in the fabric softener compartment seals the deal.

Credit: Cat Meschia/Kitchn

12. Bathtubs

Liquid dish soap is formulated to cut through grease on dishes, but it cuts through all grease — including the stuff from our bodies. Instead of worrying about bathroom cleaner, just grab your Dawn.

13. Toilets

Dishwasher tablets are pretty magical. You should definitely use one to clean your oven door, but you should also use one to clean your toilet!

Credit: Joe Lingeman

14. Faucet Heads

If you have hard water where you live, the minerals can build up in your faucet and mess with the water spray. Soak the head in a bag or cup of vinegar and the holes will get cleaned right out.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

15. The Finish on Faucets

Once you get the spray/stream just right, you might also want to polish up the finish on your faucet too. Our tip? Use a bit of cooking spray!

16. Playing Cards

A grimy deck of cards can be cleaned by shaking them in a zip-top bag with a bit of flour. 

Credit: Brittany Purlee

17. Washing Machines

It might seem unnecessary to have to clean a machine that does the cleaning, but over time soap scum and detergent buildup can start causing problems. Instead of buying a special cleaner or using harsh chemicals, just add in some vinegar.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

18. Dishwashers

If hard water leaves stains on your dishes, imagine what it’s doing to the inside of your dishwasher. Even if hard water isn’t an issue, you can clean your dishwasher’s interior with vinegar. Pour a couple cups of vinegar into the bottom of your unit and run an empty cycle. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

19. Coffee Makers

Another win (there are so many!) for vinegar. Hard water and general use could mean there’s more than you bargained for lurking in your coffee maker. Run distilled white vinegar through it to descale it and you just may notice a difference in how your coffee tastes. 

Credit: Dana Velden

20. Copper

Clean copper cookware with a half-and-half mixture of salt and ketchup. Work the mixture into your copper with a cotton cleaning cloth and then buff it out with another cloth. 

Credit: Cambria Bold

21. Coffee Grinders

If you use your coffee grinder to grind spices, you probably want to make sure any flavor remnants are gone before you brew your next morning cup. (Or maybe not!) But even regular use of your grinder for coffee beans leaves behind oils. To clean the blades, grind some rice. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

22. Cast Iron

The best bet for cleaning your cast iron skillet? A bit of salt! Sprinkle some on and scrub with a brush. The flakes are abrasive enough to lift off burnt-on food but not so abrasive that they’ll mess with your seasoning.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

23. Stainless Steel Sinks

To really give your stainless steel sink the spa treatment, buff it with flour. Clean it, dry it, and then sprinkle the basin with flour. Rub with a paper towel. You’ll be surprised at the dirt and grime that the flour pulls out of the little grooves in the stainless steel. 

24. Stained Coffee Mugs

A mug marked with coffee stains won’t hurt you, but it’s not particularly appetizing (a fact you realize when you go to serve yourself). To erase coffee stains, make a paste of dish soap and salt, rub on the stains, and rinse clean. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

25. Stained Plastic Containers

Those plastic containers with tomato sauce and turmeric stains that bug you? Clean them with just some baking soda and vinegar.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

26. Rusty Knives and Scissors

Potatoes contain oxalic acid, which helps break down rust. To clean rust from knives and scissors, cut a potato in half, dip it in dish soap or baking soda, and scrub. This will also work with a cast iron skillet!

Credit: Joe Lingeman

27. White Canvas Shoes

White shoes can get dirty quickly! Clean them up with a solution of vinegar and baking soda

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

28. Baking Sheets

Get baking sheets looking good as new with a bit of baking soda and some hydrogen peroxide.

Credit: Kitchn Video

29. Silver

Cleaning silver will take you back to middle school science class. You’ll need aluminum foil, baking soda, salt, and boiling water.

30. Grill Grates

Clean grill grates with half an onion. Heat your grill and burn off anything that will come off that way. Then, holding your half onion with a fork, wipe down the remaining residue. It should come right off.