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Handy Hints for Chemical Sensitivity

Household Cleaning

Air freshener

Place one teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda in a spray bottle and add two tablespoons of white vinegar and two cups of clean water.  After the foaming has stopped replace the spray top and shake well (you can also add two teaspoons fresh lemon juice or a few drops of essential oil).

Ant repellent

Wipe down the affected area with a solution of half vinegar and half water to keep ants at bay (try to keep all sweet products away from infestation area).

Bottle cleanser

To remove sediment stains from bottles, jars and vases half fill with white vinegar and shake well. Leave for a few minutes, and then wash in the normal way.

Burnt pots and pans

Cover the burnt area with equal quantities of water and vinegar. Bring to the boil, remove from heat and soak overnight.

Carpet shampoo

Add one cup of vinegar to five litres of water.  Clean the carpet with a soft brush dipped in the solution, but do not soak.  In case the carpet colours are not fast; always test on an inconspicuous area of the carpet before using.

Chewing gum

Chewing gum can often be removed by freezing it first (could be done with bag of peas or ice cubes in plastic bag!)

Cleaning without chemicals

'Microfibre' cleaning cloths and mops do NOT contain chemicals, neither do they need to be used with any added chemicals.  When used dry they attract dust to the cloth where it stays, or they can be used damp for all other surfaces.

Clogged shower-head

Dismantle the shower head.  Soak the pieces in a bowl of white vinegar for two to three hours.  Clean off any sediment with a stiff brush.

Clothes brightener

Add two tablespoons of white vinegar to the rinse after washing clothes.

Cooking smells

To remove smells from the kitchen,  boil a cup of water with one tablespoon of vinegar added to it and/or open windows/doors.


After washing crystal glassware add a tablespoon of vinegar to the water when rinsing.  It will give it that extra sparkle.

Cut flowers

Cut flowers will keep longer if they are kept in water containing a solution of one teaspoon of vinegar and one teaspoon of sugar made up with 570ml of hot water.

Drain cleaner

Make up a solution of 200ml (8fl oz) vinegar with 75g (3oz) of baking soda.  Pour directly into the drain.  Leave for ten minutes, then run clean hot water down the drain to clear the grease and debris.


Instead of using rinse aid in your dishwasher use white vinegar and you will get the same result.

Fish smells on plates and utensils

Add a tablespoon of vinegar to the washing up water; rinse thoroughly in clean water before drying.

Hard water deposits

White vinegar is excellent for removing hard water deposits.  Wrap kitchen roll soaked in white vinegar around bathroom fittings and leave for a couple of hours.  Scrub with a stiff brush to remove softened deposits and rinse thoroughly.  White vinegar can also be used in the toilet bowl to remove deposits, pour vinegar down the bowl and leave for a few hours, scrub with a stiff brush and flush.

Hard water film on tiles and glass

Rub the surface with undiluted white vinegar.  Leave for fifteen minutes, then rinse thoroughly. Repeat if necessary.

Ink stains

Soak the stained fabric in milk for one hour.  Make up a paste with vinegar and cornflour.  Cover the stain with the paste and when it has dried wash the fabric in the normal way. To remove ballpoint ink mark from cloth, rub a paste of baking soda and milk over it.  Rinse and then wash in your normal way.


To prevent clothes becoming shiny when pressing with a hot iron, place a cloth over the garment that has been sprayed with a solution in the ratio of one part of vinegar to two parts of water.  Keep a small piece of damp sponge handy when ironing. When there is a dry crease, rub the sponge over it and the fabric will be lightly and evenly dampened.

To clear a clogged iron, use 1 cup vinegar instead of water and steam until the jets release.  If the base of your iron is stained or sticky, unplug and rub with a cloth dipped in vinegar. Use melted ice from the fridge tray as ionised water for your steam iron.

Kettle descaler

Cover the element with equal quantities of water and vinegar.  Bring to the boil and leave to soak overnight.  Brush off the sediment and wash thoroughly.

Leather softener

Combine 150ml (6fl oz) hot lavender vinegar with 150ml (6fl oz) olive oil.  Blend well.

Microwave ovens

Smells can be difficult to remove from the microwave oven, particularly fish.  Try heating a quarter cup of vinegar diluted with one cup of water in the microwave.

Painted surface cleaner

The following cleaner will make your paint shine as never before.  Make up a thin paste of 15g of cornflour, 30ml (1floz) of vinegar and 275ml (10floz) of hot water.

Perspiration and deodorant stains

Dab the affected area with undiluted white vinegar. Then wash in the normal way.

Rust stains

Soak the affected area with vinegar, then rub salt into the stain. Allow to dry, and then wash in the normal way.

Salt stains on shoes in winter

Wipe the shoes with a solution of one tablespoon of vinegar in a cup of water.

Scorch marks

Lightly rub the scorched cloth with lint free cloth soaked in vinegar.  If heavily marked continue to rub lightly with a silver coin.

Scratched table top

If a beeswax-polished surface becomes scratched or spotted, rub the scratches or spots with white vinegar and polish again with beeswax whilst the surface is still wet.

Stain on aluminium pans

Pour a solution of vinegar and water in equal quantities into the stained pan.  Bring to the boil and soak overnight.  Or boil cabbage leaves in the stained pan (rhubarb will always clean a pan too!)

Tea and coffee stains

Soak china and glassware in hot vinegar.  Then wash in the normal way. For stubborn stains on cups and pots add a teaspoon of salt to a little of the hot vinegar and rub onto the stain.

Windows, mirrors and glass

To clean glass add two tablespoons of vinegar to a small bucket of warm water.  To finish off, buff the surface with a clean dry cloth.

To remove mould from window frames and sills etc and prevent the re-growth of mould.  Mix bi-carb with a little water into a paste consistency.  Using a stiff brush (an old toothbrush is ideal) scrub the area of mould with the paste, then wipe clean.

When cleaning out the refrigerator/freezer, put a heaped dessertspoon of bicarbonate of soda in the rinsing water to finish off, as this will prohibit further growth of mould.

Bicarb is also great in the bathroom when cleaning tiles/shower screens etc. - again the last rinse with a cloth wrung out in the solution, again, will stave off mould re-growth.

A heaped teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda in the last rinse of your washing machine cycle will help to nullify washing powder smells.   It is worth remembering that newer washing machines use a lot less water than the older ones. Sometimes it may be a good idea, when the washing cycle is over, to go back and re-rinse and spin again.

Other useful household tips

Salt will keep dry and flow freely if kept in the refrigerator.  Restore cream coloured fabric to its natural colour by soaking in strong hot tea. Add a pinch of salt to keep the colour fast.

Tips for the garden

Eggshells ground finely may be used not only as a fertiliser but also as a slug deterrent.  Bury banana skins and crushed eggshells near the roots of rose trees to supply them with extra vitamins. One tablespoon full of Epsom salts dissolved in one pint of lukewarm water will provide a good tonic for all plants but especially roses.

Tips for decorating

Add a good tablespoonful of baking soda to each bucketful of water when stripping wall paper and it will make the job easier.  Or use hot water containing vinegar.  Dip a paint roller or large sponge into the solution and wet paper thoroughly.  After two applications, the paper should peel easily.

To remove the smell of paint from a newly decorated room, cut an onion in half and leave in the room (or buy low odour/low VOC based paints!)

Loosen tight screws in wood by dripping a little vinegar on their heads. When the vinegar penetrates the threaded section, they will be easier to unscrew.

To remove paint from glass

Rub the paint with hot undiluted vinegar to soften it.  Remove the paint and clean the glass in the normal way.

Rinsing brushes

After wallpapering rinse the paste table and brushes in salted water before washing.  This removes the paste more quickly and leaves the brushes soft and springy.

Cutting down on chemicals in the home

Have a clear-out of your bathroom cabinet and cupboard under your sink - do you need three moisturisers/deodorants?  In addition, discard old chemical cleaners that haven't been used in an age, then think of using healthier alternatives.

Over washing with chemically-based shampoos and conditioners strips the hair of it's natural oils - if you usually shampoo daily, leave for a day or two and check to see if there is a difference.

Avoid baby wipes, which contain chemicals such as parabens and propylene glycol - a common ingredient in anti-freeze.  A damp flannel will do the job just as well.

If you swim regularly, try to find ozone pools which have fewer chemicals.  However, when visiting chlorine pools, make sure you (and children) shower first.  If everyone washed before swimming, there would be less need for so many chemicals in the pool.

Most lipsticks contain petroleum derivatives.  Try brands based on beeswax, plant oils or vitamin E instead.  Ask your granny for tips. Lemon juice, for example, has always been used as a beauty aid - to make fair hair shine, to soften hard skin, and to get rid of blackheads.

Everyone reads food labels - get in the habit of doing the same with your toiletries.  They won't tell you everything, but a little knowledge goes a long way when making choices.


Last updated: March 2012

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