Looking for alternatives to chemical cleaners? Try these "green" methods to spring clean. They come courtesy of Betty Nicholson of Mothers Cleaning Co-Op, Steve and Paula Mumm of Merry Maids, "Haley's Hints Green Edition" (NAL Trade, $14, 224 pages) by Graham and Rosemary Haley and "Mrs. Meyer's Clean Home" (Wellness Central, $19.99, 240 pages) by Thelma Meyer.
In the kitchen
Appliances: Sprinkle with baking soda, spritz with water and scrub. The soda removes grime, grease and odors. Rinse with plain water. Inside the refrigerator, keep an open box of baking soda to absorb odors. After three months, put that used baking soda down the garbage disposal to freshen it.
Counters: Spritz with 1 cup of white vinegar mixed with 1 cup of warm water. Wipe dry.
Wood cutting board: Cut a lemon in half. Sprinkle the board with salt. Use the cut lemon as a scrubber with the salt.
Aluminum pots and pans: To remove discoloration, mix 2 tablespoons of white vinegar with 1 1/2 tablespoons cream of tartar. Add to pot with 4 cups of water and heat over low heat. Simmer until stains disappear. For residue at bottom of pan, pour in 1/2 cup each of white vinegar and hot water. Let soak three hours, then wash.
Copper: For the copper bottom of pots, sprinkle salt and lemon juice or vinegar over bottom and rub lightly, then wash.
Cast-iron cookware: To clean inside of pan, sprinkle with salt and wipe. For outside of pan, wipe with waxed paper while still a bit warm.
In the bathroom
Chrome: Dampen a cloth with white vinegar and rub faucets. Or use strong black tea that has been steeping in the pot; that shines chrome and cuts grease, too. Or rub fixtures with a half lemon dipped in salt.
Porcelain: Rub with soft cloth sprinkled with salt.
Bathtub ring: Add 1/2 cup of baking soda to the tub of water. Let sit a few minutes before emptying.
Enamel: White vinegar removes mold and soap scum. Wipe it on with a soft cloth and rinse with warm water. To remove stains, make a paste of cream of tartar and hydrogen peroxide. Apply it, let sit a few minutes, then rinse clean.
Shower curtains: To remove soap film, place the shower curtains in the washing machine with several old, large bath towels. Add 1/2 cup of vinegar and run on cold cycle (don't add detergent). Remove curtains before spin cycle starts and hang immediately. Rewash bath towels with detergent.
Shower head: To unplug holes, soak the shower head for two hours in a mix of equal parts of white vinegar and warm water.
Tile: Mix 2 tablespoons vinegar (white or apple cider) with one quart warm water. Clean with soft cloth. Rinse.
Toilet: Pour one can of cola (Coke or Pepsi both work) into toilet bowl. Let sit one hour. This removes most stains.
In any room
Glass cleaner: As an alternative to ammonia, try 1/2 cup cornstarch mixed with 1 gallon of warm water. Rinse with a spritz of white vinegar mixed with water and wipe again. Use the cornstarch formula to clean vinyl blinds, too.
Wallpaper: To remove dirt or marks on non-washable wallpaper, rub with a slice of plain white bread. The bread acts like an eraser. (This works on painted walls and wool carpet, too.)
Acoustical tiles: Use a plain, dry sponge; it will erase grime.
Mini-blinds: Put on plain cotton gloves and wipe down each slat by hand; the dust comes right off. Or try a used dryer softener sheet; its anti-cling properties pick up dust, too.
Odors: Make your own air freshener. Combine a cup of white vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract. Fill a spray container or plant mister and spritz the air. Or put a small saucepan on the stove with one cup water and one tablespoon vanilla extract. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Woodwork: Clean with soft cloth dipped in cold black tea. Squeeze one lemon into one quart water and use as a rinse.
Floor cleaner: Mix 1/4 cup each white vinegar and water softener crystals with a gallon of warm water. Wipe floor dry as you wash. Or mix equal parts vinegar and warm water with a few drops of baby oil. (The oil adds shine.)
Carpet: To brighten a light, solid color carpet, sprinkle a little cornmeal and brush into carpet. Then vacuum.
Carpet stains: Check for colorfastness first. Mix 2 tablespoons each of baking soda and salt, then add just enough white vinegar to make a paste. Apply paste to stain and let dry. Vacuum. (For a nasty stain, you may need to scrub in the paste.)
Pet stains in carpet: While the stain is still fresh, mix 1/2 cup of white vinegar with 2 cups of warm water. Wet the area well. Sprinkle baking soda over area and scrub with a damp colorfast sponge. Rinse well with warm water and pat dry.
To remove pet hair: Put on heavy plastic dishwashing gloves and lightly dampen them. Run gloved hands over the upholstery or bedding. The gloves will pick up the hair, which can then be washed off. Or use a damp sponge; it will quickly pick up pet hair from pillows and upholstery.