Minimalist Cleaning with Multitaskers


“We have to shift our emphasis from economic efficiency and materialism towards a sustainable quality of life….”

– Janet Holmes à Court

One of the reasons we’ve chosen to become minimalists is so we can live more sustainably.

Switching from commercial cleaners to homemade cleaners is better for the environment. Plus, these minimalist cleaning products are made from items most of us already have.

While we don’t all have to hate “unitaskers” as much as Alton Brown does, using “multitaskers” when possible makes it a lot easier to reduce the amount of stuff we own without being inconvenienced.

You can use these multitaskers for cleaning as well as cooking and personal hygiene. Even for science projects and just plain fun. After all, who doesn’t love baking-soda-vinegar volcanoes and exploding plastic bags?

White Vinegar


  • Kill mildew on showers, tubs, etc. by spraying on vinegar. Let it sit a few minutes before rinsing. The acid can eat away at grout, so don’t use it there.
  • Clean greasy messes in the kitchen.
  • Clean hard-water rings from a toilet. Turn the water off to the toilet and flush. Fill the bowl with vinegar and let sit for 10-15 minutes before scrubbing.
  • Add 1/2 cup to the washing machine’s rinse cycle to soften fabric and get rid of  musty odors. Never mix bleach and vinegar – that creates toxic vapors.
  • Add 2 cups to the washing machine’s rinse cycle when you wash the shower curtain to kill mold and mildew.
  • Set out a small bowl of vinegar to combat odors such as fish and smoke.
  • Remove sticky residue from price tags.
  • Use instead of commercial rinse agents in your dishwasher.
  • Clean clogged shower heads of mineral deposits. Put vinegar in a plastic bag and secure the bag to the shower head with a rubber band. Let stand overnight, then rinse well.

Half vinegar / half water

  • All-purpose cleaner (e.g., kitchen and bathroom counters).
  • After each shower, squeegee the shower walls/door and spray with this solution to kill mold and mildew.
  • To keep your coffee tasting fresh, run this through your coffee maker. Let it sit for an hour or so, then run plain water through a few times.
  • Boil a cup of this in your microwave to loosen grime and deodorize.
  • Removes many stains. As with any stain remover, be sure to test a small area first.
  • Clean pet (or human) urine. The vinegar neutralizes the ammonia in urine to eliminate the smell.

1/4 – 1/2 cup vinegar mixed with 1 quart warm water

  • Glass cleaner.
  • Add a squirt of liquid dish detergent or Castile soap for an all-purpose cleaner.

1/2 cup vinegar to 1 gallon warm water

  • Mop floors. First be sure vinegar’s okay on your particular type of floor.

But Vinegar Stinks!

I don’t really mind the smell, but some people do. Make your vinegar smell better by infusing it with orange peels or by adding a few drops of your favorite essential oil.

Baking Soda

  • Replace scrubbing cleaners. Mix with enough water to form a paste. If you need more cleaning power, mix with liquid dish detergent instead.
  • A baking soda paste left on a cutting board for 15 minutes will help remove odors.
  • Sprinkle or place in small containers anywhere you have bad smells. Add a few drops of essential oil to baking soda in containers, if you like.
  • Add 1/2 cup to the washing machine’s rinse cycle to deodorize and brighten laundry.
  • All-purpose cleaner: dissolve 1/4 cup baking soda in 1 quart of warm water.
  • To absorb odors, sprinkle on carpet. Leave overnight, then vacuum.
  • Scrub stainless steel and silver with a baking soda-water paste.

Vinegar Plus Baking Soda

Generally, you don’t want to make cleaners by mixing vinegar and baking soda. When you mix them, once the cool bubbling is over, all you’ve done is cause the chemicals to neutralize each other.

The bubbling does sometimes work to unclog drains, though.

Empty one-half cup baking soda down the drain, followed by one-half cup white vinegar. Cover the drain and let the mixture stand for a few minutes. Then pour a pot of boiling water down the drain.

This tends to work better as a clog preventive, so use it every couple of weeks to keep the drain clean instead of waiting for a clog.


  • Glass cleaner: 2 tablespoons lemon juice added to 1 quart warm water.
  • To deodorize your cutting board, rub it with a lemon wedge.
  • To freshen the garbage disposal, grind up a few lemon wedges. Better yet, use the remains of lemons after you’ve juiced them.

Olive Oil

  • Use 3/4 cup olive oil mixed with 1/4 teaspoon vinegar to polish wood furniture.
  • Mix 1/2 cup olive oil with 1/4 cup vinegar to clean leather. Rub it in with a soft cloth.


  • Mix with water to make a paste. Use instead of baking soda if you need extra scrubbing power. Note, this may scratch. Use baking soda if you’re concerned.
  • Clean greasy messes with a paste made of salt and vinegar.

Vanilla Extract Air Freshener

  • Use a cotton ball saturated with vanilla in a small dish.
  • Microwave a spoonful in a cup of water. Heat it on the stove if you don’t have a microwave.

Your Favorite Minimalist Cleaning Tips

These items, as well as other products found in your kitchen, can be used for a lot more cleaning projects than I’ve listed.

If you have a cleaning job not mentioned here, do an Internet search to see what homemade cleaners are available.

I’d also love for you to share your favorite homemade cleaning products and minimalist cleaning tips in the comments.

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