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Gert's Dirt: Foods that double as cleaning agents

Donna Bellino for the Lake County News-Chronicle

It has occurred to me that many of the foods we eat have handy uses around the house. Here are a few useful alternative ways to use food.


Their acidic qualities make them a wonderful cleaning choice. Let them warm up on your counter or place in the microwave to get more juice out of them.

Use lemon juice to polish brass or stainless steel.

Lemon juice can also be spritzed around windows or doors as a natural ant deterrent.

Soak lemon peals in vinegar for two weeks, strain the peels out of the vinegar and use the liquid as an all- purpose cleaner. Keep it in the refrigerate so it stays fresh.

When all the juice has been squeezed out of a lemon, put the peel and membrane down the garbage disposal for a fresh-smelling sink and drain..

Olive oil and peanut butter

Use peanut butter to remove sticky price tags. Put a small amount of peanut butter on the sticky spot, then rub off the tag and peanut butter with a soft cloth.

Both olive oil and peanut butter will clean leather. All you have to do is rub it on and buff the leather with a cloth.

Both peanut butter and olive oil work well as a lubricant. Use them on squeaky doors or anywhere you might use WD-40.

Coconut oil

This oil has become hugely popular for many uses. My favorite comes from Wilderness Family Naturals right here in Lake County.

Use coconut oil to polish furniture. Apply it in the direction of the wood’s grain, the polish with a soft cloth.


Milk can repair cracked china. Place the damaged item into a pan, cover it with milk and boil for 45 minutes. When it cools you’ll notice that most of the cracks will be gone!

Milk is also an emulsifier. If your skin is dry and you want to try an oil bath be sure to add a cup of milk to the water. This allows the oil and water to mix.

Egg shells

Crush shells into your garden soil; they will naturally repel slugs.


Sprinkle cinnamon where ever you see ants entering your home, cabin or camper. Add some cloves and the natural repellent will smell nice too!

Powdered sugar

Dissolve the sugar in some water and add Borax powder. Place a few drops on small squares of cardboard. This acts the same as an ant killer. The ants eat it, get it on their feet and take it back to the nest. Keep this away from kids and critters.

Cayenne pepper flakes

Sprinkle around your tender seedlings with cayenne to keep rabbits and deer from eating them. Reapply after it rains.

Eggs, oil and milk

These ingredients provide more deer control for your garden. For a large applications mix the following and place in a spray bottle: 1 cup milk, 2 T. cooking oil, two whole eggs, two gallons water and 2 T. liquid detergent. Spray this on all of your garden plants.


It’s not just for killing brain cells! It kills bacteria that cause odors, too.

Spray it into smelly sneakers.

Use it to clean mold and mildew stains.

Spritz vodka on your body as an insect repellent.

Use vodka to neutralize the oils that get on your skin after exposure to poison ivy.


This essential oil is great in tea if you have an upset tummy. But who knew it would keep rodents away? Soak some cotton balls and place them in areas of rodent activity. They are allergic to peppermint and will avoid it.


Grow basil in window boxes and planters by the door. It is a natural fly repellant.


Around here we call it pop. Pour soda pop on oil stains in your driveway and spray it off with the hose.

Impossibly burnt-on food in a pan? Put cola in the pan and boil it.

Spray cola on your tires let them dry. They will look nice and resist dirt.

Use soda to clean car battery terminals or loosen a rusted bolt. Sort of makes you think twice about drinking it, doesn’t it?

Clip and save this list. Tape it to the inside of a cabinet door for future reference. Have a great week!

Donna Bellino is a Registered Nurse and owner of Gertie’s Cleaning and Home Service. I care for you, your health, and your home. Gertie’s: Naturally Clean!