If you’re trying to cut back on store-bought cleaning solutions with their harsh smells and toxic chemicals—or if you just ran out of stuff—here are a few household helpers that are usually readily available…

Cola cleaner: If you have some sticky stuff on your shelves (or linoleum floor) and don’t want your space to smell like commercial cleaner, get out the Coke. Pour a small amount of cola, enough to completely cover the greasy-sticky area. (This may seem counterproductive, but there’s more.) Let it set for one hour (warn your housemates that there’s soda on the shelves), then wipe it off. We tested this cola cleaner on a lacquered wood shelf, and it worked like magic. We also tried it on smooth, bare plywood, and some sticky rings came off…some didn’t. (We don’t advise this cleaning method for porous material, such as pressboard.) Legend has it that Coca-Cola cleans best due to its acidic content, so stick with the name brand.

Powder puff grease remover: Did a splat of grease land on your wall or floor? Pour a few squirts of baby powder on a soft, clean cloth—no water necessary. Rub the cloth on the grease spots until they fade away. (To protect your wall, don’t rub very hard.) This works best on acrylic paint.

Versatile tea: In some Chinese restaurants, waiters pour leftover tea on the table to clean it. They know that strong black tea at room temperature is a good cleaner. For chrome faucets, door knobs and pulls: You can use brewed tea or a used tea bag on chrome to cut grease and add shine. Rub dry with a crunched-up piece of plain newspaper. This works great on chrome-trimmed glass fixtures. For mirrors: Wipe your soiled mirror with a used, wet bag of black tea, then dry it with a paper towel or newspaper. The tea’s tannic acid will leave the mirror sparkling clean.

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