Next time you’re running low on fabric softener, pest repellant or household cleaners, check the pantry.
Plenty of kitchen items, including baking soda, lemons and even coffee, can work well as substitutes for other household products. In some cases, the experts swear, they’re even better.
Try these alternate uses the next time you’re in need:
Laundry Boost: Place baking soda in your wash to make your wash brighter, says Maria Liberati, author of The Basic Art of Italian Cooking.
Pet Shampoo: Add a little to your dog’s shampoo for bath time, says dog stylist Jorge Bendersky. It amps up the cleansing power.
Oven Cleaner: Use a mix of baking soda and vinegar as an oven cleaner, says Liberati.
Bug Repellent: “I always keep a bay leaf in the bag of flour,” says Anne Maxfield of Accidental-Locavore.com. “It keeps the bugs out.”
Broken Glass Pick Up: Since white bread sticks to things, it comes in handy cleaning up shattered glass, says Chris Brugler of Beverly Hills-based Chris Brugler Catering.
Grime Buster: Use to clean anything greasy, says Roberta Perry of ScrubzBodyScrub.com. “Oil cuts through other oil, so it’s the perfect grimy oil cleaner,” she says.
Odor Remover: “Soak smelly cutting boards with some coffee grounds to remove odors,” says Brugler.
Dish Scrubber: Wrap up a few teaspoons of coffee grounds into a rag, and secure with a rubber band. Use that to scrub dishes, says Brugler. “The rough texture of coffee grounds can help you scrub your dishes without damaging them,” he says.
Wasp Repellent: In a pinch, use to kill wasps. “Something in the greasy nature of it impedes the bug’s ability to fly,” says Carrie Rocha of PocketYourDollars.com. “I really love this because I can use it at picnics or when we eat outside on the deck where food is uncovered and not worry about harsh chemicals.”
De-greaser: Use it to groom your pet. “Add a pinch to your dog’s coat,” says Bendersky. “It effectively works to absorb any extra oil or grease.”
Pot and Pan Polish: Use it to remove tarnish and other stains on our pots and pans, Brugler says.
Clean Porcelain: “Lately, I’ve taken to slicing over ripe lemons in half and then dipping them in salt for a great sink and tub cleaner,” says Cherie Lowe of QueenofFree.net.
Freshen Garbage Disposal: Toss the spent flesh and peels into the garbage disposal to freshen it.
Furniture Polish: “Because of its natural properties, olive oil makes a perfect furniture polish,” says Cary Kelly, owner of AhLoveOilandVinegar.com. “Mix with a little white vinegar to remove dust and grime and your wood furniture will gleam.”
Grease Hinges: Use to lubricate squeaky hinges.
Protect Leather: Rub a bit into baseball mitts, shoes and other leather goods to preserve them, Kelly says.
Free Stuck Zippers: Rub on stuck zippers to unstick them.
Pet Grooming: They help remove tearstains at dogs’ eyes, says Bendersky.
Microwave Cleaner: To clean a microwave, Brugler recommends boiling water and adding a few green tea leaves to steep. “After it is cool enough to handle, use the tea water to wash down the inside and outside of your microwave,” he says. “It will help remove odors and add a fresh smelling clean to your microwave oven.”
Deter Pests: Sprinkle it around to ward off ants and other pests, says Leah Aharoni of LoveYour.biz. “Works like a charm,” she says.
All-purpose Cleaner: The experts agree: use a mix of vinegar and water as an all-purpose cleaner for sinks, countertops and floors.
Stain Remover: “If you really want to get tea or coffee stains off ceramic cups and teapots, mix vinegar with baking soda or cream of tartar,” says Liberati. “Let stand overnight, or a few hours, and they come right off.”
Fabric Softener: Substitute for fabric softener. “In lieu of Snuggle or Downey I fill a ‘Downey Ball’ with white vinegar for softness and static reduction,” says Lowe.
Remove Odors: Use a dab as a pet ear cleanser to remove or reduce funky smells, says Bendersky.
Window Cleaner: Clean windows with vinegar and old newspapers, instead of paper towels, Liberati says. They won’t leave streaks.
Frugal Foodie is a journalist based in New York City who spends her days writing about personal finance and obsessing about what she’ll have for dinner. Chat with her on Twitter through @MintFoodie.