Use vodka and a microfiber cloth to make bathroom mirrors sparkle. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Use vodka and a microfiber cloth to make bathroom mirrors sparkle. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Vodka, vinegar and other cleaning hacks to make your house shine

A bottle of cheap booze and a microfiber cloth work wonders, especially if you’re sensitive to fragrances.

Every Tuesday morning I whip out a bottle of vodka. No, I’m not a day drinker.

Vodka is my new go-to disinfecting spray for mirrors, countertops and toilets. I buy a bottle of inexpensive vodka from the grocery store, pour it into a plastic spray bottle and add a few drops of essential oils. With a microfiber cloth and a tiny bit of elbow grease, my homemade surface spray is ready to tackle germs.

Fragrances really bother me, especially in winter when it becomes more difficult to air out the house. Unlike commercial cleaners, vodka doesn’t burn my sinuses or reek of artificial lemons. It also smells a heck of a lot better than the homemade cleaner I use for my shower, bathtub and sinks: 1⁄3 cup of Dawn dish soap mixed with 3 cups white vinegar. I heat that solution up in the microwave for 5 minutes, let it sit on the porcelain for 10 minutes and then wipe soap scum away. The Dawn and vinegar solution is highly effective, but stinks like dyed Easter eggs.

Vinegar also is the secret ingredient of my trusty carpet cleaner. That solution is 7 parts white vinegar, 3 parts rubbing alcohol. It will take out almost any stain in our white carpet, including pet stains, but I usually use a commercial cleaner for those. I read once that when dogs smell vinegar they think that’s a good place to pee. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but my poodle, Merlin, makes enough bad choices on his own without me adding homemade carpet cleaner to the equation.

Apple cider vinegar is my vinegar of choice for combatting fruit flies. I fill a small Mason jar with apple cider vinegar, add a few drops of dish soap and set it next to the fruit bowl. Fruit fly annihilation begins almost immediately.

Another kitchen trick I love, that actually smells good, is using lemons to clean the microwave. I cut a lemon in half, put it into a glass bowl with a cup of water, and microwave it for 5 minutes. Then I wipe out the inside of the microwave with a clean cloth.

Why bother with natural cleaners in the first place? Why not buy commercial products that major corporations spent millions of dollars perfecting? For me, the main reason is one I already shared — synthetic fragrances bother me. Allergies and asthma make my sinuses extra sensitive. I even have a hard time walking through the cleaning aisle to buy fragrance-free laundry detergent. The second reason I opt for natural cleaners is safety.

When my cleaning tote is stocked with soap, vinegars, lemons and microfiber cloths, our chances of household poisoning go way down. That’s why I made the switch when my kids were toddlers.

Of course, now that there’s vodka in my kit, I have to store my bathroom cleaner in the liquor cabinet. Cheers to clean toilets!

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal. Email her at

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