Coming Clean: Unusual Uses for Common Household Products

Don't you wish that there was one product that could unclog drains, shampoo the dog, make slime, fight foot fungus and kill ants? Borax, which you'll find in the laundry detergent aisle, does all these things, and more (see video below). A white crystaline compound, 20 Mule Team Borax was named for the way in which borax was transported out of the California and Nevada deserts in the late 1800s, in quantities large enough to make it affordable and commonly available.

Try this recipe for Borax all-purpose cleaner:

2 tablespoons of Borax

3 tablespoons of white vinegar,

1 teaspoon dish soap

2 cups warm water

2 drops of essential oil

Mix to dissolve and pour in a spray bottle.

Castile soap is named for the Castila region in Spain, where the hard, white soap was first made during the 13th century by combining olive oil and ashes from the barilla tree. Today, Dr. Bronner's Magical Soaps has cornered the market with their fair trade, organic and green line of scented Castile soaps, which are a liquid concentrate and can be diluted for various uses -- such as shampoo, body wash, produce rinse, shaving cream, clearing congestion, household cleaning and aphid killer. Look for Dr. Bronner's in natural grocery stores, Target, or Amazon.

Epsom salt, known primarily as an ingredient for a relaxing bath, is made up of naturally occurring minerals magnesium and sulfate, which can improve your health by helping to regulate 300 enzymes found in the body.  A magnesium deficiency can contribute to high blood pressure and heart problems, while sulfate is necessary for flushing toxins, and forming protein in joints and the brain. These minerals are absorbed through the skin, and reduce inflammation, reduce stress, flush toxins from the body, help make insulin more effective and help ease migraines.

According to the Epsom Salt Council, there are many additional benefits:


Haley's Hints Green Edition by Graham Haley (2009)

A Guide to Natural Housekeeping: Recipes for a Cleaner, Greener Home by Christina Strutt (2012)

The Review of Natual Products: The Most Complete Source of Natural Product Information edited by Ara DerMarderosian, John A. Beutler (2012)

Natural Remedies for Healthy Living: Over 1000 Smart Solutions to Help You Live Better Today by Reader's Digest (2011)

Written by Lisa on May 7, 2014


Frank on May 7, 2014


Geez!! Why isn't Borax at every checkout counter? What doesn't it do? That list of 25 uses is amazing! Which one helps whiten teeth though? The kid in the video is a super star too!

Lisa on May 7, 2014


Don't brush with Borax, Frank! It is merely an ingredient in some teeth whiteners.


Ah... good to know!! I was going to just chew a bunch of Borax, but probably not a good idea huh?

Anonymous on May 8, 2014


I would recommend caution when using Borax I have a horrendous allergy to the stuff and my skin erupts, it's just awful.


Thanks for the warning! Sounds like you found out the hard way. Someone else reported that washing or shampooing with Castile soap is rough going here in our climate - it gets you squeaky clean but it's very drying to the skin and hair.

Leigh Ann on May 8, 2014


Those are all great classic homespun tips, tricks, & remedies--thanks for reviewing them all & refreshing my memory, Lisa! I especially love all the Haley's helpful hints books and often give them as wedding presents or to young folks leaving home the first time, etc.

Anonymous on May 12, 2014


I think baking soda whitens teeth

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