Mayo, bread and other pantry items you can use for cleaning tasks

Mayo, bread and other unexpected pantry items you can use for cleaning

By Jenny Xie, December 19, 2022 at 9:58 a.m. EST

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  1. Bread
  2. Rice
  3. Mayonnaise
  4. Tea
  5. Salt
  6. Rubber gloves

Keeping a clean house requires an ongoing effort and an arsenal of cleaning sprays, scrubs and powders. But if you want to make some natural, nontoxic, earth-friendly swaps, you don’t have to look much farther than your own kitchen or pantry.

Most of us have heard of the effectiveness of lemon juice, vinegar and baking soda at disinfecting surfaces and cutting through grease and grime, but the cleaning agents that are already at your fingertips go beyond those basics. We asked cleaning expert Jill Koch of Jill Comes Clean and home organizing professional Caroline Solomon — and scoured the internet — for lesser-known ways to use kitchen essentials. These hacks will have you thinking about your grocery list in a whole new way.


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Because it’s so spongy and absorbent, bread is a great way to sop up spills before they seep too deeply into a tablecloth. “It’s great for dabbing up oil, sauces, wine and really most liquids,” Koch writes in an email. The next time you’re at dinner and something splatters the tabletop, reach for a piece of bread to limit the damage.

In the same vein, Country Living reports that the gluten in bread acts as a magnet for dirt. Indeed, if you’re plagued by smudges of mysterious provenance on walls, cabinets and door frames, a balled-up slice of white or rye bread works as a natural eraser. Take the crust off a slice, roll the remainder into a sponge, and dab it against the offending mark to lift it. Koch warns against rubbing too hard, though, to avoid leaving behind crumbs.

Bread also picks up broken glass like a champ. “If you aren’t sure you got all the pieces, just press a slice of bread around the area, and any shards will stick to it,” writes Koch. Take care not to use too much pressure, to protect your fingers from getting pricked.


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Starchy, granular white rice is an ideal ingredient for cleaning oil and dust left from old coffee beans in your coffee grinder, according to Koch. Before grinding a new roast or using the machine for spices, pour enough uncooked rice in the grinder to cover the blades and power it on for about a minute, then pour out the pulverized rice and wipe out the excess with a wet cloth. If you don’t have rice, a good substitute here would be — you guessed it — bread.

If you don’t have a bottle brush for your reusable containers and water bottles, uncooked rice works here, too. Pour a small amount — about an eighth to a quarter of a cup — into the vessel, along with a few drops of dish soap and a dash of water (“I wouldn’t cover the rice,” Koch writes. “Just add enough that it swirls around easily.”). Shake the mixture around for a minute, then rinse the container again with water.


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Koch suggests using mayonnaise to remove the water stains and rings on wood that happen when moisture penetrates the protective finish — like when someone neglects to use a coaster on your coffee table. After testing a small area, spread a layer of mayonnaise on the blemish and let it sit overnight. “The oil displaces the moisture and makes the mark go away,” she writes. (Applying vegetable oil itself won’t work because it dries too quickly.) In the morning, wipe the mayonnaise away with a dry cloth. If there are any remaining marks, you can also lay a cloth over the surface and place a hot iron on top, using the steam feature. After a few seconds, pull the iron away and wipe the area; the heat removes moisture caught underneath the finish. Feel free to use both methods to address the most stubborn stains.

Woman’s World reports that the oil found in this hard-working sandwich condiment also makes it effective at breaking down adhesives and grime, so slather it wherever you need to remove sticky residue: labels on glass jars, price stickers on ceramics, decorative stickers on water bottles — even gum tacked to the soles of shoes. Let the mayonnaise sit for about 20 minutes (or more if needed) before wiping it off with a wet cloth. Koch has heard of peanut butter being used to the same effect, though “it takes a little bit of elbow grease,” she warns.


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“The tannins in tea remove grease and naturally shine surfaces,” Solomon writes in an email. Before tossing used tea bags, she suggests brewing a batch of weak tea to pour into a spray bottle and using it to remove dirt and fingerprints from glass. Spritz it on mirrors, windows, glass tabletops and eyeglasses, then wipe the surface with a microfiber cloth for restored shine. According to SF Gate, wiping hardwood floors with a stronger brew of black tea will also add luster.

The polishing power of tea can also be harnessed to lift stains in the toilet bowl. “Throw a few tea bags in the toilet and let them sit for ten minutes,” Solomon writes. “Then scrub away!”

Once you’re done with those tea bags (although we recommend tossing the ones you’ve steeped in the toilet), squeeze some extra use out of them by letting them dry and placing them in a bowl at the back of the fridge. This will absorb odors much like baking soda does, according to Solomon.


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The coarse nature of kosher salt makes it a powerful scrubbing agent. Both our experts recommend using it to scour rust and food remnants from a cast-iron skillet. To do so, pour a half cup of salt onto the pan and use a sponge or paper towel to work the grime away. Then rinse it clean and wipe it dry. “It’s also an excellent abrasive when it comes to cleaning your stove,” Solomon writes. Or for oven grates, sprinkle salt liberally over grease or burned food that have built up and clean them with a damp rag.

Salt can also be useful for cleaning cutting boards, since “it gets into the grooves and cuts that knives have made for a deeper clean,” Koch writes. After dusting the surface with salt, use half a lemon to spread the natural exfoliant around.

To scour the garbage disposal, she suggests tossing in a quarter cup of salt, a handful of ice cubes, a drizzle of dish soap and just enough cold water to lubricate before allowing it to run for a few minutes. “The salt will help scrub gunk off the blades, which are actually more like teeth,” Koch writes. The same cocktail of ice, salt and soap can banish the stains in a coffee pot, too.

Another clever way to use salt is to pour it over a broken egg, according to Koch. This will help the yolk and whites clump up, making it easier to wipe off the counter or floor.

Rubber gloves

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Okay, so they technically aren’t a pantry staple, but they are a common household item, and we thought this tip was clever enough to merit inclusion. In addition to protecting your hands from water or harsh cleaning agents, rubber gloves work wonders for removing pet hair from upholstery, according to Solomon. The next time you don them to scour the sink, wet the gloves under the faucet, then rub your palm across your furniture, almost as though you were petting it. The fur will lift from the fabric to form clumps that you can then gather and toss in the trash.

Jenny Xie is a freelance writer in New York.

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NewestOldestMost repliesMost likedexpand_moreremoveHereOnLoan1 hour ago

I once moved a refrigerator that had not been moved in 15 years and there was a black life form there that would not budge with anything I tried to clean it. Not sure what prompted me to spray oven cleaner on it and let it sit over night, but low and behold whatever otherworldly thing that black mound was just dissolved into a soupy mass.thumb_upreplyReplyshareflagremoveShe Who Herdeth Cats2 hours ago

Salt is also good if you happen to spill cooking oil on the floor. Pour some salt on the spill, wait for it to absorb, and sweep it up. (You can also use kitty litter if you happen to have a cat—it’s basically the same thing as Oil-Dri.)

My grandmother saved her old teabags, dampened them, split them open, and scattered the damp leaves on the rugs, then swept it all up. Good carpet cleaner if you don’t have a vacuum.

When I had a garbage disposal, I saved my lemons from iced tea and cooking and threw them all in there with a couple of ice cubes to clean it.thumb_up1replyReplyshareflagremoveAtlArtist3 hours ago

Before erasers were invented, artists used lumps of bread.thumb_up4replyReplyshareflagremoveOranges of the Universe3 hours ago

Vinegar is great. You can use to clean your humidifiers, showers, etc. It also makes a great clarifier for hair to take off the weekly buildup. Mix one part vinegar with three parts water, apply to hair, let it sit for a few minutes and voila — soft, shiny hair free of gunky buildup from conditioners and hard/soft water. It also gives you natural highlights. Good stuff.
thumb_up2replyReplyshareflagremoveyellowjournalism3 hours ago

Vinegar should never be used on tile or marble floors. It strips off the shine. Don’t use vinegar to clean luxury vinyl planks, it will strip off the top shine. To clean clogged drains, mix baking soda & vinegar in a large cup & pour down the sink drain as it bubbles, then rinse with hot water. This has worked wonders on my slow bathroom drains. You can use this also in the tub to dissolve hair in the drain.
thumb_up2replyReplyshareflagremoveOranges of the Universe3 hours ago

Yes, shower floors made of plastics.

For hair in the shower, get a TubShroom. They are great, makes clearing the hair a breeze. I swear by them now.thumb_up1replyReplyshareflagremoveGrannyInResidence1 hour ago

Do you rinse the vinegar out? In the 40s, my mother washed our hair then conditioned it with vinegar/water. But she rinsed the vinegar out.thumb_up1replyReplyshareflagremoveGusbuss4 hours ago

I use alcohol and salt to clean my bong and pipes. Wonder if Mayo would work better.thumb_up1replyReplyshareflagremoveFinnMom1 hour ago

You are a Hoot!thumb_upreplyReplyshareflagremoveCindy Mojonnier4 hours ago

Mayo also works well if you walk barefooted on tar balls that can be hidden on many CA state beaches. I learned from personal experience.thumb_up1replyReplyshareflagremovephildecarp3 hours ago

True. And it’s a lot less toxic that some of the other remedies.thumb_up1replyReplyshareflagremoveMyTenCents3 hours ago


Any oil would do a better job. I’ve walked on many beaches in my 80+ years in California.

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