Coke, ketchup, butter and more

We’ve all had those times when we’re faced with a huge mess, without our trusty old cleaning supplies. And, while we’ve all heard of some cool substitutes, for example, the many uses for baking soda, that’s not where the cleaning hacks end.

In fact, many of the kitchen elements that we tend to associate with manufacturing stains – like, say, the condiments on your burger or your favorite drinks behind the bar – are the very things that struggle stains too. Here’s what these items are, why they work, and when to get them out to save the day.


While most people might think ketchup creates a mess, it actually cleans brass, says Leslie Reichert, aka The Cleaning Coach. Honest!

“Let it sit for five to 10 minutes, then wipe it off,” she notes. “Because ketchup is very acidic, it works to eat through the oxidation of brass.”

As useful as this colorful condiment is, Mary Findleyauthor of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Green Cleaning”, suggests using it only on certain materials.

“Ketchup would work great on stainless steel and non-porous surfaces that aren’t worn,” she says. “Porcelain can be iffy, and plastic and fabrics of all kinds are off limits.”


You might find it hard to sip this drink again after reading this, but if you have some in the fridge, here’s a new way to enjoy it.

“Coke is great for removing rust from tools,” says Reichert. “Just let them sit in it overnight. You can also clean your toilet with Coke. Pour two liters into it and let it sit overnight.

Ouch! How is it possible? It works because it’s an acid, notes Reichert, who says what we’re all thinking: “I can’t believe it’s something we drink!”


If you have rust but you’re out of soda, have a potato. It’s true: potatoes, which contain oxalic acid, also have the ability to break down rust.

“I get rid of the rust on some of my expensive kitchen knives by rubbing them with a potato,” Findley says. “I discovered this by accident while I was cutting potatoes, and my knife had a bit of rust on it. It was gone when I finished cutting them. It should work on any type of metal, in the kitchen or not.


Mayonnaise is another unlikely helper. Use the sandwich staple to remove white rings on wood furniture. Simply apply a dollop to cover the area and give it an hour to go to work. Then, rub the stain until it disappears and shine it with furniture polish. How does it work ? Oil seeps into the finish, breaking up that unsightly ring left by moisture.


Rather than lathering butter on your bagels and bread, put it to work in this unexpected way. “You can use butter or peanut butter to remove sticky things like labels or gum from any surface, like a window or a table,” says Reichert.

Again, it’s the oils in these products that help make the gum less sticky and ultimately easier to scrape off.


Turns out your vodka is ready to come out from behind the bar and fight the stains.

“Alcohol cuts fat,” says Reichert. “You can use vodka to remove greasy stains.”
If you have a pet that has left a funky scent on your carpet, the cleaning guru suggests spraying those areas with vodka — this will eliminate the smell as it evaporates. (Bonus: it’s delicious too!)


Coke isn’t the only drink that does double duty. Tang, that once-popular orange elixir, will clean the inside of your dishwasher, says Reichert.

Before you start cleaning up with astronauts’ favorite sweet and tangy treat, make sure your dishwasher is empty. Then turn on your tap to preheat your water. Then, close the dishwasher and run it for six to seven minutes before opening it mid-cycle to add 12 ounces of Tang to the standing water at the bottom of your washer. Close the door and let the dishwasher continue to run.

How it works: Citric acid will save you hours of cleaning the calcium-like scale deposits that make you cringe every time you peek inside your washer.


Want your sink and toilet bowl to shine without gagging on harsh chemicals while cleaning? Take a grapefruit, Findley said.

“Squeeze grapefruit juice into a small bowl and add baking soda,” she says. “This is a great toilet bowl and bathroom sink cleaner. Don’t use a lot of water to rinse the sink and it will help freshen the drain. Then put the grapefruit peel in the grinder to refresh it. Although I compost all my peels, I put the grapefruit peels in the trash once a month.”


Do you have an iron showing its age?

“Salt is great for cleaning the bottom of the iron,” Findley says. “Don’t spill salt through an iron, but it removes the main surface very well.


Do you have wooden furniture that looks scratched? Walnuts can restore your wood to its original beauty.

“Walnuts are always a good touch-up for scratched wood,” Findley says. “Black walnuts are best because they have more oil, but usually have to be ordered online. Very few stores sell black walnuts. And get a whole lot more, because once you taste the difference, you won’t be eating English nuts again.

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