Countless products on the market today claim to be the best cleaners.

Many come in plastic containers and aerosol cans. The ingredient lists contain stuff like butoxydiglycol and alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chlorides.

The nonprofit Environmental Working Group's Guide to Healthy Cleaning breaks down a range of household and professional cleaners with a focus on their ingredients and their effects on humans, scoring the cleaners with a letter grade.

A random search of a product I like to use in my bathroom, Scrubbing Bubbles, resulted in a big "F." Lysol wipes get a "B."

The guide at ewg.org rates more than 2,500 products.

"Despite what the drugstore cleaning aisle would have you believe, you actually don’t need a different product for every room or mess," says a Jan. 25 post by Domino, a website dedicated to "a stylish life and home."

Written by Elly Leavitt, an associate digital editor at Domino, the piece reveals low-cost, versatile cleaning supplies that tend to be common household products.

"Plus, they’re probably a whole lot greener than most of the chemicals you’re already using," Leavitt writes.

She provides a list gleaned from cleaning specialist Melissa Maker of Clean My Space, who has a web site at cleanmyspace.com.

Here's the list:

• Salt — Reduces grease buildup on cast-iron skillets and removes tea and coffee stains from mugs. For the mugs, Maker suggests a little salt inside, then scrubbing with a lemon wedge.

• Vinegar — A mixture of equal parts vinegar and white water can sparkle up anything from water-stained faucets to streaky mirrors and windows. Maker adds about a teaspoon of cornstarch or baking soda as as a gentle abrasive. 

• Hydrogen peroxide — A cup of hydrogen peroxide can be put into a toilet bowl and swished with a brush to help break down stains and get rid of bacteria. Two parts baking soda and one part hydrogen peroxide can be made into a paste and applied with an old toothbrush to whiten grout and clean areas between tiles. 

• Lemon — Pour some coarse salt over half a lemon and use it to scrub and disinfect pretty much anything, from kitchen equipment to wood cutting boards to knives. Wooden items can be protected after cleaning with a touch of mineral oil. Maker says lemons are also the perfect cleaner for a cheese grater.

• Rubbing alcohol — Maker’s miracle floor cleaner for laminate or synthetic flooring consists of a half cup water, half cup white vinegar and half cup rubbing alcohol. Mix them together in a spray bottle and use with a microfiber cloth to wipe down floors or other laminate furnishings and cabinets.

Waste Not is a weekly column highlighting conservation and the responsible, sustainable use of products and resources. Readers are encouraged to email tips, ideas and concerns to aoberlin@kpcmedia.com.

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