Though they lost visibility to other heavily marketed cleaners in the last several decades, most of the classic cleaning products your mom and grandma used are still available today. Many of these staples predate the chemical and detergent revolution in the c…
Bon Ami has been “green” since before green was concept. It removes burnt-on grease from casserole pans as easily as it takes a scuff off your floor and cleans your tub or sink. When the chemical revolution in cleaners came, Bon Ami stayed true to its roots and has remained an all-natural cleanser for more than 125 years. Available from Target; $1.49.
Borax has been around as a laundry detergent booster and general cleaner since the early 20th century. But it can also help you steam clean your carpets and clean your pots and pans. It’s 100 percent natural and is often used as an active ingredient in DIY cleaning solutions. Available from Target; $4.69.
Castile soap is a 100 percent plant-based soap that contains no chemical detergents or animal products. This olive-oil-based soap, produced in Europe since the 1600s, can be used for dishwashing, laundry, and other household cleaning tasks. Available from Target; $10.79
Bar Keepers Friend
Bar Keepers Friend came into being in 1882, after a chemist in Indianapolis noticed that his tarnished pot became sparkly clean after cooking rhubarb in it. He created a talcum-smooth cleanser incorporating the same active ingredient found in the plant, and sold his formulation to tavern owners, who used it for cleaning their brass fixtures. It’s still a favorite today for use on brass, stainless steel, ceramic, porcelain, and more. Available from Target; $1.99.
Arm & Hammer
Arm & Hammer baking soda has been a fixture in homes for over 165 years. It’s not only useful in baking, but it's a gentle and effective household cleanser. Safe to use around kids, foods, and pets, it’s gaining appreciation from a whole new generation. Available from Target; $0.85.
Murphy’s Oil Soap
There was surely a bottle of Murphy’s Oil Soap under your grandmother’s sink. This vegetable-oil-derived product has been in use since 1910. It’s currently marketed by Colgate-Palmolive for cleaning and maintaining wood, but it can also be used on non-wood surfaces, such as tile, laminate, vinyl, linoleum, and granite. Available from Target; $3.59.
The liquid polish Brasso has been used for more than a century to clean and brighten many types of metal, including brass, chrome, and copper. It’s changed little over the years, but it continues to find new uses. Got a scratched DVD? Brasso can smooth out those scratches and reduce their effect. Available from Amazon; $2.98.
The pretreating laundry soap Fels-Naptha, introduced in 1893, is particularly good at removing oil-based stains. It’s often an ingredient in DIY cleaning solutions and also makes an excellent insecticidal soap for those who garden. Available from Amazon; $0.88.
Clorox has been a household staple since the early 1900s. Although often referred to as chlorine bleach, household bleach has a completely different chemistry that’s derived from common table salt. While it gained fame as a laundry workhorse, Clorox also kills bacteria, which makes it useful for sanitizing all kinds of surfaces, especially during flu season.