Ammonia Isn't Just For Cleaning

Ammonia is one of the oldest cleaning products currently in use. Ammon was an Egyptian deity or god in whose temple was produced the earliest form of ammonia, sal ammoniac. This was produced by burning camel dung. Ammonia is a pungent, colourless gas. It is water soluble which is how it is sold today ie as a liquid.

It was made in northern Europe during the Middle Ages by heating the scrapings of deer antlers. At that time it was known as spirits of hartshorn. Today it is mostly made synthetically by mix hydrogen and nitrogen gases under extreme pressures and medium temperatures.

Most of the cleaning uses of ammonia are well documented but there are some uses that may not be so well known. Oven racks with cooked-on substances can be laid out on an old towel in a large tub. Fill the tub with warm water and add ½ cup of ammonia. Let the racks soak for a minimum of 14 minutes then rinse off and wipe clean.

Wash out drawers, pantry shelves and cupboards with ½ cup of ammonia diluted in 1 litre of water. Leave doors and drawers open to air-dry. This will get rid of moths.

To get rid of paint odours, fill small dishes with ammonia and place in each newly painted room. Replenish if necessary after a few days. Vinegar or onion slices will work just as well.

Ammonia has its uses in the garden too. Alkaline loving plants such as clematis, lilac, cucumbers and hydrangea will love an occasional spray of ¼ cup of ammonia in 4 litres of water. This will boost their nitrogen intake and give them a great lift.

Spray the lids and the exterior of your garbage bins with half-strength ammonia or spray the inside bags to keep strays and scavengers out of the garbage.

Ammonia dabbed on a mosquito bite will stop the itching instantly.

Ammonia is well known for killing mildew. Wear gloves when working with ammonia and make sure the area is well-ventilated. Ammonia is especially effective for cleaning mildew off painted outdoor surfaces, unfinished wooden patio furniture and picnic tables. You will need a mix of 1 cup of ammonia, ½ cup of vinegar, ¼ cup bicarbonate of soda and 4 litres of water. Rinse thoroughly when finished and mop up excess moisture.

For wicker furniture, dilute 2 tablespoons of ammonia with 4 litres of water. An old toothbrush makes a good applicator for getting into hard-to-reach spots. Rinse and allow to dry in the fresh air.

Discolouration on concrete surfaces can be removed by scrubbing with a solution of 1 cup ammonia with 4 litres of water. When finished, hose down the area well.

A cup of clear ammonia in 2 litres of warm water will lift out stains from upholstery and carpets. Sponge the stains, allow the fabric to become thoroughly dry and repeat if necessary.

Do you have blackened soot on the glass doors of your fireplace? A mixture of 1 tablespoon of ammonia, 2 tablespoons of vinegar and a litre of warm water will make cleaning the doors a breeze. Place the mixture in a spray bottle and spray on the glass. Allow it to sit for a minute or two then wipe off with an absorbent cloth. Repeat if necessary.

Dingy white joggers can be restored by rubbing with a cloth dipped in half-strength ammonia ie equal amounts of water and ammonia.

It is well worth keeping some ammonia in the cleaning cupboard but keep it well away from bleach or any product containing chlorine as together they produce toxic fumes.