I’d been hearing this buzz in my hippie circles about making all kinds of awesome eco-friendly home cleaning products using cream of tartar. Cream of tartar? Before I could commit to cleaning with it, I wanted to know what this stuff even was. What is that weird white powder that hides in the back of every spice rack? Well...
Cream of tartar is a potassium-based salt derived from tartaric acid. It’s actually a byproduct of winemaking, because during fermentation the potassium bitartrate -- that’s the fancy name for cream of tartar -- crystallizes along the inside of wine casks. That’s why they call the crystals “wine diamonds.” Which is a pretty cute spin on a strange salty deposit, no?
These crystals that form in wine casks are the source of most commercial cream of tartar, which is collected and then purified to create the white powder we all know and love for one thing and one thing only: snickerdoodle cookies!
But apparently, cream of tartar isn’t just for cooking. It can be used in a variety of ways around the house, doing everything from polishing copper, brass, and aluminum to removing stains in the laundry. I wanted to put cream of tartar to the test as an all-natural, all-purpose cleaner, so I pitted it against three mighty opponents: my bathtub, my stainless steel stovetop, and my kitchen counters.
There are lots of different recipes that call for cream of tartar to be mixed with a number of different ingredients. But for my purposes here, I made a simple basic “soft scrub” which I used in all three applications.
Cream of Tartar Soft Scrub
2 cups distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup cream of tartar
In a glass mixing bowl or small plastic bucket (no metal), combine the ingredients and stir. The cream of tartar will not dissolve completely. Use the soft scrub by dipping a sponge or rag into the solution. Give it a little swirl every so often, to keep the ingredients evenly distributed.