Thursday, December 1, 2011

How We Clean Our Home

When it comes to cleaning, one doesn’t have to sacrifice a lot of money or give way to harsh chemicals. In our journey to a cleaner, greener home, I decided I was tired of spending so much money on commercial cleaners. I found effective, cheaper cleaning methods, which I’m happy to share with others.

First, the basic ingredients we use:

Vinegar- is good for everything! From cleaning mirrors, windows, cutting through tough grease, to being used as a fabric softener, it is a staple in our home!

Baking soda- wonderful at cleaning sinks, tubs and showers. There are many uses, even beyond what we use it for. It can even be used in homemade deodorant and toothpaste.

Borax- there is a little controversy surrounding just how safe Borax is to use. It does work, I like the extra “grittiness” when using it as a scrubbing powder. It addition to being recommended as a laundry whitener, it is also an effective pesticide. We’ve used it successfully for ants. Don’t eat it, don’t inhale it, use common sense, but I’m sure some people will be more sensitive and won’t be able to use it. In that case, there are plenty of alternatives that can be used in it’s place.

Essential Oils- I use Grapefruit Seed Extract and Tea Tree Oil for anti-bacterial solutions, Lavendar, Lemon, Lemongrass and Orange for good smelling solutions. My favorite right now is the Lavendar/Lemongrass combo.

Dr Bronner’s Liquid Castile Soap- This is another multi-purpose cleaner. I’m pretty sure a person could use this one product for all cleaning- including not only home cleaning (dishes, laundry, general), but also as a body wash, toothpaste and shampoo.

Soap Nuts- Most people have never heard of soap nuts. They grow on a type of tree and have been used for thousands of years by native cultures from around the world. They are simple to use. They also have many uses. They can be used whole in the laundry, or boiled down into a liquid cleaner. We like boil them into a liquid cleaner. I make up a gallon at a time. Bring a gallon of water to a boil, add approx 30 soapnuts, let it gently boil for 30 min, cool, then use in variety of solutions.  They seem to be a bit pricey- usually about $24 for a one pound bag.  BUT, as you will see, they can be used for practically everything and a bag lasts a long time.  I’m still using my 1 pound bag I bought over a year ago!

Towels- We were addicted to paper towels. I knew it had to stop! A friend shared with us what they did to stop their paper towel use. She had purchased inexpensive “flour bag” kitchen towels, then cut them into fourths, sewing under the edges. These are 100% cotton and lint free. Instead of sewing the edges under, we just used our serger to finish off the edges. We LOVE them and now that roll of paper towels just sits there! On a side note, we had already switched to cloth napkins. If you come to our home and see the paper napkins sitting on top of the refrigerator, they have been sitting there for over a year now, as well as the paper plates. Feel free to take them if you will use them. Leave the paper towels though, we do have a preschooler and inside animals and sometimes the things which need to be cleaned up needs to be done with a paper towel which goes straight to the trash can.

Cleaning solutions:

Laundry:  We use liquid soap nuts for laundry detergent and vinegar for a fabric softener/odor neutralizer.  Essential Oil, like lavender, can be added.  For whites, we do use Oxy Clean, but I’m open to trying Borax for whitening.  Also, on my sewing list is to make wool dryer balls.  Wool is a natural fiber,  softens fabrics, eliminates static cling, and adds space between the clothes, speeding up drying time.  I will share these when I get them made.

Sinks/Tub/Shower/Toilet:  I use a mix of borax and baking soda- probably about 2/3 baking soda and 1/3 borax.  Then in a separate bottle, I have a mix of Dr. Bronner’s, water, and vinegar- around 1/3 of each.  I probably don’t need to use as much Dr. Bronner’s as I do.  Also, I use the Dr. Bronner’s Tea Tree Oil Soap.  I sprinkle the dry mixture, then use the liquid mixture for a foaming cleaner.  Scrub, rinse, finished.  In the above picture, you will notice I do use Greenworks Toilet cleaner.  I’m trying to decide which works better.  We do have hard water, but I really think the homemade is going to work just fine for us.

Mirrors:  Once I finished up the bottle of Greenworks Glass Cleaner, I filled it up with 1 cup vinegar, rest with water, with a few drops of Lemon Oil.  Works just as well as the commercial cleaner and it was a great way to repurpose the spray bottle.

General Cleaner:  There are so many options for a general cleaner.  Right now, we’re using a soap nut based cleaner.  At a ratio of 1 cup water, 1 T liquid soap nuts and 1 T vinegar, we keep a spray bottle sitting out in the kitchen for cleaning the counter tops.  I also added a few drops of Grapefruit Seed Extract and Orange Oil, for a citrus smell.  Change the ratio to 2 cups water per 1 T liquid soap nuts/ 1 T vinegar, and it can also be used a glass cleaner.

Liquid Hand Soap:  We use either Castile Bar Soap, or for liquid, we have Dr. Bronner’s Liquid soap, with about half water.  I also use this for a liquid body wash.  Liquid Soap nuts (without watering down) can also be used for a liquid soap.  Essential Oils can be added, like lavender.

Dishwashing:  This is where we need to do some changing.  Right now we are using Ecover liquid soap for hand washing dishes, and then a commercial product for the dishwasher.  I tried the borax/baking soda powder with vinegar rinse and it didn’t work.  BUT, I really think it was a dishwasher problem.  Now that the dishwasher is fixed, I will try that combo again since I have read so many reviews of how well it works.  Other alternatives include, yes once again, liquid soap nuts.  Just fill the dispenser and then use vinegar for the rinse.  We will be exploring these options.

Hardwood Floors:  We LOVE our Eureka Enviro-Steam Cleaner.  Easy to use, works great.  I do add a few drops of Tea Tree Oil.  Before we got our steam cleaner, I was using Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner.  It works great too.  Once you buy the starter kit, which includes the spray bottle and mop, the jug of concentrate cleaner (which you buy separately) lasts forever.  I still use it for spot cleaning, but probably won’t buy anymore when I’ve used it all, but that will be literally years from now (I have about 3/4 of a jug left and bought it over 2 years ago).

Additonal Solutions:


Ants- sugar water with Borax.

Garden and Chicken Coop- Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth. We’re not opposed to harsher chemicals, when needed, but we use those very sparingly when our option is either use it or lose the garden.  We show no mercy for Japanese Beetles.  I have gotten into some serious discussions over these little destroyers over using chemicals.  At the end of it, we used chemicals and still had a garden, others didn’t use chemicals and didn’t have a garden.  It wasn’t too hard for us to figure out what to do.  Since we have chickens, one thing we did that worked very well was to use the baits.  Yes, I know they attract more beetles but there were already thousands of beetles, attracting a few more wasn’t going to make a difference.  We hung just the baits (without the bags) over by the chickens, the beetles swarmed the baits and the chickens gorged themselves on this beetle feast.  This left very few in the garden, but even a few will destroy everything they can.  We then could use the chemical spray very sparingly, targeting pretty much the beetle itself without having to spray everything down.  And NO, I’m not going to hand pick those nasty little things off the plants a put them in a bucket of water.  That just makes my skin crawl thinking about it.  This year, we are getting some guinea chickens, but I don’t know if they will be big enough in time for this year’s beetles, but they will be for next year!  Side note: guineas are better than chickens at free ranging in the garden area.  They will eat bugs without tearing up the garden like chickens do.

Bug Repellent (for people, animals, garden)- Yes, liquid soap nuts!  1 cup water to 1 T liquid soap nuts and optional 1T Neem Oil (which we did use). 
There are so many options in making homemade cleaners!  I’ve listed what works for us.  Sometimes we just need a place to start since it can be rather overwhelming.  It’s also nice to be able to have a clean home without harsh chemicals and to save money in the process!

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