I have been receiving newsletters about harmful chemicals in our cleaning products. Nothing really new, but just in time, because I am in the mood for spring cleaning 🙂 Do cleaning supplies have to be harmful? Can I make my own? You can either buy safe products, they are easy to find, or make your own, as it is relatively easy to do with natural ingredients that you already have on hand. I posted some of this information last year: DIY Natural Cleaners. This post is an updated version with new links to safer products & cleaning recipes.
If you prefer to buy your cleaning products but want them without all the toxic ingredients then EWG is the website for you. It has always been my go-to for information regarding toxic ingredients in anything I use or consume. Their new Healthy Home Guide site has links to all their guides to help you with choosing safe products for your environment. Explore the Home Guides has them all listed in categories. We have been upgrading our 68 year old home a little bit at a time. It is important to use safe products even when painting or caulking the bathroom tiles. There is a guide on this page for any product that you may need when upgrading, repairing, cleaning etc. Bookmark it!
The labels on cleaning products are very confusing & difficult to decode. EWG has done that for us. EWG’s Guide for Decoding Labels: “Decoding the labels: Confused by the labels on cleaning products? EWG helps you sort facts from hype.” For example: “Active ingredients” in cleaning products are usually antimicrobial pesticides added to kill bacteria, viruses or molds. Avoid them – they’re hazardous chemicals, and you rarely need them to get your house clean. Another good page to bookmark.
Safety ratings for more than 2,500 products. You can type in the product or the brand that you are interested in using the search box. You will get a rating on all the brand’s products or on the individual product you typed in. If you would like a list of products & their grades rather than looking them up one at a time, look at the top left of the page & find the Green Banner that says EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning. It is a drop down menu. Click on the cleaner you are interested in & you will get a list with their grades beginning with the highest rated products.
Most of my cleaning supplies I have made. Some, detergent & dish soap, I buy. When I make them myself, I like simple & fast. White Vinegar, Baking Soda, Borax & salt have been used for cleaning for generations. You can buy them, cheaply, in large containers at drug stores & markets. Here are some of my favorites recipes.
Oven/Pot/Pan cleaner: Make a paste with baking soda & water. Apply it to all the gunky areas liberally. Sprinkle white vinegar onto the paste. It will foam. Allow it to sit for 30 minutes. Wipe & you have a clean oven or pan. You can add salt to the paste & skip the vinegar. Let it sit 30 minutes, then scrub. Works well.
All purpose cleaner: 2-3 tablespoons of white vinegar to 1 quart of water in a spray bottle. I use this to clean counters, floors, stove tops, cupboards, doors & walls. It can also be used on carpet, but test it first in case it bleaches out the color. Here in the Pacific Northwest, mold & mildew is a problem. We now have a dehumidifier which has limited the mold & mildew in the house. That combined with using this white vinegar spray, I no longer have a problem. This can also be used to clean your car inside & out.
Window cleaner: 2 tablespoons of white vinegar to 1 quart of water in a spray bottle. Bright & shiny windows. I use this on our car’s windows too. Well, my husband does 🙂
Bathroom tiles: 2 tablespoons of white vinegar to 1 quart of water. Spray onto tiles & shower curtain to get rid of mildew. Let it sit for about 30 minutes & then rinse it off with warm water. If the grout is particularly bad then add baking soda or salt & scrub. You can use this to clean the tiles as a preventative measure all year.
Keep your drains clog free: I shared this with a plumber & he just laughed at me 🙂 Place 1/4-1/2 cup of baking soda into your drain. Follow this with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of white vinegar. It will foam up. Let it sit for 15 minutes. Then clear the drain with 2-3 cups boiling water. If you do this once a month you won’t get that buildup around the inside of the pipes. Great preventative method. I have also used this to unclog drains.
This is my favorite reference for cleaning ingredients & recipes. They also have a printable version at this link… A Green Clean: Homemade Cleaners to Detox Your Home from Mother Earth Living, by Kim Erickson, July/August 2009 This is a list of the ingredients they discuss. Go to the link to read about each one.
- Baking Soda: The overflow hole in our bathroom sink in Encinitas was emitting a horrible odor. I used the Baking Soda & Vinegar in the hole & then rinsed it with hot water. Odor was gone!
- Distilled White Vinegar: My favorite
- Hydrogen Peroxide: I used this to remove an oil stain from my husbands work clothes. I saturated the stain with the hydrogen peroxide, added dish soap (Dawn is recommended. I used my 7th Generation dish soap) & then add the baking soda last. I scrubbed with a small brush & let it sit for an hour. I then rinsed & washed the clothes. It did a good job & removed 90% of the stain. It was an exceptionally bad stain, but it was gone after the next wash day. Hydrogen peroxide is like a mild bleach, test your fabric before using. Gets out blood stains too.
- Salt: I always forget to use salt on carpet stains. It works well.
- Vegetable Oil (Castile) Soap: Dr. Bronners is a castile soap.
- Washing Soda: Washing soda is soda ash. It is not edible. EWG gives it an A. It is very caustic, wear gloves when using. It can be purchased at most grocery & big box stores. Look in the laundry detergent aisle. Arm & Hammer makes one & it gets an A from EWG.
- Lemons: If you have been cutting up garlic, cut a lemon in half & add salt to the cut side, scrub the board. You can also use salt & lemon juice to wash the garlic smell from your hands. As teenagers, my younger brother & I surfed, not very well, but we did try. He had light brown hair & wanted it blond. I poured grapefruit & lemon juice on his head & he laid out in the sun for hours. Presto! Blond sticky hair! 🙂
The next list on the same page is for Homemade Cleaners: You can use your essential oils with these. They not only make them smell fresh, they are also anti-viral & anti-bacterial.
- All-purpose cleaner and disinfectant
- Lemongrass dust cloths
- Creamy nonabrasive cleaner
- Pre-vacuum carpet freshener: Sometimes I just strew dried lavender onto the carpet & leave it there until the next time I vacuum. Smells lovely. I also hang a muslin bag, full of dried lavender & dried lemon grass, from the door knobs. Wonderful room freshener. I use it in the car too.
I would like to end with a recipe for a Hand Sanitizer that I found on Live Simply: DIY I keep a bottle in the car & a small spray bottle of it in my backpack.
- 3 TB aloe vera Get pure aloe vera. Check the labels!
- 2 TB witch hazel or rubbing alcohol, if using alcohol reduce to 1 TB We only use witch hazel in our house. It is a great wound cleaner.
- 1/2 tsp vitamin E oil You can get this in a small bottle or you can open capsules if you have them.
- 16 drops tea tree essential oil
- 8 drops lavender essential oil
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. To use the hand sanitizer store in a small jar or a squeeze tube. I also use these tubes for homemade toothpaste. Note: This recipe will make 2 fl oz (one tube.)
I found a Witch Hazel product by Thayers with alcohol free Aloe Vera & Lavender oil already in it. I use 5 TB of that & then add the Vitamin E oil & Tea Tree oil. See it here. My husband noticed that when he used it, it also acted as a mosquito repellent. We now apply it to our skin & hats when hiking. Works very well.
Now you are ready for spring cleaning without the worry of toxins. For even more information, explore the links below under Resources. I will be on vacation beginning this week. The next post will be on April 17th.
Until then…Mary 🙂