I couldn’t resist sharing my favorite cleaning tips because…you can actually eat almost all of the things I clean my house with (if you were for some reason inclined). Nearly all are food grade or literal grocery items and most all of the ingredients are incredibly inexpensive, nontoxic, and easy to obtain.
After taking a few chemistry and food science classes, I started to get really suspicious about the chemicals I was putting into my body and the environment on a daily basis. I started taking a closer look at the foods I was eating, the products I was using on my body, and finally, the things I was cleaning my house with. They all just seemed so…volatile. And for what? Did these chemicals actually work better for me, the consumer, or were they just cheaper and easier for huge companies to produce?
To top it all off, I am a college student on a limited budget. Do I really need to spend my money on hundreds of different products that each only serve one function? No…probably not.
Many nutritionists and health experts will advise people to limit eating foods that have labels with chemicals and ingredients that we cannot pronounce, and I see no reason not to apply this to things we use on our bodies and in our homes as well. We buy all of these products with the hopes that they will leave our spaces sparkling clean and smelling fresh, but too many of these products are toxic if we touch or inhale them, and they are poisonous if ingested. I’m really just not about that, so I spent the next couple of years finding ways I could clean myself and my house in healthier way.
Here’s what’s in my cleaning cabinet:
•Apple Cider Vinegar
•Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Castile Soap
Pretty simple list, right?
I discovered that it’s not what you use as much as it is how you use it. For starters, baking soda and vinegar are extremely versatile and can be used to clean nearly anything. (Bonus: if you mix them together for some applications, it is also a lot like making those fizzing volcanos as a kid, which is really cool. An acid-base reaction at it’s finest)
To go into a little more detail:
Baking soda has the perfect amount of abrasion for scrubbing tough stains off of surfaces like counters, sinks, showers, toilets, etc. and has incredible odor fighting capabilities. It is also dirt cheap, usually at less than $1 per box. Baking soda is completely nontoxic, has no odor, and can be used for several homemade health and beauty products as well (which I will cover in another post). I like to keep my baking soda in a grated cheese/red pepper glass shaker for easy use, that way it can just be shaken out of the jar onto whatever surface I’m cleaning.
White distilled vinegar is another cleaning essential, as it is effective at killing mold, mildew, and bacteria due to it’s high acidity. Though it is not officially registered as a disinfectant with the EPA, it has been proven effective to kill both Salmonella and E. coli. It is also effective at dissolving lime, soap scum, and kitchen grease, and is even gentle enough to use on wood floors. It can be used to clean floors, toilets, mirrors, glass, and basically every other hard surface. Again with the cheap, I think I pay less than $1 for a 2 gallon bottle at most grocery stores.
Essential Oils are perfect for bringing fresh, clean, and healthy scents to your home and body products. When I first began my journey into natural cleaning, my biggest complaint was that the house just didn’t smell clean the same way it used to. Though this doesn’t bother me anymore and I’ve actually grown to love the simplicity, essential oils bring back the fragrance I was missing. A few drops of whatever scent (or scent combo) you like can be added to any of these recipes. Additionally, many of the oils have their own unique benefits and medicinal properties. Tea tree oil is one of my favorites for it’s antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, and antiseptic properties, and I use it in almost all of my homemade cleaning products. Some other favorites are peppermint, lavender, grapefruit, lemongrass, eucalyptus, clove, and lemon. Though these are safe on the skin, I wouldn’t advise eating them unless the bottle explicitly states that it’s safe for internal use.
Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Castile Soap is amazing, if you aren’t already hooked. Dr. Bronner’s is all-natural, organic, fair trade certified, and is all plant-based. I originally found this soap after years of struggling with horribly sensitive skin; still to this day this is the only soap sensitive enough for my skin. Both the bottle and liquid form are now readily available now at most supermarkets and health food stores and also online. It does not contain any harsh chemicals, detergents, or sulfates and can be used for literally everything from the body to cleaning (you can apparently even brush your teeth with the stuff). It’s also biodegradable and safe for the environment, making it the perfect soap to take camping. They come in tons of awesome scents, my favorite being peppermint, tea tree, lavender, citrus, and almond.
Here are a few recipes and ideas to get you started:
All-Purpose Cleaning Spray
Mix together 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup of baking soda with 1 liter of water and add to a clean, empty spray bottle. Add 10-20 drops of essential oil if you prefer a scented cleaning spray. This can be used in the bathroom to clean showers, sinks, and chrome fixtures as well as in the kitchen on countertops. It is safe to use on eating surfaces as well. A microfiber cloth or towel will also aid in the cleaning power, helping to trap and remove more dirt and grime.
Add 15-20 drops of essential oil of choice to 1 cup baking soda and mix well. Sprinkle powder on carpets and let sit for 15 minutes before vacuuming well. The baking soda will help neutralize odors (including pet odors) and the essential oil leaves behind a nice, clean scent. I usually use grapefruit or lavender oil, but the essential oil can be omitted entirely if you prefer no scent.
Tubs, Sinks, Showers, Ceramic Tiles
Create a “soft scrub” type cleaner with 1 tablespoon liquid Castile soap and 1/3 cup baking soda. Scrub until clean and rinse with water.
Toilet Bowl Cleaner
Add 1/4 cup of baking soda and 1 cup of vinegar to the basin of the toilet boil and let sit for a few minutes. Scrub with a toilet brush and flush.
Mold and Mildew
Put full strength vinegar or lemon juice in an empty spray bottle. Spray onto affected area and use a scrubby sponge to remove and kill mold and mildew.
You can mop almost any type of floor by adding 1/4 cup of liquid Castile soap with 2 gallons of warm water. Add vinegar for extra cleaning power.
Window and Mirror Cleaner
Mix 1/2 cup vinegar with 2 cups water (or black tea for extra grease fighting power) in a spray bottle. Spritz windows and wipe with a sheet of newspaper or microfiber cloth until dry and shiny.
Cleaning Clogged Drains
Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda down drain. Next, add 1/2 cup of white vinegar and cover the drain. After 5 minutes, pour a kettle of boiling water down drain. The reaction between the vinegar and baking soda breaks down fatty acids which should help flush the clog down the drain.
Cleaning a Dirty Microwave
Place 1/2 cup white vinegar (or 1 lemon sliced in half) with 1/2 cup of water in a microwave-safe bowl and heat to a rolling boil, or roughly 3-5 minutes (depending on your microwave’s power). Remove the bowl and wipe the inside clean with a sponge or towel; caked on food and debris should now wipe off easily. You have essentially steam cleaned your microwave.