We started being more conscientious about what we were using to clean stuff around our house after our first child was born. As new parents, the thought of all those chemicals being in the air she’d be breathing and on the surfaces she’d be touching (and chewing) made us re-evaluate our use of things that needed a PhD in chemistry to understand (let alone spell). Nine years on and we’re still making our own stuff. And it’s easier than you think.
Less Harmful Alternatives
How many different, “specialized” cleaners do you have? I bet you have window cleaner, floor cleaner, surface cleaner, disinfectant, abrasive scrubbing something-or-other, laundry detergent…and probably more. There are a lot chemicals in all those products that can do some pretty nasty things to your body and the environment over prolonged periods of time.
Thing is, you can clean and disinfect your house with the simplest of non-hazardous* ingredients. Some of which you can literally eat. The most common ingredients in the formulas I use are:
• The Acids: vinegar, lemons (or other citrus)
• The Salts: baking soda, kosher salt, Borax
• The Soaps:** bar soap, liquid soap, washing soda
• The Extras: essential oils, microfiber cloths, good scrub brush, elbow grease, spray bottles
With these few ingredients, you could really clean just about anything in your house (however, I’ve yet to find a dishwasher detergent formula that works well enough for me). It may not be instant, and it may take a little more effort, but you’ll be clean AND green in no time.
Super-simple Citrus Cleaner
My favorite concoction right now is a citrus cleaner that I found on Pinterest. It’s super-simple to make and the by-product is fresh-squeezed lemonade or orange juice. Do you get that from your ready-made, store-bought cleaners? I think not!
It’s great for cleaning surfaces, especially wood (think furniture, cabinets, and floors). Straight vinegar (which acts as a disinfectant) was my go-to, all-purpose cleaner, but the citrus in this lends a little extra disinfecting quality plus a great smell and a bit of polishing action.
No exact science here, so no measurements….
Things you’ll need:
• Large jar with a lid (mouth should be big enough for the citrus peels to fit through)
• 10-12 lemons or oranges (or as many that’ll fit in your container)
• Vinegar (enough to cover your lemon remnants when they’re in the container)
• Citrus squeezer, juicer, or some other tool for extracting the juice
• Strainer (a tea strainer will do) or cheese cloth
• Spray bottle
Making the cleaner:
1. Juice all your citrus. Save juice for making lemonade or orange juice. (Bonus!)
2. Throw peels into jar and cover with vinegar. Close lid.
3. Wait a week.
4. Strain the vinegar concoction (important to get rid of the floaties so they don’t clog your spray bottle).
5. Fill your spray bottle half way and top off with water (or you can use full-strength). Save any leftover cleaner for refills.
DISCLAIMER: I’ve read you shouldn’t use vinegar on granite countertops. I don’t know why, so I live dangerously and do it all the time. But, just in case it ends up really ruining them: DO NOT USE ON GRANITE.
So, try it and let us know what you think!
Next month, I disclose the ingredients to a super-secret abrasive cleaner formula.
*I’m not going to start eating Borax anytime soon, but it’s a lot safer than what you find in other cleaners.
**Yeah, I know these have chemicals in them, but you can purchase “greener” versions like Dr. Bronner’s castile soaps (both bar and liquid) and Method® liquid soaps to mitigate the fudge factor.