Around the holidays, it can feel like a constant battle to keep your house clean. Whether it’s nieces and nephews or grandchildren adding to the raucous of an already hectic home, it feels like “Dinner’s ready!” is almost inevitably followed by “Tommy spilled his drink on the floor!”
I made the switch to buying non-toxic cleaning supplies a few years ago, but it seems like every time the extended family comes in town we run out of something. Aunt-so-and-so runs to the store and comes back with a bottle of the regular stuff, laden with chemicals, and I sigh as it’s spread across the counter where little hands will inevitably pick up toxic residue.
This year, I decided not to let that happen. But instead of going out and stocking up on tons of high dollar natural cleaners, I made a few simple purchases of bulk supplies. Now, when the bottle runs out, I just run to the closet and mix up a new batch. Best of all, now that Tommy is eight-years-old, I’m totally comfortable handing him a rag and a bottle of harmless (but effective!) non-toxic cleaning supply and putting him to work on his own mess.
One side note: Many DIY cleaning supply recipes call for ammonia and Borax (boric acid). Although these are effective cleaners and useful for people making their own supplies solely to save money, there are enough concerns about their effects on human health to warrant not including them here.
Shopping List: (You can buy some or all of this, depending on which recipes you use)
- White Vinegar
- Baking Soda
- Washing Soda (Arm & Hammer makes one version — find it with detergents)
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- Rubbing Alcohol
- Natural Liquid Soap (like Dr. Bronner’s — available at most natural food stores; http://www.drbronner.com/)
- Tea Tree Oil
- Empty Spray Bottles (available at most dollar stores)
All-Purpose General Cleaner
Combine two cups of hot tap water with a few drops of liquid soap and half a teaspoon of washing soda. Shake in spray bottle and keep indefinitely!
Two-thirds water, one-third white vinegar. It’s that easy! Mop away.
Bathtub and Shower Cleaner
Add a tablespoon of baking soda to a cup of white vinegar and a few drops of liquid soap. Removes soap scum and other icky bathroom residues.
Bonus Tip: Drain Cleaner
Drain cleaner is particularly toxic stuff. I recently had a weekend houseguest who noticed my shower was backing up and offered to fix it, sans chemicals. Here’s what he did: Put a big pot of water on the stove to boil. Then pour half a cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by a cup of white vinegar. Chase it all with the boiling water. For really clogged drains, this process can be alternated with a plunger. It works even better than a chemical drain cleaner, and my shower is still unclogged.
Mix a cup of water, a cup of rubbing alcohol, and a tablespoon of vinegar. A quarter teaspoon of liquid soap and a little extra vinegar can also be substituted for the rubbing alcohol. This mixture doesn’t streak, dries fast, and can be used on glass, tile, and chrome. For an extra green measure (that’s even more streak averse than paper towels), wipe it on with newspaper.
Cooking holiday dinners can do a number on your oven. There’s no way to avoid some scrubbing (even with ‘self cleaning’ ovens), but this trick makes the job much easier. Make a paste of water and baking soda, and coat the inside of the oven with it. Let it stand overnight, then scour off the mixture in the morning and wipe it down with a rag.
Put a bowl of water with a few tablespoons of lemon juice in it and microwave on high for five minutes. Remove the bowl and wipe down the sides.
Bleach is an old standby, but it affects many peoples’ breathing. For a disinfectant, mold-killing substitute, mix two cups of water with three tablespoons of liquid soap. Drop in 20 to 30 drops of tea tree oil.
Extra tip: Tea tree oil (or lavender oil or lemon juice) can be added to any of these recipes to enhance their scent and help cover up vinegar odor.
Christopher Wallace, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Amsterdam Printing, has more than 20 years experience in sales and marketing. At Amsterdam, a leading provider of personalized pens, promotional pens, and other personalized items such as imprinted apparel and customized calendars, Christopher is focused on providing quality marketing materials to small, mid-size and large businesses.