I noticed as I was going through the feedback from my Earth Day post last week that (a) people like being able to save the planet, (b) people especially like being able to save money at the same time, and (c) one of the most popular methods of those I suggested was to use vinegar and baking soda for many of your cleaning needs. Understandably, when you combine the advantages of reducing chemical exposure, saving money, AND doing as good (or better) a job while cleaning, it’s hard to resist.
But we don’t need to stop with vinegar and baking soda; there are other possibilities in the realm of homemade cleaners. Why bother to ever buy a cleaning solution again if you can get all of your cleaning done with common household chemicals that are less expensive and usually less harmful to the planet?
Let’s start with some of the basic items you likely already have available, before we cover some recipes for slightly more complex mixtures:
10 Organic Cleaning Basics
- Soap/Liquid Detergent – Pretty obvious, but if you’re looking to do some cleaning, why not opt for some soap or its fluid counterpart? Try it on just about everything, particularly anything greasy (the chemical nature of soap, a head that is attracted to water and a tail that binds to oils, allows it to easily pick up most oils).
- Alcohol – It’s not just for frat parties any more. Alcohols are useful antibiotics, killing most bacteria and other microorganisms upon exposure. Isopropyl alcohol is the most commonly used for cleaning purposes, with ethanol (aka, the alcohol you drink) being a good backup. If you do have to raid the liquor cabinet, unflavored vodka is the purest, and best, alcohol to be used for cleaning.
- Club Soda – It’s commonly cited as an effective stain remover/preventer for carpets and shirts, with good reason. The salt contained within club soda will help prevent any staining, and the carbonation will lift the stain to the surface. Add in being excellent in a Vodka and Tonic, and you’ll have a cleaning cabinet that can double as a drink closet.
- Lemon Juice – While we’re on the subject of organic antibiotics, lemon juice is similarly effective against bacteria. It also has the advantage of leaving your cleaning area lemony fresh.
- Salt (Particularly Kosher) – Sometimes you need to scrub, which means that you need to be able to generate friction on the surfaces to be cleaned. Coarse salt will not only help to kill any bacteria or other organisms in your cleaning area, but provides a means to scrub your area deeper.
- Cornmeal – If you need to soak up a spill and make it easier to vacuum or sweep, cornmeal makes an excellent method. Simply pour on a spill, wait for several minutes, and you’ll be able to vacuum up readily.
- White Vinegar – Admittedly, I mentioned this last week, but pure white vinegar (nothing that will leave a stain or an odor) is a powerful cleaning agent, with a high acid content that cut through many stains. It also reacts with bases, including:
- Baking Soda – Another reagent I’ve mentioned already, but similarly deserving of further mention. It is capable of deodorizing most surfaces (as well as refrigerators and cabinets, if an open box is left inside), serving as a scour like the salt mentioned above, and reacting with vinegar to form a powerful reaction.
- Water (Ideally Distilled) – Often forgotten on lists like this, simple water can be combined with many of the other chemicals listed here to make excellent cleaning solutions, or can be a powerful cleaner in its own right, particularly when heated to boiling. Distilled water, while not necessary, will help prevent any contamination of your cleaning surfaces.
- Essential Oils – Not really required for cleaning, per se, but excellent for adding some pleasant scents to your household. There are a number of varieties that you can utilize in your solutions, so feel free to use whichever ones appeal to you most.
These basic chemicals should allow you to do much of your cleaning. By combining them, you’ll be able to handle even more cleaning situations. Here are a few solution recipes:
Homemade Cleaning Solutions
1. All-Purpose Cleaner
-9 Parts Water
-1 Part Vinegar
Mix together and keep in a spray bottle; it will clean most surfaces, while not being as rough as straight vinegar. (Although, if you need a stronger solution, straight vinegar can be used.)
2. Tile Cleaner
-1/2 cup Baking Soda
-Liquid Soap as Needed
-5-10 drops Essential Oils (optional)
Add baking soda to a bowl, add in liquid soap while stirring until solution reaches a frothy texture similar to cake frosting. Mix in essential oil if desired, and use to scrub tiles with sponge.
3. Window Cleaner
-1/2 Tablespoon Liquid Soap
-3 Tablespoons Water
-2 Cups Water
Mix together in a spray bottle, and use like a commercial window cleaner. It should cut through all the stains on your window, including residues that may have been left by commercial cleaners.
4. Drain Cleaner
-1 Part Baking Soda
-1 Part Vinegar
Pour the baking soda down the drain and allow to mix with water in the drain. Add vinegar and allow to sit for ten minutes (if possible, seal the drain so the baking soda and vinegar is mixing in an enclosed space). Pour boiling water down the drain and you should clear most clogs in sinks, tubs, or toilets. Repeat if needed, and plunge between attempts. (It may not work on all clogs, particularly those that are deep in your drainage system.
5. Mold Killer
-2 teaspoons Tea Tree Essential Oil
-2 Cups Water
Mix together in a spray bottle. Use a toothbrush or other cleaning device to scrub the moldy area, and spray the solution on the remaining portion. Do not rinse; the scent will be strong at first, but will dissipate within a few hours.
Optionally, straight vinegar, with essential oils added to mellow the scent (if desired) will similarly kill most mold in your household.