I urge you to read the dire health warnings written in small print on the back of your household cleaners. After doing this, you may want to reconsider what you're spraying around your kitchen and bathroom. After all, soaking in the tub is more relaxing when you aren't worried about toxic residue floating in the bathwater!
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White Distilled Vinegar
Although this is an effective cleaner and deodorizer, you shouldn't use vinegar on hardwood floors, stone tile flooring, or wood furniture. (It's too acidic.) So, with this caveat out of the way, feel free to spray away with this fantastic non-toxic, eco-friendly cleaner.
All-purpose cleaner: Fill an empty spray bottle with equal parts vinegar and water. Use as you would any other multi-purpose cleaning spray.
Glass cleaner: Combine 2 cups of distilled water with 1/2 cup of vinegar. (The distilled water will help prevent streaking.) For best results, dry with a microfiber cloth.
Showers and Tubs: Combine two parts vinegar with one part water. Spray and leave for about 15 to 20 minutes. Then clean with a mildly abrasive sponge and rinse with water. For a more aggressive clean, sprinkle baking soda all around the bathtub before using the diluted vinegar.
Showerhead cleaner: Unscrew the showerhead and place it into a bowl of vinegar. Leave overnight, then scrub clean with a soft brush (or old toothbrush). Rinse the showerhead with hot water before reinstalling it.
Sanitizer: Use undiluted vinegar to remove odors from sinks, toilets, and garbage disposals. Pour down drains and leave for 30 minutes before rinsing with cold water.
Fabric softener: Unfortunately, a regular fabric softener is one of the least healthy things you can add to your laundry. But you don't have to endure crunchy clothes! Instead, fill a spray bottle with white vinegar and add a few drops of essential oil. Then, lightly spritz your clothes before putting them in the dryer.
This potent powder pairs beautifully with vinegar and adds a little grit to your homemade cleaners. But again, there are limitations: Don't use baking soda on glass, marble, or wood. Also, be sure to rinse off any baking soda residue. Here are some tried and true cleaning recipes:
General deodorizer: Sprinkle baking soda into sinks and toilets to keep them smelling fresh. (Let stand for 15 minutes before rinsing.)
Washing machine deodorizer: Sprinkle half a cup of baking soda into the drum and run on the hottest cycle. You can also use baking soda as a brighter for your laundry; add the same amount directly into the drum before adding your clothes. Don't put baking soda into the dispenser, as it could block it up.
Dishwasher deodorizer: Sprinkle baking soda into your dishwasher (not the cleaning dispenser), and run on an empty wash.
Abrasive cleaner: use the baking soda neat or mix it with water or vinegar in a small bowl to form a paste.
Bathtub cleaner: Sprinkle a little baking soda directly onto a wet sponge. Clean in circles to get rid of that ugly bathtub ring. And when you're tub is shining and you're ready to jump in, you can even add half a cup of baking soda to your bath water to soothe itchy skin. (Something you would never do with "scrubbing bubbles!")
When it comes to vinegar and baking soda, you don't have to worry about inhaling toxic fumes or having poison control on speed dial. Instead of a health warning, you may find a recipe for salad dressings or pancakes!
Both vinegar and lemon juice are highly acidic and can be used interchangeably (or together). But there are some differences between the two; vinegar contains acetic acid, whereas lemon juice has citric acid. (Which isn't quite as strong but smells a lot better!) Use bottled lemon juice instead if you don't want to waste your delicious fresh lemons on cleaning. (This is a great way to use up lemon juice past its expiration date.)
Limescale remover: Cut a lemon in half and rub it over faucets to remove this pesky residue. Let sit for 30 minutes, then scrub clean. Or, you can fill a spray bottle with equal parts lemon juice and water and spray it onto the affected areas. Let sit for 30 minutes before rinsing clean.
Odor remover: If smells linger on your cutting boards or utensils, rub them down with a cut lemon. (This also works well on your hands after cutting onions or garlic, but don't forget to wash and moisturize your hands afterward.)
Garbage disposal cleaner and odor remover: Cut lemons (or limes) into quarters and drop them one at a time into a running garbage disposal. Always be sure the water is running whenever your garbage disposal is on.
Microwave cleaner: In a microwave-safe bowl, mix one tablespoon of lemon juice with 1 cup of water. Heat in the microwave (on high) for 10 minutes. Then wipe the microwave (and door) down with a clean cloth.
Photo credit Wix
Dr. Bronner Sal Suds Biodegradable Cleaner
As much as I like using edible household cleaners, my favorite cleaning product is Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds. This hard-working detergent cuts through grease and rinses clean — even in hard water. But despite its strength, Sal Suds is still mild on your skin. And the essential oils make it smell amazing!
All-purpose spray: Combine one tablespoon of Sal Suds with 4 cups of water in a spray bottle. Use this spray on any surface that can get wet. I've used this dilution all around my kitchen and bathroom (including stone countertops, stainless steel appliances, stovetop, mirrors, and glass), and it works beautifully.
Wood, stone, and laminate floor cleaner: In a bucket, mix 1/2 tablespoon of Sal Suds in 3 gallons (12 cups) of water. Mop and dry. You can also use this solution to clean the exterior of your car. (The all-purpose dilution is best for the interior.)
Laundry: Use 2 to 3 tablespoons of soap in a regular washing machine. (Halve this amount for HE washers.) To pretreat laundry, apply a little of the measured amount of Sal Suds directly onto the stain and let it sit for at least 30 minutes.
You can find Lisa Bronner's Dilutions Cheat Sheet for Sal Suds here.
Dr, Bronner Pure-Castile Soap
Although this pure Castile soap can be diluted and used for household cleaning, I enjoy using the Dr. Bronner unscented castile soap on my body and puppy!
Hand and body wash: Squirt a few drops onto your hands and add enough water to form a lather. I always bring a mini bottle of this when I travel.
Makeup brush cleaner: Thoroughly wet the brush, then add a few drops of soap to the palm of your hand. Massage the brush into the lather and then rinse.
Dog shampoo: Wet your dog thoroughly, then massage a small amount of soap into your hands to create a mild lather. Be sure to rinse out all the soap. Let your dog air dry!
Fruit and veggie wash: Add 1/4 teaspoon to a bowl of water. Swish fruit and veggies around, and then rinse.
Laundry: 1/3 - 1/2 cup soap for a regular washer (large load). Halve this amount for HE machines. (I like to use this gentler option for face towels and delicate clothing.)
Handwashing delicate fabrics: Add one capful of soap to 4 cups of water. Gently swish clothes and let soak for about 10 minutes. Do one more swish before rinsing with clean water. Blot excess water with a towel and lay clothing flat to dry.
Lisa Bronner's Dilutions Cheat Sheet for Pure-Castile Liquid Soap here.
3% Hydrogen Peroxide
This all-purpose water and oxygen cleaner is an effective and approved disinfectant. But unlike vinegar and baking soda (which can be safely ingested), the safety of hydrogen peroxide is controversial. I like it because it's anti-fungal, antimicrobial, and odorless. But I wouldn't use it for anything other than a household cleaner. Look for 3%, and forget about using hydrogen peroxide to clean wounds — this is no longer recommended! (Although peroxide can kill harmful bacteria, it's too harsh on the surrounding skin and can hinder wound healing.)
70% Isopropyl Alcohol (Rubbing alcohol)
Rubbing alcohol isn't recommended for general cleaning, but it's okay for occasional use on hard surfaces. And it's perfect for cleaning that grubby cell phone! Just add a little rubbing alcohol to a paper towel or cloth and gently wipe over your phone and other electrical devices.
Both Hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol are meant for external use only.
If you live in an area with hard water, you'll want to use distilled water in place of tap water for cleaning. It'll help eliminate residue and streaks. Distilled water is the steam from boiled water, cooled and returned to a liquid.
These little wonders grab onto dirt and other particles without scratching surfaces. Use a microfiber cloth for cleaning wood (no additional cleaning solution is needed.) Microfiber cloths don't play well with others and shouldn't be washed with different fabrics. Hang to air-dry.
Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
I'm not sure why these work so well, but they really are magic! Use it damp to make your bathtub and sinks shine. This handy little sponge is perfect for getting scuff marks off baseboards and your white-soled shoes.
These disposable shells are perfect for cleaning small items without leaving lint behind. (Ideal for phones, eyeglasses, and glassware.)
Sunshine and light
Don't underestimate the power of (free) sunlight to freshen and eliminate bacteria and odors in your home. So open the blinds and windows whenever possible and let the light flood in!
Some people complain that natural products aren't as effective as their harsher counterparts. But even if this were true (which I don't think it is), ask yourself this simple question: Do you want cleaner lungs or a cleaner sink? I know what I'm choosing!
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