Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Safe, Cheap, Effective Cleaners

I've never really liked cleaners that you buy in the store.  They smell yucky, you have to protect your hands, clothes and eyes from them, and there's just something about them that's always made me worry about using them.  My worries aren't unfounded.  It seems like every time I read the news (which isn't often, of course), I hear about something else in those cleaners being deemed unsafe.  From the fragrance to the chemicals used for the cleaning, they're just not safe to be used, especially not in a closed environment like a house.

That's why for almost as long as I've been cleaning, I've used simpler ingredients whenever possible.  Vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, dish soap, and good old water are at the top of my list.  Here's what's in my cleaning arsinal.

From left to right:

Homemade orange vinegar cleaner
Distilled vinegar
Homemade shower cleaner
Original Dawn dish soap
Washing soda
Baking soda
Plus two scrubbers in the front, a homemade scrubby and a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

The baking soda, borax and salt are used to scrub out tough spots and stains on the counter and sink, but usually the magic eraser is pretty good at getting everything out.  The vinegar is used to clean out lots of things around our house, including the floor, sink, tub, counter tops, and anything collecting mineral deposits from our hard water.  Washing soda is only used once in a long while because it is caustic and I don't like handling it, but it's useful for cleaning things like the dishwasher or the washing machine.

Now I don't make cleaning solutions very ofter because either vinegar or straight water work for cleaning almost everything.  However, I absolutely love the two cleaners I have in the picture, the orange vinegar cleaner and the shower cleaner.  They're both very easy to make, cheap, and quite effective.

The orange vinegar cleaner is something I've been using for a couple of months now and just love.  It's like using vinegar, except it leaves a nice spicy orange scent.  Here's the recipe.

Orange Vinegar Cleaner
2-3 cups vinegar
rinds of two oranges
2 tbsp either whole cloves or broken up cinnamon sticks

Cut up the orange rinds into one inch chunks.  Put into a quart mason jar or an old spaghetti jar; add the spices.  Pour in vinegar to fill the jar, put a lid on it, and shake vigorously.  Leave jar in a spot out of direct sunlight; let sit for one month, shaking every day.  At the end of the month, strain the liquid before putting into a spray bottle.  Solution may be diluted to your liking.  I use it straight, but it's quite intense and I'm considering diluting it half and half with water. This cleaner can be used as an all purpose cleaner all over the house. 

The shower cleaner is actually something that I just discovered, but I fell in love with after just one use.  We have incredibly hard water; it leaves lots of mineral deposits everywhere, in the sinks, toilet, tub, and shower walls.  My orange vinegar cleaner is usually enough to take care of it, but on the shower walls, it seems like nothing can clean them.  I thought I was stuck with a yucky white film on my glass doors forever.

But today I tried this cleaner out, and after just one use, they're perfectly clean!  I have some theories on how it cleans so well, but all I really care is that it does such a good job.  I'm going to try it on other places when I get the chance, like the kitchen sink and the toilet!

Shower Cleaner
1/2 cup original unconcentrated Dawn dishsoap
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar

Heat the vinegar in the microwave until just boiling.  Pour into a spray bottle, and then add the dish soap.  Shake gently to mix.  To use, spray onto your shower walls, scrub a little with a scrubby or rag, then spray off with water.  Soap scum and mineral deposits should be all gone!  For especially dirty spots, you can let the mixture sit for up to 24 hours.  I bet this would be a great way to clean out clogged shower heads, too, since it's thicker than plain vinegar.

I have an idea for an after shower spray to help fight the mineral build up in our shower, too.  If I can get it to work, I'll be sure to post it.

With a little know how and some elbow grease, you can avoid using harsh chemicals in your home and save not only your health but the health of the environment, not to mention your pocketbook. 

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