Written by Emily McClements, Contributing Writer
If you are somewhat new to going green, or are just beginning to dabble in homemade and non-toxic cleaning, you may be a little overwhelmed about where to start, what products to use and where, and how to get rid of toxic cleaners from you cupboards once and for all.
The thing that I love the most about homemade, green cleaners is how simplified my cleaning cupboard, and cleaning routine in general, has become. Gone are the days of needing a separate cleaner for each different job, and each different room - kitchen cleaner, floor cleaner, bathroom cleaner, tub & tile cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner, window cleaner, dusting spray, multipurpose cleaner - these can all be replaced by a few basic products that you probably already have in your kitchen cabinets or somewhere around your home.
To create simple, green, and frugal cleaning products, I have found that the following 5 items are the ones that I use the most, are the most multi-tasking, and the best performing.
Basics for Frugal and Green Cleaning
:: White Vinegar
This is probably the most frugal and versatile non-toxic cleaner. It is a safe and natural disinfectant that, mixed in a 1/1 ratio with water, can clean everything from floor to ceiling in pretty much any room, including mirrors and window. You should not, however use vinegar on porous natural surfaces like marble or granite.
I use vinegar to clean my kitchen counter and floors, and wipe down cabinets (although that doesn't happen very often!), it's great at cutting grease. I also use it to clean my bathroom, it's especially good at cleaning up stainless steel fixtures and making them shiny. The vinegar and water mixture is also works as a stain remover on carpets and rugs!
Some people, like my hubs, have a hard time with the smell of vinegar. I find that the scent disperses pretty quickly, especially with a fan or window open. But, you can also try adding essential oils to your vinegar and water mixture to achieve a scent that you can live with, and maybe even enjoy!
You can also use vinegar in the rinse aid compartment of your dishwasher instead of a commercial brand like Jet Dry. It helps to keep residue off dishes and keep them spot free.
Vinegar is also a great replacement for fabric softener in you laundry. Add it to the fabric softener dispenser, or fill an old Downy ball with vinegar. While it doesn't leave a scent like store-bought fabric softener does, it does help to repel static cling, and I have learned that I like the smell of just plain clean, and that artificial scents are actually irritating to me now.
Image by cjmartins
:: Baking Soda
This is an essential replacement for abrasive toxic cleaners like Comet. You can keep it in an old Parmesan cheese container, or other type of shakeable container so that it is easily accessible for cleaning. Use it alone, or make a paste by mixing it with water, it is great for scrubbing off all different types of surfaces.
I pretty much exclusively use Baking Soda to clean my toilets. Just a few shakes around the bowl and a good scrubbing with a toilet brush and we're good to go. It's also great for scrubbing off burned on food on my glass top stove, cleaning and whitening my white enamel kitchen sink.
Sprinkle baking soda on your rug or carpet and wait a few minutes and then vacuum it up for a natural freshener and deodorizer. This is especially nice if you add a few drops of essential oil to your baking soda, it adds a lovely scent to your home as you vacuum.
:: Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen Peroxide is great for cleaning areas that you want to be disinfected. It breaks down when exposed to light, so it's best kept in an opaque bottle. I leave mine in it's original bottle and add a spray nozzle from a cheap dollar store spray bottle. You can mix hydrogen peroxide 1/1 with water to stretch it even further.
Spray down surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom with hydrogen peroxide to disinfect and kill germs. It's not the best cleaner in the world as far as actually scrubbing and cleaning, but I like to use it on my kitchen counters after I have already wiped them clean, just to make sure they are disinfected.
The mix of hydrogen peroxide and water also is great at removing certain types of stains on clothing. Dark stains, like blood, blueberries or other berries, or juice, come out easily when you spray them before putting the clothing in the wash.
:: Castile Soap
Castile Soap has many uses for both cleaning and as a personal care product. Along with tea tree oil and water, it makes up my favorite homemade multipurpose cleaner. Just add water to a spray bottle and add a few quirts of castile soap and a few drops of tea tree oil and you have another multi-tasking cleaner for all around the home.
This multipurpose cleaner is a great alternative if you don't like the smell of vinegar, because it is just as versatile. I use it whenever I'm cleaning around my hubs, and for cleaning and dusting in my living room.
:: Natural Dishsoap
This is just one more great multitasking cleaner that is, obviously, excellent at cutting through grease. Not just for washing you dishes, you can dilute it with water in a spray bottle to clean pretty much any area of your kitchen. It's great for cleaning out your sink and washing down counter tops.
A spray bottle with dishsoap diluted with water (actually mostly water and a few squirts of dishsoap) makes an acceptable laundry stain remover. While it doesn't work for some stains, like grass or dirt, it is good on food based stains and those annoying little grease spots that are hard to get out of clothes. Keep a bottle handy in your laundry room along with the other natural stain removers we've been talking about here the past few weeks.
:: I have to mention one more product that finds it way into several of my homemade cleaning products, so an Honorable Mention goes to Tea Tree Oil. TTO is a natural antiseptic and disinfectant and is great to add to homemade multi-purpose cleaners. I also use it in my cloth wipes solution, as well as when I make homemade disinfecting wipes (like reusable Clorox wipes).
Those are the basic items that I use for cleaning all around my home. What are your top green and frugal cleaning products?
Top photo by Chiot's Run
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