Written by Stacy Karen, Contributing Writer
Advertisers everywhere proclaim the germ fighting power of chemical-filled cleaners. Many would have us believe that there is no way to clean and disinfect without a chemical product. And doesn’t every good mother want to rid her home of germs and dirt?
May I encourage you not to buy into these messages? A little dirt won’t kill you or your children.
While it is true that some germs can be dangerous, so are the chemicals in the cleaners that claim to eradicate said germs! The toxins contained in most commercial cleaners are unhealthy for us and the environment.
In her book, The Naturally Clean Home, Karyn Siegel-Maier states:
"A study by the Toronto Indoor Air Commission concluded that, due to increased exposure to household carcinogens, women who work at home have a 55 percent greater chance of developing cancer than women who spend the majority of their time outside the home."
This is a sobering reminder that we should not be adding to our toxic load by using chemical laden cleaners day after day.
Thankfully more and more non-toxic cleaners are becoming available. However, these new choices can be expensive (and many are still not entirely safe). Lucky for us, it is easy and inexpensive to make cleaners at home. And you don’t need a bunch of fancy ingredients to do it. Keeping vinegar, Castile soap, baking soda, and essential oils on hand will enable you to make just about every cleaner you need.
Today I’d like to show you how to make a variety of non-toxic cleaners using these four ingredients.
But first, here is a brief overview of each ingredient:
White, distilled vinegar is great for deodorizing, degreasing and general cleaning. It’s also extremely inexpensive and readily available.
The smell of vinegar does dissipate fairly quickly, but if you dislike it a great deal, try scenting it. To create scented vinegar, simply add 75 drops of lavender or tea tree essential oil to a one gallon jug of white vinegar (this combination came from Clean House, Clean Planet by Karen Logan, page 254-255).
This gentle soap is made from vegetable fat/oil such as hemp, palm or olive (opposed to tallow). It is a versatile cleaner that works well with other ingredients as well as alone.
The texture of baking soda makes it useful as a mild abrasive. It is also an excellent deodorizer.Many of us already have an open box of baking soda in the fridge to absorb smells, but it can also be used to scrub sinks and clean toilets!
To freshen carpets, add a few drops of essential oil to a box of baking soda, stir to combine, sprinkle on the carpet and allow to sit for 30 minutes. Then vacuum.
These concentrated plant oils contain powerful anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-biotic and anti-fungal properties. While they can sometimes be expensive, one small bottle will last a long time. They add a lovely fragrance to your homemade cleaners, which provides psychological benefits too!
Image by Rowdy Kittens
Simple Recipes to Clean the Whole House
My favorite floor cleaner is made by adding 2 to 4 tablespoons of Castile soap and 10 drops of lemon essential oil to a large container. Fill with 1 gallon of hot water and stir to mix. If the floor is greasy, add up to 1/8 cup of vinegar.
The above floor cleaner will work well on walls too. If you wish to disinfect walls (or door knobs, crib rails, and so on), mix equal parts vinegar and water. Add 5 to 10 drops of essential oil, per 16 oz of mixture, if desired.
Mirrors can be cleaned well with water and a microfiber cloth. If you are looking for more shine (and germ killing power), combine 1 ½ cups of water with ½ cup of vinegar in a spray bottle and shake to mix. Add 5 to 10 drops of orange or lemon essential oil for extra cleaning power and added fragrance.
I often keep leftover floor cleaner in a spray bottle and use it on the counter tops. It works very well.
If this is not available I will make some disinfecting spray with lavender and peppermint essential oil and water. Adding two tablespoons of Castile soap to this mix will help loosen dirt or grime if necessary.
Pouring a little straight or scented vinegar into the toilet bowl is a great way to clean and deodorize. For regular toilet seat wipe downs, keep some vinegar in a spray bottle. (Because it’s non-toxic and safe to use, why not give kids the job of swishing and swiping each day!)
Sprinkling baking soda into the bowl and scrubbing with a sturdy toilet brush is another good way to keep the toilet clean and fresh.
Bath and shower
The best way to keep the shower clean is to regularly spray the walls with vinegar, this helps prevent soap and scum from building up. Using a squeegee to remove excess water (a few times each week) is also very effective, especially on glass doors.
For a thorough cleaning, it is easy to make your own soft soap cleaner with baking soda and Castile soap.
The recipes shared here today are just a sampling of the natural, non-toxic cleaners that can be made with four basic ingredients (or less). There are many other possibilities.
It is always a good idea to label your homemade cleaners. Writing the recipe on the container also helps make refills a breeze.
Further reading here at Keeper of the Home:
Do you have any tried and true non-toxic cleaning recipes to share?
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