This Healthy Home post is written by my friend, Tennille, from across the pond. She comes to us from New South Wales, Australia and is super cool. This particular topic is something I'm pretty passionate about, and wish I made a little more effort to do this. Thanks for the awesome info, Tennille!
Many advertisers would have us believe that there is no way to clean our homes without having to use a dozen different chemical products packaged in a range of brightly coloured plastic bottles and tubs. Ironically the chemicals in many household cleaners can be more dangerous than the germs they are meant to eradicate! The toxins contained in most commercial cleaners are unhealthy for us and our environment. A simple way to reduce our toxic load is to simply stop using these chemical laden cleaners everyday.
Thankfully more and more natural and eco-friendly cleaners are becoming available. However, many of these products can be expensive (and may also still include questionable ingredients). Luckily, it is simple and inexpensive to make cleaners at home. And you don’t have to buy a bunch of fancy ingredients to do it. By keeping vinegar, soap, baking soda, washing soda, and a few essential oils on hand you will be able to make just about every cleaner you will ever need. As an added benefit you will put less plastic packaging into landfills and stop paying money to keep toxic companies making more toxic products.
Ingredients I use most:
White vinegar is “cheap as chips” (meaning it is very cost effective: ‘chips’ = ‘fries’). It is great for deodorizing, killing most mold, bacteria and germs, degreasing and general cleaning. It even makes a great fabric softener when added to the rinse cycle of your washing machine.
The smell of vinegar can be offensive to some people, but it does dissipate fairly quickly. If you don’t like it you can try scenting it with a few drops of essential oil. To create citrus scented vinegar, simply pop the left over peel from a lemon, lime, orange, or any other citrus fruit into a bottle of vinegar and let it sit for a week or two. Then simply strain out the chunks. The oils from the rind not only smell good, but will also help add extra cleaning action. I keep a spray bottle of this diluted 1:1 with water as a general cleaner for most surfaces around the house.
It is a versatile cleaner that works well when combined with other ingredients as well as when used alone. You can use any store bought soap, but I have found that many soaps even labeled “pure soap” have fragrance and colour added. It is not as scary as you may think to make your own. I make a basic coconut and olive oil soap from a recipe found here.
This is sodium bicarbonate and we usually call it ‘bi-carb’ here in Australia. It is a great deodorizer and its texture also makes it good as a mild abrasive for scrubbing things clean without scratching them up in the process.
Washing soda or sodium carbonate is a natural mineral that cuts through grease and softens hard water. In Australia it commonly goes by the name ‘Lectric Soda’ and I use it in my homemade washing powder.
Essential oils have powerful anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-biotic and anti-fungal properties. While they can be expensive, one small bottle will last you a very long time. My favourite versatile essential oils for cleaning are eucalyptus, tea tree, lavender and orange. Clove oil is a very potent mold killer which I also use when cleaning our bathroom. It is important to be careful when using essential oils as although they are natural some can cause skin irritation. Always read the labels and warnings carefully.
Tips for Cleaning Your Whole House Naturally:
I use the citrus vinegar solution mentioned earlier to spray and wipe kitchen surfaces.
Bi-carb can be used to polish faucets and sinks.
Moisten a paper towel with a few drops of eucalyptus oil mixed with olive oil and wipe it over stainless steel appliances to make them shine like new.
A splash of vinegar added to a bucket of hot water will effectively clean most hard floors.
To freshen carpets, mix a few drops of essential oil into some baking soda, sprinkle on
the carpet and leave for half an hour before vacuuming.
A few drops of your favourite essential oil on the filter of your vacuum will leave your house smelling delightful every time you vacuum.
Sprinkle a little baking soda into the toilet bowl and then swirl in some vinegar. While the vinegar and baking soda are reacting and foaming scrub with a sturdy brush. For toilet seat, spray with vinegar solution and then wipe down.
As you can see our toilet was pretty filthy after a week of tradies using it while working on our kitchen renovation, but the natural cleaners left it sparkly and clean again.
Bath and shower
For cleaning our shower and bath I mix baking soda, soap and water to make a paste (no set ratio here). I use a flat scouring brush or microfiber cloth to scrub it all down and then rinse with water.
The best way to keep the shower free from mold is to regularly spray the walls with a clove oil solution. For this I fill a spray bottle with water and add 5 drops of clove oil. I just spray it on and let it dry.
i have a frontloading washing machine and make my own powder by finely grating homemade soap. I mix roughly 2 cups of soap flakes with 2 cups of washing soda and 1 cup of baking soda. Many homemade washing powder recipes call for borax. Although natural, from what I have read, it can still be toxic, so I leave it out and find my mix works just fine for day to day washing.
So there you have it. A list of the common homemade cleaners I use. I have been making my own for a few years and would never go back to buying chemical cleaners. Not only do I find these work as good (or better) than the store bought cleaners, I know exactly what is in them, they are cheap and easy to make and leave our home smelling delightful. The recipes shared here are just a sampling of the natural, non-toxic cleaners that can be made with these basic household ingredients. There are endless other possibilities. Online searches will provide you with an array of ideas for other solutions for all kinds of cleaning needs.
Thanks, Tennille! I especially love your laundry detergent. I used to make mine with borax, but got scared to continue once Baby came around.