"Green" cleaners that you buy in the store have never appealed to me. For one, they are outrageously expensive. Who wants to spend that much on cleaning products?! Not me. Two, how "green" are those products, really? I don't trust them. I read the labels of a few products labeled "green" last year, and I sure didn't get the warm and fuzzies from what I read. Oh, I'm sure there are wonderful "green" cleaning products out there, but I am and always will be a skeptic at heart. At any rate, there's not enough evidence to make me want to try them for myself.
Same goes for "natural" products. Lots of things are "natural." Doesn't make them safe! And I don't see how anything sold in mass volumes can be totally natural and harmless, anyway. Something, somewhere along the production process, has nasty, unwanted chemicals lurking. I don't know much about chemicals and this sort of thing, so please don't think I'm making some kind of scientific statement here! Just calling it like I see it. I also know that I will never be able to get away from certain things. Like plastic. Yeah, I keep reading about how bad it is, but let's be honest - plastic is a HUGE part of our lives (well, most of us). Anyway, I'm getting way off track here...
Then comes homemade cleaning products. This I can be down with. If I make it myself, I know exactly what's in there. Its why I like to make my own bread (though I do still eat store bought bread, don't get me wrong). Its why I like that we grow a lot of vegetables in the summer. Its why I like that we raise a lot of our own meat (and all our milk).
Do a Google search and you will find thousands of "recipes" for homemade cleaning solutions. There are different solutions for bathrooms, kitchens, toilets, shower mildew, disinfectants, clothes washing, you name it and someone has come up with a "simple" solution to clean it. Some of them truly are simple, but some are pretty involved. (Which is why I haven't ventured into making my own washing detergent, and I doubt I ever will. Too many steps that I could mess up!) Some call for all kinds of essential oils. I think essential oils are wonderful, but boy are they expensive!!!
Last fall, I read that white vinegar is great for a great many things, including cleaning. I ran out of bathroom cleaner, so I decided to give it a try. I stuck to a simple "recipe" - I just used straight vinegar. Boy, was that smelly! But it worked. I poured the vinegar into a spray bottle and just sprayed the entire bathroom down, then used a wet rag to wash everything.
By the way, straight vinegar (even vinegar mixed with water) works great for cleaning mirrors. Just make sure your rag is DRY. For some reason, if the rag is wet, it leaves spots and streaks. But if I use a dry rag, the mirrors look perfect.
After a few months, I got tired of such a strong smell, even though it was much better than the terrible smells I was getting from my old commercial cleaners. So then I remembered that tea tree oil I had purchased a few months ago. Tea tree oil is a great disinfectant. I figured it would be perfect in the bathroom. I happen to love the smell of tea tree oil, but it is kinda strong.
I just made a spray bottle filled with 1/2 vinegar and 1/2 water (I found that mixing the vinegar with water really doesn't make it less effective, and the smell is easier to handle), and then added 3-4 drops of tea tree oil. Just enough so that I could smell it, but not so much that the smell was overpowering.
I thought vinegar cleaned like a charm. But adding just that tiny amount of tea tree oil made a HUGE difference. Before, I had to spray everything down, then use my wet rag to wipe and scrub. And sometimes scrub a lot. I am not a fan of scrubbing. Now, I just spray everything down, and within a few minutes its ready to wipe. And that's it! No scrubbing. I swear I'm not lying.
I don't have a picture cause I don't like to document nastiness, but my shower gets pretty gross. The shower head drips constantly (despite DH's attempts to fix it; he says to fix it we'll have to work on the plumbing, and that just sounds way to involved), so the shower never dries. Which means, of course, mold/mildew is constantly growing in there. EW. (For the record, I used to use Tilex shower spray every single day in hopes that the gunk would be held at bay, but it never even slowed down.) Straight vinegar took care of the nastiness very nicely, but like I said, I had to use some elbow grease. NOW, however, I can seriously just spray it down, wait, then wipe it off with a rag. And presto! Clean, mold-free shower! For a few days, at least...
So that's it. My truly simple all-purpose cleaning solution. Here it is in a list in case you missed it before...
In a spray bottle, combine...
1 part water
1 part white vinegar
3-4 drops of tea tree oil.
And you're done!
For the kitchen, I suppose you could use the same solution. For now, I've just been using 1/2 water and 1/2 vinegar in a spray bottle. A few weekends ago I cleaned every cabinet door in there with that solution and was very pleased with the results. (And woah, were they nasty!!) DH doesn't really like the smell, but he's never home when I'm cleaning, so its not a big deal. Plus, I think he secretly likes walkin into a home that smells like vinegar, now that he knows why it smells like that! ( :
If anyone else has any SIMPLE homemade cleaning solutions, I'd love to hear them! I'm certainly not claiming that my method is the best, and I may in the future change it completely. For now, though, it works and I am happy. And I don't feel worried that my baby (or myself!) will die from toxic fumes when I clean!
Oh yes, I almost forgot to mention that this solution is CHEAP. White vinegar is not very expensive at all, and you really don't use that much cleaning every week (or every other week if you're lazy like me...!).
One more use for white vinegar in my house - fabric softener!! When we started using cloth diapers (2 years ago this month - wow!), I realized I could no longer use fabric softeners, because they can build up on diapers and affect their absorbency. Not good. It turned out to be a really good thing because my allergies got a LOT better once I quit using fabric softener (and switched to All Free & Clear detergent) - turns out, I'm allergic to basically all fragrances and perfumes that they put in cleaning products.
So, I started adding about a cup or so (depending on the load size) to the fabric softener dispenser in my top loader washing machine. It really does help keep the clothes soft. Plus, if I forget about a load of clothes in the washer and they start to smell musty, I just toss in some more vinegar and run another quick cycle, and that takes care of it. This has been tested many, many times in my house...haha.
I still haven't figured out a good way to get rid of static when I dry clothes in the dryer (I mostly air dry things, but then throw them in the dryer to "fluff them up" and they are always super static-y). I use dryer balls, but they're not wool. Maybe I don't have enough of them? Or maybe I just need to invest in some wool ones. Stay tuned....