I’m not entirely sure when cleaning became chemical warfare on our homes, but somewhere along the way natural cleaning recipes gave way to spray bottles with POISON and TOXIC labels.
It doesn’t have to be that way. After all, when did a completely sterile environment become a healthy living space?
There is something wrong with the scene in the commercial where the beautiful woman wipes away the chicken juice and bread crumbs with a couple of squirts from her bottle and one stroke of her sponge, leaving a virtual wasteland in her wake.
We need bacteria! OK, maybe not chicken juice bacteria…but we definitely need a healthy flora of bacteria around, otherwise nasty ones move in.
Think of your own body. When things get out of balance, for whatever reason, it provides an opportunity for other bacteria and fungi to grow out of control, making us sick, giving us fungal infections…whatever.
The same goes for our home. If we are constantly bombarding the healthy bacteria found around our homes with chemicals, we are creating space for some of the less friendly strains to grow. Not only that, we are exposing them to antibacterial products on a regular basis, cleaning the way for resistant strains…the real nasties.
If this isn’t enough, consider the fact that you have just sprayed the liquid from the bottle that says poison all over the counter top where your dog sniffs and your kids eat.
Natural cleaning recipes use products that you likely already have in your kitchen, that are nontoxic, easy on your skin, cheap and, best of all, have other uses such as pickling and baking.
I’m going to share some basic recipes below, but first I want to give you some background on the basic ingredients you will be using.
I also want to give credit to my source, a book called The Urban Homestead by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen. It is a great resource on many things natural and organic and DIY. It’s a wonderful read and it’s never far from my reach.
So, here’s what you need in your cleaning cupboard:
Vinegar – We’re talking distilled white here…don’t pull out the balsamic or anything. Distilled white vinegar is mildly acidic, with disinfectant, deodorizing and fabric softening properties. The smell disappears when it dries and takes other unpleasant smells along with it. It’s also handy for pickling an over abundance of cucumbers. Please note though that vinegar shouldn’t be used on stone surfaces (e.g. granite counter tops). Here’s more about vinegar:
Baking Soda – It’s a scrubber and a deodorizer, as well as an important ingredient in making soda bread. It does leave behind a white residue that needs to be rinsed, but it will do wonders for scrubbing out sinks, tubs and toilets. You’ll want a lot of it so find a bulk supplier. Here’s a short video about the wonders of baking soda:
Liquid Castile Soap – An ingredient that is natural and simple and useful in the home and on the body. It is made from vegetable oils and it can be plain or come with essential oils added already. Dr. Bronner’s is one that is widely available and also available in large 1 gallon quantities.
After that, you might just want to have some essential oils around to add a pleasing smell to your natural cleaning products. Tea tree oil, lavender, pine and citrus are often added because of their natural disinfecting properties.
Now, for some recipes:
1. All-purpose spray for the kitchen:
Fill a recycled spray bottle 1/3 of the way with vinegar and then fill the rest up with water. Add one tablespoon of pure castile soap. Shake before each use.
Useful for cleaning appliances in the kitchen and to wipe down the stove and counters.
2. All-purpose spray for the bathroom:
Mix vinegar and water in equal parts in a spray bottle.
This is great for disinfecting toilet seats and tanks, cleaning mirrors and wiping down tiles.
3. Scouring sinks, tubs and toilets:
Put your baking soda into a sugar shaker, recycle a parmesan shaker or just use a jar with a screw lid and punch a few holes in the lid. Shake onto the surface and scrub.
Vinyl, linoleum and tile: mop with a solution of 1/4 to ½ cup of vinegar in a bucket of water.
Wood: Use the same solution as above but wipe with a just-damp cloth or mop.
5. In the toilet:
You can use straight vinegar to attack alarming toilet bowls. You should reduce the water level in the bowl first by flushing with a bucket (for example the bucket of water used to clean the floors). Then just pour in straight vinegar and use a rag or toilet brush to get the job done.
These natural cleaning recipes are a good start to tackling the two most challenging rooms in the house, the kitchen and bathroom. It’s kind of nice to know that you can approach these chores without having to put on a Hazardous Materials suit and open all the windows. For me, I like knowing that the surfaces of our home aren’t covered in toxic substances. I also take pleasure that at some microscopic level, there are friendly bacteria that are pushing out the less friendly bacteria and keeping our home a healthy little functioning ecosystem.