Monday, February 9, 2015

My Homemade Cleaner Trifecta

In which the Parsimonious Princess shares her three favorite homemade (and green) cleaning concoctions. Two of them contain vinegar. (Of course.)

I derive more satisfaction and joy from homemade cleaning concoctions than a person probably should, even though I'm not necessarily a clean freak. I think my love of homemade cleaners is found in the principle of them. To be honest, I don't know if it's the frugal or au naturale  part of me that enjoys the idea of homemade cleaning solutions more.

The frugalista in me loves that inexpensive household items like vinegar or baking soda can work just as well as, if not better than, the more expensive pre-made cleaning solutions at the store. Homemade cleaners are cheap! I haven't bought an all-purpose cleaner, powdered cleanser, tub and tile spray, glass cleaner, toilet bowl cleanser, or furniture polish in years.

The eco-friendly granola girl in me likes the homemade cleaners because they give me peace of mind. I don't have to worry about my kids coming in contact with toxic sprays and cleansers. No fumes, no skin irritants, no poisons to ingest. I don't have to worry about the effects of my homemade cleaners on their ever-growing and developing bodies and brains.  I also love that I don't have to worry what kind of chemicals I'm washing down the drain or flushing down the toilet when I use homemade cleaners.

Last week, Green Bean wrote a wonderful post about the ways green living can be a labor of love and she mentioned my love for homemade cleaners (particularly when vinegar is involved). So, today, I thought I'd share my three favorite homemade cleaners, the ones I use the most, my trifecta, if you will. These three cleaners are: all-purpose cleaner, glass cleaner, and soft scrub. They're suuuper simple to make and only take a few basic ingredients -- ones you very likely already have on hand.

Homemade Cleaner #1 - All-Purpose Cleaner
I use this all-purpose cleaner pretty much everywhere in my house, especially in my kitchen and bathrooms. People sometimes balk at the idea of using vinegar to clean their houses, fearing that their house will smell like salad dressing or something. Not so. Once the vinegar dries, the smell goes with it. Vinegar (the straight 5% solution at the grocery store) is a wonderful cleaning product because it kills 99% of bacteria, 82% of mold, and 80% of viruses.

This recipe couldn't be simpler. In fact, it feels weird typing it out because it's so basic, but here it is:
- white vinegar
- water
- essential oil (optional)

To make this cleaner, simply mix equal parts water and vinegar in a clean spray bottle. That's it. I like to add a few drops of essential oil just to give it even more cleaning oomph and to leave a nice smell behind (the essential oil smell lingers, but not the vinegar smell. Weird, huh?). A few of my favorite oils to use are lemon, wild orange, tea tree, or the doTerra oil blend called Purify.

Another variation on my all-purpose cleaner is to make citrus-infused vinegar. To make it, all you need to do is soak some citrus peels (I use orange peels) in vinegar for about 2-3 weeks. Use this vinegar diluted with water, as in the directions above. What's great about using citrus-infused vinegar is that the oils in the peels are anti-bacterial. This concoction is great -- I've even used it when I've scrubbed down my chickens' house (it cleaned it really well, plus the citrus is supposed to deter bugs). Plus, right now is the perfect time to whip up a few jars of citrus vinegar since citrus is in season. 

(Word of warning: do not use vinegar on granite or marble surfaces. You can find an alternate homemade cleaner for those here.)

Homemade Cleaner #2 - Alvin Corn Glass Cleaner
I came across this recipe years ago on Pinterest. This stuff is awesome. Works better than any other homemade glass cleaner I've tried and is just as good as the blue window cleaner at the store. It works great on both mirrors and windows. In fact, whenever we've had to help clean at our church building (and our church has lots of glass doors and windows), I bring this homemade glass cleaner because it works better than the commercial stuff they have there; I've actually had people ask me to bring it so they can use it instead.

It's called Alvin Corn cleaner because the name helps you remember the ingredients. To make the glass cleaner, add the following to a clean spray bottle:

1/4 cup isopropyl alcohol
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 Tbsp. corn starch
2 cups warm water

Give the mixture a good shake and you're ready to go. I still don't like cleaning glass, but this concoction definitely makes it easier.

Homemade Cleaner #3 -  Soft Scrub
For years, I cleaned the bathtubs in my house with only baking soda. I'd mix the baking soda with some water to make a paste and then I'd scrub the tub with a brush. It worked really well, but it definitely took a bit of elbow grease. Then I came across the idea to mix baking soda with castile soap. Holy moly, it made things so much easier!

To make homemade soft scrub, you'll need:

3/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup liquid castile soap (I like Dr. Bronner's the best)
1 Tbsp. water

Add the baking soda and castile soap to a container. I use a washed-out 16-oz. plastic containers from things like cottage cheese or sour cream (since you want a container with a lid, this type of container works well. You can use any container, though. I'm just always on the lookout for a random reuse!). Add the water and stir with a fork.

This scrub will dry out over time, so I wouldn't recommend making large batches of this recipe (unless you've got lots and lots of tubs to clean). This recipe makes enough to clean about 2-3 average-sized bathtubs. I use this soft scrub all over my bathroom, though, not just in the tub. It works well in sinks and in the toilet, too.

Switching to green cleaners can be a bit of a paradigm shift for people. Most people equate clean with the various chemical and/or soapy smells you find in the cleaning aisle at the grocery store. I remember when my mom, who wielded the bleach jug regularly when I was growing up, was a bit skeptical when I told her I cleaned my bathroom with baking soda and vinegar. But then she tried it out and now uses homemade cleaners more and more (though she hasn't completely ditched her bottle of bleach) -- in fact, she loves the soft scrub recipe!

The great thing about homemade cleaners is that you can try all sorts of recipes and concoctions without much expense. Believe me, I've had my share of failures (I still have yet to make a homemade dishwasher detergent that works well...). But when these simple formulas work, it's not only exciting (hooray for saving money!), but it's empowering because, in this simple act, you take more control of your finances, of your family's well-being, and the well-being of the planet.

As you can imagine, I'm always on the lookout for new homemade cleaner recipes -- please share if you have a favorite!

Note: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products or services I have disclosed.


Lisa said...

Those are my favorite cleaning ingredients as well!

Lynn Hasselberger said...

Awesome ideas for cleaning! Everyone should do this... the world would be a better place.

Green Bean said...

Okay, I'm dying to try the orange peel thing!! So purity!

But why not use vinegar on granite?

Heather said...

@Green Bean -- Since rocks like granite are porous, the countertops made with have to be sealed. Acids (like vinegar) break down that sealing.

Green Bean said...

Ohhhh!! Well crud. I am sure I've used vinegar to clean the granite countertops. What do you recommend instead, oh DIY cleaner diva? ;-)

Sharyl said...

Really great ideas for cleaning! Thumbs up for the post! Greets, The Hyde Carpet Cleaners Ltd.

Lynda said...

These are really great recipes. Many of our clients ask us to use natural cleaners because they have small children are just because they prefer green cleaning solutions! We (Cleaners Up Ltd.) love using all-purpose cleaners! Thanks for sharing!

Nicole said...

Have to try these! I usually just make homemade “windex” from vinegar and rubbing alcohol and water, but i love the idea of using the tea tree oil and essential oils for a nice smell too :)

Claire Hanson said...

I love the All-purpose cleaner recipe! I think is a nice one to start with! I am still using pretty much toxic cleaners but I am planning to slowly switch to natural ones! Thank you for sharing!


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