Saturday, May 9, 2009

Cleaning Challenge To Myself

Some of you may have read here about my first successful use of just plain vinegar and water to wash windows. It was clear that the window with windex was no better than the one with vinegar. So, one cleaning solution down. But what else is lurking around that I'd like to replace with those alternatives I can make myself from a simple mix of core ingredients.

First, evaluate what I have going on and well, you can see the challenge.

Under the sink (there's more behind the trash can on the other side)

Oh, but there are more sinks...

...and laundry areas...

...and more bathroom sinks...

...and closets in each bathroom...

...and even more sinks.

And lest you think that is all, I didn't show you all the sinks and closets because people had private things in there that might have wound up in the photos. In fact, because I am a prepper and a frugal shopper, I tend to have large amounts of stuff I use on hand. I stopped counting after a while and you can see why.

Just for comparison, I found 19 bottles of toilet bowl cleaner. Argh.

So now, I'm organizing those things back into a central location so I can use them up and test the alternatives in side by side comparisons before I switch. While I'm all for buying baking soda, vinegar and a few other normal things to make my own, I won't settle for a halfway clean house. So, testing is in order.

I'm ready! Anybody got any good recipes? I've found a good many out there, but am collecting as many as possible.


Kelsie said...

I earn extra money by cleaning houses, and I do it all (even the toilets) in a 100% eco-friendly and CHEAP way.

Here's what I use:

Baking soda OR Bon Ami powder--I use this with warm water to scrub bathtubs and sinks; I dump baking soda and a little vinegar into toilets for cleaning, as well

White vinegar--I mix this with water and a little Dr. Bronner's castille soap in a spray bottle. I use this mixture for surfaces (like counter tops) and for cleaning toilet seats; for tile floors, I use white vinegar and Dr. Bronner's (in either lavender or peppermint) in hot water; for wood floors, I use hot water, vinegar, and about 10 drops of lemon oil OR I use Murphy's Oil Soap, which is totally nontoxic (for instance, if someone drinks it, you're just supposed to make them drink a lot of water to dilute it)

For mirrors/windows/other glass surfaces, I use NOTHING more than a microfiber cloth. These are also WONDERFUL for shining up faucets and dusting (though I prefer simply using a damp rag to dust)

So, to give you the run-down, my cleaning supplies are thus:

-White vinegar
-Baking soda OR Bon Ami
-Dr. Bronner's castille soap
-Essential oils (I like lemon, lime, or peppermint)
-Murphy's Oil Soap (for wood floors)
-microfiber cloths
-many, many, many rags

That's it! Most of it is really, really cheap. The Dr. Bronner's is about $9 for a big bottle, but it lasts forever, because it's so highly concentrated.

I know I'm doing something right, because I keep getting more and more customers. Their favorite thing about it? The house smells CLEAN. Not "manufactured mountain breeze" or "field of technicolor, chemical flowers" clean, but just...freshened. Which is to say, it smells like nothing at all, except maybe a hint of peppermint or lemon. :)

Now that I've been cleaning this way for several years, the smell of conventional cleaners makes me gag.

Also--you can use Dr. Bronner's for just about anything. I use it for cleaning, laundry, and washing dishes. And vinegar water (with a little bit of Dr. B's) in a spray bottle will replace every single spray cleaner you have ever used.

For laundry, in addition to the Dr. B's, I use borax and/or washing soda, and, again, white vinegar.

So the short of it is, I don't really have any recipes. There's very little mixing/concocting involved. The simpler, the better.

Hope this helps!!

Milah said...

I agree with Kelsie's advice but I have to admit I have never heard of Dr. Bronner.

I would like to add that you can use vinegar as a fabric softener. Or you can dilute store bought fabric softener and dampen a sponge or washcloth with the diluted mixture and toss in the dryer. That works as a dryer sheet.
Or cut store bought dryer sheets in half, that saves money and still removes static cling.

To clean drapes I take them down and toss in the dryer with a cloth saturated with rubbing alcohol and set it on air dry for about 15 minutes. This removes the dust and they look new. That is what dry cleaners do.

I sometimes buy swiffer wet cloths but I launder and use them over and over. You can also make your own swiffer cloths out of old sweatshirts and sweatpants using the fuzzy side on the floor.

We take showers daily and sometimes twice a day and we rarely clean our showers. I know that sounds bad but they are clean, I promise you. After every shower we dry the walls and floor down with a towel. That removes the soap scum and hard water spots. I probably clean our showers 3-4 times a year with soft scrub. That's it!

For a good thorough cleaning on my hardwood floors I use a steam mop. No cleaners just steam.

For spot removal on laundry I scrub with a bar of soap and a toothbrush. To remove blood or iodine from laundry I use peroxide. That tip came from a nurse, it's fun to watch it dissapear.

Gosh, I know I have more but I just can't think of them right now.

Have fun with these experiments!

Erin said...

I'm with you! I have been attempting to "clean up" my cleaning solutions and I am almost done! My home is only 1000 ft sq so I don't have much space to store things. I certainly didn't want to pour toxic stuff in the trash, so I have been using it all up. I now have one large caddy in my laundry closet with vinegar, baking soda, spray bottles of each, and one bottle of vinegar mixed with some rubbing alcohol (I find this dries more quickly when doing windows). The only thing I miss and am going to buy is real toilet bowl cleaner since I have new toilets and my well water is discoloring the bowl w/o the heavy duty stuff! Baking soda is working well on my stainless steel sink so far. Vinegar with grapefruit oil is also my fabric softener so I always have gobs of that around. Between the homemade laundry detergent and natural cleaners, I have saved a ton of money when I think about it. Think how much space under those sinks you will have when it's all gone :)

Erin said...

Oh, yeah...I second that steam mop! I bought the Bissel Green Tea about 4 months ago and LOVE it! I only mop with Murphy's every month or so on my laminate wood since the steam mop tends to dull the appearance of the floor, but the steamer gets it CLEAN!

* said...


The answer is "NOT".

Dump the lot.
'No' detergent is 'good' detergent. (Use hot water).
'No' fabric softener is 'good' fabric softener. (When you use no detergent, your laundry will not get stiff and harsh, after a few washes to get out the build-up).

Windows, and everything else: no vinegar needed. Just use bottled water in a spray and paper towel.

Room fresheners: Cooking apples, loose, not in a plackie bag, Apple peelings after you have cooked the apples until you buy the next lot.

I shudder to think what you inhale with all that rubbish around.

Even the baths and sinks can be scrubbed with just an abrasive pancleaner cloth and no chemicals.

Anyways, all this has worked beautifully for us over the past few years. YMMV.

* said...

I have to confess that with this latest global flu scare I have bought one of those 'kills 99.99% of all bacteria known to man' sprays.
But I am scared to use it and don't really think it will do any good anyway ;-)

Ruralrose said...

OMG - Christy you are so in for a real awakening, clean is easy and cheap and healthy for the environment. You are gonna feel like you can take on the world knowing you aren't putting toilet bowl cleaner into your drinking water. I totally agree with the cleaners recommended here, in fact there is nothing else cleans better. I use only vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils. I have a steam cleaner for my floors. It uses less than one cup of water, sterilizes with steam, uses no soap and i can wash and dry the pad to use again. Peace for all

Anonymous said...

I just did a "clean the cleaners" a month or two ago, and after the first "oh no what have I done" feeling, I'm seeing that the alternative cleaning methods really do work, and have eased my asthma so much, its amazing. Vinegar has been the best for me, in various combos and with baking soda where needed. I still use store laundry liquid though, even though it is the "eco" kind. Can't seem to figure that out.
Oh, here's a good website about using vinegar as a cleaner:

Melissa ~ Wife to 1, Mom to 5 said...

I'm online for about 10 seconds so I'll bookmark this to come back to but let me just say, Christy WOW! I thought we were prepped, but 19, NINETEEN! Girl, that's some serious cleaning you plan on doing there. :D

Crunchy Christian Mom said...

"I won't settle for a halfway clean house."

ROFLOL. Me, neither! So I don't clean it at all until I can do the WHOLE THING!! ;)

Hey, you know what's really cheap? Old rags and hot water.

You know who has the flu?

'Nuff said. (Got any cleaning products you can spare?)

Anonymous said...

I also use a lot of white vinegar.
But you know what? I found the Dollar Tree (dollar store) has some great products for $1. Laundry det. Dish det, dishwasher det. and the laundry det. will get the FarmMan's greasy, dirty clothes clean. I do put a little Borax in and baking soda in the load.
I have used the white vinegar as fabric softner, but not all the time.
I hang clothes out on the clothes line as much as possible.

I love murphy's soap. I use it on the wood floors, and to wipe all this farm dust off the furniture.

I really enjoyed reading the other commenter's suggestions. Great ideas!
Have a good day.

sarah said...

We use Dr Bronners for dishes and water for everything else, laundry included. I have had many comments about how bright my children's clothing is, and while I confess fo purposefully choosing clothing with stain-covering stripes and patterns and dark pants (we have four boys, 5 and under), their clothes really do look great. They also have no static cling and are always soft out of the dryer or off the line. Actually they are much softer off the line.

I have used Borax in the past, but stopped about 5 yrs ago, and have not used a detergent or commercial cleaner except Bronner's since 1998. I also only use water on our bodies and earthy shampoo for me only. We use dissolved citric acid for our underarms and that's it.

The thing is that the Dr Bronner's is $23.00 CAN and last two ans a half weeks only. I don't know how much others spend on cleaners, but $23 every 17 days seems pretty high to me even as a total. I buy a bottle of shampoo once/yr ($12) and citric acid every two years ($6), so I didn't figure it in.

Of course, we don't do this for economy; it's for our well-being and if it ever became financially cumbersome, we would just find some other way, and not ever resort to the horrendous chemical concoctions that most people use.