DIY Household Cleaners
by P.W. McRandle
Filed under: Cleaning supplies, Cleaning products, Indoor air quality, Green living
With spring upon us, those extra hours of daylight have a way of revealing every bit of schmutz and stubborn stain that hid from sight throughout the winter. But as you open your windows to let in fresh air, don't pollute it with lung irritants like ammonia and chlorine bleach or hormone-disrupting phthalates used in fragrances. Instead, make your own cleaners from healthier, least-toxic ingredients.
Circumvent the armada of commercial cleaners by keeping an ample supply of these eight items, which make up the basic ingredients for nearly every do-it-yourself cleaning recipe.
Baking soda: provides grit for scrubbing and reacts with water, vinegar or lemon by fizzing, which speeds up cleaning times
Borax: disinfects, bleaches and deodorizes; very handy in laundry mixes
Distilled white vinegar: disinfects and breaks up dirt; choose white vinegar over apple cider or red vinegars, as these might stain surfaces
Hydrogen Peroxide: disinfects and bleaches
Lemons: cut grease; bottled lemon juice also works well, although you might need to use bit more to get the same results
Olive oil: picks up dirt and polishes wood; cheaper grades work well
Vegetable based (liquid castile) soap: non-petroleum all-purpose cleaners
Washing soda: stain remover, general cleaner, helps unblock pipes; should be handled with gloves due to its caustic nature. Washing soda is usually found in the laundry aisle of grocery and drug stores.
Don't forget to pick up an empty spray bottle at the hardware store, and keep those old rags and used toothbrushes for wiping up and scrubbing.
1/2 cup borax
1 gallon hot water
Mix in pail (or use smaller amounts in a spray bottle: 1/8 cup borax to 1 quart of hot water) dissolving the borax completely; wipe clean with rag.
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 gallon warm water
1 cup white vinegar
2 gallons warm water
Mix in mop bucket, rinse afterwards.
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
Mix and apply with a clean rag to dust and polish. Reduce the olive oil if wood looks too oily.
Copper and Brass
2 Tbsps salt
Add vinegar to salt until you've created a paste. Adding flour will reduce abrasiveness. Apply with a rag and rub clean.
Apply baking soda with a damp cloth, using the vinegar to eliminate spots.
To clean and deodorize, sprinkle toilet bowl with baking soda, add white vinegar and scrub with a toilet brush.
Tub and Tile
Dip the face of the lemon half in borax to create a hand-held scrubber for dirty areas. Rinse and dry the surface afterwards.
Marble: Mix one Tbsp castile soap with a quart of warm water, rinse well, then dry with a warm cloth.
Other surfaces: halved lemon dipped in baking soda to scrub off residues. Follow up, by spraying with glass cleaner mix (below).
Wash your dishes in one dishpan filled with a mix of water and castile soap, then rinse in a separate pan containing a mix of water and vinegar (a 3-to-1 water-to-vinegar ratio works well).
1 cup baking soda
1 cup vinegar
Add baking soda and vinegar to a pot of boiled water and pour down the drain, then flush with tap water.
For more stubborn clogs, use a "snake" plumbing tool to manually remove blockage, or try suction removal with a plunger.
To prevent clogs, install inexpensive mesh screen, available at home improvement and hardware stores.
1/4 cup vinegar or 1 Tbsp lemon juice
2+ cups water
Fill a clean spray bottle with water and either white vinegar or lemon juice; wipe with a rag or old newspaper.
Sprinkle baking soda on surfaces, spray water, then let soak several hours or overnight. Rinse with water.
Stovetop and Oven Grease Remover
1/2 tsp washing soda
1/4 tsp liquid soap
2 cups hot water
Add washing soda and soap to hot water in spray bottle. Since washing soda is caustic, wear gloves.
1 oz. liquid castile soap
1/2 cup washing soda
1/2 cup borax
1/4 cup baking soda or 1/4 cup white vinegar
Using the liquid castile soap as a base, combine with washing soda, borax (for stains and bleaching), and either baking soda (reduces static and softens fabrics) or white vinegar (softens fabrics, reduces static and bleaches clothes). If you feel like your clothes aren't clean enough, play around with the amount of liquid castile soap, using from 1 oz. to 1 cup.
1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide
Household Cleaning Supplies Report
Green Clean, by Linda Mason Hunter and Mikki Halpin (Melcher Media, 2005, $16.95)
The Little Book of Quick Fixes for Eco Conscious Cleaning, by Bridget Bodoano (Quadrille Publishing, 2006, $12.95)