Thursday, December 2, 2010

Healthy Home for the Holidays - Homemade Cleaners

Our son, Clay, loves to help clean. I know this is a passing phase, but I love the help. I've been using non-toxic cleaners for as long as he's been around, but I started making my own cleaners a few months ago and haven't looked back. It is so easy and takes just a few minutes. I love knowing that if I run out, I don't have to run to the store, just to my pantry. 

So, if you have a houseful of guests coming or just want to spruce up your place for the holidays, here's what you need to have on hand. Really, this is it for the whole house.

a big bottle of white vinegar
tap water
liquid castile soap (We get ours from Wheatsville, but you can find it just about everywhere)
baking soda
spray bottles or containers for cleaners (I love to buy the bottles of Biokleen and then reuse the bottles - available at Wheatsville and Central Market)
tea tree, lavender, rosemary, lemon or orange and mint essential oils (or whichever ones you like!)
rags and towels that you designate as cleaning towels - so much better for the environment than the paper variety!

If you are still skeptical about the importance of switching to natural cleaners, try to think about drinking a glass of water mixed with your favorite cleaner. If you can't imagine it (and don't know what most of the ingredients are), you probably shouldn't be pouring down the drain so that it can end up in our drinking water. 

If you still don't think you can make the leap, use my favorite cleaning company (when I feel the need for a splurge), The Purple Fig who uses only their own homemade cleaners (which smell great by the way). They also leave little comments on extra things they did around your house and some great tips like putting out balsamic vinegar in a glass for the fruit flies attracted to your counter top compost pail or putting a few drops of tea tree oil in when you wash your linens to take care of dust mites (great for kids and adults who have dust allergies - I even wash my son's stuffed animals and blanket with a few drops). 

Here are the recipes. I adapted this list from Edible Austin Cooks! 2010: Eco Housekeeping by Tamara Mayfield

If you are feeling really generous you could make a collection of these to give as gifts to family and friends to help them make the switch as well. 

All Purpose Cleaner
1:3 or 1:2 vinegar and water with a few drops of castile soap and a few drops of essential oil

*I love adding mint essential oil during the holidays and even add a little mint essential oil to my the water when I'm ironing.

*I make a version of this that is less soap and more vinegar for my window cleaner and add tea tree oil to the all purpose cleanser if I want to sanitize an area

Scrubbing Paste
Combine 1 Tbsp white vinegar, 1 tsp liquid castille soap, 1/4 cup baking soda (and a little lemon juice) and mix together in a container and dip in a sponge. Use for hard water stains and soap scum in bathrooms. 

Toilet Bowl Cleanser
Toilet bowl cleaners are usually the most toxic of all, so this was an easy switch for me. Just pour white vinegar in the bowl, let it sit for a few minutes, spray the all purpose cleanser in the bowl and use a toilet brush to clean. 

Some of the other cleaners I use are olive oil to polish stainless steel or to shine wood floors (you'll need to wipe them down afterwards) or baking soda a vinegar to help unclog a sink drain. Adding quartered lemons are always a great way to freshen up a garbage disposal. I also like to use local soy candles, fresh local flowers or an olive oil warmer for a more natural scent in our home. For more tips on using olive oil other than for cooking, read The Passionate Olive: 101 Things To Do With Olive Oil by Carol Firenze.

Yes, you may need more elbow grease for some of these natural cleaners, but it is well worth the benefits for keeping a healthy home. I still use BioKleen dish soap and Seventh Generation for our laundry and dishwasher. If you use bleach, try to use the chlorine free kind. 

Have any great tips of your own? Feel free to post them by adding a comment. 

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