Friday, August 27, 2010

Clean and Green: Making Your Own Cleaning Products, Part 2

My commitment to green cleaning began by chance. I was looking for essential oils to purchase to make a homemade air spray and happened upon a "recipe" for an easy all-purpose spray cleaner. It was made of things I already had around my house. It took two minutes to mix. It worked. It smelled good. I didn’t have to warn my kids: “Don’t touch! It has chemicals on it!”

I was hooked.

It will be a year this fall since I started cleaning naturally,and I'm still going strong! It’s easy to mix up a new batch of All-Purpose Spray Cleaner (see recipe below) if I need to, and takes only a few minutes. But, I also try make things as simple as possible. I clean tubs by sprinkling in some baking soda and a few drops of liquid castile soap  that I keep in a nearby closet, and then lather it up with a scrub brush. I clean and deodorize toilets by sprinkling in a few tablespoons of borax and squirting in a few drops of tea tree oil . I let it sit for a little while--you can even let it “work” overnight--and then scrub with a toilet brush. My mirrors sparkle when I spray on club soda and wipe dry with a clean rag.

I know I’m saving money with DIY cleaning, but, best of all, I feel good about what I’m using in my home. And, I’m discovering another nice side effect of green cleaning too: When your cleaning regimen smells like aromatherapy, you actually clean more!

All-Purpose Cleaning Spray

This is the first cleaning recipe I made. I like it because it only has three ingredients. I use it on my laminate kitchen countertops, bathroom sinks, toilet seats, showers and tubs; it can also be used on stainless steel, mirrors, and glass. That’s a lot for one little cleaner!

12 ounces distilled or filtered water
4 ounces distilled white vinegar
10-20 drops essential oil, or to your preference (I like tea tree oil for my bathrooms and a citrus scent like orange, lemon, or lime for my kitchen.)

Pour all ingredients into an empty spray bottle. Shake before each use to distribute essential oils.

Antiseptic Soap Spray 

This is good for you antibacterial buffs out there. It’s a nice, natural alternative to commercial sanitizers and draws on the naturally antiseptic cleansing qualities of both soap and tea tree oil. Great for bathrooms, wiping down toys and doorknobs to kill germs, and more. 

3 tbsp. Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap
20-30 drops tea tree essential oil
16 ounces distilled or filtered water

Fill a 16-ounce spray or squirt bottle almost full of water. Add liquid soap and tea tree oil. Shake to mix.

Furniture Polish Spray

There are two options for this simple furniture cleaner. Both use nearly the same ingredients, but in different proportions. I use spray #1 for my vintage and antique furniture—these older pieces with a more porous finish just “drink” up the oil. Spray #2 is great for painted furniture or pieces with a harder finish.

Olive oil
Distilled white vinegar
Lemon essential oil or fresh lemon juice
Distilled or filtered water (for spray #1)

For spray #1, put ¾ cup olive oil, ¼ cup vinegar, and 40 or so drops lemon oil or ¼ tsp. fresh lemon juice in bottle. (This only makes about 8 ounces, so you may want to get a smaller bottle. Since it’s largely oil-based, you don’t need to use a lot; I usually squirt a little on a clean rag and buff it in.)

For spray #2, put two tsp. olive oil in 16-ounce bottle, add 20 or more drops lemon essential oil (or 1 to 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice) and ¼ cup vinegar. Fill the rest of the bottle with water. Shake well before each use.

If you are using fresh lemon juice, most experts recommending keeping your spray in the fridge so the lemon juice doesn’t go rancid.

Soft Scrubber

I use this when I need some extra scrubbing power; to scour my kitchen sink, to get at the bathtub and the texturized bottom of my shower. One note: Baking soda will leave a residue, so try not to use it on glass shower doors or metal fixtures, unless you don’t mind following with a vinegar spray cleaner to make things shine.

Baking soda
Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap

Homemade soft scrubbers can tend to dry out, so I mix this on the fly. I put baking soda in a shaker container (dollar-store confectioner’s sugar shakers work well), shake out as needed on the surface to be cleaned, and add a few drops of Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap. I then lather it up with a wet scrub brush, rinse, and repeat as needed.

Image: graur codrin /

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