Tuesday, June 30, 2009

More Eco-friendly Cleaning Ideas

My husband and I are in the midst of a huge project. We’re building a deck and screened in porch. It seemed like a great idea on paper and in my mind’s eye, but it’s bigger than the both of us. It’s so big that after a week of full time work, we had to call in some reinforcements in the person of Nick’s best childhood friend. I’ve been sidelined for the time being as the two of them carefully construct a roof that is several stories off the ground. That’s fine with me, but my excuse for the mess inside the house is gone. Back to cleaning, or as it is, digging out.

Two of my favorite cleaners are vinegar and baking soda. They both have different purposes, but sometimes I get a little over the top in my cleaning efforts and I’ve combined their forces. Recently I learned that’s not such a good idea. It renders them both ineffective. Vinegar is an acid and baking soda is alkaline, so the ingredients neutralize each other. Not that I would have remembered any of those terms from my high school chemistry class. I found this information in an old issue of Body & Soul magazine.

The article suggested dissolving 1 teaspoon of baking soda in hot water in a clean spray bottle and adding a squirt of castile soap. This spray makes a potent, all-purpose cleanser for baseboards, tabletops, and other hard surfaces and it will last several months.

I like to use vinegar and water to clean windows and mirrors, but when I share this advice with others, I’ve been told it leaves streaks. Turns out the streaks are not from the vinegar, they’re from build up created by commercial window cleaners. To get rid of the residue, add a dab of liquid castile soap to ¼ cup vinegar and 1 cup water in a clean spray bottle. After you rid your windows of the buildup you can go back to vinegar and water for regular cleaning. The article also mentioned that the residue left by commercial cleaners may contain 2-Butoxyethanol, a suspected hormone disrupter that could cause developmental and reproductive problems. Just one more reason to get rid of the commercial cleaning agents.

I leafed through some of my old notes from my early days of cleaning organically and found a couple helpful things –

1. Hydrogen peroxide is good for bathroom mold. Leave it on for an hour to let it eat away at the mold and do its job and then wipe it off.
2. If the vinegar smell bothers you, you can mix it with natural oils such as lavender or lemon.
3. Tea cleans hardwood floors and woodwork. (I’d forgotten this one and have never tried it, but I plan to.)
4. Baking soda is great for cleaning electric ovens.
5. Borax works well on walls and floors and for any general purpose cleaning job.
6. Sprinkle baking soda on carpet, let sit 15 minutes and then vacuum to freshen carpet.
7. “Grubby corners – Mix hydrogen peroxide with baking soda, let sit for one hour, spray out.” (I’m guessing that this note refers to bathroom tub corners, but I suppose it would work on any corner. I’m also guessing that you “spray out” with water. It seemed important at the time.)

Tomorrow me and my impact drill are needed back on the job site, thank goodness. So I’ll be off the hook again on the cleaning. Meanwhile, I’m going to look for some grubby corners. If you’ve got any great cleaning tips, please let me know. I’m always looking for ways to do things better, cheaper, and easier.


  1. I use vinegar for almost every little bit of cleaning... it's nice for kid-chore-time as they can help scrub the floor (they love it!) or spray windows and I don't have to worry about noxious fumes in their little lungs. I have also found that OxyClean is a god-send on carpet stains!

  2. Some of my friends have told me they've been using either vinegar, baking soda, or both in their cleaning chores. I'm yet to try those because I don't want to use any more of the harmful chemical-based formulas. I'm also gonna ask some professional carpet cleaners. Orange County has them, and they're the guys to trust on when it comes to this.