You want a clean home. But, do you worry about the ingredients in your cleaning supplies? There’s a good chance they contain some fairly harsh – even toxic – chemicals. You can try buying “natural” products. Unfortunately, there are few rules around what actually constitutes “natural.” Just because the label says it’s natural, doesn’t mean there aren’t chemicals and preservatives within.
So, why not make your own? Many of the cleaning agents you use around the house can be replicated at home – using truly natural ingredients you probably already have on hand. Here are a few suggestions.
Lemon is King
Most glass and surface cleaners contain ammonia and alcohol, which can cause skin, eye and respiratory irritation. Instead, try these homemade chemical-free cleansers:
All-purpose spray cleaner. White vinegar is mildly acidic, so it dissolves dirt and kills some germs on contact. Mix equal parts vinegar and water in a clean spray bottle – and use for quick cleanups. It’s even tough enough to clean toilets and shower floors, removing stains and odor with a light scrub. However, you should know vinegar is not effective against bacteria like E. coli, salmonella and staph.
If you don’t like the way vinegar smells, add a few drops of an essential oil – like tea tree, eucalyptus, rosemary or lavender – which have antimicrobial properties. Plus, they’re inexpensive and powerful. A little goes a long way.
Scouring powder. Baking soda is a mild abrasive and can be used to clean stubborn dirt and stains from surfaces like showers or sinks. Make a paste with baking soda and a little water. Rub on surfaces with a damp cloth or sponge, and let sit for a few minutes to dissolve soap scum and mineral deposits. Scrub, if needed, and rinse clean.
Drain cleaner. Baking soda can also freshen drains – and keep them running freely. Just pour half a cup down each drain, trickle in some hot water and let sit overnight. Rinse drains thoroughly in the morning and they should stay clog-free.
Lemons. Lemon is the king of natural cleansers. The acid in fresh lemon juice cleans, disinfects and deodorizes. And, it smells good, too. So, stock up on lemons and get busy.
- Cutting boards and surfaces. Cut a lemon in half, dip the cut side in coarse salt and use it to clean and disinfect your wooden cutting boards. Dab it in baking soda to make a natural kitchen or bathroom counter cleanser. Be sure to test a small area first, though. The acid could discolor natural stone and stainless steel.
- Glass. Rub half a lemon on a cloudy decanter to restore its original sparkle.
- Faucets. Rub lemon juice on faucet taps to remove lime scale build-up. For best results, leave it overnight and rinse clean with hot water.
- Disposal. Run cut lemons through the garbage disposal, to clean the blades and freshen stale kitchen air.
- Laundry. Add lemon juice (just a half cup) to your laundry rinse cycle, to brighten your whites without harmful bleach.
Want a fresh room, but hate the funky chemical smells you get from commercial deodorizers? Create an eco-friendly air freshener. It’s easy.
Room spray. Fill an 8- to 12-ounce spray bottle with water. Add a tablespoon of baking soda and a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Shake well and spray. You can even add fresh-squeezed citrus juice, a rosemary sprig, or dried lavender buds for a relaxing nighttime mist.
Room deodorizer. Combine baking soda with essential oil, and store in a lidded container. Poke holes in the lid (or maybe repurpose a cheese shaker) for a long-lasting room or closet deodorizer. When the scent fades, just add a few more drops of essential oil and shake well.
Why spend your money on an expensive reed diffuser when you can make your own?
- Small glass or ceramic container with a narrow opening (to slow evaporation)
- Six to eight bamboo skewers or rattan reed sticks (each about twice the height of the jar)
- Base oil. Mineral oil is best, but you can also use safflower, sweet almond or grape seed oil
- The essential oil or blend of your choice
- Alcohol: vodka or pure grain alcohol would be ideal; perfumers alcohol works, too
Mix together .25 cup of base oil with 10-15 drops essential oil and 1 teaspoon alcohol. Pour into the jar and insert the reed sticks, fanning them out slightly. After an hour, turn the reeds over to encourage oil to travel up the sticks and scent your room.
Flip the sticks weekly to “refresh” the fragrance. And, replace fully saturated reeds after three months, when scent diffusion has weakened.
Body and Skin Care Products
Watch for a future blog post to learn how to use everyday items like coconut oil and cinnamon to make face scrubs, lotions and lip balm.