I am a clean freak. I admit it. My bathroom and kitchen need to be clean or I can’t stand to use them. The rest of my house can be cluttered and dust ridden and I tolerate that within reason. But a dirty bathroom puts me over the edge.
I enjoy the empowerment of using natural products to clean my house. It’s not that I always avoided store-bought chemical cleaners. I used my share of ammonia and bleach, and still do in certain situations. But in general, I don’t keep chemical-laden manufactured cleaners in my home for regular use. I remember years ago cleaning the oven; compelled to vacant the house briefly because the fumes irritated my lungs. When using kitchen and bathroom cleaners I literally held my breath until I could wash them down the drain with the dirt they took with them. My hands and face would burn as if sunburned when handling these products without gloves and then the talc from the gloves would start my hands itching as the final insult.
After children graced our home, I locked the cleaners in a cabinet with a child-proof closure and prayed that my three older children never discovered the trick to unlocking them and bringing harm to themselves. The household survived intact. Then thirteen years ago my youngest son was born with Down Syndrome. This event brought change and challenges that to this day, affect daily lifestyle. It was imperative to remove cleaners that could cause harm because the life of our son depended on it. I selected a product line called Melalueca because the company claims the ingredients are natural, safe, and effective. They work wonderfully, don’t make me flee the room because of fumes, and never irritate my hands. And I feel secure knowing my son has lived safely in the house using these cleaners.
But I also have a pioneer spirit that tells me I can make cleaners on my own using natural ingredients and herbs that have served homemakers for hundreds of years. They require more patience and elbow-grease in some instances, but they work just as effectively and at a great financial savings compared to store bought! And the best part is my son Ethan can help me in making and using these cleaners with no worries.
My favorite items are white vinegar and baking soda. These items clean almost everything. I keep a pretty recycled olive oil bottle full of white vinegar and a 5 # bag of baking soda under my kitchen sink ready at hand to safely scour crusty baked-on pans, stained coffee and tea cups, my stainless steel sink, and whatever else I find needs a cleaning boost. These products not only clean items, they clean drains. Pour some baking soda down the drain, bring 2 cups of white vinegar to a boil, and pour down a slow drain. Cover drain with a dish towel or jar lid opener to contain the foaming action, wait a few minutes and run hot water for a few minutes. Slow or clogged drains flush clear and fresh. White vinegar run through the coffee maker once a month keeps the coffee tasting true and the maker working properly. Hot white vinegar removes scale and mineral deposits effectively with a bit of a scrub and stubborn stains dissolve away with a dash of white vinegar. 1/2 cup of white vinegar added to the wash at rinse time makes a great fabric softener.
Additional cleaning items are borax and washing soda (sodium carbonate). Both of these items can be found in the laundry isle at your local grocery. Borax is a natural mineral that cleans, deodorizes, disinfects, softens water, and repels cockroaches. Washing soda is more caustic/alkaline (ph 11), as is borax, but its cleaning qualities work great for tough cleaning jobs. Washing soda is frequently used as a wax remover or paint stripper so use caution when using these items because they can cause irritation.
For the aesthetic side of our personalities, add herbs and/or essential oils. I only keep herbs in the house that are safe for consumption, but the essential oils I keep safely in a secure cabinet because taken internally could cause harm. I typically don’t scent my cleaners because I don’t want my son to think they are food and eat them, but herbal or essential oils enhance cleaning efficacy and the aroma nurtures our spirits and makes cleaning a joy.
A great bathroom disinfectant is made from thyme and borax. You can use fresh thyme (about 5 sprigs) or 10 drops of thyme essential oil, 1/4 cup of borax, and 2 cups of hot water. Bring water to boil and pour over the thyme sprigs in a bowl. Let steep for 30 minutes then strain. Add borax and dissolve in thyme solution. If using essential oil, mix ingredients and shake well.
Pour into a spray bottle. This solution is sprayed on bathroom surfaces and wiped clean with a damp cloth. This solution also helps prevent mildew in the bathroom (this includes the shower curtain).
An herbal scouring powder recipe combines 1 cup baking soda, 1/4 c dried sage leaves, ground, 1/4 c rosemary leaves, crushed, and 1 tsp of cream of tartar. Combine ingredients in a shaker top container. Shake well. Sprinkle a small amount of powder in the sink and scrub with a damp sponge or cloth. Rinse well with clear water. Check out additional recipes for natural product cleaners as listed in Karyn Siegel-Maier’s book The Naturally Clean Home, 2008.
Cleaning can be enjoyable to accomplish when the cleaning products are safe, effective, and inexpensive. If we make the products with our own hands; relish the scents released by our favorite essential oils; cleaning can actually become one of Life’s Simple Pleasures!