Today’s post is from a lovely reader of the blog Kirsten McCulloch who describes herself as the non-toxic cleaning mum. She is passionate about learning to live a more sustainable and healthy lifestyle with her family. Kirsten also has a fab blog where you can find out more about sustainable living – SustainableSuburbia.net and you can download her free non-toxic cleaning printables here. Also keep an eye out for her upcoming book Less Toxic Living: An Introduction for Families due out next month!
One simple way to save money, reduce the toxins in your home, and feel better about your kids helping with the cleaning, is to make your own non-toxic cleaners.
Using basic household ingredients like bicarb soda, vinegar, dishwashing liquid and citrus peel, you can get almost your whole house clean. Throw in a few of slightly less common items – soap flakes, glycerine and washing soda – and you have everything you need for these five easy cleaners.
NB: Non-toxic does not mean edible. It just means these products won’t be messing with your hormones or giving you cancer when you use them as directed. You should always label homemade cleaning products with the ingredients, and keep out of reach of children. Even bicarb soda is toxic in large doses.
DIY laundry powder
You will need
- 2 parts soap flakes or grated pure/laundry soap
- 1 part washing soda (double this if you have hard water)
- Optional: You can also add 1 part borax or 1 part oxygen bleach (like Eco-Store’s “Laundry Soaker & Stain Remover”) OR you can add borax or oxygen bleach to heavily soiled loads or whites, for extra brightening.
Mix together and store in a sealed container (I use an old ice cream tub). The washing soda may sink to the bottom, so stir before use. You may need to dissolve before use, especially if you wash in cold water.
Use 2tbps – ¼ cup per wash.
Optionally add ½ cup white vinegar to the rinse as a fabric softener and to help avoid any build up of soap. This is particularly good if you have hard water.
Spray-on laundry stain remover
This stain remover is particularly good for acid and protein based stains, like tea, coffee, some kinds of ink, baby spit up and tomato sauce.
In a clean spray bottle, measure in:
- ¼ cup glycerine (buy it in the cleaning section of your supermarket)
- ¼ cup dishwashing liquid (I use Eco Store brand)
- 1½ cups distilled or cooled boiled water
Shake to mix, before each use. Spray on to dirty clothes, leave a few minutes and toss in the wash.
Glycerine helps to soften old stains, so try spraying it on 15-20 minutes before you wash (but don’t leave it to dry out).
General purpose spray cleaner
Here’s a great way to use up your left-over citrus peel.
You will need
- Citrus peel
- Distilled or cooled boiled water
- Optionally, a little dishwashing liquid
Loosely fill a jar with any kind of citrus peel.
Cover the peel with white vinegar, pop on the lid, and put the jar in a dark cupboard for about 2 weeks.
Now, strain the vinegar into a spray bottle, using a fine mesh or muslin sieve. (See tips below for what to do with your lemon peel next)
Add 1 part distilled or cooled boiled water (tap water will do if you will use it all up within a week or two) per 1 part citrus vinegar. You can also use the citrus vinegar neat, for extra disinfecting power.
Optionally add 1 tsp dishwashing liquid per litre of your citrus-vinegar spray.
Use as a general purpose spray cleaner the way you would use spray ‘n’ wipe.
Citrus peel contains a natural solvent called d-limonene, which is also the main scent in citrus. So not only does this increase the cleaning power of vinegar, it makes it smell heaps better too!
Tips: When you are done infusing the vinegar, you can still use the citrus peel twice more.
First, use your left over citrus peel to scrub out your kitchen sink, for an excellent shine.
When you’re done, add the peel to a bowl of water and place in your microwave. Put the microwave on high for a couple of minutes, until the water is boiling. The citrus infused steam will help lift any dirt, so you can easily wipe out the microwave afterwards.
If you need a little more scrubbing power behind your cleaner (such as for a grotty bathtub), try this recipe:
- 1 cup bicarb soda (baking soda in America)
- ½ cup dishwashing liquid
Mix until you have the consistency of a thick cream cleanser. You may need to add a little more of one or the other of the ingredients depending on the dishwashing liquid you use. Keep in mind that bicarb soda is what provides the scrubbing power here, so the more dissolved it is, the less “scrubby” it is, which can be good or bad depending what you are cleaning. If you want a more abrasive cleaner, you can add 1 tbsp course salt.
Pour the liquid into a bottle and shake well before use.
If you find you have some white powder residue after cleaning, just spray on some of the general purpose spray above (or just straight vinegar) and it will wipe right off, as the vinegar reacts with the bicarb.
Unblock Your Drains with Bicarb and Vinegar
When you mix bicarb soda (a base) with vinegar (an acid) you get an explosive reaction that is often used in kids’ science experiments. In the end, if you have the right balance of each, you’re left with a salt solution, after the carbon dioxide has bubbled off. But, while the bubbling is happening, you get a dirt lifting effect.
To unblock your drains try this recipe, which is a slight variation on these instructions from Crunchy Betty.
- Pour a pot of boiling hot water down your drain.
- Add in 1/2 cup bicarb soda, and let it sit for a few minutes.
- Now, pour down a mixture of 1 cup vinegar and 1 cup very hot water on top of the bicarb soda.
- If you have a plug, use it now to keep the bubbles where you need them. Let it sit for another 5 minutes.
- Repeat steps 3 and 4 – you will see more bubbling, because it takes a lot of vinegar to react all that bicarb.
- Pour down one more pot of boiling water to flush it all away.
Unfortunately this will not work well on very badly blocked drains. Hair, for instance, breaks down very slowly, so try to avoid letting a lot of hair end up down your drains, or you might need more desperate measures.
Once you have mastered these, here are some more you might like to try:
Now over to you: do you use any homemade cleaners? If so, what’s your favourite? If not, which one of these will you try first? If you have any questions about these, ask away in the comments.