CHEAP, natural cleaners for your home
There are a lot of resources (including recipes) on the internet for all sorts of natural cleaners. I still get asked frequently, though, about what I use.
So, here’s what I do.
First, gather your ingredients:
- Baking soda. I buy baking soda at Costco in 13.5 lb bags, about $6.50 per bag.
- White (distilled) vinegar. I also buy this at Costco. It comes in a 1.33 gallon size, about $3.75.
- Essential oil. I buy this at Sprouts — there are a lot of online resources for essential oil, too. Depending on the oil, it will run you $4-15 per 0.5 oz dropper jar. I typically buy tangerine or lavender, both because I like the scent and because they’re one of the less-expensive varieties. Various essential oils are supposed to accomplish various things (for example, lavender has disinfectant properties and is calming), but I just buy them for the scent.
- A natural, phosphate-free dishwashing liquid. I like the kind from Trader Joe’s, but you can find it just about anywhere. Method, Meyer’s Clean Day, Seventh Generation, even Clorox Green Works is fine. Just not Dawn or Palmolive or the like; they contain chemical detergents and dyes and scents that aren’t good for you or for the environment and just don’t work when you’re using it as an ingredient to make a household cleaner.
Now, make your cleaners:
- For my Everything Cleaner: Fill a 32 oz squirt bottle about 60% full of white vinegar. Add about 20 drops of essential oil. Add about 1 tsp dishwashing liquid. Top bottle with filtered water. Shake gently. This cleaner literally works on everything non-porous: toilets, counter tops, windows, mirrors, stainless steel, whatever. And, it’s non-toxic, so use it without fear in the kitchen. The vinegar is a disinfectant, so if that’s important to you, let the cleaner sit on the surface for a while before wiping down. If you notice streaking on windows, mirrors, and stainless steel, you’re using too much dish soap.
- For things that need scrubbing: Baking soda. That’s it. If you want to get fancy, fill a bowl with baking soda and add 10-20 drops of essential oil. Store in a shaker jar. Use this to clean out tubs, sinks, cook tops, ovens, etc. This also works as a stink-remover on carpet and furniture. Sprinkle, let sit for a while, then vacuum off.
- For floors: A squirt of dish soap in a bucket of hot water. For floors that are NOT a natural stone, add a cup of white vinegar. You don’t need a fancy, expensive floor cleaner.
- For laundry: For about two years, I made my own laundry soap; I don’t any more. I now buy Costco’s Kirkland brand “environmentally friendly” laundry detergent. It is scented (much to my surprise when I first purchased it). To the bottom of each tub of laundry, I add 1/2 cup of baking soda. I fill the fabric softener compartment with white vinegar. The white vinegar is especially effective if you live in an area that has hard water, and/or if your family suffers from eczema and you need all soap residue removed from clothing. If your washing machine does not have an extra rinse/fabric softener cycle, when your clothes are washed, run an additional rinse cycle, adding 1/2 cup of white vinegar. I use regular ol’ unscented bleach on my whites. I do not use fabric softener in the dryer. Don’t need it. Our clothes aren’t as highly scented as if I were using Tide and Downy, but they are CLEAN and what I’m doing is better for our skin and our environment, not to mention cheaper.
Where I do use purchased cleaners:
- Murphy’s Oil Soap. I still use this on wood surfaces like kitchen cabinets.
- Method Wood For Good Furniture Polish. I like the scent, I like the shine. It works well.
- Lysol toilet bowl cleaner. You can use bleach or even baking soda, but the Cling variety of toilet bowl cleaner is still my old standby.
- Dishwasher detergent. I typically buy Palmolive Eco+.
There are folks who make their own dish soap, their own dishwashing detergent, their own laundry detergent… I have experimented with all of those. But from a cost + effort + effectiveness, at least for now, these are the things I have found to be the best choice for our family.