Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How to Clean Your Whole House Without Nasty Chemicals

This blog is brought to you by: Red and Honey

When I got married six and a half years ago, I honestly didn’t care what was in my cleaning products. We lived in an old apartment full of character and cobwebs, and I considered bleach my new best friend.  When I began having children I began to think twice about the products in our home. Surely the things we breathe and come into contact with on a daily basis would affect our health, right?  I bought things with words like “organic” and “natural” and “pure” on the labels, but I was fairly certain I was being sold a lie (and, at least some of the time, I was).

And then my son was born sensitive to just about anything unnatural and we began switching full force to safe, non-toxic everything.  I am so glad we did.

My new rule of thumb is that my cleaning products shouldn’t be more dangerous than the problem I am trying to solve.  So I may use bleach to kill mold, but I won’t use it to make my white’s whiter.  Here is how I clean my whole house without nasty chemicals.

All Purpose cleaner:   Most things can be cleaned with a bucket full of warm water with either a squirt of a good, safe, non-toxic dish soap or a splash of vinegar.  Either of these solutions are great for cleaning cabinets and walls, the inside of your refrigerator, and nearly any hard household surface that just needs a gentle cleaning.

Windows: I clean windows with a spray bottle full of vinegar diluted half and half with water.

Mini Blinds: Clean vinyl mini-blinds with a natural dish soap and some vinegar.  I’ve shared before how exactly I do this on my own blog.  You can read that here.

Floors:  I mop my tile and laminate floors by adding a big splash of vinegar and a few drops of a favorite essential oil to a bucket of warm water.  The vinegar smell will disappear as your floors dry.  I promise your house won’t smell vinegary when you’re done!

Wood:  Sealed wood can be polished with a soft cloth with a tiny bit of vinegar and olive oil on it.

Mattresses and upholstered furniture:  To freshen your mattress or sofa, put some baking soda into a cheese shaker (or a mason jar with holes nailed into the lid) and add a few drops of a favorite essential oil (lavender will encourage good sleep, tea tree oil will deter bugs!) and sprinkle the mixture onto your mattress or sofa and leave it for an hour or so before vacuuming the solution up.

Sinks:  Step One: Fill the sink to the brim with hot water and at least a cup of vinegar. Let sit for about half an hour.  Go browse Pinterest for half an hour and if you start to feel bad about not doing anything productive, remind yourself that you are actually cleaning the sink!

Step Two: Mix baking soda and water to make a thin paste.  Use a soft scrubby sponge to scrub the sink with this solution.

Step Three:  Place a small amount of olive oil on a soft rag and rub your sink down with the olive oil.  This will make your sink shiny and beautiful.

Step Four: For stuck on soap scum or water scale, I use one of the nylon pan scrapers that comes with a pampered chef stoneware.  These little brown scrapers are seriously handy items!  I also use this thing to clean any gunk that gathers where the sink edge meets the counter top.

Don't obsess over it.  Your sink really doesn't need to be perfect. Just clean and shiny

Drains:    To remove smells from stinky drains, sprinkle some baking soda down a stinky drain and follow with a couple cups of warm vinegar (you can kill two birds with one stone by doing this with the hot vinegar created by cleaning your microwave or kettle as detailed below)

Microwave: Put 1 cup of vinegar in a glass microwaveable bowl and microwave it on high until it’s boiling and has covered the walls of the microwave in vinegary condensation (this takes about 5 minutes in mine).  Let sit 3 minutes. Carefully remove the bowl of vinegar.  With a cloth or paper towel, wipe the surfaces clean.  This is so easy and it works really really well.

Kettle: To descale your kettle, put enough vinegar in it to cover the lime scale and mineral deposits. Boil the vinegar in the kettle, and then rinse the kettle well.

Heavy Duty Cleaner for cooked on stove top gunk and any other hard to clean messes:  Mix some baking soda in a small bowl with enough hydrogen peroxide to make a paste.  Use a scrubby sponge to scrub the mess away.  If you have sensitive skin you may want to wear rubber gloves.  Try this on rust stains, soap scum and dirty grout lines.

Oven:  Oven cleaner was the last cleaner I eliminated and the one I was most uncomfortable using in my home.  I kept trying homemade solutions, discovering they didn’t work, and then going out and buying the can of spray on oven cleaner that works wonders but left me nervous to let my children breathe the air in our home!

The best natural oven cleaner I’ve found is Shaklee’s Scour Off. It works noticeably better than any of the homemade solutions I’ve tried.  If you’d prefer a homemade cleaner, the Heavy Duty Cleaner listed above works pretty well with a generous dose of elbow grease.

Toilets:  What I liked about commercial toilet cleaners was the special bottle design that allowed me to get the cleaner right up under the rim of the bowl!  You can accomplish this by putting straight vinegar in a regular spray bottle with the nozzle set to stream instead of mist.  Squirt the vinegar right up under the rim where you need it and then scrub the bowl with a toilet brush as usual and flush.

Disinfectant:  Tea tree oil, sometimes called melaleuca oil, has antibacterial qualities. I place some in a spray bottle filled with water when I feel the need to disinfect something.  It also deters head lice, so I actually spray my children’s hair with this same solution when we leave for church on Sunday mornings!

Keep in mind that tea tree oil is toxic when swallowed. While I consider it reasonably safe to use around the house, you do want to keep it away from curious little hands!  I suppose that goes for all home cleaning supplies, natural or not!

I love knowing that the products that come through the door to our home are safe and friendly and that the air we breathe is clean. 

Happy Cleaning!

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