Sunday, September 15, 2013

Vintage Values: Making Your Own Cleaning Supplies

I know lots of these recipes abound on the internet, and I have tried just about all of them! I wanted to share with you what I've found works, and to also show everyone how easy it is to live without chemical cleaners!
I can't talk enough to people about how my allergies have been so much better since I got rid of all of my chemicals and bleaches and air fresheners. I will never again lean over the tub coughing because I just inhaled a mouthful of comet!

You really only need a couple of basic ingredients to make your own cleaners, most you probably already have:
  • Baking Soda
  • Lemons
  • Distilled White Vinegar
  • Water (you really should use distilled water, especially if you have hard water like me but...I don't, so don't feel like you have to lol)
  • Borax
  • Arm and Hammer Washing Soda
  • Olive Oil
You may also want some essential oils or extracts, herb leaves, or other things that smell nice.

Let's start with the kitchen. To clean dirt and grim you're really going to want a non-abrasive cleaner. Most people use Comet. Here is a recipe for a homemade Comet:
Start with a big box of baking soda and 1/2 cup of Borax

Mix them together in a bowl. Be careful here, if you even get a big whiff of baking soda you'll taste it in your mouth. Yuck.
Rip open the tab on the side of the baking soda box as well as the top. Pour the mixture into this box, brush off the sides, and tape or fold it shut. Now use the spout to sprinkle it wherever you need it!

I have yet to find a good dishwasher soap (you'll be the first to know when I do) but when I hand wash dishes I just use about 1/4 cup Washing Soda. Let it dissolve in warm water and go to town!
When you need to scrub a greasy pan or oven, use the homemade Comet. You may even need to just let it sit on the pan for awhile with a little bit of water.
Here is how you can use it to get rid of stains:
Lets say someone left mashed up Strawberries and blackberries on your counter. Who would do such a thing?? you might say.
You wiped it up quickly but there's still a stain. Oh man! What a bummer thing to happen!
Sprinkle some of your Comet mixture

Wet your fingers and rub it in for awhile

Wipe away the excess
My counter is pink so maybe I should've done a different colored stain but either way, you will see it's a miracle for removing anything that is greasy, burnt, or stained. If you still can't get the stain out add more water and mixture until it becomes like a paste and cover the stain. Cover it with a piece of saran wrap, pushing out the air bubbles and let it sit for a couple of hours.

Now for the bathroom. For scrubbing things you'll want to use the homemade Comet. To clean the toilet, put a bit of Washing Soda in it and scrub with your brush. The countertops can be cleaned with this general purpose cleaner:

You'll need water, vinegar, an old spray bottle, and a lemon

Mix 3 parts water to one part vinegar in the bottle

Roll the lemon until you can feel the inside become mushy. Cut it, make sure all the seeds are out (very important!) and squeeze it into the bottle. Shake to mix.

I took pictures of my faucets as soon as I realized how fabulous this stuff was at cleaning. Here is my faucet before (and I used the same camera on these so they should be true to how they look)

I liberally sprayed it with the general purpose cleaner and let it sit for a half an hour or so.

Then I rubbed it off with a rag. About 90 percent of the grim and mineral build up came off easy peasy!

Smelly house?
Don't throw the lemon halves away!

Put them in a small pot, cover them with water and smash them, add a couple tablespoons of vinegar, and a couple drops of oil or extract (I'm using orange extract here). Boil, then simmer on your stove for a couple hours. Please don't leave the house while you're doing this because the water will burn off eventually.
If you have other smelly items in your house like a garbage can or diaper bin or litterbox or smelly fridge, sprinkle in just a bit of baking soda every couple days, or leave an opened box beside it.

To clean mirrors and windows make the general purpose cleaner but substitute 1/2 cup of rubbing alcohol for the lemon. Lint-free towel or newspaper really do this job the best.

The floors can be mopped with a mixture of 1/2 cup washing soda dissolved in a bucket of warm water. Be sure not to put in too much soda or it can leave a whitish film.

Now on to the living areas and bedrooms! The general purpose cleaner and its window-friendly cousin will do most of the cleaning here. 
For the carpets, you can mix a box of baking soda with a packet (about 1/4 cup) of lavender flowers and a bit of oil or extract. Sprinkle it on the carpet, wait an hour, and vacuum it up.
Mi Costenita has lots of flowers and spices that can be used. They're easily found it groceries and are only a dollar a bag!

If your carpets need a bit more love, dissolve 1/2 cup washing soda in a bucket of warm water, scrub the dirty areas, rinse with clean water, pat dry, and vacuum up remaining water (if your vacuum can do that. If not, pat it dry some more).
If you have a dog or cat (or rabbit too I suppose) I've found that nothing beats a stiff broom and elbow grease for getting hair out of carpets and rugs. When my vacuum was broken I swept my rugs and was shocked and disgusted by the amount of pet hair my vacuum was leaving behind. This will also save your poor vacuum's life. My broke because it kept getting clogged up with dog hair!
Take your broom and sweep in an upward motion, stopping to pick up hair as it piles up. 

If your floors are wood I recommend using olive oil to clean them. You can use a mop to rub the oil in, but I really think scrubbing with just a small rag gets the grim up better. Like any oil, you only want to use a small amount in a small area instead of dousing the whole place all at once and rub with the grain. This also allows you to not put on too much and get slippery floors. Oiling my floors lasts for about a week. 
I also use olive oil on my wooden furniture about once a month. It smells great and isn't as slick as other vegetable oils.

Now finally, the laundry room. Whenever you wash your clothes use a bit less laundry detergent (I recommend using Ecos because it's cheap and safer than a lot of other stuff) and put in 1/2 cup of borax. Your whites will come out shining white without using bleach.
A good homemade fabric softener is a bottle of vinegar minus 1 cup, and 1/2 cup washing soda. It's a borderline science experiment, so be sure to stir to dissolve, not shake!
Getting your clothing nice and crisp is much easier if you line dry things (it's also a lot better for the color and fabric integrity of your clothes) and you can iron them using good old fashioned starch! Into a spray bottle just mix 1 Tbl of corn starch and 1 pt cold water, and a bit of oil if you'd like and spray it on as you iron.

Aside from how easy these products are to use, or the lack of chemicals you're filing your house with, my number one reason for making my own products is THE PRICE! Talk about being a thrifty family!
Shopping at Krogers Washing Soda runs about 5 dollars for a box, Baking Soda 70 cents per box, Borax 6 dollars a box, lemons 2 dollars for a bag of 6, Vinegar 3 dollars a big bottle, water a couple cents maybe, and olive oil (for the cheap kind) 8 dollars for a smallish bottle. This lasts me for a month, and the best part is that they have uses for other things too! When was the last time you sauteed your shallots in Old English Lemon Furniture Oil? Or baked cookies with Comet? All it takes it a couple unused bottles and five (literally five) minutes of your time to "prepare" your own cleaning supplies.

Now that you've done the cleaning so quickly and efficiently, go give your kitty some love. She wants to play!

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