So now it’s time to get down to some serious spring cleaning. The problem is this usually involves coating my home with chemicals, which I hate. Especially since I’ve become a mom to tykes that lick the floor and the toilet seat (I can’t watch everywhere at once!), I’ve been ever more concerned about the amount of toxic – often lethal – chemicals that seem to be required to run the average household.
And it’s not just the swallowing risk – some scary research is showing all sorts of long-term damage of chemicals in household products, from cancer to skin conditions to breathing problems. All things my family could do without, thanks.
My first step was to get these toxic chemicals out of the house. The standard storage area – under the sink – I found way too dangerous as it is just at baby’s hand/eye-level. So I relegated the cleaning products to the outdoor laundry, bringing them in when required.
Then I started buying “eco-friendly” products (I love the smells of the Woolies “Natural” range but Enchantrix and others do great ranges too). They can cost a bit more than the regular products, but it’s a price I’ve been prepared to pay.
Now I’m experimenting with the home-made varieties, created from things most people have around their kitchens. The main ingredients seem to be bicarbonate of soda (AKA baking soda) and vinegar – both cheap, and comestible (so I don’t have to lie awake worrying what will happen if my sons down-down the lot – they’ll likely throw up but probably won’t die or irreparably blister their entire digestive tracts).
Health24 last week gave a great summary of natural ways to spring clean, including some recipes for all-purpose cleaners (read it here).
Here are a couple of other “recipes” I’ve scoured from the internet to try out at home:
Vinegar and lemon juice are both natural disinfectants, but this is a nice recipe for lovely smelling countertops.
750 ml water
10 drops tea tree oil
Eco window cleaner
For a streak-free finish, use old, crumpled newspaper to rub this on the window. Amazingly, the ink does not stain the glass.
3 Tbs vinegar
500 ml water
Eco floor cleaner
Works a dream on tiles and laminated floors in my home. Apparently vinegar pulls dirt from wood so should be great for wooden floors too.
½ cup vinegar
1 litre hot water
A few drops of your favourite essential oil (optional)
Eco carpet cleaner
We don’t have carpets so if anyone tries this out please send me feedback?
Bicarb – sprinkle and leave for 15-30 minutes before vacuuming.
Eco bathroom cleaner
Add the vinegar only after all the other ingredients have been combined (see cautionary note below!). Apply; leave to work for a while and/or scrub if necessary; rinse.
1½ cups bicarb
½ cup biodegradable liquid soap
½ cup water
2 Tbs vinegar
Eco toilet cleaner
I hardly feel like this constitutes a “recipe”, but the simplest way to clean and disinfect your toilet effectively is with good old vinegar. Pour a good dose into the toilet, scrub to distribute it (including under the rim), and flush. For the outside of the toilet, use more vinegar, or the eco bathroom cleaner described above. For a comprehensive and oftentimes amusing step-by-step explanation of how to clean your toilet with vinegar, read Jonathan Hatch’s How To Clean A Toilet.)
Eco drain cleaner
Pour the bicarb down the drain, followed by the vinegar. Watch the bubbles effervesce (call the kids – it’s great fun). Leave for 30 min (or overnight for badly clogged drains) then flush out with hot water.
½ cup bicarb
1 cup vinegar
- Use a couple of spray bottles to make up some of the recipes in advance, then your actual cleaning time will be less. You can even use empty bottles from your old chemical products; simply re-label them clearly.
- Spirit vinegar (the cheap and nasty one) is fine – save the balsamic for your salad. Don’t worry about your house smelling like a fish and chip shop; the vinegar odour generally disappears when it dries. If it makes you feel better, you can always add a drop or two of an essential oil to make things smell sweet. Lavender and citrus oils are popular, but experiment to find one that floats your boat.
- If you didn’t sign up for fourth grade science you might want this helpful little warning: vinegar and bicarb create a fizzy, sometimes explosive reaction when combined (see here for some fun experiments you can do with the kids). So to prevent your spring cleaning from becoming a science experiment gone wrong, be sure always to add the vinegar last. (By the way, I got a bit of a fright when I read that a large enough combination – 5000 gallons of vinegar and a dump-truck of bicarb – apparently killed Bill Nye the Science Guy in an experiment gone horribly wrong – turns out this is a total spoof on America’s satirical news site The Onion. Good for a laugh when you’re bored of your regular news sites!)
- Just like with food recipes, we all have our preferences in terms of aroma, consistency and end result. The “recipes” I came across usually shared common ingredients but often differed greatly in terms of quantities. Feel free to experiment and add essential oils etc – and let me know if you find improvements!