Friday, August 20, 2010

My how I do loves me some green cleaning

I had no idea people really cared about my obsession with homemade cleaners, but lookey here -- a really long post about just that very thing!

[Disclaimer: I'm no expert and I wouldn't suggest you use any of these without testing them out on something relatively harmless first. But here's what I've tried and so far I'm happy!]

Bathroom cleaners

Start with:

Pour into a clean, empty glass jar*. Swish around to mix it together, then use as follows:

1. As a toilet bowl cleaner -- pour ~1/2 cup of the above mixture in the bowl, then add ~1/4 cup of baking soda. Enjoy the foamy show, then let it sit while you clean the rest of the bathroom. Clean with a toilet brush and flush. Done!

2. As a general purpose cleaner (I used it on porcelain, tile, painted wood work, faucets, acrylic tub, etc) -- Add 1/2 - 3/4 cup water to the remaining mixture and swish to mix. You could probably pour this into an empty spray bottle, but I just poured some onto a rag and used that to clean all my surfaces. Wipe down with clean water; be sure to dry off any painted wood surfaces and voila! Done and done.

Plain white vinegar is the shezizzle!

  • Fill your coffee carafe with water, topping it off with about 1/2 cup of vinegar, then run it through the coffee maker (without coffee, of course!). Flush it out with a couple of runs of plain water and you've just done a great job of cleaning out your coffee carafe and the reservoir.
  • I have read -- but not yet tried -- that vinegar makes the BEST fabric softener. I know, I know. Who wants to smell like a pickle? But here's the thing: the vinegar smell disappears as the clothes dry, leaving them very soft and residue/chemical free. What's that? You LIKE your freshly laundered clothes to have a pleasant smell? No problem! Just add a few drops (say 20) of natural essential oils to a gallon of vinegar. Add 1/2 cup of this in place of regular fabric softener.
  • To get sparkly, streak-free windows, spray on vinegar and wipe off with newspaper. Yes, newspaper!

I could go on, but why bother when this site has done it for me?


There are some times (gasp!) when vinegar shouldn't be your go-to cleaner. If you've got granite countertops, you can try this recipe for a quick, inexpensive, natural cleaner:

  • Pour 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol into a spray bottle
  • Add 3 drops liquid soap
  • Swish to mix
  • Fill the bottle with water

There you go! Spray and wipe down to keep your granite surfaces sparkling. : )

Wood cutting boards

OK first -- you know you shouldn't be using your butcher block for preparing or carving meat, right? Right.

Still, even if you only use it for prepping fruits, nuts, veggies, herbs & the like, you've got to keep it clean. My fast & fresh-smelling solution is to cover the surface of the block in kosher salt (the only salt I cook with), then rub it in with a half of a lemon. I squeeze the juice in as I go so it doesn't get too dry. The salt acts as an abrasive and the lemon cleans & freshens the wood. Rinse with clean water & let air dry.

Furniture polish

FULL DISCLOSURE: I haven't tried this yet. But I think I will, one of these days!

To a spray bottle add:

  • 1 cup olive oil (cheap is fine)
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice

Spray a small amount on any wood surface then wipe til dry. I would be very careful not to be heavy-handed with this, as too much oil would get sticky and dirty very quickly. Still, might be worth a try on one inconspicuous piece to see if it works!

And hey, if you don't like it, you're all set to mix up a vinaigrette for dinner, right?

Laundry soap

Just mixed this up tonight & can't wait to try it! [This recipe is taken nearly word-for-word from Amanda Soule's website,]

  • 2 cups of finely grated castile soap
  • 1 cup of baking soda
  • 1 cup of washing soda (also called soda ash -- we found it with the pool cleaning supplies at Lowes!)
  • 1 cup of Borax

Mix it together & pour into a container that you can seal tightly. Add 2 tablespoons to your laundry; depending on your water you may need more/less, so do some experimenting til it's just right for you. This won't get real sudsy, which is especially helpful if you have a front-loading washer.

For the love of it all, what more could she possibly have to say??

There are some great resources out there if you, like me, have been bitten by the green/penny-pinching living bug. Here are a couple you might look into:

Do It Gorgeously by Sophie Uliano. You can check out her website, too:

Clean House Clean Planet by Karen Logan. I've not picked this one up yet, but my friend Hanne recommends it and she wouldn't steer me wrong!

The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan. No, this isn't about green cleaning, but it's a crazy resource if you're into home growing/self-sufficiency. by Amanda Soule. Amanda's website is not dedicated to green/economical how-tos, but she's had more than one post about just those very things (like the laundry soap above). An absolute must if you're into knitting/sewing, too!

Artisinal Bread in 5 Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. Alright, I've gotten completely off-track -- but only sort of, because fresh homemade bread is not only delicious, it's much less expensive than store-bought and you know exactly what's in it!

If you have any favorite books, tips, or websites I would LOVE it if you shared them in the comments section.

*If you don't already, I highly recommend that you start saving glass jars as you empty them -- pickle jars, mayonaisse jars, jarred fruits, jams & jellies, etc. Run them & the lids through the dishwasher and you've got free, environmentally friendly, reuasable/recyclable storage containers. I use them ALL THE TIME, for making & storing salad dressings, dispensing bulk items into smaller containers, storing left overs, mixing slurries, collecting spare change, saving buttons, mixing up cleaners... everything. In a pinch, I've even been known to throw my morning coffee in there when I haven't had a clean thermos available.

I remember when I was a kid my Aunt Lynne (hi, Aunt Lynne!) was the most far-out hippie chick I knew (love you, Aunt Lynne!) and I would always see her with jar after jar of sprouts and nuts and boiled eggs and God-knows-what-else. Probably carob, because I hated that carob, but she always seemed to have it. I always thought she was crazy with all the jars (still love you, Auntie Lynne!) but now I totally get it.

But I don't miss the carob. Not at all.


shouldhavezagged said...

I use plain white vinegar in place of fabric softener. It's great. You should definitely try it.

Ket said...

Good to hear from someone I know (at least from the Twitterverse!) about this. Is there any residual scent from your laundry soap, or does the vinegar leave everything scent-free?

Amy H said...

trying the vinegar as fabric softener today. Will let you know how it goes! My sniffer is plenty sensitive at this point, so should have a good answer for the scent-after-drying question :)

Amy H said...

I smell nothing but clean towels :)

Ket said...

Yay! Me too. : )