Thursday, June 9, 2011

Good old fashioned cleaning

You know, until my parents recently visited us we had not watched any tv for around a year. I have always said that television shows and movies are not nearly as offensive to me as the advertisements preying upon a weak minded consumer. It is fascinating to not watch tv for a long time and then suddenly see commercials again, especially when you live a lifestyle pretty far removed from mainstream culture. When you see that stuff all the time you are just desensitized to it and find it all pretty normal. Aside from the rampant pharmaceutical ads we were disturbed by this obsession with all things being clean and sterile. Cleaning commercials always feature laboratory white looking kitchens or stainless steel with women wearing crisp, usually white clothing and makeup. Combine this with ads on laser hair removal, weight loss, and other cosmetic enhancement commercials and everyone is just starting to look like aliens to me. Not only our sterile kitchens full of chemicals but people are also resembling some kind of laboratory created experiment which doesn't in any way resemble nature. with most things, I am of the philosophy that God/nature has provided pretty much everything we need and that we need not look outside of that to fancy chemicals to make our houses and bodies look good. A friend of mine said something recently that sums it all up. She was visiting a friend's home where said friend proudly exclaimed that she had mopped the floors so it would be okay for the baby to crawl around. My friend told me she would have rather her baby crawl on an unmopped floor than one that was just freshly saturated with unknown chemicals.

Aside from philosophy sometimes frugality requires us to look at different cleaning options from what we see on the commercials. There is also the obvious concern of damage to the environment by washing toxic chemicals down the drain as well as the waste that is produced from all of the packaging.

You know, I've always been a proponent of ecofriendly cleaners and once upon a time you couldn't find them in most stores. You had to pay a fortune for them in health food stores or specialty boutiques. As a new housewife/mother using overpriced natural cleaners with concentrated essential oils made housework a little more luxurious back in the day.. You can even make your own cleaners this complex with natural ingredients. However, I am going to share my own very basic cleaning ingredients which are neither fancy or luxurious as I am on a budget and not interested in taking the time to create boutique inspired natural cleaners.

My list is quite short so read carefully or you might miss it, haha. Our staple cleaning ingredient around here is white vinegar. I can buy a big jug of it for around $3 and it lasts a lot longer than a tiny $3 bottle of commercial natural cleaner. We use it for nearly everything. I put it in a big spray bottle where it can be easily reached. We use it to clean bathroom/kitchen surfaces, countertops, and to mop floors. I add about a cup of vinegar to hot water in a bucket. You can add essential oils or dried herbs if that makes it more exciting for you. I'm pretty no nonsense these days.

I don't have a use for wood or furniture polish but when I did I would mix equal parts lemon or lime juice with olive oil and rub on with a cloth to make the tables shine.

As we have talked about many times before we often do laundry by hand and make our own laundry soap (which can also be used in the machine). We mix equal parts Arm and Hammer washing soda with borax and then grate a bar of castille soap. We use less than 1/4 cup of this mixture per load. We started using Fels Naptha which is an old detergent bar soap but it ended up being harsh so we now substitute a bar of Bronner's instead. I'm not going to tell you that old fashioned ingredients are always just as effective as their chemical counterparts. People in the old days were not used to their clothes or kitchens being as spotless or stark white as we are accustomed to in today's culture. I find that they are good enough for me because I'm not expecting perfection or for a dirty sock to come out of the laundry as white as it was brand new.

There are a couple of natural cleaning items I continue to buy because I haven't found a homemade counterpart that works...toilet bowl cleaner and dishsoap. If anyone has a basic recipe for either of these that doesn't require a lot of obscure or expensive ingredients I would love to hear about it!


liz said...

Dishwasher Detergent

its funny just today .yahoo had on their main page this story. just what you was looking for:

Here's a simple recipe for dishwasher soap:

• 1 cup of borax
• 1 cup of baking soda
• ¼ cup of table salt
• 2 packets (half an ounce) of unsweetened lemon Kool-Aid

You can try to save even more by buying ingredients in bulk, but another idea is to find smaller and much cheaper boxes at your local dollar store: a good idea to since you'll want to try a small amount at first to see if you like the results. The amounts listed above are good for 16 loads -- one tablespoon each -- so even small batches will last a while.

Other recipes online vary: For example, we found one that suggested combining only borax and baking soda, 1 tablespoon each per load. Another suggested adding a little citrus essential oil to make it smell nice: We didn't try that one, however, because we had difficulty finding inexpensive citrus oil online. Then there's this recipe, which goes in a different direction altogether:

• 2 bars of shredded Octagon soap
• 1 cup of baking soda
• ¼ cup of washing soda
• ¼ cup of lemon juice

This one calls for melting the shredded soap in five quarts of water and then mixing in the other ingredients. If that sounds a little like the recipe for laundry detergent we wrote about last year, that's because it is.

Laundry Detergent

Speaking of laundry detergent, that's easy, too. You'll need:

• 4 cups of water
• ⅓ bar of cheap soap, grated
• ½ cup washing soda (not baking soda)
• ½ cup of Borax (20 Mule Team)
• 5-gallon bucket for mixing
• 3 gallons of water

First, mix the grated soap in a saucepan with 4 cups of water, and heat on low until the soap is completely dissolved. Add hot water/soap mixture to 3 gallons of water in the 5-gallon bucket, stir in the washing soda and Borax, and continue stirring until thickened. Let the mix sit for 24 hours, and voila! Homemade laundry detergent.

Other Cleaning Products

If you like the results of your homemade concoctions on clothes and dishes, why stop there? The next time you're at the store, instead of picking up a bottle of some expensive cleanser, grab these six items and make your own cleaning supplies:

• Vinegar. It may smell a little weird, but vinegar can handle everything from dishes to laundry and even weeds. We've written about the wonders of vinegar before.

• Baking soda. Eliminates odors and helps with stains, and also works as a natural method of pest control -- ants hate it.

• Borax. This mineral salt beats bleach as a toilet cleaner and is also useful for scrubbing walls. And as you see in the recipes above, works with laundry, too.

• Fels-Naptha soap. This one's actually made by one of those big cleaning companies: Dial. They recommend it for "pre-treating" stains. In other words, "use this in addition to a bunch of our other expensive products, like Purex!" But you can turn the tables by using it as part of a recipe for your own laundry detergent, and they can keep the Purex.

• Rubbing alcohol. Works as a disinfectant and is also a great glass cleaner. It also gets grime off plastic and metal surfaces like patio furniture or bathroom fixtures.

• Lemon juice. This cuts through dish grease and is an ingredient for homemade furniture polish -- but it's not the easiest thing to preserve long-term.

If making your own cleaning products sounds a little extreme, there are still simple ways to save. The best? Buying generics. And if you insist on using name brands, at least clip those coupons -- but only the ones worth your time.


Little House On The Mesa said...

Yeah, there are lots of dishwasher detergent recipes. In fact, I used the borax/baking soda one years ago when we had one. I didn't care for it cause the powder clumped on the dishes and I dont think we used it for long....but I'm looking for something to hand wash dishes, like dish soap, not the dishwasher powder.

liz said...

yeah, i ddint realize until after i posted the other it was for dishwashers.. anyhow, i found this recipe below..

Make your own dishwashing liquid

Can you look in your laundry and bathroom cupboards and find umpteen tins and bottles of pungent, toxic cleaners? One whiff of any of them will probably leave you short of breath. These cleaners are wiped around toilet seats, baths and kitchen surfaces, not to mention the fact that our clothes are drenched in them each time we do the washing. A lot of cleaning products are absorbed by our skin. Many are carcinogenic and many can affect our central nervous system.

So far we have only mentioned the affect on our bodies but what about the affect on our environment. That's another story we don't need to go into here as you are well aware of how fragile it is.

Lets get down to something constructive and make some healthy cleaners. Most of ingredients are in your pantry right now, so let's get started:

Read about the ingredients you will be using

Make your own washing up liquid

Make your own dishwashing liquid:
Instructions & Method

1/4 cup soap flakes
2 cups hot water
1/4 cup glycerine
1/2 teaspoon lemon essential oil

Mix the soap flakes and the hot water together and stir until the soap flakes are dissolved. Cool until just luke warm. Add the glycerine and the essential oil.

As it cools down this mixture will gel. When it is cool break it up a little with a fork. Pour into a squirty bottle for ease of use. You could use an old shampoo bottle or an old dishwashing liquid bottle. Use a large squirt and use hot water to wash the dishes in. It is quite "stringy" and gunky in appearance but works well.

Lynne:::: said...

I love this post! I hate commercials and TV but love football so...we keep the cable. I also have been pouncing around on and found who is pretty cool tips. Miss you and your posts, hope to hear from you soon!