Over the past two years, I have begun weeding out more and more of my expensive and toxic household cleaners and replacing them with homemade substitutes that work as well, or even better. You’ve all probably seen my homemade laundry detergent recipe (20.4¢ for homemade vs. $12-$14 retail) and I’ve recently added a homemade “shout” laundry stain remover recipe (now tested successfully on both colors and whites, by the way.) Even our liquid hand soap has been replaced by my homemade foaming soap version. Why would I go to the time and trouble of making these products at home? Cold hard cash! They can all be made for pennies on the dollar, when compared to what you are spending to buy them at the store. Plus, they don’t actually take that long to make — some only a few minutes!
Beyond that, homemade cleaners, made with natural products, are better for the environment and exponentially better for your family’s safety and health. The chemicals and ingredients (and their fumes) in typical household cleaners can be terribly dangerous and many build up in our systems over decades of use. Even liquid hand soap, many shower gels, lotions, face soaps and dish soaps, sadly, even many toothpastes, now contain the “antibacterial” ingredient, triclosan. In my opinion, you wouldn’t need to read more than one or two articles about this pesticide, before you would refuse to expose your home and family to it, but that’s a post for another day. With homemade cleaners, you can be confident you are providing the safest and most economical options for your family because you know exactly what you’ve put in them. It makes sense for your health, your budget and the environment.
I needed to make a quick Walmart run to restock a few ingredients to make my favorite DIY cleaning products. The most critical need was for vinegar. I was completely out. You are welcome to check out my whole shopping trip in this Google+ album.
One of the most commonly used ingredients in making your own household cleaners and even personal care products is vinegar. Raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar has some incredible health benefits, that we can discuss at another time, but today, I want to talk about white vinegar. White vinegar is readily available and very inexpensive, usually around $2.50 a gallon, in our area. I was excited to see that Heinz is marketing a cleaning strength white vinegar, now, with a slightly higher acidity (6% as opposed to 5%) than standard white vinegars. This little boost in acidity, adds extra oomph and effectiveness to my homemade cleaning products without a noticeable increase in cost. Score!
If you haven’t cleaned with vinegar, before, you’re missing out on a very effective multi-purpose cleaner or cleaning ingredient. For those just getting started with natural cleaning supplies, the biggest objection to vinegar is usually that they are afraid their home will smell like vinegar. Honestly, you don’t notice the smell unless you are using it straight, and even then, that vinegar fragrance dissipates pretty quickly. But, you can try this great tip I found over at Frugal Freebies for scenting your vinegar and then you won’t have to worry about it at all!
There are literally hundreds of uses for vinegar, some pretty well known, others may be new to you. For instance, did you know that not only is vinegar good for taking the itch out of bug bites, if you put it in a spray bottle and spritz it on your skin, the smell will go away in a few minutes, but you will be protected from bug bites for the rest of the evening? Nothing could smell worse or be worse for you than the commercial bug repellents being sold, now. I’m so excited to try this, next summer! Along the same vein, pouring vinegar around the outside of your kids’ backyard pool will keep flies and pests away and if you do the same around the children’s sandbox, not only will it repel bugs, but it will keep neighborhood cats from using it as a litterbox. I hate that! This is such a good idea.
Of course, vinegar is one of the most commonly used natural cleaners for glass, mirrors and windows. My problem has always been that I still ended up with streaks when using it straight. Then I read Andrea’s post, over at Simple Organized Living. Her glass cleaner still utilizes the acidity of vinegar for super cleaning and degreasing, but with the addition of a couple other ingredients, leaves glass sparkling and streak-free!
- 2 c. water
- ¼ cup vinegar
- ¼ cup rubbing alcohol
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
- Mix all ingredients by pouring them into a spray bottle, replacing the lid and then shaking. You definitely need to shake this, again, before each use, because the cornstarch will settle to the bottom, but you will have sparkling clean, streak-free windows for pennies!
- Here's my mirror before cleaning with my homemade window cleaner. I had no idea how hard it is to take a picture of a mirror and have the schmutz actually show up, but it's there -- all the smudges and spots there in the center.
- And here's the after, with fingerprints, smudges and spots cleared away and the mirror completely streak-free!
Did you know that using a cotton ball to blot vinegar on cold sores will help dry them up? Mix one part vinegar with 10 parts water and apply it in the same way, to help clear up acne. Apparently, even warts can be treated by dotting a small drop of vinegar onto the pad of a bandage and then applying directly to the wart. Replace the bandage each evening, for 7 days, and the wart should be gone.
When it comes to cleaning your house, there are even more practical uses for vinegar:
- Use in the laundry to soften clothes and reduce static cling. Just pour it into the fabric softener dispenser in your machine. The vinegar smell has never been in our clean clothes, afterward.
- I use white vinegar to clean the tub of my washing machine, by adding vinegar to the fill line in my soap dispenser and then running the cleaning cycle.
- Vinegar is food safe, so there are many ways to use it in the kitchen, like cleaning the inside walls, shelves and drawers of your refrigerator. You can also use a solution of 1 part vinegar, to 1 part water, to safely clean the residue from fruits and vegetables.
- Use white vinegar in your dishwasher, in place of Jet Dry, to eliminate water spots and help rinse away soap residue.
- Use vinegar as one of the ingredients to make your own bathroom cleaners. These are my two most favorite recipes for cleaners that disinfect and clean like crazy in the bathroom. Love them!
- 1 teaspoon Borax
- 1 teaspoon finely grated Fels Naptha
- 2 cups boiling water
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon castile soap
- 18 drops lavender essential oil
- 5 drops tea tree oil
- Boil the water and vinegar, together.
- Dissolve Borax and Fels Naptha in boiled vinegar water.
- Cool to room temperature and add castile soap and essential oils.
- Mix thoroughly and pour in a spray bottle.
- Label bottle clearly and use this cleaner to clean the vanity, toilet and tub surfaces in your bathroom.
- It polishes the chrome fixtures and leaves them shining.
- I was almost too embarrassed to show you these pictures. Since we have bought this house, I have struggled with some sort of orangey build-up stain on the grout in our shower. I'm so excited, because this is the first product I have ever found to kill and remove whatever it was.
- Great all around cleaner that has the natural disinfecting properties of tea tree oil and lavender.
- For a super difficult build-up of soap scum or lime scale and tougher stains, spray the affected area with this cleaner; and then use my Bathroom Scrub recipe, below, to put the sparkle back in your bathroom.
- 1 cup baking soda
- ⅓ cup white vinegar
- ½ cup Castile soap
- ¼ cup washing soda
- 1 Tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 Tablespoon salt
- 10 drops Germ Fighter essential oil
- Mix baking soda, salt and washing soda.
- Stir in the vinegar and allow it to foam up and then settle back down.
- Add coconut oil, castile soap and essential oils.
- Mix until all ingredients are combined. The mixture will be moist, but crumbly. Pack into a container with a tight-fitting lid.
- To use, spritz the affected area with the spray bathroom cleaner, from the recipe above, or with water. Let it set for a couple of minutes and then sprinkle a small amount of this scrub on a damp cloth to clean built-up soap scum, hard water or lime deposits and other tough stains.
- The power of this inexpensive, all-natural cleaner is evident in the picture, below. The left side has already been scrubbed and the right is about to be. When I first discovered this formula, the author wrote that I would be scrubbing off build-up that previous cleaners left behind and I didn't even know was there, until I started scrubbing with this one. She understated the issue!