March 18, 2011 at 6:00 am
Earth Day is only 6 weeks away, and leading up to this important environmental celebration, I’d like to spend the next few Fridays talking about green cleaning tips and recipes for homemade cleaners.
Green cleaning has really taken off in the past few years. Many companies like Seventh Generation have been producing environmentally-friendly cleaners for a long time, but some like Clorox have more recently jumped on the bandwagon.
But not all green cleaners (or the companies that sell green cleaners) are created equal. Because of that, and to save money, we like to make our own as often as possible.
We do still invest in some plant-based store-bought cleaning products occasionally. But we have found that by keeping baking soda, vinegar, castille soap, borax, washing soda and essential oils and a few other products on hand, we can make much of what we use.
To get started, you really only need a few supplies. The ones listed above are the big ones. You’ll also need some clean bottles and jars. We use some recycled spray bottles, but you can purchase new ones if you need them. Most of our jars formerly held pickles or coconut oil. I would say that I like the nod to vinegar and coconut-based surfactants, but really, those are just two things we buy in jars!
So once you assemble your ingredients, it’s as easy as mixing up a batch of cleaner and using it for its intended purpose.*
When I wrote about green cleaning a few weeks ago some of you asked if I was going to talk about using essential oils in cleaning. Yes, I am! So I wanted to touch on that a bit before I jump into a recipe for a basic spray-cleaner.
I love using essential oils in lots of areas around our house. They can be really powerful (so again, dilute well, and make sure you give oils the respect they deserve). Also, any time you use oils, you want to look for high-quality essential oils. You never want to use fragrance oils in cleaning. I actually avoid them entirely because most of the time they are just chemicals. Make sure you buy from a reputable company that harvests and processes oils sustainably and safely.
Some big ones I use for cleaning include:
- Tea tree oil: Tea tree oil is amazing stuff. It is anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti just about anything else you DON’T want in your home. It has super sanitizing power and is really affordable. It is featured in a lot of the recipes I plan to talk about.
- Eucalyptus oil: Like its buddy tea tree, it has some amazing purification properties. It is great for cold and flu season, when your house has a funk that really must die.
- Lavender oil: Smells great. Bring a peaceful and relaxing aroma to cleaning, and it balances out other oils like tea tree (which can be a little “who groomed a horse in here?”)
- Lemon or orange oil: Smells “clean.” Balances out strong oils well. When diluted carefully, it can be great for cleaning wood and making it shine.
- Peppermint oil: Smells great and acts as a natural pest deterrent. We often buy peppermint castille soap for use in cleaning recipes.
So the following is the all-purpose spray cleaner we often mix up on weekends. Like most all-purpose cleaners, it is great for counter-tops, floors, bathrooms and surfaces. We don’t use it on unfinished wood or carpeting or to clean mirrors, but I promise to talk about all those things soon!
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
1 tsp borax (available in the laundry aisle)
1 tsp peppermint castille soap
2 cups hot water
1/4 tsp of either tea tree or eucalyptus oil
1/4 tsp of lavender oil
Mix in a spray bottle and shake well. Clean! (Use a dish towel or old rag — these cleaners won’t destroy your cleaning towels, so there’s not need to use paper towels unless there is cat vomit or something involved. Then you get a free pass!)
In the coming weeks, I’m going to be talking about greening your laundry room, bathroom, kitchen and lots of other areas of your house. So come back each week!
And don’t forget about I’m Organic’s Earth Day gear — I’m a big fan of the new design and of spreading the Earth Day word!
* Cleaning caution: Like with any new cleaning product, you might want to test your cleaner in an inconspicuous place first. Practice common-sense caution around kids and pets. Don’t eat natural cleaners, drink natural cleaners or spray them in your eyes. But you knew that already. Finally, always, always label your home-made cleaners really well to avoid confusion. And keep them somewhere safe. You just never know. Carry-on!