Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Recycled Snake Craft

Last week was spring break so I promised the kids a trip to "the big library." We lucked out because we just happened to go during the 1 hour that they had a craft room open! It was toward the end of the hour, so we had to carefully pick and choose how to spend our time. I pointed out that some of the other projects were ones we could easily do at home, but this one in particular intrigued me so I asked them to help me create it.

In just about 5 minutes, we ended up with this friendly blue snake made from recycled materials. I think it's fitting to share this clever craft idea now since today is Earth Day. If you've got some old tights that you were thinking of tossing out, here's a nifty way to re-purpose them into something fun and new. Isn't it fabulous?

{I Ssssssssssssssee You!}


Materials:
  • old pair tights (or pantyhose, if you don't mind your snake's body being sheer instead of opaque)
  • scissors
  • newspaper
  • googly eyes (or eyeball stickers)
  • scrap of paper, felt, ribbon, or yarn for tongue
  • glue

Directions:
  1. Cut the legs off a pair of old tights (or pantyhose). One pair of tights will make two snakes.
  2. Stuff one leg with crumpled or wadded newspaper. Depending on the size of the tights, it may be helpful to first cut the paper into smaller rectangles.
  3. Stuff the nylon full of newspaper, leaving about three inches at the end. Use this material to tie a knot, closing the end. It's stretchy, making it easy to work with!
  4. Glue on two googly eyes. We were provided with eyeball stickers for this, but I think googly eyes may hold up better long-term.
  5. Glue on a tongue. We placed ours right along the seam, which reminded me of a mouth. The tongue we were provided with was a yellow construction paper rectangle with a fork at the end. I curled it slightly around my finger before gluing it to the tights. If you don't want to use paper, I think felt, ribbon, or yarn would be a more durable alternative. This is resourceful, too, if you already have bits of those items laying around.

Thanks for stopping by. Don't forget to check out my review and giveaway from Path Publishing! The giveaway runs through April 28, 2014.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Path Publishing: Review and Giveaway!

Disclaimer: I recently purchased a blank recipe book to help me get organized. The publisher, Path Publishing, has also provided me with two blank journals for review: Happiness and Kidisms. Path Publishing is sponsoring this giveaway, in which you can win your own blank book of your choice, however, the information contained is purely my own opinion. There are several blank journals available, so read on for the details of the giveaway!


My home is filled with little scraps of paper on which I have written down assorted things that I need to keep track of for everyday life and future reference. I like to write things down so I don't forget them: recipes, cute things my kids have said, stuff that made me smile... Problem is, it's getting out of control. Sound familiar?

A recent goal during spring cleaning time was to get the paper clutter under control! (Even just a little bit of paper decluttering makes a HUGE difference for me.) One area of my life that was a complete disaster was my recipe organization (read disorganization). I had tried a couple different ways of doing this over the years and most recently, I had two overflowing file folders stuffed with loose papers of assorted sizes -- some were computer printouts, some were torn from magazines, others were on index cards, and still more were scribbled on any scrap of paper I had handy at the time. Chaos masquerading as "organization" because, hey, they were in folders, right?

Needless to say, this was not working very well for me. Yet I kept using this chaotic "system" -- rifling through each folder EVERY time I wanted to cook or bake, which pretty much meant several wasted minutes. EVERY. Single. Day. Who has time for that?!

{Recipe Book Table of Contents in Action}

I'm happy to tell you that this is improving! Here is my work-in-progress recipe book from Path Publishing. I've already transcribed 61 of our favorite family recipes (several days worth of work), and there's room for 43 more! This gives me plenty of space for those stragglers that are still hanging out in the file folder (I have it pared down to one much skinnier folder instead of two massive bundles!) and room to grow -- because I am sure to find more good recipes that I simply must save. (The desserts alone take up more than one page in the table of contents, and I don't see my love of sweets dwindling any time soon.)

The pages are just the right size for listing all of the ingredients and directions, even for my more complicated recipes. There is also a spot to note where you found the recipe. (I've already retraced my steps once since I accidentally omitted an ingredient, so this made it handy to find the website again.) My favorite part is that I don't have to rifle through a huge folder or check the Internet for a recipe. They are all contained in one book, organized the way I want them to be. Soups and stews are at the beginning because I look these up weekly for "Crock Pot night" (a.k.a. Wednesday, when Mia has dance class). Next, I listed chicken dishes and other family favorites, followed by those much-loved desserts.

{Recipe Book in Action}

Since it's a blank book, YOU make it completely personalized to your own preferred method of organization! I didn't alphabetize anything because I thought that would take too long, but maybe that's what works best for you. List your recipes and note which pages they are filed on. Put like items together, if you wish. For example, I wrote my favorite sugar cookie recipe on the left side of the book and a frosting recipe on the corresponding right side. This made it so simple when we wanted to make cut-out frosted cookies for Easter. However, you don't have to categorize your recipes if that's not your thing; just jot each one down as you acquire it. Do whatever works for you.

 {Blank Books from Path Publishing}

More Blank Book Options from Path Publishing:
  • Kidisms -- All parents need this for all those cute and clever things the kids say. Give it as a gift, too, because what grandparent wouldn't love getting a journal filled with all of the funny things that the grandchildren have said? Write down the who, what, when, where, and why so that you don't forget! Normally, I write these all in my notebook and then do a blog post when I have several. (Lately, that is at the end of each month! Here's the most recent of my kids' quote posts.) This is quite entertaining to look back on. Now, I'm finding it convenient to keep this little green journal in my van, for when they say their little witticisms away from home! This would make a nice baby shower gift, too. (Those little booties and onesies only fit for so long. Eventually parenting becomes quite the ride, and you don't want to forget the goofy things they said along the way.)
  • Happiness Journal -- This year, I've had the goal of writing down little things that I feel joy or gratitude about. Then, I slip the scraps of paper (more paper scraps, geesh!) into a small jar. Even though I don't come up with something every day (and truly, it seems like there is something to be thankful for each day), my jar is quickly overflowing, and it's only April! This journal is the perfect clutter-free solution to noting these small bits of happiness, and there is NO pressure to do it each day. It would make a nice gift for moms, dads, grads, and teachers.
  • Gardening -- Okay, I will admit that this really isn't my "thing." I pretty much botch every gardening attempt. I like to remind my children that I don't sew and I don't grow, whenever they get the mistaken notion that Mommy can do everything. That said, if I do decide to get serious about gardening (because, after all, we only improve with practice, right?) this journal is just the thing for keeping track of what is planted in each location, when it was planted, where it was purchased, guarantees (if any), and notes on progress. That should help take away some of the guess work! And, if you're not much of a gardener (join the club!), this would be a very thoughtful gift for someone who is.
  • Advice -- I love this idea! Give a blank book to the grandparents and have them share words of wisdom with your children. Or, take the time and fill it in yourself. This would make a nice gift for kids of any age, but I think it would be really special to give as a graduation present or as a baby shower gift -- offering all that acquired wisdom to people who really can use it!
  • Usernames and Passwords -- Handy place to note all of those things that are getting increasingly difficult to keep track of. And it's certainly smarter than using the same password for everything! Perfect for the tech-savvy graduate on his way to college.
Now, here's what you've been waiting for...

Two Ways to Get Your Own Blank Books:
  1. Head to Path Publishing right now and order one (or more)! With Mother's Day, Father's Day, and wedding and graduation season upon us, you probably need some gifts for all the important moms, dads, grads, brides, and teachers in your life. Surely one of these affordable blank journals will be just the thing for helping them keep track of all the important memories. You could even choose to fill them in yourself and make that part of the gift. For example, the recipe book would make a nice bridal shower gift!
  2. Enter my giveaway! (For residents of the United States only.) For an entry to the giveaway, first check out the different blank book options on the Path Publishing site. Choose your favorite one and then come back here and leave me a comment on this blog post letting me know which one you like the best. For additional entries, please share the love by linking to your favorite social media sites!
  • Share this blog post on your Facebook page. Come back and leave a comment here letting me know that you shared -- for one additional entry! (Please make a separate comment letting me know you did this.)
  • Share this blog post on Twitter. Come back and leave a comment here letting me know that you tweeted about the giveaway -- for one additional entry! (Please make a separate comment letting me know that you did this.)
  • Share this blog post on your own blog. Come back and leave a comment here letting me know that you shared on your blog -- for one additional entry! (Please make a separate comment letting me know that you did this.)
That's a total of 4 ways to win a blank book of your choice! The giveaway will run from Monday, April 21, 2014 through midnight (Eastern) on Monday, April 28, 2014. I will draw a winner on Tuesday, April 29, 2014 and share the results on the blog. Stay tuned for the results!


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Greener Spring Cleaning: Part 7 (Homemade Fruit & Veggie Wash)

If you've been following along, I am cleaning up my house with homemade (safe and cheap!) cleaning solutions including these for:
  1. Windows
  2. Room Freshening Spray
  3. Carpets and Hard Floors
  4. Counters, Sinks, Tubs
  5. Toilets
  6. Wood Furniture, etc.

Admittedly this next one is a bit of a stretch to be filed under "spring cleaning" but it is too great not to share while I'm working on this series of greener cleaning solutions. I use this fruit and veggie spray wash each day (usually several times) and I am guessing that you will, too! This was another one that I learned about at a recent MOPS meeting and wondered why I had never done this before.

I don't think I have to tell you that your produce has stuff on it that you would rather it didn't -- pesticides, wax residue, whatever... Even if you're buying organic or growing your own vegetables, I think this is something you will want to have on hand. (And this is coming from someone who until very recently only rinsed her produce with water, knowing full well that this wasn't good enough.) Save yourself some worry and mix up a batch of spray wash to keep it right next to the sink. Then, you have no excuse to try to get away with just a water rinse like I was doing.

{All Natural Homemade Produce Wash Spray}


Fruit and Vegetable Spray Wash

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 2 Tbs lemon juice
  • 10 drops grapeseed oil*(optional)
  1. Place ingredients in a brand new spray bottle (Dollar Tree has nice ones) and shake gently. (A funnel is handy, but not necessary.)
  2. Spray onto veggies and let set for about 2-3 minutes. (Or longer, if you're busy with something else. I was told you can leave it longer on root vegetables, say up to 15 minutes. I have not found that it leaves a taste on anything I've tried: raspberries, grapes, green beans, potatoes, carrots, pears, strawberries...) So easy!
  3. If you wish, you can rinse before eating, but this is not necessary. All of the ingredients used are safe for ingestion.
Grapeseed oil is one that is new to me but it has several uses including as a cooking oil because it contains antioxidants. It's also used as a carrier oil for skin moisturizers, so this is handy for both external and internal applications. Technically, the directions I was given said to use grapeseed extract* for this, but I chose to get grapeseed oil instead. I found mine at a health food store. You can totally skip it if you prefer. Vinegar and lemon juice will clean the produce just fine.

Two ways to use your fruit/veggie spray:
  1. Plug your clean sink and fill it with water. Add several spritzes of the veggie wash spray and let soak.
  2. If you're like me and you know your kitchen sink is rarely as clean as it should be, place fruits and veggies in a large bowl. Then, add 2-3 sprays of veggie wash and let soak. (Guess which method I use? No shame in it!)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Greener Spring Cleaning: Part 6 (Homemade Furniture Polish)

If you've been following along with my series on greener spring cleaning solutions then you have probably already seen how to clean:
  1. windows
  2. room freshening spray
  3. carpet stains and hard floors
  4. tubs, counters, and sinks
  5. toilets
If you happened to miss any of those, just click on the links to learn more.

Chances are that you've got some wooden furniture somewhere in your house that could use a little TLC. Whether it's dull, dirty, or covered in sticky finger prints, this homemade recipe for dusting solution/furniture polish can take care of it. It cleans and conditions the wood, leaving nothing behind but a beautiful shine  -- no harsh or dangerous chemicals. (I'm not going to claim that it will repair dings and scratches, but it certainly can't hurt!)

You can quickly and easily make this at home with just two common ingredients: olive oil and distilled white vinegar. (Thanks Green Grandma, for teaching me this!) There are a couple of different options, both very inexpensive and effective!

Option 1: Basic "Salad Dressing" Furniture Polish
Mix equal parts olive oil (mine is extra virgin, but use whatever you have at hand) with distilled white vinegar. (If you still don't have this, you need to get some -- preferably a gallon -- because you can clean anything with it!) Place in container (I use a glass jar that used to hold honey mustard) and label it: 50/50 olive oil/DWV. You can add a note that it's for furniture polish. Apply to wooden furniture (or lots of other stuff; see my list below) with a microfiber cloth and wipe clean.

Option 2: Extra Oomph "Orange Power" Furniture Polish 
This is my preference, and I've been using it for about 2 1/2 years. The citrus smells pleasant and it's a natural de-greaser. Bonus! (If you're new to cleaning with vinegar, this might be a good introduction since it doesn't smell like straight vinegar and people often complain that they can't stand the vinegar smell. Trust me, though, you will get used to it. And someday, you may grow to hate the smell of all store-bought cleaners! It happened to me.)

I used to just make my orange-vinegar by soaking orange peels in my vinegar for an indeterminate amount of time... It shouldn't go bad for a loooooong time. Then, I would pour out some of my orange-vinegar and mix it with the olive oil whenever I needed a new batch of furniture polish. Again, mix equal parts of orange-vinegar with olive oil, store in a labeled glass jar, and apply with microfiber cloth.

{3-Ingredient Homemade Furniture Polish}


Notes on Making Orange Power Vinegar:
At a recent MOPS meeting, I learned that you can also strain the orange vinegar after two weeks of soaking. (Shake the jar whenever you happen to think of it.) Then, place it in a spray bottle and voila! Homemade citrus cleaner that you can use most anywhere. You can also keep some in the jar, because like I said, it should last a very long time.

I haven't tried it with lemon or grapefruit peels, but I have used clementine peels, and they also work. I think any citrus peel is handy for this. When you're ready to toss out the peels that have already soaked and served their purpose, just toss them in your garbage disposal and run it for cleaning and deodorizing.

{Left = BEFORE, Right = AFTER}


Places I have used this furniture polish with success:
  • tables
  • chairs
  • book cases
  • picture frames (best for wood, but can be used on other frames -- avoid smearing glass, if possible)
  • wooden legs of upholstered furniture
  • kitchen cabinets
  • knick knacks
  • window ledges
  • banisters/stair rails
  • dressers
  • wall shelves
  • particle board/MDF type furniture pieces
  • removing stickers and sticky residue (Just yesterday, Mia was coloring at the dining table and her drawing paper was stuck to who knows what? Anyway, the paper tore when she tried to pick it up, leaving behind a sticky mess. I grabbed my orange power furniture polish and a microfiber cloth and easily removed it all without too much elbow grease. Better and safer than Goo Gone!)
  • electronics (I am NOT suggesting that you do this, merely confessing that I have done so very carefully when I already had the cloth in my hand and was cleaning the entertainment center anyway... Usually, I flip over the cloth, so it's more of a "dry dust" for the TV, DVD player, etc. Again, I don't recommend it, but it has worked for me with no negative effects that I am aware of.)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Greener Spring Cleaning: Part 5 (Homemade Toilet Cleaners)

If you missed my earlier posts this week, so far I have shared greener cleaning tips for:

Now, see if you can guess what I was using to clean toilets until recently... If you said "homemade all-purpose cleaner" then you can go right to the head of the class. You're such a good reader! Yep, that was my favorite for toilets (and literally everything else) until a couple of weeks ago, when I decided to switch it up a bit.

Today, I am sharing with you a few different recipes for homemade toilet bowl cleaners, and I have to say that I am waaaaaay more excited by this than I probably should be! Some are very basic and some take slightly more effort, but the end results are worth it.


Homemade Toilet Bowl Cleaner #1 (Vinegar)
First up, Green Grandma suggests that you need nothing more than straight distilled white vinegar for cleaning toilet bowls. Simply add a cup or two and walk away for a few hours. Then, come back and scrub the bowl.

This is my least favorite, to be honest. The vinegar alone doesn't cling or fizz or do anything that "shows" that it is doing its job. There is nothing else to make it smell a bit better; even though I am much more accustomed to the smell of vinegar, it is still a bit much when you use a large amount in undiluted form. (NOTE: I do realize that we do NOT need any fake fragrance to make everything smell "fresh" or "clean" -- that is a marketing gimmick. True "clean" has no smell.) Even though I know that this is perfectly effective for killing germs, it's not my first choice. It is, however, very cheap, very easy to use and completely non-toxic, so it deserves mention in the lineup of natural choices.


Homemade Toilet Bowl Cleaner #2 (Vinegar + Baking Soda)
Pour a cup of baking soda into the toilet bowl and then follow with a cup of white vinegar. You get the fizzing action and once it's done, you scrub the bowl. Baking soda neutralizes odors and vinegar kills germs. Straightforward, right? (You can adjust the proportions to your preferences.) You can also follow with lemon juice or a few drops of lavender essential oil if you want it to smell nice. Safe, cheap, effective, and you can easily do this with everyday kitchen items. No mixing or storing needed.


Homemade Toilet Bowl Cleaner #3 
I learned about this recipe at a MOPS meeting:
  • 3/4 cup baking soda
  • 3/4 cup white vinegar
  • 10 drops tea tree oil
  • 10 drops lavender essential oil
  1. In a mixing bowl, combine baking soda and essential oils (Lavender smells nice and both lavender and tea tree oils have antiseptic qualities).
  2. Add vinegar to the toilet bowl and then pour in the baking soda mixture.
  3. Allow the fizzing of the chemical reaction to take place and then scrub with a toilet brush.

For all three of the above recipes I asked myself, "Now what about the rest of the toilet? The seat, lid, outside of the tank...?" These all have to get clean, too, so of course, I used that all-purpose cleaner and a sponge. Sometimes, this seemed like more work, so that was why I often just used the all-purpose spray cleaner for the whole shebang. One product, and done. 

Then, I tried this next recipe (also from the MOPS meeting), which calls for castile soap. It is far and away, my favorite homemade toilet cleaner. EVER! (In other news, I am really, really in LOVE with castile soap, and I plan to use it in my next batch of all-purpose cleaner, in place of dish soap.) Without further ado, here is my new FAVE homemade toilet cleaner recipe! (Who knew I would ever use that expression?)

{My New FAVE Homemade Toilet Cleaner}

Homemade Toilet Bowl Cleaner #4
  • 3/4 cup baking soda
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon castile soap with tea tree (I used unscented castile soap.) 
  • 3-5 drops of tea tree oil (if using unscented castile soap)
  1. In a 2-cup measuring cup with a spout, or a measuring bowl, mix together the baking soda and water.
  2. Add castile soap (and tea tree oil, if desired) and stir.
  3. Pour into a squeeze bottle (I used an clean, empty condiment dispenser.) and make sure it is covered by a finger or cap. Then shake well. If you do not have a mixing bowl or measuring cup with a spout, a funnel may be helpful. (Remember, do NOT use old cleaning product containers from toilet bowl cleaners or that sort of thing.) 
  4. If the consistency is too runny, add a little extra baking soda. You want it to be thick enough to cling to the inside of the toilet bowl. (As another side note: You can make this recipe and yesterday's recipe for my other new favorite, homemade soft scrub, all with a single 1-pound box of baking soda!)
  5. To use, squeeze out enough to coat the inside of the toilet bowl. (The recipe said this makes enough clean two toilets, but I found that it was enough to clean three.) You can either scrub immediately OR you can walk away and let it set. I have tried both ways, but I can't say that I noted any distinct differences. Just do whatever is easiest for you.
  6. Now, as a bonus, I decided to clean the rest of the toilet with this cleaner instead of reaching my my all-purpose spray cleaner. I just put a small amount onto a sponge and wiped everything clean. Tip: Start with the less dirty surfaces (top of tank, handle) and work your way toward the germier surfaces (outside of bowl, where spray happens, if you have a boy) and so on until you have cleaned it seat and all. (Don't forget to clean your sponge. I put mine in the dishwasher, but it seems that there is a microwave cleaning method that I have heard about, too.)

So, there you go. Non-toxic, effective, and you can clean the whole toilet -- inside and out -- with this single recipe! It doesn't smell funky. It clings to the bowl very well, and you even get some fizzing action, if you like that sort of thing. The only possible downside is that you will need to mix up another batch the next time you want to clean toilets. (I had fun doing this, so I don't see that as a problem.)

Plus, putting it into a condiment dispenser? This is brilliant! I was so excited to hear this idea. If you make this one, don't forget to label your container with a permanent marker. Include the recipe, so you can make it again without looking it up. Enjoy!


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Greener Spring Cleaning: Part 4 (Homemade Hard Surface Cleansers)

Spring is in the air around here for sure. Both outdoors and inside our home are starting to smell fresh. Today, I spent some time tackling the grime on various hard surfaces: tub, counters, sinks, and toilets. (More on that last one to come later...)

I've already mentioned my old standby, homemade all-purpose cleaner, a few times this week. So, I won't keep blathering on about that. I will just mention that it is what I have used for the past few years to clean counters, sinks, the tub (and toilets). That said, I will add that I am more recently interested in a couple of cleanser recipes that I learned about at our last MOPS meeting. I am excited to share the results with you!

Homemade All Purpose Scrub
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup washing soda
  • 1/8 - 1/4 cup salt
  • 10-20 drops essential oil of choice (optional)
(We made this at the meeting and did not include any essential oils. I haven't added my own, so I can't comment on how that works, but here are the directions I was given. I have been using it around the house for over a week now.)
  1. Use a spoon to mix the ingredients, distributing the oils. (We just scooped the dry ingredients into a baggie to take home and put into our own containers, but if using essential oils, you will most likely want do your mixing in a medium size bowl.)
  2. Store in a mason jar or a Parmesan cheese container. (I also learned at the meeting that the lid from an old Parmesan container fits onto a canning jar. What an awesome epiphany that was! This is how I am currently storing my scrub cleanser.)
  3. Use as you would a powder scrub cleanser (like Comet). Sprinkle directly onto counters, sinks, etc. and wipe with a damp sponge or cloth or sprinkle onto the sponge or cloth and then wipe surfaces.
Observations:
  • I was worried about the salt being irritating for dry, cracked skin. I was relieved to find that this was not a problem.
  • This is not my absolute favorite cleaner because the powder seems to take a few extra swipes to get cleaned away. (Not that it's bad. It's certainly safer than a lot of things I could be using, but I never used powder cleansers even when I did use store-bought cleaners. This is just not my preference.)
  • I was really optimistic that this would erase old stains on counter tops, but alas, it didn't do the trick. (Read on for what did, though!)
  • One thing it did work great for was getting rid of the ring of grime that was where the counter top meets the outside edge of the sink -- worked better than anything else I can think of!
  • Positive features: This is quick and easy to make. One batch will last a long time. You do not need many ingredients, and all of them are inexpensive and readily available and your local grocery store. (Find Washing Soda in the laundry aisle -- not to be confused with baking soda.)
  • I would be very leery of using this on wooden tables. Not that you were probably considering that, but I figured it was worth mentioning. It could very likely scratch the finish. So, if you are looking for a recipe for a cleaning product that you can use anywhere in the kitchen and dining room, this would not be my recommendation.

Homemade Soft Scrub Cleanser
  • 3/4 cup baking soda
  • 1/4 cup castile soap
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 10-15 drops tea tree oil (optional)
  1. Combine baking soda and castile soap in a medium bowl.
  2. Add water and tea tree oil (which has antiseptic qualities) and stir mixture with a fork.
  3. Add vinegar slowly as it will bubble up.
  4. Stir until it has a paste-like consistency.
  5. Pour into a container, using a funnel, if you wish. (Mine is stored in an old kids' shampoo container. I will not mention the brand name because I don't want you to think I am recommending it. Knowing now what I wish I had known then, I never would have used that stuff on my children! You might also wish to use an empty dish soap bottle or another type of squeeze bottle.)
  6. To use the soft scrub, squeeze out a small amount onto a sponge or directly onto the surface that you want to clean.
{Safe and Green Homemade Soft Scrub!}


Observations:
  • This was my first experience using castile soap, and honestly, I had no clue what I was missing! It is wonderful. I bought the unscented version, but you could make this with any of the other scents that it comes in such as tea tree or lavender. (Mine is Dr. Bronner's brand and I got it at the nearest health food store.)
  • Confession: I didn't really like the smell of tea tree oil when I first started using some months back (for making moisturizing oil). Lately, though, I have been using it for more homemade concoctions and the scent is definitely growing on me. I'm not going to make perfume out of it or anything, but... It's worth it to give it a chance.
  • This homemade stuff is AMAZING! Just gently scrubbing with a sponge helped more with some counter top stains in the master bathroom that anything else I have tried in the 8 years we have lived here. (I have no clue what the stains are. They came with the house, but my best guess is coffee.) Anyway, I decided to kick things up a notch and combined this soft scrub with an old toothbrush and some good old-fashioned elbow grease and BAM! The stains are almost gone. (Honestly, you probably wouldn't even know about it if I weren't pointing it out. Below and to the left of the toothbrush, in the bottom photo.)
{Bathroom Counter BEFORE Homemade Soft Scrub}

{Bathroom Counter AFTER Homemade Soft Scrub}

  • This made me so excited that I decided to try it on the ring around the tub. It worked wonderfully for the grimy build-up and once again, when armed with a toothbrush and my own scrubbing power, this made a decent dent in the orange ring (rust stains from our well water). 
  • Here's how it worked on the bathroom sink. The top part of the photo shows the orange rust ring and the bottom part shows how it looked after I scrubbed gently with a toothbrush. No real muscle needed for this task!
{Bathroom Sink BEFORE (top) and AFTER (bottom)}
  • And, if that's not enough to convince you, it also knocked out the nasty filth that was lurking in my stainless steel kitchen sink (including the drain trap, which was just plain gross). So, now you know my dirtiest household secret: Until this afternoon, my kitchen sink was a veritable cesspool of germs, admittedly the most neglected of the high-traffic areas of my home. Now, it's soooo shiny and germ-free!
{Kitchen Sink BEFORE (right) and AFTER (left)}

  • In case you can't tell, I quit using store-bought Soft Scrub years ago because I was concerned about what was in it. Clearly, I had forgotten about all the benefits of cleaning with this type of thing and certain parts of the house were missing out on more thorough cleaning. That's won't be happening any longer now that I can make this homemade version.
  • I hate wearing rubber gloves, so knowing that the ingredients are safe to touch (and inhale) is a nice feature of this scrub (in addition to its effectiveness!).
  • Like the first scrub cleaner, it makes a nice size batch that will last a good long while (even with the extensive scrubbing that I put it through just today). The ingredients are common, cheap, and totally safe to use around kids.
  • Also, I will sum up by making it very clear that of the two scrub cleansers, this second was my clear favorite. It just took care of build-up that the other one couldn't in the sinks -- both porcelain and stainless -- and on the counter tops, this one was tops.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Greener Spring Cleaning: Part 3 (Homemade Floor Cleaners)

Mud season is officially under way here in Michigan and that means plenty of dirt getting tracked in on my linoleum and wood floors. (And occasionally onto the carpet, as well, even though we have a no shoes in the house policy.) These are my current favorite homemade solutions for cleaning all of my floors.

All-Purpose Cleaning Solution: (For Hard Floor Surfaces)

  • 2 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dish soap (your safest bets are Dawn or something like Seventh Generation)
  • 1 teaspoon Borax
Combine ingredients in a spray bottle (one that did not previously contain chemicals!) and shake gently. Using a funnel is helpful when filling your bottle. Optional: Add a few drops of essential oils if you would like a light scent. Label your bottle with the recipe using a permanent marker. Cover the writing with a piece of clear packing tape to prevent it from being wiped away over time.

To mop the floors, add a small amount to your bucket and then fill it with hot water. This solution cleans up all sorts of gunk and it disinfects, too. Personally, I have had no issues using this on our floors, but of course, you may want to test it on a small area before tackling all of your floors.

Now, what about carpet cleaning? If you have kids and pets, you are sure to get an assortment of spots on them. For small messes, I often grab my spray bottle of All-Purpose cleaner and a microfiber cloth. But let's be honest. Most of the messes on my floors aren't small!

For bigger stains, I have successfully used baking soda and vinegar to remove every kid and dog-related bodily fluid that can possibly end up on the carpet. I'm talking blood, vomit, urine, and poop -- completely eradicated with just a couple of simple to use, inexpensive, and totally safe things. To get this nasty business out of your carpet without resorting to commercial carpet cleaners (which are loaded with toxins and do NOT work as well -- Believe me, I've tried a number of them, even the ones that claim to be specifically for pet stains.) follow these steps. This even works on old stains!!

{Urine Stain: BEFORE}

{Urine Stain: AFTER}


Carpet Stain Removal
  • baking soda
  • vinegar
  • water
  • clean cloths (microfiber cloths are good for this)
  1. First, sop up as much liquid (and solids, if that applies. Ew, I know...) as possible.
  2. Next, cover the soiled area with a generous sprinkling of baking soda. Let this set overnight.
  3. Vacuum up the baking soda. You will see that this has already absorbed some if not all of the yucky stuff (and hopefully, taken a lot of the smell away, too).
  4. Pour undiluted distilled white vinegar over the soiled area. Sit back and let the bubbling action do its thing for a minute or two.
  5. Now, grab your microfiber cloth and start scrubbing the carpet. This should get out the remaining grossness.
  6. Pour some fresh water over top scrub/mop it up with a second clean cloth.
  7. Allow the wet spot to dry. You will be amazed! (However, if it is not as clean as you would like, repeat the above steps.)
{Unknown Set-in Stain: BEFORE}

{Unknown Set-in Stain: AFTER}