Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Greener Cleaner Experiment

I have been considering trying out some homemade green cleaning solutions for awhile now. One reason I have considered this is to save money. The main reason, however, is that being home full-time with the kids means that we are home a lot more than we used to be, and therefore, exposed much more to whatever environmental pollutants are in our house.

My husband's aunt sent an email awhile back about how hydrogen peroxide had so many uses. I am skeptical about some of its purported health benefits, but I did believe that it is effective as a cleaning product. Then, a friend from my mom's group emailed a recipe for a green cleaner that she uses, and I decided it was time to start trying to make my own household cleaners. I already knew that baking soda, Dawn detergent, and lemon juice were handy for cleaning since I use those when I strip diapers, but I needed to investigate some other common household items that are said to be excellent cleaners. Here is what I have learned so far...

First Attempt: 2 cups vinegar left in toilet over night and then scrubbed in the morning.

  • The toilet is clean and sanitized and some of the rust ring is diminished (we have iron in our well water). 
  • Vinegar is an inexpensive cleaning product that most everyone has at home. 
  • This is very simple!
  • The smell of vinegar is one that I can't stand. I am going to continue looking for a greener way to clean the toilet bowl, however, it must NOT make me want to throw up!

Second Attempt: Equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water mixed in a spray bottle. I used this to clean the kitchen sink, counter, and stove top, the toilet bowl, lid, and seat, dining table and chairs, bathroom mirror, and windows.

  • Everything is clean and sanitized without a chemical (or vinegar!) smell. 
  • This cost-effective cleaning solution is quick and easy to make. 
  • It seems to clean glass well without leaving streaks behind.
  • I still need something to cut the grease residue on my stove. 
  • Cleaning smudges from mirrors and windows takes a bit more elbow grease than with a commercial window cleaner. 
  • There is some cleaning solution residue left on the table on chairs, possibly because the wood is finished.
Third Attempt: This recipe for an all-purpose cleaner is from my friend Darla. 

Safe and Green Household Cleaner
In a spray bottle mix:

3 tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon Borax (found in the laundry detergent aisle- I bought a 4+ lb. box for under $5)
2 cups water
1 tablespoon dish soap (I used Dawn)
1 drop scented oil (optional) 

  • Everything is clean and sanitized, and the vinegar smell is so minor, I am easily able to use this solution for cleaning just about anything. It really lives up to the name "all purpose cleaner."
  • This appears to work better on grease than the hydrogen peroxide and water alone, I am guessing because of the Dawn.
  • This works well on windows and does not leave streaks.
  • I think this worked better on my linoleum floors than a commercial cleaner, and it smells much better, too. 
  • This is much cheaper than commercial cleaning products, and it is simple to make.
  • My table looks about the same as with the 50/50 hydrogen peroxide/water mixture: some residue left behind. (This bothers my husband much more than it bothers me.)
  • For window cleaning, you may want to spray a bit on your cloth instead of directly on the window because it is a bit sudsier than commercial window cleaners (again, I think because of the Dawn.)
Fourth Attempt: I made a paste of baking soda and Dawn dish detergent and used it as a soft scrubbing cleaner. I tried this on my bathroom sinks and counters, the stove top, kitchen sinks and counters, the shower door, and the microwave.

  • Everything is clean and sanitized without being scratched.
  • This also appears to work better on grease than the hydrogen peroxide and water alone, I am guessing because of the Dawn.
  • This really got rid of the soap scum and even mineral deposits from our hard water (both on the shower door and in sinks).
  • This is much cheaper than commercial cleaning products, and it is simple to make with products that most everyone already has in their homes. 
  • I even tried this mixture watered down so I could put it in a squeeze bottle. It worked just as well as the more concentrated paste. A little bit goes a long way!
  • No chemical odors means that this is a safe cleaner to use (and I wasn't worried about cleaning without wearing gloves.)
  • The inside of my microwave is cleaner than it has been in quite some time. (Okay, I will admit to having not cleaned it in quite some time, but still...)
  • This is so effective, that it's almost too sudsy. My only complaint was how often I had to re-wet my sponge.
The Verdict on Homemade Cleaning Solutions: 

Basically, I am thinking, "Why didn't I do this sooner?!" The amount of money saved by making cleaners instead of buying them makes it worth it. And that's before considering environmental impact, both for my household and overall. I feel so much better knowing that I am not filling our home and our bodies full of unnecessary chemicals.

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