Monday, April 7, 2014

Greener Spring Cleaning: Part 1 (Homemade Window Cleaners)

Until very recently, I was using my all-purpose cleaner for pretty much all household cleaning -- from floors to toilets, counter tops to windows, and everything in between. Since learning about another homemade cleaner for windows, I decided to do a trial and figure out which one works best for me. (Note: This in entirely my opinion. Your preferences may be completely different.) This will be the first in a series of posts in which I put some green cleaners to the test. It is that time of year, after all.

Trial #1: All-Purpose Cleaner
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 Tbs vinegar
  • 1 Tbs dish soap
  • 1 tsp Borax
Combine in a spray bottle (not one that previously contained chemicals!) and shake gently. I find that a funnel is especially helpful. If you would like a light scent, add a few drops of essential oils such as orange. Be sure the label your bottle and include the recipe for the next time. A black Sharpie works well and I recently discovered that adding a strip of clear packing tape keeps the marker from wiping off over time. Genius!

Conclusion: While it does work for windows and mirrors, it is a tad on the sudsy side which means that it takes more elbow grease to wipe clean.

Trial #2: 50/50 Vinegar/Water

I first tried this when I was reviewing Green Grandma's book, Vinegar Fridays. It's exactly as promised: take an empty spray bottle (Again, use a new one that has not contained chemicals! This is just for your own safety. You can find plastic spray bottles at Dollar Tree.) and add a 50/50 mix of water and distilled white vinegar. A funnel is helpful. You can either spray this directly on your windows or first spray it onto a microfiber cloth to prevent streaking. Don't forget to label your bottle.

It does smell strongly of vinegar, which some people don't care for. (I didn't either until I started cleaning more and more with vinegar. Now the smell doesn't bother me, but if I set foot in the cleaning product aisle at the grocery store -- Well, that's a whole other thing, let me tell you. I can feel my eyes and lungs being assaulted by all of the nasty chemical concoctions contained in that aisle and it scares me that I used to clean with that stuff!)

Conclusion: In general, this works very nicely on windows and mirrors. It is very cheap to make and completely safe. You don't have to worry about it coming in contact with your skin. It's not harmful if swallowed, so it is safe to use and store near children. (Always nice to know even though I wouldn't recommend consuming this as it isn't really all that delicious, but as a mama I know these things happen...) The only word of caution is to avoid getting it in your eyes since vinegar does sting a bit. (I learned this during my no 'pooing days.)

{Homemade Window Cleaner}

Trial #3: Homemade Window Cleaner
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup rubbing alcohol
  • 1 Tbs vinegar
Combine ingredients in a spray bottle. (As always, use a new bottle, one that did not contain chemicals!) Don't forget to label your bottle and include the recipe. Use with microfiber cloths for cleaning windows and mirrors.

Conclusion: This solution that I recently learned about at a MOPS meeting is definitely safer than store-bought window cleaners and it works very well. In fact, I actually preferred it over the 50/50 water/vinegar solution in terms of streak-free shine and quick drying power. My main concern that makes me hesitant to name it my new favorite is the alcohol. Obviously, this is not a child-safe ingredient and it has to be stored up high away from little hands. It also has an unpleasant smell. Although, to be fair, it dissipates quickly and I tolerate when we dye rice and pasta.

So, What's the Verdict?
In deciding which window cleaning solution is best for you and your family, you just have to weigh whether or not it is worth it to include the alcohol. For now, I will continue to use this homemade window cleaner since I made an entire batch. It does work great and I just have to remember to store it in a safe place. Whether or not I will make this again, I just can't say at this point...

The 50/50 vinegar and water mix also does a good job at cleaning up all those hand prints and dog nose smudges! And I have no qualms about using it anywhere, anytime, around anybody in my family.

Sorry, if you wanted a definitive answer, you won't find it in this post. The only thing I can say for certain is that you should really consider ditching store-bought window cleaning products if you are still using them. They definitely are not worth the cost!

Notes on Where to Buy:

  • My microfiber cloths came in a package of 24 and cost about $12 when I bought them several years back at Sam's Club. I hear you can also get them at Dollar Tree.
  • The spray bottle in the photo came from Dollar Tree. It's one of the nicer ones I have bought, so that would be the first place I would recommend looking if you need to buy spray bottles. They had them with three different sprayers: pink, blue, and green, so of course, I bought one of each. Another source of good quality and pretty spray bottles is IKEA. If you are less picky about quality, I have also found some in the impulse section of Target and Michaels craft store.
  • I buy my vinegar in 1 gallon jugs from Kroger and use it for tons of stuff. If you aren't familiar with where to find it, try the baking/spice aisle. I hear you can also get 2-gallon jugs at Sam's Club, but I have not personally looked there. That might be a bit big for me to work with!
  • As you can tell from the label, the rubbing alcohol came from Meijer. You should be able to find this in the first aid section of any grocery store or pharmacy. I had purchased a small bottle just for dying rice and pasta, but if I continue to use it for cleaning, I will probably look for a larger bottle that may be a better value. (And, I know I've said this already, but please keep alcohol away from children!)
  • If you are interested in making the all-purpose green cleaner mentioned first and are wondering where to get Borax, try the laundry aisle of Meijer or Walmart. It comes in a white box and the common brand is 20 Mule Team.


  1. I use the 50/50 solution for my windows & 50/50 for all purpose with a drop of Dawn dishsoap - It works great for mop water too but I think you are supposed to add baking soda too for more disinfectant but I always just use 1 bucket water, 1 cup vinegar & maybe 1tsp-1tbs dawn dishsoap. I love following your blog (when I get the chance - always something neat on here)

  2. Hi Amy, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! I use my all-purpose cleaner (recipe in post above) for mopping floors and it works wonderfully for me. I just put a small amount in my bucket and add hot water since a little goes a long way. I don't know about baking soda as disinfectant -- the vinegar serves that purpose. But the baking soda IS a gentle abrasive so it helps with sticky spots on the floor, and of course, it knocks out any bad smells that might be lurking in your home. Hope that helps. :)