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.
  • 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!}

  • 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.

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