Thursday, April 23, 2009

Natural Cleaning Products: I Can Breathe Again!

A Special Earth Month Series Article
by Julie of JBirkemeierPhoto

A few months ago, I was cleaning my bathroom with a commercial cleaning product. I live in an old apartment, so you can imagine the tiny size of the room. Its small dimension is great for cutting down on cleaning time, but there's also no ventilation in the room and no place for a stinky cleaner to dissipate. It goes without saying that the time I spent cleaning the bathroom was also time spent choking on harsh chemicals. I had never thought to do anything about it until this particular time, but an hour after finishing the chore, I went on a bike ride and was still having to clear my chest- not the most enjoyable ride. Who knows what years of exposure to these commercial chemicals were doing to my body? From that day on, I decided to try making my own cleaning products.

I began researching online immediately, and found lots of great resources for easy-to-make homemade cleaners. The recipes I found ranged from everyday multi-purpose cleaners, to glass cleaner, to drain cleaners. Every website included the same basic ingredients: vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, Borax, dish soap, ammonia, and warm water. I started out small, and went with making an everyday cleaner made with two cups of warm water to a half-cup of vinegar and two tablespoons of Borax. If you have a spray bottle laying around, definitely use it for this. The mix has worked really well for me when cleaning counters, floors (not wood) and the bathroom, and if I'm in a citrus mood, I substitute lemon juice for the vinegar- the lemon juice, vinegar, and Borax will take care of germs. Another mix that I've made a staple of my cleaning habits is one that I use in the bathtub and the sink to get rid of hard water and soap scum.

Hard Water and Soap Scum Remover
*Sprinkle baking soda throughout the tub.
*Drizzle your favorite dish soap on top (I use unscented and dye-free, but this is personal preference).
*Wet the rough side of a sponge and work the baking soda and soap mixture over the tub.

I have to rewet the sponge a few times, but it works great. Changing up my cleaners has really given me a better feeling about making conscious choices about what I expose my body to. I will say, though, that I haven't found a great recipe for cutting through grease and oil, which is a problem when I clean my stovetop. So, honestly, I do keep a bottle of commercial product around for that purpose (I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't confess that to you).

I encourage anyone reading this to try homemade cleaners for a month and see if you notice a difference. One good resource for information on natural cleaning is this article by Organized Home. Or if you don't want to make a cleaner yourself, one of our team members, MisticalAcScents, makes a natural vinegar-based cleaner that is for sale in her shop. And if you'd like to carry over natural cleaning methods to your bath and body products, check out the EtsyVeg marketplace for our many members who sell fabulous handcrafted soaps, lotions, and more.

Happy cleaning, everyone, AND happy breathing!


Kelle's Kitchen said...

Great article, Julie! We do drain volcano's here to keep the drains clear - baking soda with a little water to flush it down the drain a bit then hit it with vinegar! It's the classic volcano recipe from elementary school, but it gets out the scummy stuff and keeps the drains running smoothly.

Laundry detergent is also surprisingly easy to make once you've got the right ingredients!

Lunargent said...

Just so you know, while it is a good alternative to conventional cleaner, Borax is more than slightly toxic to aquatic life.

Usually, "green" cleaner work better if used on a regular basis. So instead of waiting for a hard deposit on those glass panel in the bathroom, it is better to clean them daily with a mild cleaner.

auclairdelalune said...

Terrific article. I've been making most of my own cleaners for years (it's cheaper, eco-friendly, and no trips down the cleaner aisle at the grocery to aggrevate my allergies). About the only thing I buy is laundry soap. I'm curious Kelle's Kitchen, how do you make laundry soap? I buy 7th generation, but I was excited to see an etsy seller selling "natural" laundry soap -- then I read the ingredients and it was laden with animal products. Yuck.

Veganosaurus said...

Awesome article! I know this is about cleaning products but I'd like to mention that baking soda acts as a great natural 'shampoo' too.