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Natural Cleaning Recipes and Tips

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by Michelle Smith

I always have a hard time being green!  I try, but sometimes it is very difficult and time consuming (and often times expensive).  I appreciate Michelle bringing us some of the recipes she uses to make her cleaning greener without the extra cost or time really!  Welcome Michelle from the TOS crew to my site! ~Kelli

If you walk into any supermarket or health food store you will notice numerous new “green” cleaning products. That sounds good, doesn’t it? Ah, a product which is safer for the environment. Safer for people–especially children and pregnant women. But what are they made from? Do they really work? And why do they cost so much more than the versions your mom used?

Would it be better to just buy the old, reliable name-brand products and save money and scrubbing time rather than taking a chance on something new? How bad can those old versions really be, anyway?

Great questions! You see, I’ve had some experience trying out natural cleaning products over the past few years. I must confess, though, that I was not driven to it by a concern for the environment but rather a concern for my family’s health. Some of my loved ones and I are sensitive to some of those popular cleaning solutions, so we have sought some more natural alternatives. A few years back, on the advice of a friend, we tried an MLM company which marketed some safe, natural cleaners–but definitely at a higher cost! I simply couldn’t justify spending $75 each month on cleaning products and soap! Instead I decided to learn how to make my own cleaning solutions. Guess what? It really is not hard!

Today, Kelli has asked me to share some of the tips I have learned.

First, I’m sure you’re wondering what types of supplies you might need.  Really, not very many. You might find some of the following basic ingredients helpful to assemble as you begin making your own recipes:

  • some clean, empty spray bottles
  • some clean, recycled plastic containers such as dairy product containers
  • baking soda
  • vinegar
  • washing soda
  • borax
  • castile soaps and/or Fels-Naptha soap
  • your favorite essential oils (if you don’t know which ones to buy, try peppermint, lavender, and lemon or orange to begin)

I like for my home to smell inviting when friends drop in, don’t you? One way to freshen the air in your home without getting one of those awful headaches from those chemical air fresheners is simply to use a plain spray bottle, add filtered or distilled water and your favorite essential oils. Essential oils also can have health and mood-enhancing benefits.

I like to use lavender with just a touch of chamomile in the bedrooms and orange-lemon combinations in the rest of the house. Peppermint is a good friend’s favorite. I’ll even lightly spray down my children’s beds and pillows with the lavender spray shortly before bedtime to help them settle down for the evening. A small amount of rubbing alcohol, vinegar or vodka may be added to preserve the spray, if desired–or you may mix smaller amounts and use more quickly.

I also love to use 2 or 3 drops of essential oil in my Rainbow vacuum cleaner when I vacuum to add a fresh scent to the air. If you do not own a canister style vacuum, you can do something similar with a clean, empty container and some baking soda and your favorite essential oil. Shake well to disperse the oil evenly. To use, simply shake a little onto your carpeting before vacuuming. I also have begun using this baking soda-essential oil combination to clean my toilets. I use essential oil of orange and it smells very fresh. It really works!

Recently I found a simple homemade recipe for gel-type air freshener.  I excitedly followed the recipe precisely, using lavender essential oil for the bedrooms and orange oil for the kitchen. I loved it until a couple of weeks later I noticed that every single one I’d made had molded! It is summer time in Alabama! This recipe I’ll recommend for low humidity locales only. But, my point here is this–don’t be afraid to try something out! This recipe only cost pennies, and I learned what wouldn’t work for me, in my locale.

During the winter months, I like to take a different tactic. I like to put a few drops of essential oil of eucalyptus in my cast iron kettle on my wood stove. Often I’ll add two drops of peppermint and a drop of tea tree oil. As it heats up it lends a very pleasant, refreshing aroma to my home which has the side benefit of helping clear wintertime stuffy heads!

Now, every home needs an all-purpose disinfectant cleaner once in a while. Buy two empty clear plastic spray bottles (try looking for one in the ironing supplies section at your local Wal-mart; it will produce a fine mist). Fill one with vinegar. Fill the other with hydrogen peroxide.

If you can find a spray bottle of hydrogen peroxide like I did at Walgreen’s, then you can use that instead. Label both with a permanent marker. Never think you can combine the two into one bottle, as they will react chemically. When you need to disinfect, first spray one and then the other. Wipe off after about a minute. This combination is reported to kill over 99% of germs. One caution I have with this recipe is that since hydrogen peroxide is used for stain removal, try not to rub your clothes up against this solution. It might affect the color-fastness of your favorite shirt!

Special tip: I like to add essential oil of peppermint to the spray bottle of white vinegar. It lends a clean, invigorating scent to my cleaning efforts!

When we were blessed to be able to purchase our first house a couple of years ago, I suddenly had my first ceramic cook top. I found that the best way to clean it was with a little inexpensive baking soda. Yet that is not all that baking soda is good for; it is an inexpensive scrubbing solution in the bathroom as well as the kitchen. If you need to give it a little boost, try spraying a little white vinegar on it. A gallon should only cost you $1 to $2 at Sam’s Club or Wal-mart. A little washing soda or borax can further add muscle to your efforts, when needed.

While we’re still in the kitchen, don’t throw away your leftover lemon, orange, grapefruit, or lime peels! Add a little to your garbage disposal with a little baking soda and run hot water while you flip the switch for your garbage disposal! It will clean and disinfect your disposal while filling your kitchen with a fresh, citrus smell!

Now, what about that mountain of laundry your family produces? In our family, certain popular name brands make our skin itch–literally! So I have even learned to make my own laundry soap. This is the recipe I used to learn how. Now, I only have one caveat about this recipe. I think the author grossly underestimates the cost of making and using your own detergent.

In the end, though, I have decided that I prefer to use a powdered laundry detergent. You can watch this video to learn how. A cost of 7 cents a load is not a huge cost savings over purchasing name-brand detergents, yet it is one way to avoid commonly used chemicals and perfumes. I like making this recipe, and this detergent seems to perform well in my high-efficiency machine, without leaving a residue like commercial brand liquid detergents do, while still getting my clothes clean. A written recipe using castile soap instead of Fels Naptha soap is located here, and I’m planning to try it out myself with my next batch!

Another important tip I have: to remove the last of any laundry soap residue as well as kill off any lingering germs which may be residing in your kitchen towels or bathroom washcloths (and in your washing machine!), I recommend adding a little white vinegar to your rinse cycle and hanging your clothes out to dry in the sun! The vinegar is much gentler on your clothes than bleach, yet still kills germs. You will save over the cost of buying that heavily perfumed fabric softener as well as enjoy the savings in energy costs of not running your clothes dryer! If you’d like to scent your laundry more than the fresh air naturally does, try this recipe for calming/relaxing linen spray.

Michelle Smith married her college sweetheart nineteen years ago and has been making central Alabama home for the past four years. She and her Church History Professor husband have five wonderful, energetic, creative, and occasionally exasperating children aged 13 to 1 year old.

Michelle enjoys cooking and baking whole, unprocessed foods, playing games of strategy like backgammon or Scrabble once in a while, teaching her children at home, reading a good book whenever she can, and sneaking quiet moments to write on her blog. Also an active volunteer with BSA, AHG and her local church, Michelle loves reviewing curricula for The Old Schoolhouse magazine’s Homeschool Crew.  When she has a few free minutes, she can even be persuaded to clean her house with the inspiration of the right combination of mood-lifting essential oils and natural ingredients which don’t give her headaches or make her cough. You can visit her at A Life Better Than I Deserve.

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Wednesday 19th of August 2009

Way to go gal. I am right there with you. From making laundry soap to cleaning counter tops with peroxide. It sure helps prevent my asthma and allergies from flaring. PLUS, I have ben frugal since I was a money is saved. That, we can all use.gourdsrmylife@yahoo.comMarj M.