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Natural Cleaning

It’s Thursday night and your perfectionist-in-laws are arriving at your house tomorrow.  You know your mother-in-law is going to be scrutinizing the inner rim of your toilet bowl.  She’ll also be  wrinkling her nose at the lingering smell of last-nights fish that you cooked a little too long.  You truly want to be environmentally friendly, but this is an emergency!  In desperation, you reach for the Clorox and break out that plug-in air-freshener  while spraying Oust and Febreeze on every exposed surface.  You can be environmentally friendly later, right?

Been there.

The good news is, you don’t have to do that ever again!  While none of these recipes can boast, “scrubbing bubbles that cut your work time in half”, they do work quite well and won’t leave behind that chemical-smell that has your family rubbing their eyes and noses for hours.

A few things to keep in mind:

You won’t get the same foaming action from natural products that you do from commercial products.  Less foam does not mean less cleaning power.

You won’t get the same ‘squeaky clean’ feel  with natural products.  As with skin and hair care, that ‘squeaky clean’ doesn’t really mean ‘clean’.

Natural cleansers sometime require a bit more muscle and time than commercial products to produce the same effect.

Let’s take a look of some traditional ‘natural cleansers’.

Most cleaning recipes call for white vinegar.  It is cheap and effective.  I like to be a bit unconventional, though.  I prefer cider vinegar.  It is a little more potent and it’s what I usually have on hand.

Vinegar is said to do everything from cleaning your coffee pot to removing chewing gum, but does it really work?  Well, if you have read any of my other posts, you know I’m a proponent of blending ingredients for the best effect and vinegar is no exception.  Of course, there are a few exceptions to that exception.  Namely, when cleaning your coffee maker.  A straight vinegar/water mix is all that is necessary.

How does vinegar work?  White vinegar is usually derived from alcohol and contains appx 5% acetic acid, which is corrosive, so is capable of working like some of the commercial cleansers by ‘eating’ away dirt and oils, but it uses a natural process that is friendly to both the environment and our bodies.  It also contains tartaric and citric acid.  These are weak acids, but effective for cleaning and sanitizing, nonetheless.

Sodium Bicarbonate

Baking soda is mainly  used as a washing powder and scrubbing agent.  It works wonderfully for safely scrubbing everything from metal pans to teeth.  It has the added benefit of being a natural deodorizer.  A small cup placed in your fridge, on the bathroom sink or in the corner of the closet will eliminate many of the stinky odors that are otherwise difficult to get rid of.

Lemon Juice

Much like vinegar, the lemon contains natural acids that work wonderfully for breaking up mineral deposits, eliminating odors and sanitizing.  Lemon is also bleach alternative.


This is used as a natural laundry booster, multipurpose cleaner, fungicide, preservative, insecticide, herbicide and disinfectant.

Castille Soap

This can be either a powder or liquid, but I prefer the liquid form.  It is most often made from olive oil, though other oils can be used.  Like any soap, it draws dirt and oil to it so that you can wipe or rinse it away.


Cornstarch is most often used to pull out oils from fabrics like clothing, carpets and upholstery.  It attracts the oil and eliminates the stain safely.

Essential Oils

It only requires a few drops of essential oil in a mix to make it antibacterial and there are many to choose from.  We’ll look at some of the most effective oils.  When used in a cold-air diffuser,  these don’t just mask odors.  They actually alter the structure of the molecules that are causing odors, thereby eliminating them.  They also increase the amount of oxygen in the air.

This is a simple list, but these basic ingredients have all been used for hundreds (sometimes thousands) of years to clean both our bodies and our homes.  Please, don’t make the mistake of thinking that these ingredients have no negative effects, though.  If you soak your hands in strait lemon juice or vinegar for an extended period of time, you are going to have problems.   If you spray boric acid (borax) in your eyes, it is going to burn and cause damage.  Use some common sense, please.  The recipes and information to follow is intended for cleaning and you should use some basic precautions.  Keep them away from small children and don’t spray them in your eyes/ears/nose/mouth.  That should do it.

General All-Purpose Cleaner:

1 part distilled water

1 part vinegar

1 Tbsp Borax

5 drops each essential oils of  lavender, peppermint and tea tree

This can be used to clean tile, plastic, glass, mirrors, ceramic and vinyl.  It contains ingredients known to be both anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and antiseptic.  It will eliminate odors, germs and minor stains on surfaces.  I keep a bottle of this handy.  Don’t worry.  The smell dissipates when dry.

Abbrasive Cleanser

Lemon slices

2 parts Baking Soda

1 part Salt(common table salt)

Sprinkle the salt/baking soda on the area to be scrubbed (tub, toilet, pots and pans, etc).  Squeeze the lemon gently and scrub over the area to be cleaned.

Air Freshener/Disinfectant

Any of the following essential oils are wonderful for cleaning the air and neutralizing odors.  Add 5-7 drops to 1cup distilled water.  This can be used as an air freshener or sprayed on linens, carpets or any other place you need to eliminate odor and sanitize.




tea tree




Dish Washing Liquid

1 cup castile soap

1 Tbsp borax

5-7 drops essential oils (see list above)

Mix well and use as you would normal dish soap.

Laundry soap

1/2 cup vinegar

1/4 cup baking soda

Add to laundry and wash as usual.  This will help with both odor and stains, as well as adding softness to both the water and the clothes.

Another fantastic tip for keeping the air in your home clean and odorless is to load up on the plants.  Live plants remove toxins and odors from the air and physically clean  and purify the air.  They work amazingly well for removing even the toughest odors like cigarette smoke and burnt food.    Here is a very informative article concerning a study preformed by NASA.  It’s definitely worth a read.

So, there you have it.  Some of the simplest cleaning products that are probably already in your cabinet.  Give some of them a try and you just might find yourself throwing out all the commercial products you’ve accumulated!

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