Making my own cleaners has to be the biggest cost saving change I’ve made. Cleaners are expensive and the bulk of them don’t do a much better job than their simple home made counterparts. So what is under my sink? I’ll start with the things I make and then talk about the items I purchase and why.
Belle’s Lemon Rosemary All-Purpose Cleanser
I make this a gallon at a time. It smells so good and works so well. It leaves our granite countertops shiny and fresh. I clean our furniture with it (We have cheap Ikea. I don’t think I’d use this on your beautiful wood!) Pretty much any hard, durable surface gets cleaned with this. I save time and energy by mixing up a gallon at a time and refilling my little spray bottle as needed. I store the gallon in an old water jug.
1/2 cup basic distilled vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp “Dawn” dish soap (I prefer Dawn for this because of it’s grease cutting properties)
20 drops of lemon essential oil
15 drops of rosemary essential oil
Mix it up and pour it into your jug. Repeat until your jug is full, then store under your sink and refill your spray bottle as needed.
Belle’s Hardwood and Tile Cleaner
I clean the hardwoods and tile with the most complex homemade cleanser: water, vinegar and essential oil. That’s it! And I don’t even measure! I did GOBS of research into how to care for our wood floors in the new apartment. They are in good condition and I would like to keep them that way. All the fancy wood cleaners you buy seem to leave residue behind that will attract more dirt. They are also chemical-based and my child and cat lick everything. That just can’t be good for them. Eventually I tried just hot water, vinegar and orange essential oil in my mop bottle and it did a LOVELY job! Floors are clean, safe to lick and it cost me pennies! I use the same mop and solution on the tile floor as well. When I do a serious floor scrub (which is not nearly as often as it should be) I mix a bucket of vinegar and hot water and just scrub away with a sponge.
Belle’s Toilet & Drain Cleaner
Toilet bowl cleaner is FULL of toxic crap. Seriously, have you ever read those bottles? And all those warnings? I have not bought it since college and instead just dump a quarter cup of baking soda in the toilet and then slowly pour vinegar into the bowl, letting it foam away. Once the foaming subsides I scrub with the toilet brush, give it a good flush and I’m done.
I use the same vinegar and baking soda routine in the sinks to keep drain clogs to a minimum. Again, have you ever read the labels on drain-o? Holy hell! When the drains get too clogged for baking soda and vinegar we use one of these little sticks to clear it out. The Professor is pretty diligent with pulling out clogs before they get so bad that we would need heavy chemicals.
Belle’s Air Freshener
For everything except the bathroom I freshen rooms with a drop or two of essential oil on lightbulbs. Random, right? Same concept as those expensive defusers, though. The lightbulb warms the oil and releases the scent. It’s fast, it does not fill up my outlets and it costs basically nothing. I also pour baking soda into decorative bowls and place them around stinky things, like litter boxes.
Belle’s Simmering Air Freshener
Sometimes all three stinky cats take huge stinky shits within 10 minutes of one another. And sometimes I feed the Professor, Sabine and myself vegan chili for too many days in a row… and you know, the house stinks more than usual. For big stinks, I take an old lemon or orange or grapefruit (I save the ones that are past their prime for just this reason) and either some fresh rosemary if I have it or a cinnamon stick and a tablespoon of whole cloves and simmer it in water. I add more water as the level lowers and keep it going for as long as I want. The house smells amazing after this.
Belle’s “I look like a lunatic” Dryer Sheet Alternative
I recently read about how bad dryer sheets are for cats. And then started thinking about how bad they must be for humans. There are lots of dryer sheet alternatives for sale – balls of wool for example. They are lovely and not terribly expensive if you have a dryer in your house and only need one set, but we use a communal laundry room and I dry four loads at once in four commercial dryers. That means I need four sets of wool balls at once. Too expensive! Instead I use balls of aluminum foil and old washcloths that I scent with lavender essential oil. Yes, I look like a lunatic tossing foil balls into the dryer. No, I don’t care. The Professor explained scientifically why the foil balls work to remove static but I did not pay attention and can’t remember now. All that matters is that my towels don’t come out as one huge, shocking towel monster. The washcloths and essential oil make everything smell delightful. The balls get nice and smooth after their first spin around the dryer and won’t damage your clothing.
Belle’s Microwave Cleaner
This came from Pinterest and it is FABULOUS! When the microwave is gross I take a large Pyrex bowl, fill it about a 1/4 of the way with vinegar and the rest with water, and then microwave it for 7 minutes. The vinegar steam loosens everything up and the grime wipes right off! It is amazing and hands down my favorite way to clean a gross microwave.
Products I Purchase
Obviously I use a lot of baking soda and vinegar. I buy it in bulk from Costco to save money and make sure I always have enough. Other things I purchase are:
- Bon Ami – when just a baking soda scrub won’t cut it I use Bon Ami. I scrub our tub with this stuff, I scrub my Le Crueset with it, I scrub the stick shit that collects in the fridge doors with it, etc. It’s great, non toxic and very cheap.
- Cascade Dishwasher Detergent – I pick and choose my chemical battles. I can buy this in bulk at Costco for a good price and it does a good job.
- “Kirkland” Environmentally Sensitive dish soap: Also from Costco, this is cheap and effective.
- Dawn dish soap: I keep a tiny bottle of this for making my all-purpose cleaner and for scrubbing cat vomit out of the carpet squares because it will not leave a residue. I do not use it for my dishes because I really don’t like the smell.
- Murphy’s Oil Soap: I use this to clean our kitchen cabinets regularly.
- Mineral Oil: After cleaning the cabinets I apply a thin layer of this to the four that have water damage. I also use mineral oil to keep my cutting boards and bamboo kitchen utensils in tip-top shape.
- Lysol: I used to be VERY against disinfectants, but then my entire family shat and puked their brains out and my tune changed. I now lysol Sabine’s changing table and diaper pail regularly. Anytime a bout of Norovirus hits my Mommy and Baby friends I run through my house like a crazy person Lysoling everything in my path.
- Aura Cacia Electric Air Freshener: I use one of these in the bathroom. The refills are expensive but they smell so good. We only have one bathroom so… you know, things can get pretty funky. This helps tremendously.
I think that is about it! Laundry detergent I just use what ever free & clear brand is on sale. I don’t use fabric softener. For glass cleaning I use my all-purpose cleaner. Really, though, baking soda and vinegar do the bulk of the cleaning in our home.
I have to stress that having the right cleaner and the right cleaning tool has made a huge difference in my housekeeping abilities. For me, the right tool makes the chore easy, fast and fun. Having it stored in an easily accessible place also helps. I timed my and Sabine’s cleaning time yesterday and it comes in at about 90 minutes total – an hour in the morning and 30 minutes of fast pick-up in the late afternoon. Once Sabine has recovered from her nap strike I will do more when she is sleeping, but right now, we do it together. We talk about what we are doing, I sing little songs about cleaning away the stinky stinky stinky and let her participate when possible (for example, she gets to play with a clean dust rag while I run my flower duster).
What are your favorite cleaners? Do you make any of your own? Have you found a good, non toxic option for laundry detergent that does not cost a mint? No, I am not spending 15 dollars on detergent, thankyouverymuch. What about cleaning tools. Is there one that makes your chores easier or more fun?