Let’s talk cleaning. Fun fact: I wasn’t much of a neat freak growing up. I was notorious for tossing my clothes over chairs, stacking books on the the floor, and don’t get me started about dusting or sweeping. In contrast, my parents and cousin (who was living with us while she attended SUNY Dutchess), were absolute squeaky cleaners and every week I’d go through the house with at least one of them dusting, vacuuming, fluffing pillows and whatever task that was at hand.
You know that saying? The one about training up a child the way they should go? Totally true as far as I’m concerned, because I grew up to love a clean house. My apartment isn’t nearly as clutter free and shiny as I would like but the dishes always get done, 9 out of 10 times the bed is made, and I’m always wiping down the bathroom sink.
My fixation with a tidy space is relatively new which is why I’m just entering the DIY cleaning game. There’s something about smelling the scent of bleach on a weekly basis that makes you think twice about what it could be doing to your insides. After interviewing the founder of green cleaning company Tidy Thyme, Michelle Boyle, I started to rethink what I used in my house. I started researching the world of cleaning products and it was eye-opening.
CRAP IN COMMERCIAL STUFF
Maybe you grew up in a house that revered bleach the way mine did. But the truth is, while bleach is wonderful at killing bacteria, it’s also an irritant. It contains chlorine which has been shown to harm the respiratory system. The same can be said for Ammonia which is often found in glass cleaner.
And it doesn’t end with surface cleaners. Air fresheners can be problematic as many contain phthalates. These are endocrine disruptors and can negatively effect your hormones. This ingredient usually lurks in products that contain synthetic fragrances.
I believe in moderation and in circumstances where bodily fluids abound, I’ll bleach it up. But for the most part there are other alternatives that are safer, just as effective and smell a whole lot better.
NATURAL INGREDIENTS TO KNOW
People write entire books on natural cleaning products, so please don’t expect me to share all the good-for-you ingredients you can use to clean your house in a single blog post. However, here are several items you should also have on hand which can do multiple things.
Organic distilled white vinegar to be exact. I actually like how this acidic smells. It can be used to clean toilets, blinds, floors, disinfect countertops- a lot of different things. It’s a mycobactericidal disinfectant according to this study study published in The American Society for Microbiology. It also has antibacterial properties. For it to be the most effective, allow it to sit on a surface for a few minutes before rinsing.
Not only does this stuff absorb odor but it’s a wonderful abrasive. This mild alkali also dissolves grease and dirt. It can be used to clean grout, soap scum, and mildew.
Liquid Castile Soap
This is a great base product and is ideal for jobs where you need suds. You will need to add other ingredients to boost its germ fighting abilities, but a little of this stuff goes along way.
This is a wonderful disinfecting agent, as shown in this study. Make sure to purchase in a high concentration and do not mix with vinegar.
I love essential oils. They provide a beautiful aroma to DIY bath/skin and cleaning products but also have medicinal benefits that fragrance oils don’t have. They can also be safer (operative word is ‘can’ as some are not recommended for pregnant women).
Now you may be thinking, Aren’t essential oils pricey? Some are. Their price is based on where they are sourced from, how a specific harvest has been, the price of labor, etc. Fortunately, many of the EOs that are great for cleaning are inexpensive. You can order them online (make sure they are from a reputable company) or buy from health food store. Many are antifungal or antibacterial, such as eucalyptus, peppermint, citronella, and lemongrass. But my absolute favorites are rosemary, sage and lemon. Not only do these EOs have a wonderful smell but they’re great and killing fungus and bacteria. Check out the links to read the studies on them.
Now that I’ve wet your appetite for some green cleaning, check out these cleaning products to DIY yourself. To make the project more fun, I purchased washi tape from South Manor Society, in Kingston, NY and placed my labels on top to give my products more of a polished look. I believe as visual creatures, we’re more inclined to do something if it looks better, including cleaning. I really love seeing my creations strategically placed around the house and doing touch ups throughout the day.
Surface Cleaner (Great for countertops, greasy stove tops, glass and other nonporous areas)
1 Spray Bottle (I ordered mine here)
Organic Distilled White Vinegar
20-25 drops of Lemon Essential Oil
1. In a spray bottle, fill with 2/3 of vinegar. Add essential oils and fill the remainder of bottle with water.
2. Allow to sit on surface for 2-5 minutes before wiping. *If used on glass surface, it will appear streaky after first wipe but will dry clear.
Tile Scrub (Use on grout, mildew and bathroom tiles)
2-3 TBSP Baking soda
1 Tbsp Castile Soap
Optional- Antibacterial EO of choice (20-25 drops)
1. In a small container add baking soda, Castile soap, EOs and mix. It will form a paste. Apply to areas that are stained and scrub away residue. Rinse and follow up with additional cleanser if desired.
Shower Mildew Remover
5-10 drops of lavender essential oil
1. In a small spray bottle fill with equal parts of hydrogen peroxide and water. Add in essential oil.
2. Spray on mildew tiles and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes before wiping away.
Lavender Lemon Room Spray (Use to freshen rooms, spritz on beds and couches)
2 Tbsp Organic Distilled White Vinegar
2 Tbsp Plain Vodka
1 Tbsp of Distilled Water
15 drops of Lavender Essential Oil
10 drops of Lemon Essential Oil
1. In a small spray bottle, add ingredients. Shake and spritz.
Hudson Valley based writer.