I love cleaning! I know, I’m one of those crazy people who actually enjoys cleaning. Thankfully with three children and a husband who never takes his shoes off at the door, I get ample opportunity to do it. It’s not just cleaning I enjoy though. I like to look at things and see how it can be improved. I’m almost ashamed to say that when I worked in home health I would sit there dreaming what I could do with these people’s homes if they were mine. Everything can be changed, improved, altered, or bettered. Keeping to today’s topic, I’ll share with you how I did all those things with my cleaning regime.
I use to stick with heavy-duty cleaners because I thought it was the only thing that would really clean my home. In fact anything with the words Ultra, Mega, or Super was a magnet for me. When someone (a bazillion years ago – well before my homesteading movement) said that vinegar was the best cleaner ever, I figured they were some health nut that didn’t understand real clean.
One day, before a big family get-together, I realized I was out of Windex (yes, I clean windows for family). Not having time to go to the store, I googled “vinegar window cleaner.” It was a basic vinegar, rubbing alcohol and water recipe and the thing worked like gold! Throw in some crumpled newspaper to scrub with and you’ll forget you’ve even got company on their way. My husband could hear my exclamations of joy from every room in the house. “Honey! Come see this! That weird foggy thing came off the window! Seriously, come here and see this!” That changed my perspective on DIY natural cleaning products forever. No harmful chemicals for me and my crew anymore.
Making Your Own Natural Cleaning Products
So, are you ready for my secret DIY natural cleaning products? I would only show them to a select few and you are lucky to be one of them. Just kidding, but I do pride myself in the recipes I use. They can be found all over the internet, but being the obsessive person I am, I had to do blind testing on them all to figure out which worked the best. These are my winning recipes that have been used for over several years now.
A note about Dawn Dish Detergent: The jury is still out about how healthy and natural Dawn is. I use it in my recipes because it is certainly safer than commercial cleaning products and it’s a frugal solution. If you are uncomfortable with Dawn, you can exchange it in equal amounts with Castile Soap.
- 1 3/4 c. Water
- 1/4 c. White Vinegar
- 2 tsp. Olive Oil
Keep in a spray bottle. Shake before each use as the olive oil will float to the surface. If you prefer a less waxy finish, you may switch out the olive oil for coconut oil, but you may need to use warm water or warm the bottle before use.
- 1 c. Borax
- 1 c. Washing Soda **make your own washing soda**
- 1/2 c. Kosher Salt
- 1/2 c. Citric Acid
Citric acid is a preservative that can be found in the canning department of your local store or online. Mix your dishwasher detergent in a plastic tub or tupperware. Use 2 tablespoons per load (1 tablespoon for light cleaning or for those of you that rinse dishes before loading).
All Purpose Cleaner
- 1 3/4 c. Water
- 1/4 c. White Vinegar
- 1/4 tsp. Dawn Dish Detergent
- 1/4 tsp. Tea Tree Oil (about 10 drops)
To boost your cleaning power and add a fresh scent to your home, add a few strips of orange peel to your cleaner. Keep your all purpose cleaner in a spray bottle and use the same as you would any traditional cleaner.
- 1/3 c. Baking Soda
- 3 tbsp. Dawn Dish Detergent
- 3 tbsp. Club Soda
Store your homemade soft scrub in a squirt bottle. I like to use an upcycled ketchup bottle. Shake well before using. For stubborn markings (such as a ring around the tub), rub the soft scrub on and wait for 30 minutes before scrubbing and rinsing.
For heavy duty jobs, like the oven and stove top, check out Naturally Clean Your Oven & Stove Top.
With windows, your results are based on two things. What you clean the windows with and how you clean the windows. This recipe will get you off on the right foot.
- 1/2 c. Distilled Water
- 1/4 c. Rubbing Alcohol (70% strength)
- 1/4 c. White Vinegar
- 1/4 tsp. Dawn Dish Detergent
Store your glass cleaner in a spray bottle. Swirl a bit before using. Old newspapers are a great alternative to using paper towels or rags and will enhance the cleaning properties. With this eco-friendly recipe, you can compost newspapers after use.
Homemade Carpet Cleaners that are Chemical-Free
We have reached the potty training stage in our home. There have been a few instances of running with a full potty saying “Mama look!” followed by tripping. Needless to say, our area rug was developing a less-than-pleasant odor. I refuse to use commercial carpet cleaning products. Have you read what’s in those things? My kids spend the majority of their day playing on this rug and I guarantee that no amount of going over it with the machine will rinse and suck out all the residue. No thank you!
The Today Show did a piece a few years back that really struck home for me. It was called The Dirty Truth About Cleaning Products. They take a look at the words danger, warning, caution and the lack of transparency with these products. What I find amazing is that, once again, the EU has a stronger stance on chemical transparency and usage than the US. Have we not seen this before with GMOs and Egg Safety? I digress…
The biggest issues with carpet cleaners comes from naphthalene. Can I just say “yuck” for all of us? Naphthalene is made from crude oil or coal-tar. It’s found in cigarette smoke, car exhaust fumes, and is used as a pesticide in the US. It’s also used for mothballs and carpet cleaners, as well as over a dozen other cleaning products. If you can smell the moth balls, you’re inhaling it. If you get cleaner on your hands either through splashing some on your hand or in today’s case, walking on the damp carpet, you’re absorbing it into your skin and it’s damaging your skin cells. Picture your children playing in a tar pit. Yup, that’s carpet cleaner for you.
So what are you to do? Make your own healthier carpet cleaner. No, it’s not a natural cleaner, but it sure beats the alternative.
Carpet Cleaner for Machines
- 1 tbsp. Dawn Detergent
- 1 1/2 tbsp. White Vinegar
- 1/4 c. 3% Peroxide
- Hot Water
Add the detergent, vinegar, and peroxide to the machine’s reservoir and then fill the rest of the way with the hottest tap water you can get. Do not use boiling water because it could melt the plastic reservoir. Use as you normally would, then repeat cleaning with just hot water to remove any residue.
Spot Cleaner Foam Cleaner
This one works great on pet and toddler stains.
- 1 tbsp. White Vinegar
- 3 tbsp. Dawn Detergent
- 3/4 c. Hot Water
Put all the ingredients in a bowl. Mix with a hand mixer on high to create foam. Use the foam to spot clean your carpet. Rinse area with a damp cloth.
I am sure you will find these homemade carpet cleaners work just as well as the commercial varieties and they’ll have you breathing easier (figuratively and literally).
Toothpaste for Cleaning?
Okay, so toothpaste isn’t exactly natural. I have chosen not to use toothpaste as toothpaste in our home because many contain sodium fluoride (a by product of aluminum manufacturing and highly toxic), Triclosan (a pesticide), Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (a chemical that accumulates in the heart, liver, brain, and lungs), and DEA (which disrupts hormone functions). I’ll let you go read your toothpaste bottle and come back to better ways to use up the stuff…
So toothpaste for dental care… not safe. Toothpaste for other uses around the house… totally okay. It’s like Coke. I don’t drink it, but it beats all at cleaning a chalkboard.
How are we going to use up that bottle that you no longer want in your bathroom? We are going to find other uses for it (please only use paste for these ideas, not gel). Such as…
#1 Make Your Car Headlights Shine
This is the one that spurred on this post. I just finished cleaning my car headlights because days will be getting shorter before we know it and they weren’t throwing off much light anymore. All you have to do to clean your headlights with toothpaste is brush them with an old toothbrush just like you would your teeth. Tiny circles. Then wipe off the majority of the paste before rinsing with a hose so it doesn’t drip toothpaste all over your car’s finish.
#2 Clean Crayon off Walls
Back in our renting days, we had done a final cleaning and painting of our apartment because we were moving the next morning. Wouldn’t you know that that was the first time my son ever thought drawing on the walls was a good idea. Maybe it was the newly painted white surface calling to him. Red and black crayon covered one of the walls of his room. I tried washing with dish soap (I mean Crayola is washable, right?). The crayon texture was gone, but the color remained. I called Crayola and apparently every color is washable, except black and red. Doesn’t that just figure. I berated them that they should say Mostly Washable on the carton. Either way, I had an apartment inspection in just a few hours and I wasn’t about to lose my deposit. A gentle scrub with toothpaste removed the stain left behind from the crayon. This may remove some of the shine from higher gloss wall paints, so it’s best to use it on flat or eggshell paint finishes.
#3 Whiten Your Piano Keys
This is one of the first cleaning things I ever did with toothpaste. My husband got me a gorgeous player piano on craigslist and the keys were very grimy and yellowed. I figured ivory is much like teeth, so I went and grabbed a cheap tube of whitening toothpaste. Using a child’s toothbrush I brushed every key then wiped off the excess toothpaste with a clean rag and followed up with a vinegar rinse (1 part white vinegar; 2 parts water). They sparkled and most of the yellowing disappeared. I think doing it a few times over the course of the month would probably get them back to white, but I have kids that play with sticky fingers, so I didn’t bother.
#4 Remove Scale from Your Iron
You know how sometimes you are ironing and the iron seems to drag? It’s because minerals from your water are accumulating on your iron’s surface. Scrub your cool and unplugged iron with some toothpaste on a rag and the minerals will lift off. Rinse with water and dry immediately so that residue from your rinsing water doesn’t stick.
#5 Defog Mirrors and Goggles
Is fogging a problem for you? I hate when the bathroom mirror fogs after showers and my husband and kids are always complaining about their ski goggles fogging up. Buff these surfaces with a little bit toothpaste (don’t rinse) and they won’t fog anymore. Be sure to use adult toothpaste for this one, since children’s toothpaste may contain sweeteners that causes the surface to get sticky.
#6 Remove Rust and Hard Water Stains
We get hard water stains on the porcelain around our bathroom sink drain. We also occasionally get rust around the bolts of the toilet when the temperatures spike during the summer. An old toothbrush and some toothpaste gets the stains to lift easily. I usually prefer vinegar for bathroom cleaning, but it just lacks the power to remove these stains.
#7 Get Rid of Water Rings
I didn’t care much about water rings until two things happened. First, someone (who will stay anonymous, but knows who he is) put a glass of milk on top of my player piano on a hot day. Second, we remodeled the kitchen with gorgeous handmade oak counter tops and people have grown accustomed to putting things on it like they did when we had linoleum. To clean water rings, buff the area with a bit of toothpaste on a clean rag. Rinse with a damp cloth. Let the area dry completely before using furniture polish.
#8 Clean Scuffs from Leather
This works for all leather items from shoes, to purses, and even on furniture. Rub toothpaste on the leather with a soft cloth and rinse with a damp cloth. I love using toothpaste to clean the grass stains from my kids’ sneakers.
#9 Revitalize Your Plastic Patio Furniture
My patio furniture looks gross every spring. It probably wouldn’t be so bad if I remembered to store them out of the elements every fall and winter, but I don’t. Not only do they get that black gook staining, they become powdery so you end up with a white bum when you sit on them. Well, that’s just not attractive. Scrub the patio furniture with a scrubbing brush and a line of toothpaste. You can use a toothbrush to get in the nooks and crannies. Rinse well. Rubbing a thing coconut oil over them after cleaning will help them stay cleaner for longer.
#10 Clean Your Refrigerator Seal
My fridge gets so gross because I live with boys. Other people who dwell with boys will totally get it. I love them, but even right out of the shower, they manage to leave their mark all over the house. Because our refrigerator handle seems to be purely decorative and they open the door using the side of the door, the seal in that area gets grimy fast. Don’t even get me started about the things spilled on the top seal. I’m not even sure how that happens, but it does. Rub the seals with some toothpaste and rinse clean and they will be white again.
#11 Fill Nail Holes
Yes, you could go out a buy putty, but toothpaste is cheaper and I already have it sitting in my cleaning closet. Just rub the toothpaste over the hole with your finger, pushing a bit, and it will fill the hole right in. Don’t worry, toothpaste is paintable.
#12 Polish Your Silver and Chrome
I don’t have much that is real silver. I’m a minimalist sort of girl. We do have some nice silverware that we pull out for special occasions. If it needs a little polishing, I buff it gently with some toothpaste and it sparkles again. This also works on jewelry, but I urge you to go to a real jeweler if it’s an expensive piece or it has a lot of sentimental value. Your inexpensive silver earrings are fine though. While you’re on a polishing kick, do a quick once over on your bathroom faucets. You’ll see the best results on your tub spout where water collects and causes scale.
So now that you know that toothpaste has the ability to remove rust stains, polish car headlights, and clean your home from top to bottom, you might be hesitant to put the stuff in your mouth. I don’t blame you. I’ve got some natural dental care alternatives that you might prefer to use.
I am still working on a laundry detergent. I have one, but it takes quite a few steps to prepare and it isn’t cloth diaper friendly. I’ll keep plugging away at it and report back when I’ve come up with an acceptable detergent that is suitable for all laundry.
* * UPDATE: I have discovered Soap Nuts for all my laundry needs. * *
Do you have any cleaning recipes that you’re in love with? I’d be thrilled if you’d share them with me and the other readers in the comments below.