April is spring cleaning time for most people, and this month I am focusing on cleaning and organization tips to help you make the most out of your spring clean! Check out WHY SHOULD I SPRING CLEAN and CLEANING SUPPLIES AND TOOLS to get started!
WHICH CLEANING PRODUCTS SHOULD I USE?
When it comes to cleaning products, there are many options for every area of your home on the market. From bleach cleaners to “green” cleaners, from cleaning wipes to cleaning sprays, there is a huge market for cleaning products. If you look at your local grocery store, there are so many choices for the many different areas of your life that need cleaned, it can become overwhelming. Especially now, in the times of COVID-19, we are more concerned with disinfecting and cleaning than ever before. Did you notice the shortage and limitations on cleaning products within the last year? It was enough to make people panic!
But, what if I told you that you didn’t need ANY of those products? And that all of the things you need to properly clean can be found in your own home right now? And even if you don’t have the proper products right now, they are usually readily available to you?
HOMEMADE CLEANING PRODUCTS
Some of us don’t mind, and actually prefer using store bought cleaners for different things. I personally prefer a bleach cleaner for my toilet bowl and a disinfectant spray for the most commonly used areas. But these products can be dangerous and unsafe to use, especially in combination with other cleaners, or to those sensitive to such products, like asthma sufferers, for example. Another reason you may not want to use store bought cleaners is the impact that they may have on the environment. And yet another reason you may choose to make your own cleaning products is to save money (and who doesn’t want to do that?). No matter the reason, knowing what cleaning products you can make yourself is going to help any cleaning situation you are in. It is important to remember, though, that not all your cleaning “ingredients” can or should be mixed together and that sometimes there can still be chemical reactions occurring. To make sure that doesn’t happen, let’s first look at some common household cleaning agents and what they do.
HOUSEHOLD CLEANING “INGREDIENTS”
- BAKING SODA: Baking soda is a common cleaning ingredient recommended for many uses. It is abrasive, so it is really good at cleaning stuck on messes and it also attracts oil for easy cleanup. Baking soda breaks down acids and is very useful in neutralizing odors (such as in your refrigerator or litter box). Baking soda can leave a residue behind, so it must be rinsed off well.
- VINEGAR: Plain white vinegar is another common cleaning ingredient that most of us have handy. There is also “cleaning vinegar” available at a higher acidic level specifically for cleaning only. Vinegar is inexpensive and is really good at breaking down hard water stains on showers, coffee makers, and humidifiers. Heating up vinegar in the microwave for a few moments can help break down all the gunk that has collected inside and make it easier to wipe down. It neutralizes odors and is great for cleaning up urine messes and stains, as it breaks down the uric acid. While vinegar works great on stainless steel, laminate, and glass, it should not be used on natural stone, cast iron, aluminum, or grout, as it will break down the materials.
- RUBBING ALCOHOL: If you are worried about disinfecting, but want to avoid store bought cleaners, look no further than rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol evaporates quickly while killing germs (have you ever used alcohol to treat a wound?) which makes it great to be used on it’s own. I have used rubbing alcohol on a cloth to clean my phone and computer screen and put a spray nozzle on it to be sprayed onto counters and light switches. Be careful not to use rubbing alcohol on wood or wood finishes.
- WATER: We all have it and nothing is better than plain old water to clean away a mess. Water dissolves more substances than any other liquid and works on both acids and bases, leaving no residue. Distilled water can be used when mixing with other cleaners if you have problem water in your area.
- LEMON JUICE: Fresh lemon juice has anti-bacterial properties and can help deodorize smelly messes. Lemon juice will get the garlic and onion smell off your hands when you are cooking! It can also be used in combination with other cleaners. Be careful, though, because lemon juice is highly acidic and can eat away at wood and natural stone. It can also go bad, as it is a fruit, so don’t mix it and forget about it!
- DISH SOAP: We all use dish soap and more than likely you are using one with grease cutting agents in it, such as Dawn. Dawn in particular, is my favorite for cleaning greasy messes, mixing with baking soda to make a paste to clean laundry stains and other other household stains, and all around general cleaning. Dish soap is good in hard water and dissolves completely, so it won’t leave a residue behind.
- HYDROGEN PEROXIDE: If you are trying to keep bleach out of your cleaning products, hydrogen peroxide is the perfect alternative. Hydrogen peroxide, which is found in the first aid aisle, is great for disinfecting and removing stains. While it does have to disinfecting properties of bleach, it also has the same ability to bleach the color out of fabrics, damage natural stone, and corrode metal.
- ESSENTIAL OILS: While many use essential oils in their homemade cleaning products, and while some may have the same properties of whatever they are made from, I wouldn’t call them “essential” to cleaning. However, they do smell great and it is always nice to smell “clean.”
- BORAX: Borax is one of those chemicals that some people swear by and some people swear ABOUT. Borax is a highly effective cleaning ingredient and is natural, mined in a cave, and has many uses, BUT it also has been banned in some countries for the problems that being around it can cause in terms of health risks, and it can cause skin irritation and is corrosive. In my opinion, borax may be too dangerous to keep around for every day cleaning. (Let me know if you think otherwise and want to make a case for Borax in the comment section!).
COMBINATIONS OF CLEANING “INGREDIENTS”
You have your list of ingredients, so let’s just combine some stuff and start cleaning, right? NO! WAIT! STOP!
Some of these products, used in combination can be ineffective and basically useless. Let’s take a look at some common mixtures and see what works:
- Vinegar and Baking Soda: I see this a lot and while it does SEEM to be working because of the foaming action (remember lava experiments in 6th grade?), the foaming is actually the chemical process of an acid and a base cancelling each other out. The result is basically water.
- Baking Soda and Water: Combining these two will not remove dirt or grease. It is better to use one or the other.
- Vinegar and Water: Ok, this one works! This is very effective on hard water stains. You can spray vinegar and water on your glass shower door or pour some vinegar and water into your Keurig (follow manufacturer’s directions) to clean out hard water deposits.
- Vinegar and Dish Soap: Really good at cleaning dirty areas and bathroom fixtures.
- Lemon Juice, Vinegar, and Water: This mixture can disinfect your dirty toilets and clean out your microwave!
- Rubbing alcohol, Water, and Dish Soap: Great for disinfecting after being sick.
As you can see, there are many combinations that work for different needs. In general, though, all you need is a good general cleaning solution, a glass cleaner, and an abrasive to clean most things in your home. Mixing 160z of water with 1 Teaspoon of dish soap in to a spray bottle will clean mostly any surface with no need to rinse. Mixing 1 part vinegar with 10 parts water will make an effective glass cleaner and making a paste of dish soap and baking soda will clean away stains.
Making your own cleaning products isn’t as hard as it may seem and may be the right choice for your spring cleaning. If you are more comfortable with store bought brands, remember that all you really need is an all purpose cleaner, glass cleaner, and good cleaning tools to get the job done. Whatever method you choose, make sure you let the cleaning product do the work for you by letting it sit for awhile to work it’s magic. Have fun Spring Cleaning!
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