Spring Cleaning

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

DIY Cleaners

DIY Cleaners

In this world, the passage of time brings increasing order. Order is the law of nature, the universal trend, the cosmic direction. If time is an arrow, that arrow points toward order….

In such a world, people with untidy houses lie in their beds and wait for the forces of nature to jostle the dust from their windowsills and straighten the shoes in their closets. People with untidy affairs may picnic while their calendars become organized, their appointments arranged, their accounts balanced. Lipsticks and brushes and letters may be tossed into purses with the satisfaction that they will sort themselves out automatically. Gardens need never be pruned, weeds never uprooted. Desks become neat by the end of the day. Clothes on the floor in the evening lie on chairs in the morning. Missing socks reappear.
–from Einstein’s Dreams, by Alan Lightman

This is not my world.

I’ve been thinking lately about cleaning, and I was hoping to have something useful to say but alas I do not. But maybe I will eventually.

In the meantime, I do make my own cleaning products, and I occasionally teach a class on making cleaning products at The Scrap Exchange. The next one is this Thursday 4/22. If anyone is in the area and would like to come, please call the store at 682-2751 to register.

For those of you in other lands, I’ll give you the only recipe you really need.

It’s for an all-purpose spray cleaner, like Formula 409 or Fantastik or one of the $8 Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day products. It’s great on kitchen counters, appliances, vinyl floors, walls, baseboards … pretty much everything. I’ve used it to clean mildew off of blinds that I thought was permanent, and it works great on the bike tire smudge marks that always end up on the wall behind the rack that holds my bikes.

My friend Cathy called me four times when she was cleaning her house after moving in to tell me how much she loved it. Last week I was talking about the upcoming class with a friend, and she said she and her sister bought the recipe cards I put together to sell at the Scrap, and when they’re out of cleaner, they get together to make more. She said, “It cleans better than anything I’ve ever used!”

It’s good stuff.

The recipe is from Better Basics for the Home by Annie Berthold-Bond. She writes at Care2.com and also has her own website.

All-Purpose Spray Cleaner

1 teaspoon washing soda
2 teaspoons borax
1/2 teaspoon liquid detergent
up to 1 teaspoon antiseptic essential oil (lavender, tea tree, clove, cinnamon, lemongrass, sweet orange, rose, birch, eucalyptus, thyme, rosemary)
2 cups hot water

Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle. Shake to dissolve and blend the minerals.

You can get washing soda and borax in most large supermarkets. They’re in the laundry aisle, usually in the “laundry aids” section, with fabric softeners and things like that. Washing soda is sometimes harder to find than borax. They both usually run around $3 to $4 a box. The essential oils are optional but make it smell nice. I do not put in a teaspoon, I usually just use a few drops, usually lavender because it makes cleaning the house a lovely, soothing experience. For the liquid detergent, I use Ecover, which is what I use for my dishes. Any mild dishwashing detergent would work.

I calculated the cost at one point and I think it was less than 5 cents. If you really want to save money, stop worrying about food and start making your own cleaners.

9 Responses to “Spring Cleaning”

  1. Michelle Says:

    I’ve been following your blog since your Rachel Rae appearance. I think your topics are often understated in our society, so I’m excited that you continue to write.

    I’m commenting today because when I saw your picture on my “blog surfer”, I thought, “Whoa! When did I post that?”

    My all-purpose cleaner recipe is:
    1 part vinegar
    2 parts water
    enough lemon juice (“Real Lemon” juice from concentrate or similar) to satisfy my desires the day I make it
    1 squirt of some dye-free, “natural” liquid soap (I like Ecover’s Dish Soap)

    I don’t use any EOs because I don’t want to spend the money and have found they are unnecessary. If the “vinegar scent” bothers you (general you), just wait and everything smells clean. My version has proven in my home to work well as a window/mirror cleaner too (streak free!).

    Do you make your own laundry soaps too? I’m not in your area, and I do have the knowledge… I’m merely curious.

    Anyway, thanks for allowing me the space to share.

  2. Pat Says:

    I cant wait to try it. I have these items on hand for making my own laundry detergent. A bar of Fels-Naptha and you would be good to go.

  3. lessisenough Says:

    I don’t actually make laundry detergent because I use Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds, which is not cheap but is super concentrated so I need only a tablespoon or two per load. (The bottle says use 1/4 cup per load of laundry, and you might need that much in a top loader but I’m not even sure, that seems like a lot.) I use that for other things, it’s just a good basic detergent, so I always have it around and started using it when I ran out of laundry detergent and decided it worked just fine. Getting laundry detergent can be a problem when you walk to the store and spend $10 at a time.

    In terms of essential oils, they are definitely optional, though, as noted some are antiseptic, and I have had great success using them to take care of moldy closets and other airborne mold/mildew issues. It’s true, they are expensive, but they last a long time. And I lucked out when my neighbor gave me a box of leftover bottles she used to use in making soap, which she doesn’t do any more. So I ended up with a big stash.

  4. Sarah Says:

    I made a Wordle out of your blog. Does code work in the comments? If so, here it is:

    Otherwise: http://www.wordle.net/show/wrdl/1936487/Less_is_Enough

  5. Susanne Says:

    Most excellent! I’ll definitely be making this — always on the lookout for better cleaners. I use white vinegar in water at the moment for almost everything & a mix of Mr.Clean & vinegar for hard-to-get-cleans, but when the bottle of Mr.Clean I have is finished (I “inherited” it from a friend who was moving), I want to go fully natural. And I’ll pass these tips along to friends who own a motel & are looking for more environmentally friendly cleaners (both for the environment at large, & the well-being of their cleaning staff). As always, enjoy your blog! Have a great weekend.

  6. lessisenough Says:

    Tell your friends to get Better Basics for the Home, their staff will definitely thank them. All the recipes use minerals (washing soda, baking soda, borax) rather than solvents, so no smelly chemicals. Cleaning is a totally different experience. The only smell would be if they want to use tea tree oil or one of the other antiseptic essential oils.

  7. Ecover Blog Says:

    So glad to see that you are using Ecover! Thanks for your support.

    Valorie for Ecover

  8. Stephanie Says:

    Thanks for sharing this! We have a new baby in the house, and I’ve been trying to transition to natural cleaners. I’ll be using this recipe! :)

  9. Lorrie Says:

    I bought the ingredients. Now I have to try it. Thanks for the recipe!


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