Monday, November 26, 2007

Save Money, Save Your Health, Save the Earth

As many of you know, over the last few years I have been learning more and more about the dangers of many of the chemicals that we all use on a regular basis. Also as many of you know, frugality (which sounds so much nicer than "being cheap") has always been something that's important to me. And finally, as I've done additional research and reading about being healthier and saving money, I've also learned alot about conserving the earth's resources. . .

So, here's the thing. I often hear people say "I know it's better to buy ecological products/organics, but I just can't afford it". BUT I've found that in many cases, it's possible to be healthier, walk more gently on the earth, AND save money. So over the next while, I'm going to offer up some of those ideas for you. Sometimes it will save money from day one, sometimes there's an additional expenditure that will more than pay for itself over time, but all of these are ways that you can save money, do things in a way that is better for the earth, AND improve your family's health (ok, I suppose since I haven't sat down and made a list of what all I'll post, I can't say taht all will be both healthier & more ecological, but in general those 2 walk hand-in-hand).

And without further introduction, here's Tip #1:

Replace your cleaners with vinegar & baking soda!

I have no idea who first thought it was a good idea to use caustic, potentially carcinogenic chemicals to clean with, but it's been going on for long enough that today most of us think that's our only choice! It never occurs to us that we might not have to actually go out and buy a window cleaner, tub & tile cleaner, counter cleaner, carpet cleaner, disinfectant . . . etc.

But you know what? You can replace pretty much your entire cleaning cupboard with a few safe/inexpensive purchases. Here's what you need:
  • white vinegar (you can find it by the gallon at most grocery stores/discount stores, or in larger quantities at wholesale clubs)
  • the biggest container of baking soda you can find (a wholesale club is your best bet. I've also heard you can buy baking soda in bulk from feed stores, but haven't actually tried it, but if you don't have a wholesale club membership, just get hte biggest/cheapest box from the grocery store)
  • distilled water (after throwing out one too many clogged spray bottles, I will only use distilled water in my spray bottles. It runs about $0.70/gallon in the grocery stores here and a gallon lasts me quite awhile)
  • Some spray bottles (if money is a major consideration, as you empty your current windex, etc, rinse them out & re-use them. Personally, once I read about the dangers of these chemicals, I freecycled the cleaners I had and started over fresh. You can generally find spray bottles at the dollar store or, awhile back, I found a 3 pack of better quality spray bottles at Sam's for $3). How many you'll need will depend on how you clean. You could easily get by with 2 or 3, but I'm lazy, so I prefer to have more spray bottles so I don't have to carry them around the house. I have 3 under my kitchen sink (that covers the whole whole main floor) and 1 in each bathroom upstairs. If I dusted more often, I'd keep a spray bottle of dusting spray upstairs as well)
  • Rags of some sort. We'll discuss replacing paper towels in detail another time, but for now, let's just replace them for normal cleaning. Again, if money is tight, any rags will do, if you have a little extra money to spend, I'm a big fan of microfibre rags, I got a big pack of them in the automotive section of Sam's a year or so ago. I've also found them individually at the dollar store. And again, quantity will depend on how you clean. If you clean your whole house in a day &/or do laundry frequently, you won't need many, if you clean different rooms different days & only do laundry a couple times a week (or less LOL), you'll need more.
  • You might want some essential oils, these are pricey, but a little goes a long way. Rumor has it that Walmart now carries Tea Tree oil (I think in the medicine area, near rubbing alcohol and such), so if you're on a budget, that's what I'd go for. If you have a little more to spend, Lavender EO has many of the same properties as TTO and smells a lot better (IMO), sweet orange is nice for dusting, and is relatively inexpensive to just add a little to cut the vinegar smell for general cleaning. You'll find lavender & sweet orange EO at health food stores, or you can probably get them cheaper online through a co-op group (more on that another time too, but if you want to know enough to get your EOs that way, leave a comment, letting me know)
Ok, now you're set. Let's make some cleaners:

  • Window/glass cleaner: Fill a spray bottle with 50/50 vinegar & distilled water. If you'd like you can add a drop or two (seriously, 1-2 drops per spray bottle) of lavender EO or TTO, but unless you have children or pets who regularly lick your mirrors and windows, it's probably only necessary if you prefer the smell (also note that while cleaning w/ vinegar smells strongly of vinegar while you're cleaning, I find the smell dissipates quickly once your done)
  • Tub/tile cleaner: If you're using microfiber cloths, use the same spray you made for your glass, just spray it on and clean w/ a microfiber cloth, the microfiber will provide the "scrub" aspect of tub/tile cleaner. If you're using a regular rag, sprinkle the surface with a little baking soda, wet your rag, and let teh baking soda do the scrubbing. If needed you can follow up w/ a quick spray & wipe down with the vinegar/water (baking soda is great for scrubbing, but can leave a white film, the vinegar will get rid of that film instantly. Additionally, if it's a surface you feel the need to "disinfect" vinegar disinfects (so does TTO & Lavender EO) baking soda doesn't.
  • Toilet cleaner: Dump some baking soda in and use the brush to scrub it around. If you feel the need to disinfect, you can dump a little hydrogen peroxide (Sam's sells 2 bottles for under $2) in as well, OR after you finish scrubbing w/ the baking soda you can dump in a little straight vinegar (note that mixing vinegar & baking soda will cause it to fiz, and pretty much neutralize the baking soda, so make sure you get the "scrubbing power" out of the baking soda before adding the vinegar). Often I'll just scrub the toilet w/ baking soda, flush, and then pour a little hydrogen peroxide or vinegar over the toilet brush (while holding it over the toilet) afterwards, it disinfects the toilet brush and adds a little disinfecting power to the toilet as well, since it will theoretically sit in the toilet for awhile before the toilet gets used again.
  • Dinsinfecting spray (ie. Lysol cleaners): Same vinegar/water spray you made above (noticing a trend?) for extra disinfecting power add a few drops (3-4 at most) of TTO &/or Lavender EO.
  • Carpet/upholstry cleaner: This is the one thing I generally use straight vinegar spray for (also, in most cases in our house, carpet cleaning is required because a small child or a pet has peed/pooped on the carpet). Clean/blot up anything you can w/ just a rag (this is where having lots of rags comes in handy) then saturate the area w/ straight vinegar (or vinegar w/a couple drops of TTO added), blot it back up, if there's still a stain you can see, repeat. I've been amazed at how effective this is at cleaning up pee & poop stains, including the smell.
  • Mop the floor: I use a microfiber mop and use 50/50 vinegar water w/ some sweet orange EO added to make it smell better.
  • Soft scrub: Mix baking soda and liquid soap (dish soap or hand soap) to make the consistency of soft scrub. Let it sit on the stuck on food/stuff for a little while it and will wipe right up.
  • Furniture polish: honestly, I generally just use a microfiber duster dry (or lately the girls think it's great fun to use a feather duster), but if you want to use a dusting spray, you can make one by either just adding a couple drops of the EO of your choice to distilled water in a spray bottle, or by mixing 2 Tbsp olive oil (or vegetable oil), 2 Tbsp white vinegar (or lemon juice, costs more, but smells better), and 1 qt water (can add a drop of lemon or sweet orange EO as well).
I'm probably forgetting something, but I think you get the idea. This means that my kids can help me clean (at age 4, I have no problem letting them spray vinegar/water on the counter or bathtub to help me clean, and they think it's great fun), our family isn't inhaling (or ingesting) dangerous chemical cleaners, and my main "cleaning spray" costs me less than $2/gallon. AND I have less bottles to keep track of.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for these how tos using natural cleaners. I really have been wanting to and was not sure what I needed. I greatly appreciate this!!!