Archive for October, 2009
And now we’ll continue the cleaning chit-chat with this handy little homemade cleaner breakdown. When we talked about getting even greener and experimenting with homemade cleaners in year three of YHL, an expert in that very area offered up a few of her favorite formulas. And we jumped at the chance to learn how all natural and totally eco-friendly cleaning materials are easy and effective- and sometimes way cheaper than paying for the more toxic stuff that can hurt pets, kids, people in general and the planet at large. Here’s what Evan the all-knowing homemade cleaner girl passed along:
This has become an obsession for me. If you think of your home as a sanctuary you want it to be not only beautiful but safe for your health! Store bought chemicals and cleansers can not only be toxic, poisonous or cause other averse health effects (no wonder they have all those warnings and skull & crossbone images on them) but they can also be expensive, completely unregulated, bad for the environment and full of excess packaging that ends up in landfills every day. They often come with big bold warnings that say things like “danger”, “caution”, “corrosive”, “irritant”, and even “chronic health hazard” which by definition can mean anything from “chemicals that destroy tissue” (corrosive) to “causes sterility and birth defects” (chronic health hazard). And even those that just say “danger” or “caution” can be attached to warnings that say “may be fatal or cause blindness if swallowed” or “highly toxic, flammable, poisonous and corrosive.”
Well Evan, when you put it that way, the toxic store bought cleaners bearing those labels (which can commonly be found on everything from basic toilet bowl cleaners to oven and drain solutions) sound pretty terrible. Tell us more.
By contrast, some non-toxic and all natural ingredients like baking soda and vinegar are not only not corrosive, poisonous, or hazardous to your health in any way, they’re actually completely safe if ingested (after all they’re found in the kitchen and they’re 100% edible!).
- Baking Soda is a great naturally abrasive ingredient with mild alkaline properties, it’s also a natural deodorizer and stain remover, and it rinses easily, is completely non-toxic (no more dangers for kids and pets licking surfaces that you’ve cleaned) and it’s extremely affordable (you can grab a 12lb bag at Costco for next to nothing).
- Vinegar is an all natural and mild acid, it’s also a known disinfectant that can remove stains, sanitize, and it’s also completely non-toxic and inexpensive (you can also grab a giant jug of it at Costco for an extremely reasonable price). It should be noted that it shouldn’t be used on stone surfaces or acetate fabrics but there are many other natural cleaning methods that work for those surfaces.
- Hydrogen Peroxide is also non-toxic (learn more about it and it’s many uses here) and is known to be a natural bleaching agent with disinfectant and stain removing properties. It’s also extremely inexpensive (just $1 for three bottles at Walgreen’s).
- All Natural Tea Tree Oil And Grapefruit Oil (which have known antibacterial properties) And Lemon Juice (which naturally cuts grease and leaves a totally fresh scent) are also extremely helpful to have in your all-natural cleaning arsenal.
- Liquid Castile Soap (like Dr. Bronner’s, sold at Target, Trader Joe’s, etc) is a vegetable based soap as opposed to a petroleum based one, which makes it completely non-toxic so it can be used on your face and body but will also work well when it comes to cleaning your home. It’s not quite as inexpensive as baking soda or vinegar, but a large 32 oz containter is just $8.99 at Trader Joe’s.
But how do you put them all together? Here are some of Evan’s favorite all-natural homemade cleaning formulas:
- 16 oz spray bottle
- 2 tsp. borax
- ¼ tsp. liquid castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s)
- hot water
All Purpose Liquid Cleaner:
- 1 gal. hot water
- 1 tbsp. baking soda
- 2 tbsp. liquid soap (like Dr. Bronner’s)
All Purpose Abrasive Cleaner:
- liquid soap (like Dr. Bronner’s)
- 2 tbsp. baking soda
Mix to make a foamy paste.
- 2 tbs. baking soda in 1 qt warm water
Wipe down inside and out and rinse with a clean wet cloth.
- Dampen with water
- Sprinkle liberally with baking soda
Leave 20 minutes, then scrub until clean.
- ½ c. vinegar
- 2 c. water
Combine in microwave safe bowl, heat on high for 3-4 minutes, remove bowl and wipe down inside of microwave.
- 2 c. borax
- 2 c. baking soda
- 4 little packages of unsweetened lemon Kool-Aid (or generic)
Mix together and store. You can substitute ½ c. of citric acid for the Kool-Aid but it’s harder to find.
Fruit and Vegetable Wash:
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 1 tbsp. baking soda
- 20 drops grapefruit seed extract
Spray on produce, rinse after 5 minutes.
Fruit and Vegetable Wash #2:
- 1 cup water
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 tbsp. baking soda
Spray on produce, wipe after 5 minutes.
- 1 c. baking soda first
- 1 c. white vinegar second
- 1 gallon boiling water
Allow to foam for 5 minutes before adding water.
Window, Glass and Chrome Cleaner:
- 5 parts water to 1 part white vinegar, OR
- 1 c. water, 1 c. vinegar, ½ tsp. castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s)
Toilet Bowl Cleaners:
- Liquid castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s)
- Baking soda or borax
Scrub with a toilet brush.
Tub And Tile Cleaner:
- Apply vinegar full-strength to a sponge and wipe
- Scour with baking soda
Soft Scrub for Fixtures:
- ½ c. baking soda
- Castile soap
- 10 drops of antibacterial essential oil (optional)
Add enough castile soap until you have a frosting like consistency. Scrub, then rinse with water.
- 2 c. water
- 25 drops of tea tree oil
- 25 drops of lavender oil
Spray on tile and do not wipe off.
Mildew/Germ Killer 2:
- 16 oz spray bottle
- 1 part hydrogen peroxide
- 2 parts water
Spray, let sit. Rinse after 1 hour.
Wood Floor Cleaner:
- ¼ c. vinegar
- 1 gal. warm water
Mop or rag should be slightly damp for cleaning.
Linoleum Floor Cleaner:
- 1 c. vinegar
- 2 gal. warm water
Mop or rag can be fully wet for cleaning.
Carpet Stain Remover:
- 1 part borax
- 10 parts warm water
Combine in spray bottle. Spray on stain, wait 5 minutes, blot with clean rag.
Carpet Stain Remover:
- baking soda
Mix vinegar and baking soda into a paste. Gently work into stain with a toothbrush. Let dry then vacuum completely.
- Baking soda
- 10 drops of essential oil (optional)
Mix together then sprinkle generously on carpet, wait 15 minutes and vacuum.
All-Purpose Carpet Cleaner:
After vacuuming first,
- 1 c. white vinegar
- 3 c. boiling water
Blot mixture onto nap of rug with a wet rag, Dry and air thoroughly. Vacuum.
- 2 parts water
- 1 part rubbing alcohol
- Essential oil
Mix in spray bottle, don’t spray on silks or delicates. Experiment with how much oil to add, but start with 5 drops.
Air Freshener 2:
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. vinegar or lemon juice
- 2 c. hot water
Mix in spray bottle, don’t spray on silks or delicates.
- Slightly dampened microfiber cloth
- ½ tsp. olive oil
- ¼ c. vinegar or lemon juice
Mix in a glass jar. Dab a soft rag into the solution and wipe onto wood surfaces.
- 1 part lemon juice
- 1 part vegetable oil
Rub into the scratches and polish.
- Sprinkle area with salt
- Squeeze lime onto salt
Leave sit for 2-3 hours, then scrub w/ lime rind (or try Almost-Doctor Dan’s method).
Metal Polish (copper and brass):
- 2 tbsp. salt
Add vinegar until you make a paste. Rub on metal with a clean rag. Wipe clean.
Powdered Laundry Detergent:
- 1 c. grated Fels Naptha soap
- ½ c. washing soda
- ½ c. borax
For light load, use 1 tablespoon. For heavy or soiled load, use 2 tablespoons.
Liquid Laundry Detergent:
- 3 pints water
- 1/3 bar Fels Naptha soap, grated
- ½ c. washing soda
- ½ c. borax
- 2 gallon bucket
- 1 quart hot water
Mix soap in saucepan with 3 pints of water. Heat on low until dissolved. Stir in soda and borax until thickened. Remove from heat. Add 1 quart hot water to bucket, then soap mixture, mix well. Fill rest of bucket with hot water, mix and let sit for 24 hours. Use ½ c. per laundry load.
Laundry Pre-treatment (*do NOT use with bleach, since ammonia + bleach can create dangerous fumes):
- ½ c. ammonia
- ½ c. white vinegar
- ¼ c. baking soda
- 2 tbsp. liquid soap or laundry detergent
- 2 quarts water
Mix in spray bottle. Spray spot.
Laundry Pre-treatment 2:
- 1 tsp. liquid laundry detergent
- 2 tbsp. ammonia
- 1 pt. warm water
Mix in spray bottle. Spray spot, let sit for 20 minutes.
Add ½ – 1 c. vinegar to your softener dispenser
Bleach Alternative (Laundry):
- ¼ c. hydrogen peroxide
But wait, Evan has even more ideas to keep things green and clean around your casa:
- Run your dishwasher late at night without a heat-dry setting and let things air dry overnight instead
- Replace sponges with washable and reusable items like microfiber cloths and dishrags
- Premix large batches of cleaning formulas so they’re always on hand and you’re never tempted to buy store stuff again
- Set your washer to cold/cold for the most eco laundry you can get
- Have people take off their shoes when they enter the house and wipe down the shower after each use (these preventative methods will really keep the house cleaner and cut down on your work)
And just because she’s such a pro, Evan even included her resources so you can learn more or see where she got her facts. Gotta love a girl who’s so thoroughAND considerate:Consumer Reports, Nat’l Geographic, The Green Guide, Do It Green, Frugal Living, The Vinegar Institute, EarthEasy, Coyne and Kutzen “The Urban Homestead”
But what about you guys? Do you see any favorite homemade formulas above? Any others to add to the mix? We always love a good DIY project, so homemade cleaning supplies are right up our alley. And we’re itching to know what you’re whipping up in your neck of the woods. Do tell.
We did it. After a few months of passively wishing that we were using reusable microfiber cloths to dust our house (instead of disposable Swiffer duster pads) we finally made the switch. We’re use-up-what-you-have-before-getting-something-new people, so we were counting down those last few Swiffer pads until the box was finally empty (here it is in our recycling bin)…
…and we could replace them with a five pack of white microfiber cloths (snagged for just $5 at TJ Maxx).
Why is this big news for us? Well since we were going through a few Swiffer duster pads a week (remember our detailed cleaning rundown right here?) we realized that if microfiber cloths are just as good at attracting dust and can easily be washable we can save around 150+ Swiffer pads, plus their packaging each year from landfills. And that might seem like a tiny upgrade to you guys, but every little bit helps. And just imagine if a few of you also make the switch to washable microfiber cloths (which are also great for polishing things, wiping down computer screens, cleaning up spills and even doing dishes in lieu of disposable sponges). All that reusing could really start to add up.
Plus we’d been meaning to make the switch for a while, and when a few helpful readers commented that microfiber cloths were their secret dusting weapon (back on our cleaning post) that was all that it took to confirm that we should go for it. And I must admit they’re pretty darn awesome. They definitely attract just as much dust as our old Swiffer pads did and they just feel like such a nice little upgrade since they’re plush and fluffy and not scratchy and disposable. Not that we rub our dust rags all over our bodies or anything, but you know what we mean…
So what do you guys think? Any takers? Anyone else making a simple switch like that around their house to save some pennies or reuse something wisely? We’re definitely sure there are other cleaning upgrades out there that we have yet to discover. Do tell.
Every other year or so we spend a few dollars on that fake spiderweb stuff and go crazy on the porch for the neighborhood trick-or-treaters. And since we skipped last year, this year was a definite go. We snagged ours for a few bucks at Target and got to work using other stuff we already had (some dead branches, a few white faux pumpkins from last year, and a some planters) along with some black spray paint and a few push lights from True Value plus three fresh white pumpkins that we had some fun with. The result? A moderately creepy porch. Mission accomplished.
The branches were actually John’s fabulous find. I sent him back into the woods behind our house to clip a few leafless twigs but pretty much all of our trees still have leaves on them, so when he stumbled upon a few old bush carcasses that we’d tossed in a pile (that were so dead when we wanted to remove them that we couldn’t even craigslist them for free) he instantly recognized their potential. Who knew dead bushes can actually be a positive on a certain spooky holiday? Then we grabbed some black spray paint courtesy of True Value and their amazingly generous gift card (read all about their awesomeness here) and lightly sprayed all the branches so they took on a deeper ebony hue. We even stuck a raven from Michael’s in one of them for good measure.
I love how John potted some of them and just leaned the larger ones on either side of the bench for a nice dead-ville vibe. And the two push lights were also John’s little stroke of genius. They were only a few bucks at True Value and when placed behind our branches at night they cast a goulish little uplit effect into the spindly branches…
… creating exaggerated shadows on the porch ceiling and tons of eerie atmosphere.
Then we just stretched some spiderwebbing stuff around the porch posts (the secret is to pull it thin so it looks less fluffy and more webby) and actually had more than half a bag leftover (so we might just do it again next year instead of waiting our usual 2 year span).
Three fresh white pumpkins were the last things on our list, so we selected a nice little assortment and decided to stick with our black and white theme from inside (after all, spiderwebs + black branches = a black & white theme going on already) so why not add a bit more to the porch in the form of painted pumpkins? We already had some black acrylic paint (Liquitex Basics in Mars Black if you’re wondering- the key is to use something that cures and works in all weather if they’ll be sitting outside) so we did a bit of brainstorming and landed on a bug theme in honor of all things creepy crawly and Burger’s absolute favorite pastime (for him, bug hunting in the backyard ranks up there with eating treats). And we actually got three pumpkins this year (as opposed to two, like we did last year) because we thought Burger deserved one for himself. The dog’s got a blog, the least we can do is pick up a pumpkin for him.
And as much as this chihuahua stencil from BHG cracked us up, we knew he would like a tribute to his backyard bug hunting expeditions even more than a pumpkin carved in his likeness. We even came up with a way to do a gross little centipede monogram of sorts with both of our first initials formed by the leggy little critters, and settled on cockroaches for the second one with Burger’s favorite- a grasshopper cricket looking thing- for the third pumkin. It only took about twenty minutes to sketch them onto the pumpkins with pen and then fill them in with our black acrylic paint (using a black sharpie for the super fine details on the cockroach pumpkin). Then we sped everything up to create this fast little time-lapse recap of the process (see it here on YouTube).
Fear not those who can’t watch videos at work, it’s pretty much just us sketching and painting in fast motion with a little bit of Burger in between. And here’s the end result…
We really liked our departure from carving (although we thoroughly enjoyed that last year) because we’re thinking our pumpkins will last a while since they’re un-cut (plus the clean-up was blissfully easy). There was one downside though: no pumpkin seeds. Sadness. Oh well, maybe we can cheat and buy some at the grocery store. So that’s our spookified porch all ready for the 31st. Now all we have to do is share some photos of Burger’s delectable costume. Yup there’s a clue in there. Stay tuned for that…
Oh and what about your Halloween curb appeal? Anyone else planning to bring home some pumpkins or stretch some spiderwebs? What treats are you planning to serve up? We try to give out the good stuff (peanut butter cups and snickers) because we remember how fun it was to hit up those houses as kids. Do tell.