This is the second instalment of my earth week series on staying healthy on a budget. Like with organic foods, I forever hear the argument from people that chemically safe cleaning products are just too expensive. All I have to say to that is hogwash.
First of all, if you really want to do this right, get into your broom closet and under your kitchen and bathroom sinks and take out all those cleaning products you use. I'm guessing, if you're like I used to be, you have quite a number of items, which may include: spray glass cleaner, countertop spray, anti-bacterial wipes, toilet bowl cleaner, furniture polish, powdered cleanser, liquid cleanser, tile cleaner, shower scrub, carpet spot cleaner, oven cleaner, lime remover, chlorine mold spray, etc., etc. There are so many products on the market (and they have such cute advertisements--oh, those funny scrubbing bubbles!). Well, I'm about to make your life a lot simpler, not to mention less expensive, if you just follow some simple suggestions.
1) Go for multi-function and cut out all the unnecessary items. For the perfect (and cheap) all-purpose spray cleaner, mix vinegar with water (1 part vinegar to 2 parts water for most applications; 1 to 1 for tougher jobs) in a good spray bottle (available for $4.95 at Target). Label the bottle and use on windows, mirrors, countertops, and any other smooth waterproof surface, including your stove top.
2)For tub and tile surfaces and your toilet bowl that may need a little bit of abrasion, mix a little baking soda with water and scrub with a sponge. Or, try the following recipe:
2 cups baking soda
1/2 cup castile soap (Dr. Bronners works well)
4 teaspoons vegetable glycerin (works as a preservative)
5 or more drops essential oil (optional), like tea tree,, rosemary or lavender
Mix together and store in sealed glass jar for up to two years. Add more of the liquid soap or a little water to get the consistency of most store bought softscrubs.
Or, if you don't want to mix your own, Ecover makes a good softscrub cleanser and Bon Ami is an effective (and not very expensive) natural dry cleanser.
3) Buy a couple of microfiber dust cloths (available at K-Mart, WalMart, Target, etc.) and dust weekly. Wood furniture does not need regular waxing and most furniture sprays only make the wood attract more dust. If your fine wood is drying out and needs a little help, try using plain beeswax or beeswax mixed with a little olive oil rubbed in with a soft cloth.
4) To battle mold and germs, replace all those anti-bacterial products with one of the following sprays (mixed in good spray bottles and well-labeled):
A. 2 ounces tea tree oil mixed with 32 ounces water
Use on hard surfaces in kitchen and bathroom or around windows.
B. 50 drops GSE (grapefruit seed extract) mixed with 32 ounces water
This can be sprayed directly into the air (but not at people, please) as an air cleaner.
Yes, tea tree oil and GSE are expensive, but you don't need very much and these spray bottle mixtures will last you up to a year, because you don't need to use them very often if you're using the other products I suggested on a regular basis. Which leads me to the last suggestion:
5) Clean regularly and teach other household members to clean up after themselves. The beauty of using safe cleaning products is that they are safe for everyone to use. Even a four-year-old can clean a window with vinegar spray, and by seven he can be scrubbing the bathtub. Keep a pile of rags (a good way to use up old t-shirts and pajamas) under every sink to be used for spills and muddy footprints. Just plain water works fine in many cases.
Though Proctor and Gamble and the Johnsons would like us to believe that we NEED all their cleaning products, the truth is that we don't. Life can be so much simpler and healthier without them and every bit as clean.
[Note: if you have a particularly tough cleaning problem that I haven't addressed above, please feel free to email me and I'll help you find a safe solution.]