Essential Tools and Products
- white vinegar
- apple cider vinegar
- clear rubbing alcohol
- baking soda
- biodegradable dish soap (original blue Dawn) or vegetable glycerine natural soap
- cheap salt
- vegetable glycerine
- white cotton washcloths
- kitchen scrubby sponges, chopped in half -- this way, you can toss them after only a week as they get scummy, without fear of spreading germs nor of spending more than necessary on sponges
- old toothbrush or two -- just repurpose the ones that are too worn for your mouth into cleaning scrubbers for all those hard-to-reach detail areas
- cheap hand scrubbing brush -- dollar store quality is quite sufficient
- toilet brush
- pumice stone -- the one you've been using on your feet, but is now worn to half it's size and you want a new, larger one for your feet
- essential oils such as tea tree, peppermint, lavender and lemon
(Many more are useful, but for the sake of simplicity to get you started I have only given uses for these four.)
- dried or fresh herbs of thyme or oregano and eucalyptus
- fresh lemons and oranges
Toilet BowlRegular cleaning needs only a quick scrub down. Shake 6 parts baking soda + 2 parts eucalyptus ground herb or dried ground citrus peels into the basin, drop a tsp liquid soap onto the toilet brush, and scrub away.
Use a pumice stone to manually scrub hard water rings from the inside of clean ceramic toilet bowl once a month.
Bad staining can be treated overnight. Mix 1 c borax + 1 c white vinegar + 10 drops lavender essential oil + 5 drops lemon essential oil, and pour all over the inside bowl. Leave overnight. In the morning, flush.
WindowsOld newspapers work really well for absorbing grime without leaving behind streaks. I like to spray outside windows with the hose, scrub with a hand brush and a few drops of liquid soap, mist the entire window with a homemade vinegar and herbs cleaning spray, and then rinse with the hose. Often, I don't care about a few drops on the outdoor panes. But you can rub those gone with a rag or newspapers. Indoors, use the vinegar spray with 1 tsp of borax dissolved into the mixture to remove sticky fingerprints and nose marks.
MirrorsPlain old white vinegar and a cotton rag will do it. Be careful to spray in the very center of the mirror, though, or to spray onto the cloth first and then rub the mirror, or you run the risk of prematurely aging your mirror as vinegar vapors can get behind the glass and erode the reflective panel behind it.
Chrome FixturesWhite vinegar and a dry cloth should do the trick most days. If someone leaves behind junky sugary soda pop, like Coca-Cola, pour it slowly over chrome fixtures and scrub with a brush to remove hard water deposits. Or, if all your friends are healthy and don't leave such things in your house, simply use a baking soda + water paste on the area, scrub with a brush, and then chase with white vinegar and a clean water rinse. Rub dry for shine.
Garbage DisposalToss half a lemon or orange into the disposal and turn on with fresh water running.
Save the citrus peels and herbs from homemade herbal vinegar cleaning sprays and toss down the disposal for a blast of freshness as needed.
A cup of baking soda, 2 Tbs borax, followed with a cup of white or apple cider vinegar (with or without 3-5 drops of essential oils as desired) poured slowly into the powders will help fizz away gunk. Finish by running the disposal clear with clean water.
Carpet Freshener1 c baking soda + 20 drops of peppermint or lavender essential oil. Mix well with a wooden spoon or popsicle stick to break up clumps. Sprinkle onto dry carpets. Leave at least 30 minutes, or overnight, and then vacuum up. Deodorizes, helps refluff pile, and the oils act as insect and dust mite deterrent.
Carpet StainsClean spills as soon as humanly possible. Press or blot liquid spills with dry cloths rather than rubbing.
Blot blood stains with cold water. Not hot! Club soda fizziness can help lift blood out of carpeting.
When cleaning up toddler accidents that didn't make it in the potty, after removing all solid waste and blotting up any liquids, use a sponge to apply 1/4 cup vinegar + 1 tsp liquid soap + 10 drops peppermint essential oil, to both sanitize and deodorize, and leave for 20 minutes before again blotting as dry as possible. Dark carpets may sometimes be lightened by white vinegar, so apple cider vinegar may be a better option there. It is a good idea to spot test vinegars in an inconspicuous corner ahead of time, so you know what to reach for in emergency.
To help avoid staining on carpets and sofas while potty training young children or babies, buy a roll of cheap microfiber fleece fabric and lay it down over areas that tend to be troublesome. Microfiber does not instantly absorb and liquids tend to bead on the surface, which allows a few more precious moments of time to blot up the oops before it absorbs into the not-so-machine-washable item.
Microwave1 c water + 2-5 drops lemon essential oil in a heat safe bowl or glass dish. Place in microwave and heat for 2 mins. (Don't boil it.) Let sit for a few minutes, and then simply wipe away the dampened grime with a damp cloth, followed by a dry one.
Kitchen SinkCombine 6 parts baking soda + 2 parts ground lavender or ground dried citrus peels + 1 part borax. Store in an empty parmesan shaker or large spice shaker. Sprinkle onto damp surface of sink. Scrub, rinse. Stubborn stains in ceramic sinks can be treated by letting a paste of the mixture + water sit for an hour on the spot before rinsing well.
Oven and StovetopStart by removing all knobs and accessories that come off the stove top. Soak small parts in 1 c baking soda + 1/2 c vinegar + 5 drops any essential oil. Use an old toothbrush to clean out details. Let this sit and soak while you work on the rest.
Cleanse stovetop by sprinkling baking soda and pouring or spraying on a little herbal vinegar. It will fizz. Let it sit for a few minutes before scrubbing up and wiping clean. Be sure to give everything a final rub dry, for a longer clean appearance.
If you're like me, you don't clean your oven except maybe twice a year, regardless of all the cooking and baking you do with it. So when it needs cleaning, it needs a good, hard scrub! Make a paste with a little water + 1/2 c cheap salt + 1/4 c borax + 2 c baking soda. Turn the oven on to warm and let it heat up the inside for 5 minutes or so. Spread paste on oven walls and floor, and leave it for 20 mins with the door open. Spray the oven down with 1 c herbal vinegar + 10 drops lemon essential oil added. Wipe clean and rinse well.
Tarnished JewelryToothbrush and baking soda or a little regular toothpaste. Rub lightly, rinse clean, dry well. Safe for most stone settings and precious metals.
Store jewelry with a piece of plain chalk in the box, to absorb moisture that causes tarnishing.
Or, simply wear jewelry more often and let your natural body oils keep the metal polished.
Microfiber SofaA cotton rag dipped lightly in clear rubbing alcohol will freshen up microfiber sofa fabrics while removing most spots. Use a clean, old toothbrush as needed. If you wish, follow up with a light misting of your favorite air freshener all over the sofa, and leave to let dry.
Descaling KettleFor electric kettles, fill with equal parts of water and white vinegar. Let sit several hours. Flush with hot water.
Stovetop kettles are a little easier to thoroughly descale than electric. Equal parts of water and white vinegar. Let sit several hours. Add the dried, crumbled shells of one or two eggs and boil the kettle. Pour out, and flush with hot water.
Candle Wax SpillThis works for most fabrics and surfaces. Place a clean dry cotton rag that you don't mind throwing away, or several folded paper towels, over the spill. Iron over the top.
ToysHard toys which are washable can be immersed in a sink full of water + a few drops liquid soap + 1 c herbal vinegar full strength. Air dry or sun dry.
Hard toys which are not washable can be misted with herbal vinegar half strength + 5 drops tea tree or lemon essential oil added, and wiped dry with a cotton rag.
Soft toys can be misted down with the same spray before tumbling up to 15 minutes on low heat in the tumble dryer.
Fluff Pillows and DuvetToss in the tumble dryer on low for 15 minutes. Add a damp cloth with 2-5 drops of peppermint or lavender essential oil for light scent if desired. Tumbling heat helps to fluff feathers and synthetic fibers, plus kills dust mites.
Freshen Towels and SheetsAdd 10 drops of any essential oil to your dose of liquid soap and let synergize for at least an hour before adding to the machine and washing as usual.
Banish Shoe OdorPop 1/2 a raw potato into each shoe for a day or two.
Ensure that shoes are opened up properly and allowed to dry after workouts or playing in damp outdoors.
Add one or two drops of tea tree essential oil to the inside sole of work boots or workout training shoes and leave overnight, tongue opened wide to allow plenty of air flow.
Whiten and Sanitize Chopping BoardsRub down with the flesh of half a lemon, using a little cheap salt if needed on stubborn stains. Let sit 10 minutes. Rinse well.
Polish Wooden Furniture1/2 c lemon juice + 1/2 to 1 tsp liquid soap. Spray on, wipe off, to remove gunge and sticky prints.
1/4 c linseed oil + 3 drops lavender essential oil. Polish wood with a soft, dry cloth.
Air Fresheners5-10 drops of essential oils suspended in a little water in an oil burner will freshen and scent the air as you desire. Peppermint is a fab choice for most people. I like to use peppermint and orange together when I have guests, to sweeten air, lift moods, and gently purify the air from airborne viruses that may have traveled in.
Sprays are easy to make. 1/2 c water, 1/2 c vodka, and 40 drops of essential oils of choice. Let sit in a dark, cool cabinet for 24 hours to synergize oils before using. Lightly shake before spraying, and simply mist into the air. Lemon and lavender make a lovely deodorizer.
Clogged DrainsPour a cup of baking soda down the drain, quickly followed by 2 cups vinegar. Immediately follow with a kettle of boiling water.
Mold and MildewI don't have to deal with this much in Arizona, but in England it was important to wipe down windows frequently to avoid molding on the seals on the inside of the panes. Keep problem areas as dry as possible with as much air flow as can be managed. Open window curtains. Partially close and shake out shower curtains after bathing, to let them dry. Spray cleaned areas with 1 c vodka + 50 drops tea tree essential oil and let air dry or wipe with a dry cloth.
Walls*This is an update from March 2014 -- I can't believe I haven't done this before! Super easy.
Clean walls of dust with a damp cloth on the end of a floor swiffer. You know, the type that is designed for damp "mopping" wood laminate floors and other surfaces that can't be conventionally wet mopped. This will only work on semi gloss or gloss paints, not flat, but is a quick sweat builder (workout points) while only taking a few minutes per room. I swiffed every wall in my 3 bed 2 bath house this morning in under 25 minutes. No special cleaning supplies needed, just a damp cloth which you can rinse and wring out frequently as it collects the dust. Fabulous method for spring cleaning once a year, to rid your house of all that extra dust which collects on walls as well as horizonal surfaces, particularly in the desert where I currently live.
Bucket Blasting (tidying)I'm a clutter bug. I leave things everywhere. And now I have toddler. He spreads things everywhere, too. Books, cars, dinosaurs, sippy cups, shoes, socks, you name it. So you get a phonecall from a friend who needs to chat and is on her way over. No panicking. You can get a lot done in 10 minutes.
ONE. Grab a bucket or basket and set the timer for 5 or 10 minutes. Large laundry baskets are sometimes the solution.
TWO. Everything that is in the wrong place in your room of focus, put in the bucket or put away if it belongs in that room.
THREE. Keep going for as long as the timer is on, or until the clutter is put away, whichever comes first.
FOUR. Put the bucket elsewhere. When you blast the next room, put away everything from that bucket that belongs in that room.
FIVE. If you did a 5 min blast and have 5 mins left, grab two cotton rags and your bottle of herbal vinegar spray. Spray down the toilet and sink in the guest bathroom all at once. Wipe down the toilet, top to bottom (or outside in, if you like to think of it that way) with one cloth. Use the other cloth to wipe the mirror, taps, countertop, and then the sink bowl. Put out a fresh hand towel and make sure there is enough paper on the toilet roll, and you're done. It may not be perfect, or deep cleaned, but all the germs that are of greatest concern in bathrooms are now effectively killed and the air is deodorized.