Call me Crunchy

I’ve started trying to make my own cleaning products. There are a few reasons that I decided to go this route. One is simply to save some money. Another is that I’d like to have the kids doing more housework, and I thought it would be better if they were using products that aren’t extremely toxic. A third reason is that I’ve known for a long time that certain cleaning products set off Tim’s asthma, and even bother me sometimes. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal told about a certain chemical that’s in many, many cleaning products which is known to cause respiratory problems in commercial and industrial settings. That was enough to put me over the edge and start looking for recipes.

The first thing I tried is a homemade laundry detergent. It’s a combination of borax, washing soda, fels-naptha soap and oxi-clean. I’ve only done a few loads of sheets and towels with it so far, so I can’t give much of an evaluation.  I’ll have to try it on some of Messy Micah’s clothes to give it a real test. I saw some other recipes on the web that involved cooking the ingredients into sort of a slimy goop, but that just didn’t sound like much fun. This one is all dry ingredients and took me all of about 5 minutes to make.

The next thing I went with was tried-and-true vinegar. I’m using a solution of about half-and-half white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. This is working well on the countertops and sinks, both in the bathrooms and kitchen. It didn’t do so well on the refrigerator or tile floor, though. It left both very streaky and not very clean. I had to go back over the fridge with glass cleaner.

The thing that had me the most excited was one that seemed odd to me. I read somewhere that olive oil is good for polishing stainless appliances. It is amazing! Since moving into this house almost three years ago I’ve used different products on my dishwasher and stove–stainless wipes, glass cleaner, all-purpose cleaner–and none of them have been great. I used some light olive oil (not the expensive kind) on a soft cloth, wiped it on, then buffed it off with a clean soft cloth. My appliances look better than they have since we moved in. It took off the grungy drips on the dishwasher, splattered spots on the front of the stove, fingerprints off the handles, everything. And they’re wiping clean (with a dry towel) more easily since doing that. I’ll definitely keep that up.

I was so jazzed from that success that I decided to try it on my cabinets. Results there were more mixed. Our cabinets have a dark cherry-ish finish and show every little water spot, fingerprint, and everything else. I’ve had a hard time getting and keeping them clean. The olive oil seemed to take off some of the gunk, but didn’t leave a great finish. I switched to a mineral oil-based furniture oil that I had on hand just to compare. The mineral oil is a lot thinner and seemed to leave a nicer finish, but didn’t take as much of the dirty stuff off. And by the next day, the oil finish had dried off and they didn’t look all that different from when I started. I think I’m going to have to do some more experimenting there. I will say that the olive oil left my hands feeling soft; the mineral oil had the opposite effect.

My hardest challenge so far has been the kitchen floor. My favorite product on it has always been Spic-N-Span (liquid form, diluted in a bucket of hot water). It leaves the floor really clean with no residue or streaks. I’ve also used diluted Lysol cleaner in a Swiffer WetJet, which does okay. I tried putting vinegar and water into the WetJet with terrible results. The floor was streaky and still really dirty. So then I tried mixing up an all-purpose cleaner recipe I found online–borax, castile soap, washing soda and water. I sprayed it on with a spray-bottle and mopped it up with a wet rag on a Swiffer. It seemed to get the floor a lot cleaner and didn’t leave streaks, but has left a kind-of sticky residue that’s getting dirty really quickly. I’m not sure what to try next. Any suggestions?