The time has come to take down the Christmas decorations and return our house back to normal. While my husband took down our tree, I went into super cleaning mode and scrubbed the day away. Call it an early Spring Cleaning, but I always like to do a good thorough house cleaning when the Christmas decorations go away so we start the year fresh with a nice, clean house.
I found Raleigh Briggs' Make Your Place: Affordable and Sustainable Nesting Skills online last year when I was searching for a birthday gift for my sister-in-law. I liked the look of it so much that I bought us both a copy! I was thrilled when it arrived in the mail and discovered that every page is handwritten. How adorable! You may remember Ms. Briggs, as I used a different book of hers to make peppermint soap as holiday gifts. As with many of my online purchases (some have suggested that I make way too many online purchases), I read through Make Your Place and then it sat on my bookshelf for a good long while before I got around to actually using it.
I have always used harsh cleaning products, thinking that I needed to basically burn and bleach away all of the germs and grossness while I was scrubbing. We have a very curious cat, so whenever I clean the bathrooms I have to keep the door closed so he can't lick anything. After one thorough scrubbing of the bathtub, I realized that I was trapping an insane amount of bleach fumes in the bathroom with me, even with the fan on. Wait, I thought, don't I have a book that can remedy this problem? I decided to finally get around to trying out Ms. Briggs' recipes before I caused permanent brain damage to myself or others for the sake of a clean house.
Make Your Place is full of great ways to use natural products in your life. After covering why she wrote the book and some safety disclaimers, she includes three sections: Health & First Aid, Non-Toxic Cleaning and Body Care, and Gardening. Thus far, I've only used the Non-Toxic Cleaning and Body Care sections, but I can totally see venturing into the Health & First Aid if I ever need to. At this point in my life, even though I love plants and flowers, I can't seem to remember to keep plants alive. But, I'm ok with obstaining from plant motherhood since we barely have any gardening space in our small outside area anyway. Maybe when we have a single home with a yard one day, I'll dip into the Gardening section.
The bulk of today's cleaning involved the kitchen floor and the bathrooms. I whipped up the floor cleaner, which only needed castile soap, tea tree essential oil, and warm water (check out Make Your Place for the exact measurements for this and the following recipes). Castile soap is made with vegetable oil rather than animal fats, and is gentle and basic enough to use in many cleaning recipes. The tea tree essential oil is included as a disinfectant. The floor cleaner recipe originally included lemon juice, but since I mistakenly picked up peppermint castile soap instead of unscented, I omitted the lemon juice. I mixed up the cleaner in one bucket and kept a dish pan of clean water next to me, so after I scrubbed the floor with the cleaner, I could wipe it up with the clean water. That's right: I clean floors by scrubbing on my hands and knees. No gross mops for this girl! The cleaner worked amazingly, and there was enough in the batch for me to clean the floors in the kitchen, foyer, and both bathrooms. It also made our house smell like peppermint again. Yum!
Please excuse the hideous linoleum floor that the previous owner put in. I absolutely hate this floor, and pretty much all of the linoleum in our house (and carpet for that matter), because it always looks dirty, even right after I clean it, because of the divots within the linoleum surface. Whoever designed this flooring is a total idiot. We've been saving up to redo the entire downstairs of our house ever since we moved in two years ago, and hopefully 2012 will be our year!
The stack of rags that you see next to the buckets are made from my husband's old undershirts. Every so often, I'll pull out his undershirts that have seen better days, cut them up and use them for rags while cleaning instead of paper towels. I cut them up into three sizes so I can use them as a washcloth and two different sizes of rags. This is much less wasteful option than using paper towels while cleaning. I can't imagine how many paper towels I would have used today. With the rags, I can throw them in the washer on the sanitize cycle and then use them again.
Today's cleaning also included making the toilet cleaner (for the non-bowl parts of your toilet), which is comprised of castile soap, water, and tea tree oil. This mixture is put in a spray bottle, so you don't have to whip up a new batch for every cleaning if you don't use it all at once. The Bowl Cleaner and Sink Volcano are my two favorite recipes so far, because they're like a science experiment while you're cleaning! Both recipes involve mixing baking soda with vinegar (the bowl cleaner also includes tea tree oil), which gives you a fizzy treat before you get to scrubbing.
I remember making something called Lemon Fizz when I was in elementary school, which I'm assuming was much like this mixture. When I first used this recipe, I thought it would make the whole house smell like vinegar for days, but it actually doesn't. Who knew that vinegar was such a great cleaning agent? Maybe you did, but I surely didn't! Make sure to thoroughly wipe down the sink with water after using the Sink Volcano because the baking soda leaves a film. Otherwise, these recipes were super easy and effective too!
The last concoction that I used today was the Soft Scrub to clean our shower, which I had left over from the last time I made it. This Soft Scrub contains baking soda, tea tree oil, castile soap, and crushed up asprin, and works so much better than the Soft Scrub with Bleach that I used to clean the shower with. The shower was just as clean as with the bleach, but I didn't have to scrub nearly as hard, which I attribute to grittiness that the baking soda causes. You put this mixture in an old shampoo bottle and dispense it pretty much like your standard Soft Scrub. Amazing!
If you are new to natural cleaning products and are worried about making the switch, let me assure you that it's worth it. Our house smells delicious instead of hazardous, and the recipes are super easy and quick so it doesn't double your cleaning time like you might expect. Plus, you'll be so distracted by the fun science experiments that you'll forget you're actually cleaning!