Green Clean

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m trying to get a little bit greener lately. I’m still on the plastic bag embargo, and aside from getting even more serious about non-hormone-added meat & organic foods, my next area to tackle is cleaning. After all, do you know what’s in your cleaners? Not many people do, since they are not required to list all of their ingredients on the labels and not many do.  But all I had to do was think – do I really want to breathe the fumes of some cleaner strong enough to dissolve dirt on contact?  Do I want my daughter to sit in a tub I’ve cleaned with that stuff?  Do I want my hands to feel all irritated from cleaning with them?  Hmm, no!   I’ve been thinking for a while that it’s something I wanted to try, and I saw an ad for the book Clean House, Clean Planet by Karen Logan while I was doing some web research. I bought it, read it, and decided to give it a try. One of the things from this book that really got me over the hump was the idea of scented vinegar. I don’t really love the smell of white vinegar, so I thought a scented one would help me get started. I assembled all of my ingredients for the initial experiment, which was mainly baking soda, vinegar, essential oils, and liquid soap (not detergent – makes a difference and soaps are not so easy to find), and finally got around to trying it today.

From all of my reading, I fully expected that I would need to put some more effort into scrubbing, that rinsing might be more of an issue, and that the homemade remedies might not get everything quite as clean. Still, I was willing to try it for a completely non-toxic solution. Well, after today’s experiment, I’m happy to report that none of the above issues materialized. First, I will note that today’s experiment included mirrors, tubs, showers, and sinks only. I still cleaned the toilets with existing cleaners, and I didn’t do the floors yet. I also didn’t pre-mix cleaners (other than a 1:1 vinegar/water solution), but just used baking soda and a little liquid soap directly on the surfaces with my vinegar/water solution used as needed also. Here are my observations about the experiment as a whole:

  • Scenting vinegar does help, but it still smells somewhat vinegary, and so will your house.  Adding more essential oil helps, and making sure it’s in solution before spraying helps also (I had to shake it frequently).
  • The clean was great!  Everything really sparkled, and I thought everything was at least as clean as with commercial cleaners.
  • Rinsing was easy.  In fact, I thought it was easier than rinsing Comet or something like that, although how much liquid soap you use can make a big difference here.  (And if you have to substitute a detergent for a soap, you’ll need to rinse more)
  • Scrubbing was the same.  The dirt level was average for my house, and I didn’t think I had to scrub any more than with the other cleaners to get a really great clean.
  • It is way too easy to use too much baking soda, even using a shaker as the author recommends.  While rinsing was easy, I did have a little baking soda residue left when all the surfaces were dry.  It’s a little powdery and gritty (Jason’s pet peeve).  The book says a little vinegar rinse will take care of it – not a big deal, and probably the result of me using too much in the first place.
  • In retrospect, perhaps I should have mixed a tub and tile cleaner from the recipe in the book instead of mixing on the surfaces.  While it would have taken a little more time at the beginning, I think that would have prevented some of the baking soda residue, and I think I will try it next time.

I could not be more thrilled with the results of my experiment so far.  Especially since, as a bonus, I actually finally got the film off all of our mirrors.  You see, a long time ago (I won’t say how long), I tried to use the Method glass cleaner on the mirrors in my house.  I highly recommend you never do this.  All of my bathroom mirrors developed a film on them from that cleaner (or its reaction with the cleaner used before, who knows).  I have tried using other commercial cleaners to get it off since then, with some limited success.  They would look clean,  but then the mirrors (especially the tops) always seemed to have a little film come back after cleaning.  Well, not anymore.  Today I washed the mirrors with liquid soap and water, and then rinsed them with my vinegar/water solution.  They sparkle like they have not sparkled in QUITE some time.  The film is gone!  And I am fully converted to a greener way of cleaning.

5 Responses to “Green Clean”

  1. Brian Says:

    The vinegar stinks for a bit, but I find the smell totally vanishes after it dries. (We’ve been doing this a while..) Vinegar seems to be really good at dealing with fat-based stains in particular.

    Charlie’s Soap is fantastic also, btw. It works better than most other soaps for anything you might use soap for – laundry, carpet, kitchen, whatever – and it’s *just soap*. It’s especially nice on laundry.

    ..and I hate to throw something else at your list, but I’m going to anyway. :-) (and plastic bottles in general)

  2. Scot Says:

    I started using Dr. Bronner’s soaps on a long hiking trip maybe 12 years ago, and wouldn’t buy anything else now. I use it for handwashing, but also for all-purpose cleaning and scrubbing around the house. Pure castile–real soap!–instead of detergent. Makes a big difference.

  3. chime Says:

    One of us. One of us. Welcome to the.. um.. green side. It’s just gets worse from here. :)

  4. chime Says:

    Oh, also:

    Just in case you haven’t already seen it.

  5. How to “go green” on Earth Day | Chica and Jo Says:

    […] products: One of our regular readers, Jenny, shared with us the tale of her foray into making her own “green” cleaning products. She includes instructions on how to make vinegar-based cleaning solutions that don’t smell […]