A die-hard City Girl reconnects to the natural world… in the city.

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Homemade Household Cleaners: Tools for Getting Started

Homemade Household CleanersGreetings Slowvolutionaries!

I spent a good chunk of my day Friday making cleaning supplies for the house. My bathroom was a hot mess and I went to clean it and my supplies were low so I turned on some 80s music and pulled out my containers and got to work (it’s hard to pour vinegar without spilling when you’re Rebel Yelling. I don’t recommend it.).

Now for those of you wondering how you even go about knowing what to make, may I recommend that you invest in The Naturally Clean Home by Karyn Siegel-Maier. It has tons of very easy recipes and information on the basic ingredients you’ll need in order to make your own chemical-free-and-yet-still-just-as-great household cleaners for your home. This is where I’ve gotten the recipes for all the items you see in the picture there to the left.

When it comes to the containers you’ll be keeping all of your items in, well, that part is easy. Simply re-purpose the items you have in your home already. As you run out of cleaning supplies, THOROUGHLY clean out the spray bottles and containers and re-use them with your own recipes. In the photo there, you can see several spray bottles (I actually purchased those at Dollar General so they were each $1) and some re-used dishwashing liquid bottles (also from Dollar general so also $1), a tub of shortening that I re-used, a re-used lemon juice bottle and a re-used vinegar bottle. The only things that are new are the spray bottles. Moving toward a zero waste lifestyle, the key is to first figure out what you ALREADY have that you can re-purpose and THEN buy if you must.

SIDENOTE: I am trying very hard to eliminate plastic from my life as plastic is composed of chemicals. Not only that but it reacts with EVERYTHING it comes into contact with (yes, even your food) and leeches chemicals into it too. So by that reason alone, my all natural cleaners are no longer natural now that they’re in plastic bottles. Sad, right? However my budget does not allow me to purchase the new, fancy stainless steel spray bottles that are popping up as the plastic-free lifestyle gains steam. At least not yet. I’m willing to buy them new if it will help me get to a plastic-free (and thus chemical-free) life.

Now I recognize that we are all at different stages of fiscal health and so I’ll begin with what I call “The Poor Man’s Starter Kit”. This consists of the absolute necessities: Baking Soda and White Vinegar. You don’t need any special containers to hold these ingredients, simply fill your sink with hot water and 2 parts Vinegar to 1 part baking soda and clean away. For scouring power, sprinkle the baking soda onto the surface and then scrub with a brush or sponge covered with vinegar and water. The baking soda will leave a white film-like residue. To get rid of this, use a vinegar rinse which is 1 part water to 2 parts vinegar and it will go away. Vinegar and water make a great glass cleaner also so there you have it. All purpose cleaners with only three ingredients (one of which is already in your home).

For those of you who are looking to make this a more permanent lifestyle change for your home and you have money to spare for the upfront purchases, I suggest you do so. Adding the additional ingredients will in turn help all of them last longer, particularly if you buy in bulk. Now a cardinal rule of zero waste is buying in bulk as it cuts down on frequent trips to the store, packaging, etc to purchase the items. In some cases, there is no packaging at all. For example, I take my baking soda container to the store and fill it there. And seriously, if you purchase in bulk then it will last you at least 6 months and up to 18 months. So if you factor that in, the cost is next to nothing compared to the store-bought chemical cleaners.

My favorite place to shop is Soap Goods. You basically can get everything you could possibly need from this place. As a matter of fact, your boutique shops tend to get their items from this place. And the prices are incredibly reasonable. And the best thing? Bulk. They have tons of purchasing options from single serve to massive bulk sizes. I’ve developed what I call the $30 rule. This is a reasonable price for me and when shipping is added, never takes me over $50 which is my limit. And each pay period, I take the $30-$50 and buy another item for my repertoire. I’m down to only a few more items I’ll need and other than vinegar (seriously, you use it A LOT. It’s a blessing it’s super inexpensive), I won’t need to buy anything else until 2013. 😀

What’s on my list, you ask? Well the things I’ve purchased are: baking soda, borax, soap flakes, washing soda, castile soap, lime essential oil, Tea Tree Essential Oil, Lemon Juice and white vinegar. Yup, that’s it.  That’s approximately $200 for something that will last you about a year or more. Take a look around the website and look at the amount you get for your budget. $30 for Borax gets me 24 pounds of it! That should last me at least two years. Did you do the math? Yup, $15 per year, $1.25 per month, 4 cents per day. You could collect four cents a day by walking down a street and picking up pennies. My point? It’s not that expensive.

To go further with my zero waste, we will be slowly relinquishing our dependence on paper towels. We’ve been trying for a while now and have not had the kind of success I’ve hoped for but we’re going hard at it again in the new year. Microfiber cloths work fantastic, last forever and keep coming back for more. I cleaned my mirror with it the other day and it was amazing how little I had to wipe compared to paper towels.

Finally, a note about essential oils. Purchase your scent of choice and know that it will last you a very long time. Some can be incredibly expensive (I’ve seen oils for $4000 a pound. Holy Whoa Batman!) but what you want to make sure you have is Tea Tree Oil. It’s Mother Earth’s Miracle cure. It gets rid of EVERYTHING because of its antiseptic, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal properties. This oil does it ALL! I’ve kept it in my house for years for use on everything from cuts and scrapes to pimples and even a case of ringworm my daughter developed as a kid (Thank you Chuck E Cheese. Womp). Make sure it’s 100% and not diluted which is surprisingly rampant on the market.  I wanted a citrus scent so I went with the Lime Oil (that stuff is STRONG!). I purchased my 16 ounce bottle over 6 months ago and I’m just now getting into my 2nd ounce so it’s going to last me a good long while. Most recipes call for about ten drops and a dropper can hold up to thirty so you can imagine how slowly you go through the stuff. It’s well worth the price you’ll pay. I mix my tea tree oil with the lime oil and it gives me a double whammy of antibacterial properties for cleaning the worst germ-collecting rooms, kitchen and bath.

Alright, Slowvolutionaries. You have your shopping list. Now go on out there and arm yourselves! Find containers in your home you can re-purpose. Buy, in bulk if you can, the items you want to use that will help you further unplug from the Matrix of Toxic Consumerism (TOXCON) and await further instruction which will be coming soon on how to mix these ingredients together to create products that will clean your home. Don’t want to wait for the next post? The book above is where I get my inspiration. Don’t hesitate to get your hands on it.

And because I always leave you with an educational video…

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