Save Money, and the Earth, with Homemade Cleaners

Save Money, and the Earth, with Homemade Cleaners

Last week we discussed how toxic many household products are (so toxic that they are routinely referred to as hazardous household waste) and how to safely remove them from your home. This week we want to share some inexpensive and simple recipes so you can make earth-friendly replacements for those items.

We’ll start with cleaning supplies.

Conventional cleaning supplies: Homemade cleaning products can get your home just as clean as conventional products for far less money and with far less toxic exposure. They also smell better!

Here are recipes for a few multi-tasking items.

Glass cleaners can be made with white vinegar and water. Simply mix equal parts of each and place in a spray bottle. If you have been using commercial glass cleaners for a while, you may want to add a drop or two of liquid dishwashing soap to the first batch. Commercial glass cleaners often leave a waxy film on glass, which the soap will help remove. This works well on windows, mirrors, and chrome.

Cleaning powders can be replaced by simple baking soda. Sprinkle on your sink or tub after wetting it and scrub. If grime has built up, make a paste of baking soda and water, apply and let sit for 10-20 minutes before scrubbing.

For those who prefer sprays, mix 1/4 cup ammonia, 1/8 cup white vinegar, 1 Tablespoon baking soda, and 1 quart water. Put in a spray bottle and enjoy the savings. Note: Do not use this product on varnished surfaces.

When mopping, add 1/2 cup of white vinegar to a gallon of water. If you like, add a drop or two of essential oil for scent. Mop the floor with the mixture. The best part is you don’t have to rinse!

And this one isn’t multi-tasking but is so easy I had to share. To clean brass, simply coat with ketchup, let sit for 10 minutes, then wipe off with a soft cloth.

Air fresheners: One of the simplest and cheapest air freshening ideas is to open your windows and air out your living space. However, this is not an appealing option when the temperatures are breaking 100°!

Another inexpensive option is to pour 1/2 cup of white vinegar into a bowl and place it in the necessary area. If you have a stubborn cooking smell (fish comes to mind), you also add 1 Tablespoon of vinegar to 1 cup of water, place in a pot, and bring it to a boil. Vinegar eliminates the odor without replacing it with a vinegar smell.

Drain openers: If you notice your drains running slowly, an easy and inexpensive option is to pour boiling water down the drain. If that doesn’t work, try pouring 1 cup of baking soda into the drain and flush with 3 cups of hot water.

For even more stubborn drains, you can pour 1/2 cup of baking soda into the drain, then add 1/2 cup of white vinegar. Cover the drain so the mixture can work on the clog. Leave it for an hour, then flush with hot water. NOTE: Do not use this method if you have used a commercial drain opener and it may still be present in the drain.

Another option uses 1/2 cup salt, 1/8 cup cream of tartar, and 1/2 cup baking soda. Mix them together and pour the mixture directly into the drain. Follow with 6 cups of boiling water. Allow to sit for several hours (overnight works well). Flush with cool water and you’re done.

For more ideas and recipes, visit Pioneer Thinking or check out Karen Logan’s book Clean House Clean Planet: Clean Your House for Pennies a Day, the Safe, Nontoxic Way. This informative book, written by a mom, makes navigating green cleaning options very easy.

If you would prefer to utilize pre-made cleaners, the Austin-based company The Purple Fig Cleaning Company sells green cleaners in their online store. I met the owner of at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market and it was clear she was very passionate about this topic. You’ll save some time while supporting a local business!

Since today is Memorial Day, I also wanted to highlight a locally based nonprofit organization. The Military Child Education Coalition or MCEC assists military-connected children and their families around the globe with the goal of leveling the educational playing field for military children and serving as a model for all highly mobile children.

If you have ever moved with school-aged children, you know how different academic standards, courses, access to programs, promotion and graduation requirements, etc., etc. can be from school to school. Imagine dealing with those differences 6-9 times from K-12, as the average military-connected child does. Add to that the fact that many moves occur so a parent can deploy to another location, often overseas, and you can see how valuable MCEC’s support and programs can be to children and families.

As we honor those who have given their life for this country, also consider honoring those who have given pieces of their lives. Whether it is a dad missing the birth of his child or a mom missing her child’s prom, military parents are making often overlooked sacrifices. And military-connected children are making sacrifices as well. They have birthdays with photos and graduations via video rather than with their parents so that their moms and dads can serve our country.

Money is tight for many these days but consider supporting MCEC either in honor of Memorial Day or in the future. A great way to support our troops is to help their children get the education they deserve.

Greening Families is the online resource for families searching for eco-friendly information. Whether health, financial, or environmental concerns prompted your family’s interest in becoming more green, Greening Families can help you make a smooth transition to a more sustainable lifestyle. Created by two parents, who happen to be husband and wife, Greening Families knows what it is like to want the best for your child but face limited time, budgets, and energy levels to make changes. We find the most recent information and present it in easy-to-digest articles so you can concentrate on prioritizing your family’s needs.

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