published Saturday, June 16th, 2012

Chemical-free ways to clean your home

  • photo
    You can clean your home with natural materials like vinegar, salt, baking soda and lemons.
    Photo by Tim Barber.
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RECIPES

For floors

Clean and shine with: 1 cup vinegar + 1 gallon water + 1 tablespoon castile soap.

For countertops

Clean and sanitize with: 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water or 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water plus 10 drops tea tree oil.

For tubs

Scrub and rinse with: 1 part water to 1 part baking soda or Kosher salt sprinkled liberally on a cut citrus fruit.

Ashley Commander began learning about chemical-free ways to clean her home when her son, now 4, was born.

"You want to give (your) child the best start possible," she said. "So I made a conscious effort to make everything that comes in contact with them as natural as possible."

Rachel Boyd said she began making her own cleaning products in college to save money and continued because harsh cleaners aggravate her husband's eczema.

"We hardly spend any money on cleaners," she said, estimating about a $20 investment every six months.

For pennies on the dollar, one can easily make cleaning products with items that are likely to be in the home already. Get started with these five simple ingredients.

Vinegar

If there is an MVP of homemade cleaners, vinegar would be it.

Ashley Farrar, president of the Chattanooga franchise of Molly Maids, said she uses vinegar frequently.

"Vinegar is amazing," she said. "You can use it on absolutely everything."

At Molly Maids, she said, vinegar is used on countertops, mirrors, hardwood floors and glass, as both a cleaner and a sanitizer.

Putting about one part vinegar to three parts water in a spray bottle creates an inexpensive, effective cleaning product.

"It shines mirrors and glass better than Windex or any glass product," Farrar said. "It smells a little bit, but the smell dissipates within about 15 minutes."

Kosher salt

Coarse kosher salt makes a good abrasive cleanser for lifting tough stains from sinks and cast-iron pans.

Boyd uses kosher salt to clean her oven. She warns, however, to rinse it out carefully. "It will smell terrible if you leave any in there."

She also adds kosher salt to a homemade dishwashing detergent -- made from half washing soda and half borax, plus a tablespoon of kosher salt per cup of mixture. This, she said, helps to eliminate any film on the dishes.

Kosher salt sprinkled on a halved lemon or grapefruit makes for a good bathtub scrubber, according to website apartmenttherapy.com.

Baking soda

Despite its name, baking soda is not just for cooking.

Commander said she first tried a mixture of vinegar and baking soda to get burned grease off her stovetop, and the mixture "just bubbled it right off," she said. "I was like 'holy cow.' " She said she also uses the mixture to clean out her sinks.

Baking soda sprinkled on tile and scrubbed with a damp sponge is effective, according to website The Daily Green. The site also recommends a paste of baking soda and water to clean ovens. Leave overnight and scrub off with a sponge.

Baking soda also can be used to scrub countertops, eliminate odors and polish silver.

Lemon juice

Used on its own or added to products, lemon juice can help fight stains and cut grease.

Boyd makes a homemade bleach using one cup vinegar, one-quarter cup lemon juice and two gallons of water. "It makes your whites very white," she said.

Mixed with water, lemon juice also makes a good glass cleaner.

Commander uses citrus to give her homemade products a better scent by marinating the peels in vinegar. Adding lemon juice to vinegar can help with the strong smell.

Castile soap

Castile soap, which has a vegetable-oil base (as opposed to an animal-fat base), originated in the Castile region of Spain and is derived from local olive oil. Castile soap can be used for washing hair, body and home.

Boyd adds one tablespoon castile soap to a mixture of five parts water and one part vinegar to clean her hardwood floors.

The website for popular castile soap maker Dr. Bonner's Magic Soaps recommends a quarter cup of castile soap as a laundry detergent. Mixed with equal parts water, castile soap makes a good dishwashing liquid. Blend one part castile soap and four parts water in a blender to create a foam and use as a carpet cleanser.

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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