Monday, June 16, 2008

Using Natural Cleaners

During the Spring Week in Feminine Dress this May, Miss Nona Eleanor saw my Monday post and asked how I use vinegar for cleaning. Since today is another cleaning day in our household, I thought I'd share what I do -- with the hopes that some of you may leave tips, too! *wink*

Before I start, please note that if you decide to use vinegar as a cleaning agent, DO NOT mix it with chlorine bleach! It creates toxic fumes. The same goes for ammonia, by the way, although I no longer use it to clean.

For cleaning our bathrooms (and just about everything), I use baking soda, pure vinegar, and a half-and-half vinegar and water mix. The baking soda I keep in a little shaker, and the other two I keep in spray bottles. If you can't clean it with these three products, you probably can't clean it with anything!

Sinks: Using a cup, I wet down the sink surfaces with hot water. I then sprinkle the sink with baking soda. We have pedestal sinks, so I don't have to clean a counter surface -- but the baking soda will work for counters, too. It's a gentle abrasive, so it won't scratch. I let the baking soda sit while I do the mirrors. To clean out the sink, I use a sponge (the kind with a soft side and a scrubby side) and then rinse out the sink again with more hot water. To give it a final polish, I wipe out the sink with a damp flannel cloth, schpritzed with the half-and-half vinegar solution. This helps eliminate any remaining baking soda. I dry off the faucet with a dry flannel cloth so that there are no streaks or water marks.

Mirrors: For mirrors, I use the half-and-half vinegar solution. Using a dry paper towel, I wipe the mirrors until they sparkle and are streak-free. It's just like using regular glass cleaner, but without the awful ammonia fumes!

Tubs and Showers: First, run VERY hot water in your shower for a minute or two -- if you have the detachable shower heads, this is even easier because you can project the water on each surface. The hot water will help loosen shower scum and sediment. I spray the half-and-half vinegar solution liberally over the shower and tub surfaces and let it sit while I do sinks, mirrors, etc. To clean the shower, I use my sponge and wipe down the surfaces. If you do this regularly, you don't have to use too much "elbow grease." For soap scum in tubs, I sprinkle baking soda on the tough bits, and possibly follow it up with a few sprays of the full strength vinegar. There's a bit of a "fizz" from combining the vinegar and soda! Then I use the scrubby side of the sponge and wipe it vigorously with a circular motion. I had tried for months to get the soap scum off of our tub using chemical cleaners, but none of them got it off -- I couldn't believe it when baking soda (which had been sitting in our cabinet all along) took it right off! When I'm done cleaning, I rinse every surface with hot water again. To prevent streaking, I use a $1 squeegee that my father got at the Dollar Store. It's brilliant for getting the shower dry without messing up towels.

Toilets: For our toilets, I sprinkle baking soda in the bowl and let it sit. I spray the lid, handle, and rim with the full-strength vinegar. I only use the full-strength vinegar for really tough jobs, since the half-and-half is usually sufficient. Using a paper towel, I wipe down the surfaces. I like a paper towel for this because I can discard it when I'm done. I scrub the bowl with a brush (love that scouring baking soda action!), flush, and rinse the brush clean before putting it back.

Using natural cleaners and reusable materials (flannel cloths) has made me much happier about cleaning the bathroom! While I still use rubber gloves just because it gives me more "freedom" to clean, I no longer have to wear them because of chemicals. And with research out there that suggests that housewives have higher cancer rates due to the toxic chemicals in cleaners, having peace of mind is a good thing. I no longer have to run out of the bathroom when the fumes give me a headache (although, I will admit, vinegar can be potent! But the smell disappears when it dries).

Here are a few of the websites I used when I was researching this area. I'd love to expand and start using essential oils and other things when I clean, but for now I'm happy with my "Basic 3"

~ Vinegar: (Almost) the Only Cleaner You'll Ever Need
~ 27 Ways to Clean With Baking Soda

~ The Manifold Magic of Baking Soda
~ Naturally Frugal Cleaning

~ Natural Cleaning Recipes

~ 3 Homemade Natural Cleaning Products

~ Creative Uses for Vinegar and Baking Soda

From the Backyard Herbalist (which has other useful information, as well)
~ Basic Cleaning Products (Although I think it could be called, "How to Clean Just About Anything!")

Does anyone else have natural cleaning tips? I'd love to hear them!


  1. I love useing vinegar when we clean! We use it as fabric softner in our HE washer. It works great with baking soda and water to clean everything!

  2. Shannon, thankyou for your cleaning tips. Guess what! I now want to clean our bathroom to try them out!

    I may have said this before, but I love using vinegar/water solution on windows. You use it on them much the same way as you use it on mirrors. It works beautifully!

  3. For your mirrors, you could try using newspaper. I usually get a bucket of vinegar water, dip a microfiber cloth in it, and wipe it on the mirror. Then I wipe the water off with recycled newspaper. It's streak free and I don't have to waste paper towels (which seem to always leave lint, anyway. Newspaper doesn't.)

  4. Thanks for posting this Shannon! :D I'm going to have to tell my mom about this and we shall try it next time we are cleaning the bathroom! *grins*


  5. Oh yes, I love using natrual cleaners!

    Another tip I have found is if you only put in half the washing power/detergent you usually do for towels and add in 1/2 a cup of bicarb soda with the wash. Then put cheap white vinegar in the rince cycle - it makes the towels so lovely and fluffy. (it may take a few washes if you have been using a strong detergent to get all the detergent chemicals out of the fiber of the towels) And dry them outside, the sun is a great antibacterial agent and your towels smell so beautiful and fresh.

    And if you run some lavender oil along doors and window sills it will repell bugs and spiders.

  6. I use vinegar all the time for cleaning. I also swear by the newspaper trick! It is perfect - it is recycling, it leaves no streaks, and it is super cheap!

    I clean with diluted vinegar and wipe away with newspaper on mirrors, shower doors, windows and the surface of electrical appliances. I wouldn't be without my vinegar mixtures and newspaper! :)

  7. I'm bookmarking this post...

    I have also read that hydrogen peroxide, another friendly and essential household substance, is good for cleaning, though I'm not sure how... It would be something to research. :)

  8. Vinegar is the best! I just add a few drops of lemon essential oil and it helps the smell quite a bit ;)

  9. Great ideas! Thank you so much for the suggestions. The newspaper idea is great, since we always have old newspapers lying about :) Maria Pauline, I'll have to look into hydrogren peroxide. I've used it to get out blood, but never as a household cleaner before. Lauren Christine, I think I'll have to try that essential oil tip -- lemons have a nice clean smell, and anything has to better than vinegar (except of course, chemical fragrances ;).

    Isn't it funny that (most of us) have to "discover" how to clean with natural cleaners -- the only things available to our ancestors?!

    Yours in Christ,

  10. This is about 2 years late but oh well. I've been using vinegar to clean for a while but never really liked the smell. I added lemon oil and that worked but the oils expensive. I've just found the perfect solution. In a large jar put a generous amount of citrus peelings, lemons, oranges, manderins, and what ever else you eat, fill jar with white vinegar and leave for a week or two. Strain and you have wonderful citrus smelling vinegar. It's amazing. I don't know why I didn't find it earlier.
    Happy Cleaning


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