Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Effectiveness of Natural Cleaners

A couple years ago, my mom sent me the book, Vinegar, Duct Tape, Milk Jugs & More by Earl Proulx. "1,001 ingenious ways to use common household items to repair, restore, revive, or replace just about everything in your life."

This has been a very interesting book, and it's changed how I think about small storage and organization, especially in my kitchen. However, it also includes a pretty vast range of recipes on how to make a variety of household cleaners. In a couple of weeks, I plan on making some homemade dishwasher detergent and fabric softener. I know I could use tennis balls in the dryer, but I think the idea of the sound of them during a cycle would drive me bonkers. And with a cat and a dog that's already shedding, I need my dryer. I can line dry a lot of things, but I still need the no heat air setting to remove the hair. I figure if the homemade cleaners don't work, I can go back to my usual gel dishwasher detergent and for the dryer, I can try store bought dryer balls.

But I have already tried other natural cleaning recommendations from that book. "Baking soda is also a great tool for deodorizing your dishwasher. When that's your goal, add 1 cup soda to the dishwasher when it's empty. Run the machine through the rinse cycle, then shut it off. Once it has dried, it should smell fresh." It definitely does, considering how a dishwasher sits, closed up, with dirty dishes that are streaked with food and drink, until it's run. It could be a few days in between cycles and I know the smell can be kind of rank at times. A friend of mine makes her own dishwasher detergent sometimes and said it works just as well as store bought powder.

One of the natural "ingredients" mentioned throughout the book for a variety of reasons was vinegar, especially as a glass cleaner. "This mild acid will clean and sine nearly everything in the house. Mix 1 cup vinegar and 5 cups water to clean windows or eyeglasses." The smell does take a little getting used to, but in my opinion, nothing cleans glass better than regular Windex Original Glass Cleaner or Armor All Auto Glass Cleaner, depending on your needs.

I like Armor All for our glass bearded dragon cage, our fish tank, and to remove doggie nose prints from the front door. I like Windex because of its versatility in what it cleans, and the smell doesn't seem nearly as harsh as the vinegar/water cleaner. Plus, vinegar/water cleaner just doesn't clean a tub or shower well enough for my liking. It may be a natural cleaner, but my bathroom just didn't look clean enough afterward (the soap scum didn't really go away, even with a thorough scrubbing), and I made up enough to fill a spray bottle that I was reusing after the Windex was gone.

But in that same vein of cleaning, I did find out the hard way that an SOS pad on an old bathtub is not a good idea. Our house was built in 1941 and I would imagine the bathroom has been updated once. The fixtures are all white and when we moved into the house in 2002, the tub was clean but dingy looking. Just recently, I ran out of bleach and needed to clean the tub, so I grabbed an SOS pad. When I was done scrubbing, the tub was clean but there were (and still are) grey scrubby streaks around the bottom of the tub. I can't even bleach those suckers away! I read on this page that a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser may work to remove those marks.

But all these natural cleaners that we can make in our homes for cheaper and greener than buying them, I don't think it's worth making them if they aren't getting the job done to your liking. I know it's adding unnecessary chemicals into our water and exposing us to things we might not need, but I'll be honest, I'd rather have a house that I know is clean than to wonder how clean it is.

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