(originally published here)
When I was pregnant I was lucky to be working at a bookstore, my breaks were spent devouring books of every subject with particular attention to pregnancy, parenting, healthy living and eating. I was carrying a miracle child and I intended to do the very best I could for her. I have always been very sensitive to chemicals and perfumes, how I discovered tending a household with natural cleaners I cannot recall but we’ve never turned back. Over the last eight years my love of the Earth and the environment has increased and with it a need to not poison it, after becoming a mother I became more aware of my actions and how they affected everything around me. I began holding myself accountable for my role as a child of the Earth. I started with some of the cleaners of my youth, spending so much time with my grandmother had it’s advantages, I began with the basics-vinegar, baking soda and borax. Now people often are wooed by the convenience that store bought toxic cleaners promise, no need to scrub, just spray and go. I find I get an ample workout from scrubbing, it’s a good way to work out stress and frustrations and why bother going to the gym when you can work those arms and stretch those muscles at home?
I’ll begin with the triad of the cleaners and follow up with other favorites that play a supporting role….
Vinegar is the most wonderful liquid on Earth, it disinfects, cleans, cuts grease and deodorizes. I use it for health and house, (apple cider and white respectively). It’s non-toxic and while the smell isn’t the greatest it does go away, vinegar is the mainstay of my cleaning supplies. My favorite tip? I add a cup of white vinegar to the final rinse of the laundry cycle, it removes soap residue and keeps line dried clothing soft. A natural fabric softener!
Borax is my second most used cleaner, for scrubbing the sinks, showers and tubs it is brilliant at keeping mold and mildew at bay and it leaves a clean fresh scent after rinsing. Scrub out the tub, rinse with vinegar and the borax will actually help slow mold and mildew growth. I also use this dissolved in water to wash out my refrigerator.
Baking Soda is another useful cleaning item. It deodorizes, makes a good scrubbing paste when mixed with some water. I make a carpet deodorizer using baking soda and pulverized herbs or spices. (my favorite is a rosemary, clove and lavender blend) To help unstop a drain (or to freshen a smelly drain) pour down some baking soda and follow up with a vinegar chaser. Let a stopped drain sit overnight and pour boiling water down the drain in the morning, more often than not the drain is cleared. Another use for baking soda is to pair it up with borax (a TB of each) into the dishwasher soap compartment. Add a cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle and you have beautifully cleaned dish ware (and a clean dishwasher to boot!).
As for other cleaners in my cabinets I use Bon Ami for those hard to scrub out stains, a little bit on the cooker range helps to get the cooked on food bits off. Murphy’s Oil Soap is wonderful for anything wood-based, if I am cleaning woodwork I add a few drops of citrus or lavender essential oil to the water. Lemons are another favorite though much of the time I’ll forgo fresh lemons and go to my bottle of Lemon essential oil. I have a collection of essential oils (“EOs”) for cleaning and general home health-The top five must haves include: lemon, orange, eucalyptus, tea tree and lavender. I also like to have thyme, grapefruit, rosemary and clove on hand as well. Many of these kill viruses, bacteria, you name it. Tea Tree is not recommended for use in or around pets eating or sleeping areas, however as it can be toxic to them. Here’s a few ideas of how I use each "EO":
Tea Tree: is used in a blend (along with lemon, grapefruit, lavender) for my kitchen and bath spray. I add a few drops to the water reservoirs in my humidifier and vaporisor (when in use).
Lavender: excellent moth repellent, I add a few drops to the final rinse of the wash. Lavender is also antiviral and antiseptic with a gentle, pleasing aroma.
Eucalyptus: Used in the wash (10-15 drops) to kill dust mites in bedding. I make a spray with 8 drops of the oil with water or vodka and spray down pillows and stuffed animals (which I then seal in bags for several hours) and spray carpeting to kill dust mites. I also add Eucalyptus to the bath, vaporisors or blend with a few drops of thyme and vodka to spray the air and surfaces whenever anyone gets sick. The kitchen and bath blend mentioned above works well for this too.
Rosemary, Clove-mixed with baking soda and sprinkled on carpeting to freshen. I also soak cotton balls with a few drops of either oil and tuck them in hidden spots to lightly scent the house.
Mints: Spearmint or Peppermint work beautifully to keep mice away. Spearmint also does double duty as a base in a relaxing bedtime spray for the wee ones. I blend a little lavender, sweet orange and spearmint (with water or vodka) to relax my daughter at bedtime.
There are so many other non-toxic alternatives for cleaners. With the increasing amount of birth defects, illnesses and such it is only logical to look to our environment and diets for answers. The world today, our homes, places of work and play are all toxically overloaded. Something has got to give and usually it’s our health or that of our children’s. Toxin-free cleaners are a good start to healthier living.
Copyright © 2006-2012 Stephanie Lowell-Libby
Stephanie Lowell-Libby is a writer, a longtime organic gardener and former farmers’ market gardener living in New Hampshire where she is raising her beloved wee girl “Pixie” (who is, as of April 2010, battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia). A photographer, passionate cook, genealogist, licensed massage therapist, reiki practitioner, aspiring homesteader and spends much of her time outside enjoying all nature has to offer.