Scouring: For greasy dirt usually encountered in the kitchen and on the walls where young (or maybe not so young) hands have trod, wash surfaces with a small amount of Washing Soda in water. Use rubber gloves when putting hands directly into a Washing Soda solution since it’s very strong and can irritate the skin. For stubborn grease you can make your own SCOURING POWDER by combining 1 cup of baking soda and 1/4 cup of washing soda. Sprinkle and use like any scouring powder.
All-purpose Spray Cleaner: Combine in a spray bottle: 1/2 tsp Washing Soda, 1/2 tsp Borax, 1/2 tsp vegetable oil-based soap, 2 Tbsp vinegar and 2 cups of hot water. Shake well until all the solid bits have dissolved. For extra cleaning power increase Borax to 1 tsp. Spray and wipe clean with a damp cloth or sponge.
Musty Smells: Combine 1 tsp of tea tree oil and 1 cup of water in a spritzer bottle. Spray the area, but don’t wipe it off. In a couple of days the smell should be gone and the tea tree oil will have dissipated. If not…repeat for a couple of more days.
Moisture Problems: Mould and mildew thrive in moist, warm areas. To keep these areas under control place out bowls of unscented kitty litter to absorb the moisture. Replace these once a week.
Mildew in books: Place some cornstarch in a sprinkle container and sprinkle the cornstarch onto the pages lightly. Let it sit for a few hours and then wipe and shake clean.
Glass: Wash windows with two to three tbsps of vinegar to three litres of warm water. Dry with crumpled newspaper for sparkling results.
Scummy vases? Put in one tbsp of vinegar and fill with warm water. Leave to soak for 10 minutes. Rub with a soft cloth then rinse.
Wood: Mix one part olive oil with one part lemon juice. Rub on furniture or apply with a spray bottle, then polish with a dry cloth. Use this mix to make wood floors gleam.
Floors: Mop vinyl, laminate or ceramic tiled floors with eight tbsp of vinegar diluted in three litres of hot water.
For pet odours and stains in carpets, mix equal parts of vinegar and water. Apply to affected areas. Blot with kitchen roll (recycled is preferable), until moisture is absorbed. You may need to repeat the process.
Stainless Steel: Clean and shine any stainless steel surface with a paste of soda and water. Apply liberally with a damp cloth. Leave for about five minutes, then wipe.
Mildew and Mould: Banish black spots with one part vinegar or lemon juice to one part baking powder. Apply and leave for one or two hours. Rinse off. It may need to be reapplied or left longer, depending on how severe your mould or mildew is.
Air Freshener: Baking soda eliminates odours. Mix eight tbsp with three drops of your favourite essential oil. Place in a decorative bowl or vase.
Soda in the bottom of ashtrays absorbs smoke smells. It’s also like sand for stubbing out cigarettes.
Dab some essential oil on a light bulb. When on, the heat will diffuse the fragrance.
Drain Cleaner: Put down one part soda, followed by four parts hot vinegar. Leave overnight if possible.
Baths, Shower Doors, Tiles and Grout: Bathrooms no longer have to be a chore to clean. The same cleaning products used in the kitchen are suitable for the bathroom; white vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice. However, you can use rubbing alcohol and you’ve got a great glass cleaner.
Bathroom Glass Cleaner-1-2 tablespoons of white vinegar mixed with 1 quart of water in a spray bottle. To remove oily fingerprints and hairspray from the mirror, dab on a little rubbing alcohol and wipe with a linen rag.
Bathroom/Bathtub Glass Sliding Doors:-1/4 cup white vinegar mixed with 3/4 cup of hot water. Those hard water stains will wipe away like magic!
Bathroom Floors: The same as kitchen floors: 1/2 cup of vinegar with 1-gallon hot water. This is safe for hardwood, linoleum, tile, and any washable surface.
Tackle body oils and soap scum with two parts soda to one part vinegar or lemon juice. The thick paste should be applied with a damp cloth. Leave for 10 minutes then rub with a brush or sponge. As you rinse it off, drains will be kept fresh too. Use this mix on shower doors, sinks, tiles and grout. If cleaning grout, rub with a toothbrush.
Toilet: Keep loos clean and fresh – put eight tbsp of soda in the bowl. Leave overnight. Sprinkle soda onto a damp cloth to clean toilet seat and cistern, then wipe with a wet cloth.
Cutting Boards: To get rid of strong odours on cutting boards, wipe them with vinegar or baking soda or lemon slices or celery. This also works on countertops. For countertops only, a few drops of essential oil of lemon thyme in a cup of water and spritzed on the surface and then wiped, works well too.
Kitchen Floors: In a bucket mix 1/2 cup white vinegar with 1-gallon hot water. This is safe for hardwood, linoleum, tile, and any washable surface.
Microwaves and Ovens: Clean with a cloth dampened in equal parts of vinegar and water. To remove microwave odours, place some lemon slices in a bowl of water. Put on high for a few minutes.
Oven Cleaner: Mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda, 1 tablespoon salt, and add 1/2 cup hot water. Make a gritty paste, apply to the oven, heat slightly, cool and then wipe away with a damp rag.
Refrigerator Seals: The plastic seals of refrigerators can be wiped free of debris with a rag dabbed in white vinegar. An old toothbrush can also come in handy used with toothpaste containing baking soda such as Arm & Hammer.
Kitchen Cabinet: 1/4 cup of lemon juice mixed with 1 quart of hot water. Lemon juice helps to remove grease from wood and metal.
Dishwashing by Hand: In a small spray bottle, fill 3/4 with water and 1/4 with lemon juice. Lemon juice is the main ingredient in dishwashing detergent because it is an excellent grease fighter. You don’t need any of the other ingredients that make up commercial dishwashing detergents–mostly fragrances.
For laundry, there are three products to use: washing soda, white vinegar and salt.
Laundry Detergent for White Clothes: use 1/4 cup washing soda (sodium carbonate) in place of bleach. Bleach is one of the most toxic substances for the environment. Washing soda costs only a few pennies per wash load, and it is far less expensive than bleach. Along with the washing soda, add 1/4 cup of white vinegar.
Laundry Detergent for Dark Clothes: use 1/4 cup of white vinegar and 1/4 cup of salt.
Salt helps restore faded colours, and to remove dirt and grime.
For carpets there are three choices: salt, baking soda or cornstarch.
Just as salt helps to restore the colour of dark coloured laundry, it also helps to bring out the colour in carpeting, while at the same time, removing dirt. Sprinkle 1/4 to 1/2 cup of salt (depending on the size of your rug or carpet), let it sit for 15-30 minutes, and then vacuum. You can also alternate between salt and cornstarch. The instructions are the same. To remove odours from carpets, add 1/4 cup of baking soda to the salt (or cornstarch) and make a powder with the mixture, sprinkle on the carpet and let it sit for at least 30 minutes, and then vacuum. If you want to add a fresh scent to your carpet, you can sprinkle Cinnamon, or All Spice on the carpet, let it sit for 15 minutes and then vacuum.
For crayon marks, spilled candle wax, and residue left from tape and other adhesive, dab with mineral oil and wipe gently with a rag. Mineral oil is the main ingredient of many commercial products that advertise the removal of greasy wax stains and marks.
Making Your Own Products
The purpose of the basic ingredients
Oil feeds the wood, vinegar cleans the wood. Vodka or mineral spirits make is possible for the wood to absorb the oil. Waxes solidify the liquids and seals the wood
The first two recipes use a Base Oil which can be made up and kept on the shelf to be used as needed for wood floors and furniture. (It can also be used on your aching joints when you finish!). OR you may use food grade linseed oil instead.
For equipment you will need the top portion of a stainless steel or glass double boiler, an electric skillet and a cooking thermometer.
Base Oil: Into the top of the double boiler place a handful of lavender buds (you may also use lemon balm leaves for a lemon fragrance) and just cover the buds with olive oil. Clip the thermometer to the inside of the pan for measuring the temperature of the oil. In the electric skillet place 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch of water to protect the finish of the skillet. Place the double boiler in the center of the skillet. Rotate the temperature control on the skillet to about half way to the “warm” setting and wait to see what the temperature of the oil will become. Fidget with the control a bit at a time until you have a steady temperature of the oil between 95 and 100 degrees F. Allow the mixture to steep at this temperature for twelve to fourteen hours or until the lavender looks “used up”. If the fragrance is not strong enough, strain the oil and place another handful of flowers back into the same oil and repeat the process. You can do this a number of times if you like. The alternative is to simply add some drops of essential oil of lavender to the first batch of the base oil to intensify its fragrance or wait until just ready to use it and do it then. Start with this small batch to get the feel of it and store in a labeled jar.
NOTE OF CAUTION! Do not get impatient with homemade product formation. Some of the ingredients are flammable and only a low heat and a double boiler will do the job safely.
Wood Floor Wax: 1 cup base oil, 1/2 cup vodka, 1 to 1-1/2 oz grated beeswax, 1-1/2 to 2 oz carnauba wax (depends on hardness desired), 20 drops of essential oil of lavender.
NOTE: Carnauba wax is brittle and can be quickly pulverized by placing in a plastic bag and gently tapping with a hammer or other suitable tool.
Put the base oil and the waxes into the top of the double boiler and place over the bottom portion of the double boiler to which water is already added and is at a simmer. At “low heat” stir gently until all waxes are dissolved. Remove from heat and add vodka and essential oil and blend well. Pour into a clean, recycled nut can or other similar size heat-resistant container. Allow to harden. Use a rag to rub into the wood. If the rag “drags” too much, dip it into a tiny bit of the base oil.
Wood Floor or Furniture Polish: I have found this recipe to work equally well on “pseudo-wood”…you know…those inexpensive, laminated, wood-look desks and bookcases we picked up along the way when our wallets were thinner than our needs. The vinegar smell disappears quickly leaving the clean smell of lavender behind.
This is a tiny recipe, but a little of it goes a long way and there’s no point in mixing and storing a large batch unless you use it quite frequently. My experience with this particular recipe is that dust does not build up very quickly after applying. I surmise that static is reduced, thus dust is not attracted like a magnet. To apply, I prefer a 4 oz. squirt-top bottle.
You will need:
1/8 cup lavender base oil (or plain olive/vegetable oil if you don’t have the base oil handy)
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp vodka
10 drops of lavender
Lavender Furniture Wax: 2 oz grated beeswax, 1 tbsp carnauba wax, 1-1/2 cup mineral spirits, 20 drops oil of lavender.Mix all together well and rub into the wood with a clean soft rag.
Melt waxes in top of double boiler. Let cool 30 seconds or so, then add mineral spirits and oil. Stir well then place in suitable container.
Window Cleaner: Place the following in a spray bottle and shake well. Use as you would any window cleaner product.
1/3 tsp liquid castile or other liquid vegetable based soap
3 tbsp cider vinegar or white vinegar
2 cups water
Carpet Sprinkle: You will need a one-quart yogurt container or something similiar that you can keep around just for this purpose. You will also need some old sprinkle containers (or any type container with large holes for sprinking such as spice jars) saved from the supermarket.
BASIC RECIPE = 1½ cups baking soda mixed together with 20 drops of essential or fragrance oil(s) of choice
1½ cups baking soda mixed together with 1/2 cup of old potpourri powdered in a coffee mill or blender.
TIP!: You can also use about 1/2 cup of cornstarch in place of some of the baking soda if you wish a different consistency of sprinkle.
Place the baking soda in your mixing container and distribute the drops of oil, one at a time, here and there, throughout the powder. Don’t just lay them on top of the powder in what could only be called a “glumpy clump”. With the back of a spoon or other appropriate tool, blend the oil(s) well into the baking soda. Pour some of the powder out onto a piece of paper and use this as a funnel to pour into a sprinkle container. Continue til the container is filled. I like to make up enough at one time to fill three or four containers. The longer it stays in the container, the more fragrant it becomes.
VARIATIONS: During flea or bug season, use 1/2 cup borax and 1-1/2 cup baking soda. OR… use 1 cup diatomaceous earth (NOT the kind used for pool filters…check the organic gardening resources in your area), plus 1 cup baking soda. Diatomaceous earth (aka D.E.) is a superb natural product with many household and garden uses.
The fragrance choice for oils is personal. In spring and summer we prefer the clean smell of lavender which is also somewhat of a bug repellent. Recent studies indicate that the essential oils of lemon thyme, sweet marjoram, rosemary, basil and thyme look very promising for insect repelling properties. One great combination is citronella and patchouli oils. These can also be made into a soap with which to wash before heading outside during mosquito season.
Our spring and summer combination is 15 drops lavender oil, 5 drops rose oil, 2 or 3 drops musk oil.
When the bugs decide they prefer the accomodations of our home to the great outdoors, we combine 15 drops of lavender with 5 drops of citronella oil. You might wish to try equal amounts of both.
In either case we always add 2 or 3 drops of a floral musk fragrance oil to provide an overlying sweet floral scent.
Strictly for the bugs is a Super Zapper combination of oils of citronella, pennyroyal and eucalyptus.
The use of penyroyal requires certain cautions to be taken – it should be avoided by pregnant women and should not be used around very small children that will be spending time on the carpeting.
During winter, the smells of pine and cedar or the Christmas smells of cinnamon and cloves invoke feelings of warm/fuzzy holiday cheer. Use fragrance oils to create these moods. These oils seem pricey, but one tiny vial goes a very long way.
Air Fresheners: To sweeten the air add a little water to a potpourri burner and place 2 drops of essential or fragrance oil on the water and then light your warming candle. Or.. add the oil to the water kettle on the top of the woodstove. As the water and oil warm the oil is released into the air making this the simplest of all air fresheners.
Gel Fragrance in a jar: Make your own gel air freshener with a few simple ingredients. 1 cup water (divided), 1 envelope Knox gelatin, 1/8 tsp rubbing alcohol or vodka, 1/2 tsp essential oil or fragrance oil. Boil 1/2 cup water, then dissolve the Knox gel in it. Add the other half of the water (cold) and stir until blended. Add the alcohol and essential oil and stir until well blended. Pour into jars of your choice. Set out to fragrance a room. Don’t place on a very warm spot like the top of the TV or it will liquify some. If this happens, you can restore it by popping it into the refrigerator for awhile.
If you have silk flower arrangements in the house, then you can “hide” a drop of fragrant oil somewhere in the centres of the silk flowers. This will effectively scent a room for a long time. The same can be done with straw wreaths and dried arrangements. Refresh as necessary. This works especially well in the bathroom and it’s worth keeping a small decorative arrangement in there.
Another method is to place a drop or two of essential or fragrance oil on a cotton ball and tuck it in back of the radiator or under the end flaps of a baseboard heater. This needs to be repeated more often.
A really lovely air freshener is to place a few slices of some citrus fruit like lemon, orange or grapefruit into a pot of water on the stove. Simmer gently till you’re satisfied with the fragrance. (This is a good use for the leftover rinds after eating).
Yet another method is to combine 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp lemon juice (or a few drops of essential oil of orange or lemon) and 2 cups of hot water in a spray bottle then shake and use like any other air freshener.
To eliminate odors in the air (including tobacco odors), set out a bowl of vinegar.
Stuffy Winter Air: The herb Elecampane is particularly useful for getting rid of the winter “stuffies”. Place 2 tbsp of elecampane root in 2 pints of water, and with the pan uncovered, bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and allow to barely simmer for an average of 20 to 30 minutes. A small house might require only 10 minutes to improve the quality of the air. It also helps to relieve any stuffiness or congestion much like eucalyptus, but has a sweet delicate fragrance nicely suited for scenting the air. Small amounts of the strained liquid can also be used in the humidifier.
Laundry: You need not invest in expensive fabric softeners. Add one-half to 1 cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle of your machine. This is especially valuable when laundering cloth diapers as it will remove the problems usually causing diaper rash. It effectively rids the laundry of soap residue and allows the fabric to be naturally soft as well as balancing the pH which will extend the life of the fabrics. The smell of vinegar dissipates upon drying and leaves the laundry smelling fresh. If you wish to add fragrance to the laundry apply 2 or 3 drops of essential oil to a damp washcloth and place in the clothes dryer along with the wet laundry. I prefer lavender for its nice clean smell and disinfecting properties.
If you are thinking about making your own laundry soap follow the recipe below. It uses Fels-Naptha soap which is not entirely organic and might cause skin irritation on susceptible individuals, but the method could be used to experiment with organic bar soaps.
1/3 bar of Fels-Naptha soap, grated
1/2 cup washing soda
1/2 cup borax powder
1 tbsp essential oil (optional)
2 gallon jugs (Dorice uses recycled vinegar jugs)
Place grated soap in a large pot over medium heat and add 6 cups of water. Heat the mixture until the soap melts. Add the washing soda, the borax, and any essential oil. Stir constantly until all is dissolved. Allow to sit over heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes more. Using a funnel, place half of the solution in each of the gallon jugs, then add enough hot water to fill the container half way in each. Shake well, then fill the remaining half of each jug with hot water and shake again. Allow to sit for 24 hours when it will gel up and look like egg whites. Use 1/2 to 2/3rds cup per load. This solution will not suds up, but cleans great and makes the clothes smell fresh.
Sweet Linens: Grind lavender buds or dried scented geranium leaves or dried lemon verbena leaves in a coffee mill or blender. When changing the linens on the beds, sprinkle a small amount of this powder on the mattress (or mattress pad), then place the bottom sheet over and on the mattress. Since lavender has bug repelling properties, sleep time is not only sweet and relaxing, but reassuring as well. After placing fresh pillowcases on the pillows, sprinkle a small amount of this herbal powder inside the cases.
Another good combination is a small amount of mint added to the lavender. Or, you might wish to make some sleep pillows.
To further ensure that you are helping the environment to remain toxic free there are a few simple things that you can do:
Use Cloth Rags-Never use paper towels or the new “Disposable Wipes.” Such products are bleached, and are therefore toxins. Recycle old clothing, sheets and towels into rags. Wash once a week and you’ll never have to waste money on paper products again.
Recycle Paper and Plastic Bags- Never buy plastic garbage bags. Use the bags that you get from the grocery store to dispose of cat litter and household garbage. Invest in cloth bags to use for groceries, and take only 1-2 plastic or paper bags from the grocery store to use as trash bags. Paper bags are the most environmentally friendly, however most cities have ordinances against using paper bags for weekly trash pick-ups. Minimize your use of plastic.
Next time, I’ll be looking at decluttering a wardrobe/closet.