Monday, February 15, 2010

Tip 27: the wonder of vinegar

Around this time last year I became convinced that everything in this world is going to kill us, so I started to try to postpone the inevitable by eating organic (when reasonable) and eliminating at least some chemicals from our house. While it usually costs more money to eat organic, it usually costs less to make your own cleaners. Turns out...

Tip 27: Vinegar is the base of almost every homemade household cleaner. Break out the spray bottles and keep your house stocked!

Vinegar is so great it deserves a haiku:

Base of cleaners
Acetic acid, water
Keep your pantry stocked

Of course, if you're a vinegar scholar, you'd know that the above poem specifically deals with distilled white vinegar, the subject of our admiration.

Here are two do-it-yourself vinegar-based cleaners that work just as well as any store-bought chemical solution (and no, your house will not smell like vinegar, as I originally feared when I began this experiment):

Glass/mirror cleaner
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 2 cups water
    • Store in a spray bottle
    • To be extra green, use newspaper or an old T-shirt when washing windows and mirrors. Yes, at first I was skeptical as well, but newspaper will not leave ink stains on your glass.
All-purpose cleaner (for bathrooms, countertops...but not marble or granite!!!)
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 2 teaspoons borax
  • 1/2 teaspoon castile soap
    • You'll notice that this recipe is not all that different from the one above. In fact, unless you're dealing with a particularly greasy/grimy situation, I'm an advocate for just using a vinegar/water solution to tackle most everyday cleaning situations.
Vinegar has buddies? Borax? Castile soap? What are they? borax. I found him at Target right near the laundry detergent. One box will last you a long time. It's got the consistency of baking soda, maybe a little more gritty. It's part of any do-it-yourself laundry detergent, and even if you're not quite there yet, it can be added to the wash to help remove stains. Pictured below is a 4 lb., 12 oz. box that ain't running out any time soon.

Now, meet castile soap. I found this guy in the natural foods and cleaning products section of my beloved grocery store, Wegmans. The product below is called Desert Essence Castile Liquid Soap with Organic Tea Tree Oil, 32 oz. size. Sounds fancy, but it's basically just liquid soap without the antibiotic additives and no animal ingredients. This is the base of do-it-yourself liquid dish washing soaps. Like the borax, I will have this product for a long time.

If you are going to make your own cleaning products, you need:
A funnel. Don't make a mess while you're trying to clean! I love this silicone one...

A spray bottle, or two. I would NOT recommend this one from Home Depot. The sprayer really does not work. Instead, I've had success using an old Windex bottle and sprayer. Just be sure to write on the bottle in marker to identify its contents (glass cleaner, all-purpose cleaner, etc.)

How do I know this stuff? I found this great book, Clean Home, Green Home by Kimberly Delaney ($13.57 at Amazon, or to be even greener, buy it used for nearly half the cost!). While I will never devote the amount of time to cleaning that this author suggests, it has encouraged me to seek green cleaning solutions whenever possible. Even though I am an English teacher, I am not a huge proponent of buying books. This book, though, is worth owning if you want to clean green. I find myself turning to this book several times a month for tips and reminders. The book contains straight-forward instructions and lots of charts and diagrams with little needless narrative.

Next up...sometimes even vinegar just isn't enough. A non-green cleaning discovery...

1 comment:

  1. Check out this blurb on green cleaning and Martha Stewart's new product line in the NY Times