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We Try It: All Natural Cleaning

Let me start by saying I hate to clean.  There’s no particular reason, I can just always find something I’d rather do than scrub, dust or vacuum the various parts of my home.  So I’ll usually buy whatever product says it will allow me to spend less time cleaning and more time goofing around on the internet, harsh chemicals be damned.   To say I was skeptical about using all natural household products is serious understatement.

Color me surprised.  It was just as easy to do most of the tasks I tried with vinegar, lemon juice, borax and baking soda as it was with almost any (way more expensive) product I’d used previously.  Hooray! Plus, my house didn’t stink like chemicals when I was done, and that’s always a win.  Here’s what I did and with what I did it.

Vinegar – I’ve long used vinegar in my dishwasher as the lazy woman’s water softener.  The area where I live has a lot of scale in the water, and actual water softeners cost more than my first car.  Adding half a cup of vinegar to the dishwasher cuts through the gunk and makes everything sparkle like in the commercials.  Taking this knowledge to heart, I decided to clean my glass shower with vinegar and water.  (1 part vinegar to 3 parts water)  Holy crap! It worked like a charm! I sprayed the door and walls, let it sit for about five minutes and used a nubby kitchen sponge to wipe clean.  The solution cut right through the lime, the scale AND the soap scum, and I barely had to work to get the whole thing clean.

Time spent: 20 minutes.  Cost: pennies. Satisfaction: high.

Baking Soda – I used a paste of baking soda and water as an abrasive to clean the disgusting oven racks and the kitchen sink.  I won’t lie to you, dear readers, it was hard work.  The abrasive powder cleaner I normally use (named after a flying space rock) was much easier, but I did feel a little smug that I wasn’t directly contributing to the destruction of our environment while using the baking soda.  Still, the project took about twice as long and the baking soda left a weird white film on everything that was difficult to rinse away.

Time spent: 1.5 hours.  Cost: pennies.  Satisfaction: meh.

Baking Soda + Vinegar:  Now here’s where it got fun.  Yes, baking soda and vinegar mixed are the key ingredient in elementary school volcano demonstrations.  Cleaning with a volcano is awesome.  I used the powerfully fizzy combination to clean out a couple of slow drains and to clean my rings.   For the drains, I poured in about 1/4 cup baking soda followed by 1 cup of vinegar, waited for it to stop bubbling and flushed with hot water.   Worked as well as the hardcore drain cleaners, with none of the fears of going out like Heather #1 in the movie of the same name.   To clean my rings, I dropped them in a shot glass, which I set in a cereal bowl to catch any fizzy overflow.  I added about a teaspoon of baking soda, then about 2 tablespoons of vinegar.  I let it sit for half an hour, then rinsed off the rings.   They came out sparkly, and even the gunk that gets caught under the stones was gone.

Time spent: 10 minutes.  Cost: pennies. Satisfaction: off the charts.

Lemon juice: Lemon juice is a natural de-greaser, so I tried cleaning the inside of my oven with it.  I do not recommend you try this at home unless you have all day to spend cleaning the inside of your oven.   While that experiment was disappointing, I was pleased with how well chopped up lemons cleaned my garbage disposal.   I also had some success with mixing lemon juice and water in a microwave safe dish and nuking it for a minute and thirty seconds, then wiping down the inside of the microwave.   It smelled great and the steam loosened all the unidentifiable stuff stuck on the inside.

Time spent: on the oven – hours, a couple of minutes with the other projects.  Cost: $2 in lemons.  Satisfaction: mixed.

Borax:  I have cats.  Cats will pee on your stuff when you piss them off.  Cat pee smells like rotten despair.  Getting the smell out of your stuff is typically a sisyphean task.  Borax, I’ve discovered, is the answer.  If the kitties make a political statement on anything that can go in the washing machine, adding 1/2 cup of Borax to the wash will get rid of it in one cycle if it’s fresh pee.  I’ve found three cycles will typically remove older, set in political statements.   Knowing this, I tried cleaning the litter boxes with a mix of Borax and water.   It worked great, and I recommend it to everyone who will listen now.  It’s still not a fun job, scrubbing the cat boxes, but it was certainly easier than trying to do it with a spray bottle of Fantastik and a roll of paper towels.

Time spent: half an hour.  Cost: $4 for a box of Borax.  Satisfaction: high.

What about you, readers?  Do you use natural products when you clean?  What works for you?

By [E] Selena MacIntosh*

Selena MacIntosh is the owner and editor of Persephone Magazine. She also fixes it when it breaks. She is fueled by Diet Coke, coffee with a lot of cream in it, and cat hair.

5 replies on “We Try It: All Natural Cleaning”

that is a great jewelry cleaning tip!! Can it be used for all kinds of metal jewelry?

A tip I share with everyone: use a mix of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda for yellow armpit stains on white shirts (I’ve only used it on cotton/cotton blend clothing so test it on a small piece of the fabric first).
I just make a small amount of paste using 1 part hydrogen peroxide to 2 parts baking soda. I then put that on the stains and let sit for a few hours. Then, throw them in the wash like normal and you’ll be amazed!

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