Join me as I continue my journey to find ways to make my home less dirty and gross while being friendly to the environment (and while also being kind of poor). Previously, I gave up floor cleaners and switched to a steam mop. Today, I try using plain white vinegar in place of many of my regular cleaning solutions and methods.
When looking up “green cleaning” methods, every single article, website, and forum makes mention of white vinegar. According to The Internets, this stuff is the holy grail of cleaning solutions. It’s cheap (I picked up a gallon jug at Target for $2.49), it’s non-toxic, which is good since you can, you know, eat it, and according to vinegar enthusiasts, it’s super effective. Yeah, I said “vinegar enthusiasts.” They exist. This is the world we live in.
I filled a spray bottle with undiluted white vinegar, grabbed a few old rags, and went to town.
- Test #1: The stovetop
Regular cleaning method: Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and/or Clorox Clean-up bleach spray
I have a gas stove with iron burner grates that lift off for cleaning. My ever-so-healthy diet of lots of pasta and lots of rice means that I get quite a lot of boil-overs, so my stovetop is generally kind of a mess. I removed the burner grates, and sprayed the cooktop surface with vinegar, making sure to saturate the really scuzzy areas. I let it sit for about ten minutes, then wiped everything up with a damp rag.
Results: Sparkling clean stovetop. Using the rag, I had to use a bit more effort than when I use my beloved Magic Eraser, but every bit of crap came off, and the surface was much shinier than when I use bleach or the Magic Eraser.
- Test #2: The oven
Regular cleaning method: Easy-Off oven cleaner; willful ignorance
OK, I don’t clean my oven very often. It’s gross, the Easy-Off burns my nose, and I’m always afraid I’m going to Sylvia Plath myself by accident. I had a spillover situation a few weekends ago, however, that resulted in a smoky house and a really dirty oven. I haven’t used the oven since then, because I know the minute I turned it on to preheat, it was going to get smokier than a Vegas casino floor, and fast. I sprayed the oven floor, walls, and the inside of the door with vinegar, making sure the oven floor was really well saturated, closed the oven door, and then walked away. I returned an hour later with a bunch of damp paper towels. (I KNOW, but have you ever tried putting really awful greasy rags in your washing machine? It never ends well.)
Results: I had to exert a little more energy than with the spray-and-wipe Easy-Off, but I didn’t feel like I was poisoning myself through my nostrils like I usually do. All of the baked-on gross stuff came right off. I don’t feel like it got quite as clean as it does with the Easy-Off (that always seems to return the inner surfaces to brand-new), and there are still a few dark spots, but I’m confident that the oven will not start smoking the next time I turn it on. Whenever that happens to be.
- Test #3: Laundry
Regular cleaning method: laundry detergent and fabric softener sheets
So I read somewhere/heard/possibly made up the fact that using fabric softener actually makes your towels less absorbent. This makes sense, I suppose. (WARNING: FAKE SCIENCE AHEAD.) Since fabric softener “sticks” to the fibers of the fabric, it would make sense that this would interfere with the towel’s ability to absorb moisture. Whatever, it’s my fake science and it makes sense to me. I also read somewhere/heard/possibly made up that washing your towels with a small amount of detergent and a cup of white vinegar will remove some of the fabric softener residue and make your towels towel better.
Results: The first thing I noticed had nothing to do with absorbency. The first thing I noticed was that my towels smelled really good. I use unscented everything because of allergies, and on occasion, my towels still retain a little bit of mustiness. The towels that I washed with vinegar, though, smelled like absolutely nothing, which, to me, is the best smell of all. I don’t have any sort of precision moisture-absorbing measuring apparatus, but I can say that the towels felt a little rougher, maybe? Like they didn’t have that sort of coated feeling that they usually do. I’m going to choose to believe that they’re now super absorbers and, frankly, because of the smell thing, I might add vinegar to all my loads of towels.
- Test #4: The bathroom
Regular cleaning method: Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, Lysol wipes, bleach (not at the same time as the Lysol wipes)
In the bathroom, I used the vinegar for a bunch of stuff. I dumped some into the toilet, let it sit for a few minutes, then scrubbed with my toilet brush. I used it to wipe down the counter and faucet handles. I sprayed the sink, bathtub, and shower walls with it and wiped with a damp rag.
Results: Everything was clean and shiny. There was no residue or gunk left over (especially around the sink and tub drains), and everything had a squeaky clean finish. Once again, I had to use a little more elbow grease than usual, but I’m overall very happy with the level of clean, especially when combined with the sanitizing power of my steam mop.
Overall findings: Vinegar is a pretty handy and effective cleaning solution. One thing, though: all of the places that I read about it assured me that my house would not smell like pickles as I was cleaning. LIES. There was a very distinctive vinegar smell, but it dissipated in a reasonable amount of time. My hands smelled like salad dressing, but that’s kind of my own fault for not wearing gloves. And given how cheap it is, I’ll definitely be using vinegar more often as I try to keep my habitat less gross while using fewer chemical cleaning solutions.
OK, folks, I’ve exhausted my “green cleaning” ideas. What would you like me to try next? Anyone have a great “green” alternative that will still allow me to be incredibly lazy?