By Tamara Mayfield
Art by Matthew Lynaugh
Few things are nicer than a freshly cleaned home. But whether you love or despise cleaning the house yourself, it’s a job that cannot be ignored. No matter where you live, dust will settle on the surfaces of furniture and floors, pet hair will collect in the nooks and crannies of every room and soap scum will build on the shower walls. But are harsh, toxic chemicals the only answer to getting things truly clean? Not at all!
To minimize toxins in the home and to keep dangerous chemicals out of our water supply, it’s always best to clean with products free of chlorine, ammonia and phosphates. There are a number of excellent products available on the market—some more costly than others—in a dizzying array of solutions for every specific task and fragrance preference. But an even better and more affordable way to keep things clean and green is to skip the stores altogether and make your own cleaning compounds. Here are a few basic everyday cleansers that are easy to make from items you probably already have on hand:
In a spray bottle, mix one part distilled white vinegar with one part water, then add a few drops of a mild dish soap (like Seventh Generation’s Free and Clear Natural Dish Liquid) and a couple drops of your favorite essential oil (optional). This solution works well on kitchen and bathroom surfaces, hard-surface floors (non-wood), glass and mirrors.
Scrubbing Paste or Powder
In a small, lidded container, mix together a quarter cup of baking soda, one tablespoon of distilled white vinegar and one teaspoon of liquid castile soap. Apply with a wet sponge to remove soap scum and stains from your bathtub and sink, and hard water stains from your glass shower doors.
Toilet Bowl Cleanser
Store-bought toilet bowl cleanser is one of the most toxic of all cleansers. Instead of using it, pour a little distilled vinegar in the toilet bowl and let it soak while you clean the rest of the bathroom. Then, using a toilet bowl brush (and some of the all-purpose cleanser if you need to supplement), scrub the inside of the toilet.
Tools of the Trade
For uncoated wood floors, a warm, damp microfiber mop with a removable mop face (toss into the wash for easy cleaning) works best to prevent standing water, which can damage wood. This mop works well on all types of floors, too. And to cut down on paper towel use, invest in a stack of microfiber cloths. They’re excellent at picking up dust from surfaces, wiping away dirt and grime and polishing. It’s worth the price to buy the ones made especially for cleaning glass as they’re lint-free and make quick work of a window or mirror when used with a simple all-purpose cleanser. The same is true for the stainless steel cloths, which help to remove fingerprints and water spots.
Cleaning is a wonderful time to be present in the moment. It gives us that much-needed quiet space where letting go and appreciating the joy of tidying, scrubbing and polishing is simply enough. Move thoughtfully from the top to the bottom of each room—dusting ceiling fans, blinds and upper-level surfaces, working your way down to the floors. This ensures that any dust not picked up immediately will be picked up before you exit the space. For the most satisfaction, clean your house all at once, then sit down with a cup of tea and admire what you’ve done