Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Nothing like a good scour

I have pretty much overhauled my cleaning practices in the last few years. Not only do I feel better about what I use, often it's easier, and almost always it's cheaper. I thought I'd share a few tips/tricks/recipes.

Vinegar. No cleaning caddy should be without vinegar. It is a marvelous agent. It makes things sparkle, it makes things fresh, it can even take the gunk off of disgusting shower heads. I keep a spray bottle of 50/50 water and vinegar. I use this on my counters, my stove, my sink/taps, my toilet tanks and rims, even my floor. And of course you can't mention vinegar without bringing up sparkling windows and mirrors! If it needs to be cleaned, chances are this will do the trick. Got something germy? Spray this on and let it sit awhile (10min? I spray down the highchair and just leave it to dry itself overnight). Then take a rag and wipe it away. I have been asked about the lingering vinegar smell. When it dries, the smell evaporates. Some with really sensitive noses might be able to detect it a while later, but really, would you rather be inhaling toxic chemicals instead? Overly fragenced with synthetic scents? I actually love the smell of vinegar, to me it smells clean. But a warning, this is powerful. Don't leave it too long on finished surfaces, it could eat the finish away!

Baking soda. Never be home without it. Seriously, this is magic. I keep a parmesean cheese sprinkler full of it beside my sink. You know when you're cooking and your kids distract you and before you know it your pot is full of burnt on gunk? Baking soda will make it like new again. I used to use the SOS pads, and hated that slime that got everywhere. It seemed to just make more blue mess. But now, I take my pot o'gunk, give it a rinse and swish in the sink to get as much out as I can. Here's the trick... make sure you pour out all the water. You want the pot wet, but no water still sitting in it. Sprinkle the baking soda over the bottom of the pot (it's cheap, don't be a scrooge with it). Take a rag (you will wreck a good dishcloth, so use one you don't care if it gets stained) and rinse it out under the tap and wring it out. You want a damp cloth, not wet. Now scrub. If there's too much water, it doesn't work as well. You want it fairly dry. And without too much effort, the burnt on gunk will be gone. This works for any kind of dishes issue. Sticky eggs stuck to your plate? Baking soda! Dried up cereal bits stuck to your bowl? Baking soda! And apparently you can get large sacks of it from feed stores that is non food grade (meaning don't cook with it) for much cheaper. And don't spend all your pennies on the pretty boxed kind. Go to the bulk section of the store and load up a baggie and store it in a tub at home. They charge you an arm and a leg for that little box.

Dishsoap. Yep, plain ole dishsoap. Whatever it is you use to wash your dishes by hand. Fill your sink 1/3 with hot soapy water. Wash your counters, your table, your floors. In the bathroom, fill your sink 1/3 with hot soapy water. Wash your counters, your floors. If it's good enough to clean the dishes that you will put your food on before eating, it's good enough to wipe down your counters at the end of the day. And don't go crazy on the squirting, a little really does go a long way. (remember the 'Reduce' part of the three 'Rs')

Scouring Powder. My favorite mix has a bit of a story. I've always used Comet to scour my toilet bowl and my tub. Years of buying that little round tube of chemicals. It works, no doubt about it. But anyone who has spent a few minutes scrubbing the ring out of their tub knows you feel a little funny afterwards. A little light headed, nose perhaps a little irritated, eyes a little watery. After my first son was born and was big enough to have baths in the big tub, I started to freak out. I always cleaned the tub before his bath, but then it was a huge production trying to rinse all that stuff away! I would rinse and rinse and rinse and still get that film left behind, and that smell! I knew I had to come up with a better solution, while still leaving me confident that everything was clean. Especially as I also used it in the toilet bowl, the toilet bowl that my son always seemed to manage to splash in the moment my attention was diverted (sometimes while scrubbing and rinsing the tub!). So here is what I came up with, and I love it. The cleaning/scrubbing/scouring power is as powerful as Comet, and it rinses away easily. I use this in my toilet bowl (sprinkle about 1/4c and let sit 5min, then scrub) and in my tub (again sprinkle 1/4c or so in the tub and scrub). I feel much better about using it, I feel much better WHILE using it, and I feel much better when my now two sons are in the bath (and now with my youngest, again splashing in the toilet bowl, ugh!).

1c baking soda (Another use!!)
1c salt
1c washing soda (found in the laundry aisle).

Really, just mix up equal parts and you're good to go. Cost wise I haven't done the exact math, but I think it's even cheaper then Comet.

Here is the link to what washing soda is on wikipedia, but any google search will give you a ton of info from a much more reliable source then some stay at home mom in Calgary writing a blog. Basically washing soda (sodium carbonate) is a sodium salt of carbonic acid (yeah, that makes it clearer). While there are some uses for it in different food processes, please treat this as a chemical, keep it away from the little ones!

And please please please don't waste your money on cleaning cloths. I honestly saw a bag of 'rags' for sale at Canadian Tire for $5 or something. Ridiculous!! Have a hubby who wears undershirts? Two L mens tshirts will stock you up on rags for years. Seriously, all you want is 100% cotton, cut up into squares in the size of your choice. Old ratty towels, the onesies your baby stained and grew out of. Flannel is awesome too, old pajamas, old sheets, old receiving blankets. All excellent potential cleaning rags. I keep some in each bathroom and use them for tons of things. Cleaning, makeup removal (instead of those cotton pads I was going through a bag a month), a quick nose wipe, whatever. I wash my bathroom floors by hand with soapy water and a rag, easy peasy. And don't be stingy! I go through several a day on non cleaning days. Keep lots and have them in easy reach. Wash them with your towels. Chuck them in a basket when clean, grab when needed.

Anyways, I hope this might make your chores a little easier, cleaner (for your health and environment!) and saves you some pennies!


Tatiana said...

Actually, I too have made the change to green cleaners over the last few years, and it's amazing how HARSH regular cleaners smell now.

I've gotten completely sensitized to chemicals again, and after using vinegar/baking soda for a while then using Vim or Comet, I almost gagged from the fumes. Your body totally forgets just how massively harsh they are.

You can also add a drop or two of any essential oil to the vinegar solution to soften the smell. It won't even make a difference on the windows as long as you only use a drop or two.

Jen said...

Great point Tatiana, a couple drops of oil can be a really nice addition! I like orange :)