Commercial cleaning products may work well to keep our houses shiny and gleaming, but they are not the nicest substances to be breathing in. Many are harmful if inhaled or touched, and aside from contributing to indoor air pollution, they are a danger to children who may swallow or spill them, or spray them in their eyes. Corrosive drain cleaners, oven cleaners, and acidic toilet bowl cleaners are the most dangerous, having the potential to cause severe burns but chlorine bleach and ammonia are also highly toxic and their fumes are major irritants to be avoided if you have asthma or lung or heart problems. So what alternatives do you have? Plenty, it turns out, and the good news is, they’re also a lot cheaper!
Lemon juice is perhaps one of the most well known natural cleaners and is highly effective for lots of jobs around your home. Just be cautious that lemon juice can be effective as a natural bleach and like with any cleaner, it’s a good idea to test it on a hidden spot first before using. You can use lemon juice to dissolve soap scum and hard water deposits in the bathroom, or to clean and shine brass and copper. Mixed with baking soda or vinegar, lemon juice also makes a brilliant cleaning paste. To make a ‘lemon scrubber’, chop a lemon into halves and sprinkle some baking soda on the cut section of the lemon. Then, use the lemon to scrub stains, surfaces and dishes. Another trick for cleaning hardwood furniture is to mix up one cup of olive oil with half a cup of lemon juice – this makes a fantastic furniture polish. A final tip for you: pop a whole lemon peel through the garbage disposal. This will freshen the drain and rid the kitchen of unwanted odours.
Vinegar is just as effective at cleaning as most all-purpose cleaners. You simply need to mix up equal parts of vinegar and water in a spray bottle and this can be used to tackle a wide range of cleaning jobs around the home. As well as being a fantastic disinfectant and deodoriser, vinegar is a great natural cleaning product because it gives you streak free cleaning – an advantage on many chemical cleaners. The vinegar smell disappears as the fluid dries so you don’t have to worry about your house smelling like a Fish ‘n’ Chip shop. Like for any cleaner, do test vinegar on a hidden spot before you use it to make sure what you’re cleaning is colour fast and doesn’t suffer any damage. Don’t mix it too strong either – it is acidic and can cause damage, for example eating away at tile grout. Don’t use vinegar marble surfaces, either. Here are some great places to make use of this cheap natural cleaner:
In the kitchen: Vinegar makes light work of cleaning the stove – just mix equal parts of water and vinegar. Most kitchen appliances can also be cleaned with the same mixture, and counter-tops can be both cleaned and disinfected too. The vinegar solution works well to clean floors and bring get them up really shiny and streak free.
In the bathroom: Vinegar is perfect for cleaning nearly everything in the bathroom – the bath itself, the toilet, the sink, and the counter-tops (provided they aren’t marble). Undiluted, it works great in the toilet to get rid of those dirty rings that other cleaners won’t even touch. Make sure you flush the toilet, allowing the water level to drop before pouring the undiluted vinegar around the inside of the rim. Afterwards, scrub down the bowl. Vinegar is also fantastic added to water to mop the floor, and works a treat at banishing soap scum and hard water stains on fixtures and tiles. However, as noted above, make sure you dilute it properly as you don’t want it eating at your tile grout.
In the laundry room: Would you believe that vinegar makes a natural fabric softener? This is a brilliant solution for families like mine that have sensitive skin issues. Simply add half a cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle where the fabric softener would normally go. The vinegar will also break down your washing powder more effectively, and you can use it to clean your washing machine every now and then between cycles.
Baking soda is a brilliant cleaner for scrubbing down surfaces and it works as well as regular commercial non-abrasive cleansers. It also works very well as a deodorizer. Simply place a box in the refrigerator and freezer to absorb nasty odours, or put it anywhere you need deodorising – examples include the fridge, freezer, rubbish bins, laundry, and even smelly trainers. Here are some more ideas:
In the kitchen: To clean down your surfaces, sprinkle baking soda onto a damp cloth, wipe the surface, and then rinse it with clean water. To remove stale smells from food containers, rinse them out with baking soda and hot water. If the smell doesn’t go away, leave the container to soak overnight in the water/baking soda mixture. Use baking soda to clean silver – mixing a paste with three parts baking soda and one part water. Rub on the paste, rinse with warm water and dry off with a soft cloth. Use baking soda to get rid of scuff marks or grease spills on the floor – simply sprinkle with the baking soda and then wipe away with a warm, damp cloth.
In the bathroom: Get rid of stubborn stains using your baking soda paste – three parts baking soda, one part water. Apply the paste, leave it to stand, and then scrub or wipe it clean. Another fantastic trick for using baking soda is to pour a quarter of a cup of baking soda down the drain weekly and rinse with plenty of hot water. This is a great way for keeping drains clear and avoiding the need for harsh drain unblocking chemicals.
Around the house: Add baking soda to your pet’s litterbox to help prevent odours. Baking soda is also effective to get rid of “wet dog” odour – just sprinkle them with baking soda and brush out their fur. Adding baking soda to the laundry can help to remove grease stains and it makes a fantastic pre-wash stain remover when mixed to a paste.