Common Natural Ingredients: Following ingredients are very versatile and will be useful for many cleaning tasks:
- All-natural dish soap is a necessity in any health-conscious home to not only clean dishes without dangerous toxic chemicals, but also as an ingredient found in many recipes throughout this book. You can find natural dish soaps in health food stores and many grocery stores.
- Castile soap is a natural soap made of vegetable oils. Castile soap is great for using as a natural body wash, shampoo, pet shampoo, and floor cleaner, and it’s even great for pest control. It’s also touted as a housecleaning soap, laundry soap, dish soap, and more, but I haven’t had luck with these applications. Never mix Castile soap with any acid, including white vinegar and lemon. It’s not a dangerous combination, but acid “unsaponifies” the soap, which is basically a fancy way of saying it breaks down the soap into its original oils, turning it into a gloppy mess that’s useless for cleaning.
- Diatomaceous earth, also called DE for short, is a wonderful, safe, and all-natural pest control powder that kills bugs and insects on contact by piercing their exoskeletons, causing them to dehydrate. DE is harmless to mammals but may cause breathing problems in sensitive individuals (like any powder can). Wear a face mask when applying DE, and keep kids and pets away from the area until the dust settles. You can find food-grade diatomaceous earth at pet supply stores and online. Make sure to buy “food-grade,” not the toxic “pool-grade,” DE.
- Distilled water might be a good option depending on your water source. You don’t need to use distilled or filtered water in these DIY cleaning recipes unless your tap water is filled with minerals that may stain or leave a film on surfaces. You can buy distilled water in 1-gallon jugs at the grocery store, or install a water filter on your kitchen sink.
- Glass containers are a more natural option because plastic chemicals won’t leach into your natural cleansers. You can purchase new glass cleaning bottles and other containers at health food stores or online, or clean and reuse empty food jars and bottles. To fashion a glass spray bottle for liquid DIY cleaners, take an empty glass bottle (apple cider vinegar bottles are the perfect size for this), and replace the lid with an old spray pump. Now you have a high-quality glass spray bottle that was practically free!
- Hydrogen peroxide (3%) is an excellent germ fighter, so it’s a good choice for disinfectants and kitchen and bathroom cleaners. A few important notes: it is toxic when ingested, especially in larger quantities and concentrations; can irritate eyes and skin; and can cause other health problems if absorbed through the skin. However, regular 3% hydrogen peroxide found in drugstores is safe for personal and home care, including disinfecting food surfaces and as a mouthwash (1:1 ratio of hydrogen peroxide and water).
Never mix hydrogen peroxide with vinegar, ammonia, or chlorine bleach because these mixtures may form dangerous gases. As a rule, it’s generally a good idea not to mix hydrogen peroxide with any cleaner you plan on storing, in case the mixture may prove unsafe. For example, when hydrogen peroxide is mixed with baking soda and allowed to sit, it not only neutralizes the cleaning power of both ingredients; it can also pose a health and safety hazard. As the mixture sits, it releases carbon dioxide that may make the bottle explode, leak, or spray the cleaner all over when the container is opened. Castile soap is also known to be an unsafe mixture for storage. Hydrogen peroxide is light sensitive and should always be stored in a dark container. Use within 6 months of opening. Unopened bottles will last at least a year. To test whether your hydrogen peroxide is fresh, simply pour some in a glass bowl. If it fizzes, its disinfectant properties are intact.
- Sal Suds is a biodegradable household cleaner made by Dr. Bronner’s and is a good choice for basic household cleaning. Note that it is not effective at getting rid of pests.
- Salt and oil (your favorite cooking salt and vegetable oil varieties) can actually be used for some DIY cleaning recipes. Refined coconut oil and olive oil work best for most DIY recipes, but you can use just about any cooking oil you have in your home in a pinch.
- Vodka and rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol are other options. You might see rubbing alcohol more frequently in natural cleaning recipes, but I prefer to use vodka instead since rubbing alcohol is toxic when inhaled or ingested. If you use rubbing alcohol, avoid direct contact with skin, always use in a well-ventilated area, and discontinue use if you experience any symptoms of isopropyl alcohol poisoning, such as headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, or breathing problems. Vodka has the same disinfecting properties of rubbing alcohol with a much less offensive scent, and once vodka dries, the scent goes away completely. If you prefer to use rubbing alcohol, feel free to use it instead of vodka in recipes throughout this book, but, of course, always keep it out of reach of children and pets.
- White vinegar is my vinegar of choice for DIY cleaning because it’s inexpensive yet still very effective at cleaning dirt and killing germs. You may have seen the 6% acid cleaning vinegar in stores, but that type of vinegar is more expensive and really isn’t necessary.
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