Keeping home is one of my favorite things. I love having a home that is bright, healthy, happy, and welcoming. Home is our refuge, our place of comfort at the end of a long day, when our hearts need a little refreshment. This is why keeping home is so important to me: my heart lives here. And the hearts of my family and friends. The world out there is harsh; full of heartache and distress. But my people and I deserve the best when we come home. Our home world will not be harsh; it will not be full of heartache and distress. And it sure as heck won’t be full of chemicals.
Chemical cleaners are not happy and healthy. They might kill germs, yes, but you better wear a hazmat suit and a mask if you plan to use them. Look at the label on the back of a commercial cleaning product. Do you recognize any of those names? Can you even pronounce any of those names? Me neither. There are phthalates, triclosan, PERC, sodium hydroxide, Quarternary Ammonium Compounds (QUATS), and 2-Butoxyethanol. Then they add sudsing agents and artificial dyes and fragrances.
Many of these ingredients are endocrine- and hormone-disrupters, known carcinogens, and neurotoxins. And I have some bad news for you: This market is largely unregulated. Companies can put any number of toxic ingredients in a cleaning product and have to answer to no one. Well, they might not have anyone to answer to, but I sure do: My family. And I am not willing to take the risk of such a high toxic burden when I don’t need to. There are natural ways to harness germ-killing power that is child- and pet-safe, won’t irritate your lungs, and won’t cause cancer. Your home is your haven, and it should be healthy.
The recipes and tips in here are a mix of old wives’ tales (that actually work) and adaptations of modern cleaners. Both are equally wonderful and effective. Keep in mind that natural cleaners are by no means miracle cleaners. If the glaze on your bathtub has worn off, no cleaner, not even the strongest chemical one, will be able to fix that and make it look new again. But while it may not look new, it can still be clean with the use of simple, natural ingredients. These recipes will help you keep your house a home; a clean one, a modern organic one.
I have allergies and the second I open the attic door, I can’t stop sneezing. Cats, bunnies, guinea pigs … pretty much anything small and furry makes my eyes go red instantaneously. Cleaning products make my throat close up in a way that feels scary. Why would something that is supposed to make my home clean and healthy make me feel scared? Why should my throat close up when I simply want to clean the kitchen counter after making dinner?
This reaction to commercial cleaners led me to research gentler, natural alternatives. I started with commercial “green” eco-friendly cleaners. These were much better; they didn’t affect my throat and the scents were not overpowering. But they didn’t work that well. An allpurpose cleaner left soapy residue on mirrors; another left white streaks. They were expensive, though, so I kept using them, just washing them again with water or another product after I was done. Cleaning up after the cleaning products, what a concept! When they were finally nearly empty, I went back to the Internet to find something more useful, and I happened upon some recipes. Basic recipes, things I could make that day with supplies I already had in my cupboard.
I’ve loved recipes my whole life. Baking recipes, mostly, but also recipes for anything interesting and clever. Seeing recipes for homemade cleaning products stirred something in my soul. Yes, I thought. Yes! These are the cleaning recipes my grandma used to make, but I can make them modern and pretty! I started with a simple vinegar and water glass spray. Guess what? No white streaks. I cut an old T-shirt into rags like I remembered my mom doing so that I wouldn’t have to waste paper towels. I bought an essential oil to scent them lemon, since that seemed to be the “clean” scent that most commercial products used.
Then I expanded my recipe article. A paste for my old porcelain sink. A spray for the bathroom counters that had a different essential oil in it—one with extra germ-killing properties. I found baking soda in the bulk section at the co-op, one lonely box of washing soda in the enormous, brightly-colored sea of laundry products at the grocery store. Started saving glass jars and bottles to store my cleaning products in; spent time making pretty labels … Making my own cleaning products invested me in the cleaning process. It invested me in the health of my home and self.
I’ll be honest, my interest is also partly monetary and partly, well, vain. A bottle of the standard tub-cleaning solution is nearly Aed 35 these days, with the commercial organic version more than that. With an initial investment, you can keep your home clean for very little. Traditional chemical cleaners come in garish containers with warning labels all over them. I prefer a small tote full of natural ingredients in glass bottles and shakers, which looks clean and calm. It doesn’t look scary. I’ve made them; I know what’s in them.
I know what you’re probably thinking—Melissa, isn’t everything going to smell like vinegar? First off, I will gladly take the smell of vinegar over something noxious. The vinegar scent, if it is in a product, dissipates very quickly. This is another reason we add essential oils; apart from their cleaning properties, they also add pleasant scents. You can add 50–75 drops of your favorite essential oil to a gallon of vinegar to camouflage the scent. A little bit of aromatherapy as we keep home … I love it. If vinegar scares you, start with something that doesn’t include it. Or try using apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar. It has the same cleaning properties. In fact, any fancy vinegar will work. It ups the cost, but they do smell slightly less strong.
The recipes in here probably all sound simple. Good. They are, and that’s the way they should be. Yes, they almost all use the same handful of ingredients. Those ingredients are staples for a reason: they do an effective job, they’re safe, and most of all, they’re time tested.
As I mentioned, the recipe box is just one tool. First, we’ll learn a little bit about why an organic home matters. We’ll learn what it means, how to find natural products, and what to watch out for. Then you’ll want to create a collection of home-keeping ingredients and supplies. Keep these in your pantry so you have everything you need to make a batch of anti-itch cream or a paste to polish your silver faucet at the drop of a hat.
Other tools are presented in the blog as well. Cleaning is part of our lives, and our lives are modern, which means, busy! We’re all busy. That’s also why I’ve added the hows of Purging, Cleaning, and Organizing for each room of the house. These things take time, but if you do them one room at a time or make them a family affair, they aren’t so bad. “Many hands make light work,” they say.
I also want to add happiness to my life in any way I can. Yes, even in my cleaning products and cleaning routine. To me, that’s part of the modern organic home: taking joy in the simple things, and adding pleasure wherever I can. I like making colorful labels and hunting down unique jars. Your wool dryer balls don’t have to be gray—they can be hot pink or neon green if you prefer. I have hot pink reusable dishwashing gloves that a friend gave me. They have flowered fabric ruffles up to the elbows, and I adore them. Keep your dish soap in a hand-painted glass vinegar dispenser you pick up on your travels. Use luxurious linen towels that are dyed with vegetable pigments for a luscious deep plant color. Paint your dust pan with polka dots. Why not? Life is short, but there’s lots of cleaning to do. Make cleaning a happy part of your home, and it will serve you well.
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