Effective Natural Cleaners

Try these effective and all natural cleaners for a more natural way to clean the home.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
April/May 2004
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The alkaline minerals in club soda work wonders against dirt.
Photo courtesy Fotolia/Knowlesgallery

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Be a Cleaning Machine

Try these effective and all natural cleaners for a more natural way to clean the home.

Soap for Sparkling Dishes 

This cleaner works well except in hard water, where it can cause soap scum.

1 ounce liquid castile soap
2 cups water
1 teaspoon vegetable glycerin
5 to 10 drops lavender essential oil (optional, but lavender is antibacterial) 

Combine the soap and water in a jar. Add the glycerin and lavender (if using). Stir to blend. Pour some on a sponge, or add a few teaspoons to a sink full of warm water.

Soap Scum-fighting Spray 

1 teaspoon borax
1/2 teaspoon liquid detergent
1/4 cup white distilled vinegar
2 cups hot water 

Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle, and shake to blend. Spray. Follow with a sponge. Rinse. Makes 2 1/4 cups.

Gentle-but-effective Scrub I use this effective formula on Formica countertops, sinks, the bathtub and the shower stall.

1/2 cup baking soda
Enough liquid soap or detergent to make a frosting-like consistency
5 to 10 drops essential oils, such as rose or lavender (optional) 

Place the baking soda in a bowl; slowly pour in the liquid soap, stirring all the while, until the cleaner has a frosting-like consistency. If you're using any essential oils, be sure to add them last. Scoop the creamy mixture onto a sponge, wash the surface well and rinse. Makes 1/2 cup.

Floor Shine You can use this preparation on all floors except when directed by the manufacturer to avoid even mild detergents.

1/4 cup liquid soap or detergent
Up to 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar or lemon juice
2 gallons warm water 

Combine the ingredients in a large plastic bucket. Use with a mop or sponge. Makes about 2 gallons.

Club Soda Linoleum Spray The alkaline minerals in club soda work wonders against dirt.

2 cups club soda 

Pour the club soda into a spray bottle, spray onto linoleum and mop dry. Makes 2 cups.

Magic Window Wash 

1/4 cup white distilled vinegar
1/2 teaspoon liquid soap or detergent
2 cups water
A few drops of essential oils, for scent (optional) 

Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle and shake to blend. Spray on surface, then remove with a squeegee, paper towel or newspaper. Makes 2 1/4 cups.

Toilet Bowl Tidy-up 

1/4 cup white distilled vinegar
2 cups water 

Vinegar is an, underused but effective disinfectant. Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle, shake and spray along the inside rim of the toilet. Leave on for 15 minutes and then scrub with a toilet brush. Makes 2 1/4 cups.

Baking Soda Oven Cleaner Baking soda has never failed me for oven cleaning. Even heavy grime lifts off with this formula.

Small- to medium-sized box of baking soda

Sprinkle the bottom of the oven with baking soda to cover. Spray with water until very damp, and keep moist by spraying every few hours.

Let set overnight. In the morning, simply scoop out the baking soda — all the grime will be loosened — and rinse the oven well. Baking soda needs a lot of rinsing, but it is well worth the effort because it produces no toxic fumes. For really tough jobs, substitute washing soda for half the baking soda.

Balk at Using Standard Bleach The active ingredient in most household bleach is sodium hypochlorite, a moderately toxic chlorine salt. In the wastewater stream, household bleach also can bond with other chemicals to form cancer-causing organochlorines.

Seventh Generation's brand offers an effective alternative; you can find their non-chlorine bleach in health food stores and some supermarkets.

Drain Cleaner Blues 

Many commercial drain cleaners are very caustic. Some are nothing more than straight lye, a dangerous material you don't want in your home, especially if you have easily damaged PVC pipes.

Other drain cleaners are acids. All seem to be bad news for the wastewater stream. The efficacy of drain cleaners is in doubt, too, according to Consumer Reports. So, instead of resorting to chemicals, grab a plunger or a plumber's snake, and unclog your drains by hand. And to keep drains clean, pour 1 cup washing soda down them every week or so.

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