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Household cleaning

Iíll share some tips to save you money and shopping time for some of my favorite household cleaning. Many of the homemade cleaning products are much better for the environment and are less toxic to your home. I became very concerned with toxic chemicals once I had children and pets. I recommend you keep a bulk size amount of baking soda and white distilled vinegar in your home at all times. I try to use these things for everyday cleaning. Occasionally, I mix in more heavy duty cleaners if I feel something really isnít getting cleaned by more environmentally friendly products. However, Iíve found for most of my ďmaintenanceĒ cleaning I can use homemade less toxic cleaners so I still feel good about doing anything to reduce heavy chemicals in my home. As always, I recommend you take steps gradually and moderately. You are much more likely to stick to new changes and adopt them in your everyday life.

  • Invest in an easy to carry cleaning caddy. Store all your main cleaners, rubber gloves, and utensils in this caddy. This will save you time because youíll always know where the products are and it is easy to carry from room to room.
  • Clean messes as they come. It is far easier to clean up a spill right after it occurs versus later when the stain is set in and crusted.
  • Never leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight. Make it a nighttime routine to clean your sink and counters free of dishes and wipe down all your counter surfaces. I usually load my dishwasher after dinner and start it right before we go to bed. When I wake up in the morning, I have a clean kitchen and Iím far more likely to want to cook breakfast. Its also one less thing you need to worry about in the morning.
  • Try to develop your own cleaning schedule for both large things and every day things. This will take some time as you need to develop a cleaning and organizing schedule that fits into your lifestyle. Be flexible (but donít get lazy!), as you may need to alter this schedule from time to time. Have a backup plan.
  • I try to vacuum twice a week in heavy walk areas. I do stairs and less used areas (such as bedrooms) once a week. Hard surface floors should be swept once a week, but should be wet cleaned once every two weeks. It may be necessary to do this more often when there is a lot of mud outside.
  • For detail cleaning and decluttering I try to focus on one room at a time. I spend 15 minutes before naptime and bedtime decluttering each day. Have your kids pitch in from an early age. They need to be responsible for picking up their own toys and rooms as early as possible.
  • Get your kids involved early and consistently. This is challenging because toddlers often slow up the cleaning processóyet this is very important. Toddlers and preschool aged children love to watch what we are doing and try to help us. Allow them to do little jobs like dusting, wiping down hard surfaces with non-toxic cleaners, helping to carry laundry to the wash or fold small items, cleaning windows with non-toxic cleaners, etc. I save the jobs I donít want the kids help with when they are asleep. Older kids should have chore charts with age appropriate chores. This teaches responsibility, instills a work ethic and sense of pride for oneís belongings. It also is a less thought method of family quality time.
  • I use a commercial everyday shower cleaner. I spray it in the shower of our master bath right after the last person has had their daily shower. Normally, Iím a fan of less toxic cleaners, but this will truly prolong my need to deep clean the shower and it takes me only seconds to spray the cleaner. Iíve found the generic versions work just as well. You spray it on the shower tiles, floor, and door or curtain.
  • 1 Tablespoon borax and 1 tablespoon of baking soda will work as a substitute for dishwasher detergent. There is no need for prewash detergent. You can use vinegar in place of Jet Dry for your rinse cycle. If you choose to use commercial dishwasher detergent, you neednít use a lot. Prewash is not necessary on most loads and only 2 tablespoons will work very well. Most people tend to overdo it and the results are not any more effective.
  • I use vinegar instead of fabric softener when I am doing laundry. There will be a slight odor of vinegar but this will disappear once your clothes are dry. The vinegar will work as a softener and will also make your detergent more effective as the vinegar helps break down the detergent. This works just fine for me most of the year except during the harshest winter months when we use the gas heat often. During these months, you may want to use commercial fabric softener as it will work better to keep your clothes from getting static electricity. Vinegar is the best fabric softener option for baby clothes. Do not use vinegar in the rinse cycle if youíve used chlorine bleach. Vinegar and bleach should never be combined as they can create dangerous fumes.
  • I add a Ĺ cup of baking soda to my load of laundry as if itís a detergent. This will allow me to use inexpensive or less strong laundry detergent, and I only have to use a small amount of it to get the same results. For dirtier loads, add a little borax with the baking sodaóthey work well mixed equal parts.
  • Once a month I like to grind a whole lemon in my garbage disposal, it keeps it fresh. For heavier cleaning, pour Ĺ cup baking soda down the disposal. Pour in about 2 cups of boiling water and plug the drain over night. The next morning flush with cold water while running the disposal.
  • To clean your microwave oven place a large glass bowl filled with water in the microwave. Microwave this for 10 minutes. Remove the bowl carefully and just wipe the microwave clean with paper towels.
  • I use scrub sponges on bathroom sinks and tubs; however, I donít recommend using them in the kitchen. They distribute and harbor germs and bacteria. Use paper towels or kitchen wipes that you throw away after each use.
  • Change dish towels frequently, like every day or so. They are a breeding ground for bacteria. I buy a bulk pack so I have about 7 of them and change them almost daily, depending on use. Stock up, itís worth it!
  • To clean your windows, mirrors, or glass in your home, mix one part vinegar to 10 parts water. Put in a spray bottle and wipe clean with paper towels or newspaper (yep, itís a great way to use up your left over newspaper). If you get streaks, you may have a waxy build up from former commercial cleaners. You can use rubbing alcohol before with the vinegar solution to get rid of this. You may also wish to use a clean blackboard eraser over your windows for a nice finishing touch after youíve cleaned them. You can also add a drop of ammonia to this mixture and it will work just as good as commercial window cleaners, but ammonia is toxic, so keep out of reach of small children.
  • Do not mix ammonia and bleach, vinegar with bleach, or toilet bowel cleaner with bleach. These combinations will create toxic fumes when combined.
  • I keep used dryer sheets and use them for dusting. They work great to wipe down your television screen or electronics when they get dirty too.
  • I sprinkle baking soda in my trash cans and garbage liners to keep odors to a minimum. I also use baking soda in my catís liter box to help absorb the odor. This prolongs having to change the box.
  • I love using carpet freshener on my carpet, but I worry about it irritating my dogís skin. Now I put a light dusting of baking soda on my carpet, wait 15 minutes, and then vacuum. I get the same results and feel much better.
  • I use a mix of equal parts vinegar and water to clean my bathroom and kitchen cabinets. For heavier scrubbingósuch as bathtubs and showers, try baking soda and an abrasive sponge.
  • Clean your coffee maker at least every season by running an equal part mix of vinegar and water through the appliance (as you would make coffee, except skip the coffee). Rinse by running a second time with just plain water.
  • Clean dishwasher and washing machine by running a cycle of vinegar through every couple of months. This will help reduce soap build up on the inner mechanisms.
  • Clean and disinfect wooden cutting boards by using a mix of salt and vinegar, scrub, then rinse with water.
  • Make your own disinfectant wipes. Cut a roll of heavy duty paper towels in half. Remove cardboard center. Mix 1 and Ĺ cups water with Ĺ cup Lysol (or all purpose cleaner of your choice). Combine the towels and the liquid in an airtight container, such as a large freezer bag (you may want to split this between two bags). Turn over to evenly coat. Pull towels from the center to use, you may need to squeeze some excess off.
  • I use a carpet steamer to keep my carpets cleaned. You should try to steam clean your carpets twice a year. Aim to do this in the spring and the fall when the weather warms up and you can open your windows to expedite the drying process. You can buy cleaners for your steamer, many of which are expensive and almost all contain toxic chemicals. While many of these do work very well, I prefer to use a mix of equal part vinegar and water for most of my steam cleaning. I reserve the specialized cleaners for occasional use when the carpet has a stain.
  • To get a blood stain out of the carpet put ice on the stain first. The cold will prohibit the stain from settling in. Next use hydrogen peroxide on the stain. Allow it to bubble, and then blot the stain with paper towels.
  • To get wax out of the bottom of a candle holder, put the candle holder in a freezer for a couple of hours. The wax should pop right out, but use a non-share knife to help nudge it out if necessary.

    About the Author: Gentry is a stay at home mom, with a passion for writing. For more articles on easy living, visit

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