Cleaning green and cheap

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I have addressed this before but it's that time of year: The windows are open, the air is balmy and it's time to clean! During the holidays, most of us have little time to do any thorough cleaning and get by with an occasional wipe of the dust cloth and quick swipe over the mirrors. I have become an advocate of using homemade products during these cleaning frenzies. As a result, I have found it cheaper and much, much safer for our home environment.

Have you actually looked at the labels of those common cleaners you buy at the grocery store? I can't pronounce most of the ingredients but they include, and are not limited to, ammonia, bleach, butylcellosolve, cresol, dye, ethanol, formaldehyde, glycol, hyzenes, perchloroethlylene, petroleeum distillates, phenol, phosphoric acid, propellants, sulfuric acid and trichloroethlylene.

Whew. Instead, you can use natural ingredients you find easily at the store or are already in your cupboard or pantry. The most common, and ones I use myself, are: baking soda, white vinegar, unscented liquid castile soap, borax, olive and almond oils, and pumice. If you have these, you will be able to make all the products I have listed here.

Going from store-bought to green cleaning was not an easy transition for me. My name is Sherry, and I'm addicted to bleach and Windex. There. I said it. I didn't know what to do during cleaning if I didn't have those two products in my possession. Right along with all the other products I couldn't live without: foaming tub cleaner, mildew spray (so toxic!), get rid of lime spray (even more toxic!), Ajax, bleach countertop cleaner, regular countertop cleaner, bathroom countertop cleaner, etc. etc. etc. And let's not forget the cost of those items. The average price is $4-6 dollars EACH and if you're anything like me, it seems they run out at the same time and the grocery bill is outrageous.

The ingredients I've listed are some of the least expensive items you can purchase. Bought in bulk, they're even cheaper. The essential oils, initially, can be a little pricey (average around $6 for1/2 ounce) but you use a few drops each product, which means it lasts for quite awhile. If you want to start small, you can add whatever essential oil you want to the recipes since they all have good cleaning properties. Start out with tea tree oil and another one to add a nice scent (I, personally, don't like tea tree oil for it's smell-a little too 'astringent' for me), like lemongrass or lavender. Purchase the rest of the essential oils a few at a time and in a very short while, you'll have a nice collection. Using these homemade products can take a little more elbow grease, I'll admit, but I feel good it's safe for me, my family and even pets. It's cheaper and there's more room under my kitchen sink. Bonus!

List of ingredients

baking soda
white vinegar
washing soda (Arm & Hammer makes this and you can find it at your local hardware store)
liquid castile soap (I found this by the gallon, at eBay, for around $25, plus shipping and handling)
almond oil
olive oil

Essential oils-only use the suggested drops in the recipes. Essential oils are a powerful ingredient and using too much can be irritating to the skin and eyes.

-lemon (degreaser, alleviates depression & fatigue)

-cedar (disinfects, provides uplifting scent)

-orange (degreaser, alleviates depression & fatigue)

-tea tree oil (effective against bacteria, fungus-good cleaner when there's illness in the house)

-eucalyptus (disinfects while helping stuffy noses-good when you're cleaning while fighting off a cold)

-peppermint (uplifting)

-rosemary (antiseptic, good for headaches)

-lavender (antiseptic, antibacterial and antifungal)

-cinnamon (disinfectant, clean smell)

-clove (antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antiseptic)

-thyme (strong antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal, excellent disinfectant)

-geranium (astringent, mosquito repellant, too!)

-grapefruit (disinfectant, stimulating and energizing)

Countertop Cleaner

32-ounce spray bottle (I find these at WalMart for around $1.00)
2 cups water
1/2 cup white vinegar
3/4 cup peroxide (I find this at the dollar store for, yeah, you guessed it, $1.00!)
1 tsp liquid castile soap
20 drops tea tree oil
20 drops lavender or lemongrass-I use lemongrass in the kitchen and lavender in the bathrooms

Combine ingredients in spray bottle. Label and shake during use. I use this on all surfaces in my house and it works beautifully. And smells so good.

Kitchen Sink Scrub

1/2 cup baking soda
1/8 cup vinegar
5 drops lemon
5 drops orange

Combine all ingredients and use on sink. It's best to use this as you make it since the baking soda will dry into a hard lump. It only takes a few seconds and works real well. The vinegar acts as a great antibacterial.

Sink Scrubber for Stains

1/4 cup washing soda
1/4 cup baking soda
8 drops rosemary, eucalyptus or tea tree oil
3/4 cup vinegar, for rinsing

Combine ingredients, other than vinegar, in an airtight container (like a squeeze bottle) and shake well to blend. Sprinkle a small amount into sink and scrub with damp sponge. Rinse with vinegar and then with hot water. For stubborn stains, allow this formula to rest on the stain for several minutes, then scrub and rinse with vinegar and hot water.

Tub and Shower Scrub

1/2 cup baking soda
10 drops tea tree oil
10 drops lavender
10 drops geranium

You can make this in bulk. Put baking soda in air-tight container. Place drops of essential oils on cotton pad and put it in the baking soda. The essential oils will be infused into the baking soda. The recipe helps to remove and prevent mold and mildew buildup. For serious mildew, combine 20 drops of tea tree oil and water in a spray bottle; spray area every day for 5 days, let dry and scrub with sponge. Use 2 times a week from then on.

Germs-Be-Gone Toilet Cleaner

2 cups water
1/4 cup liquid castile soap
1 TBS tea tree oil
10 drops eucalyptus or peppermint

Combine all ingredients in spray bottle; shake well. Spray on toilet surfaces and wipe clean with damp cloth or sponge. For extra tough stains, use a pumice stone along with some good, old-fashioned elbow grease and scrub away. If you do this once to get rid of all the stains, it will be easy to maintain.

Toilet Soak

To soak the toilet for extra cleaning, put baking soda in the bowl, let it stand for an hour or so, then flush. Add vinegar for a bigger boost.

Furniture Polish

1/2 cup water
1/4 cup white vinegar
3-4 TBS almond or olive oil
40-60 drops lemon
20-30 drops cedar
20-30 drops orange

Put all ingredients in spray bottle. Shake well before and during the time you're using it. Spray furniture and use a clean cloth to wipe.

For wooden floors, spray duster and wipe down floors as usual.

For extra thirsty furniture, replace all the water with oil, place the ingredients in a squeeze bottle and shake well before use. Put oil on clean cloth and wipe over furniture. Use a second clean cloth to wipe up any oil left behind.

Hot Tub Cleaner

To disinfect and fragrance the water in a hot tub, add 3 drops of lavender, cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus, thyme or grapefruit per person that uses the tub. You can use any combination of oils for this.