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Having my little boy Micah help with laundry and cooking was pretty easy, but what to use to allow him to help me clean was a dilemma. I didn’t want his little hands coming in contact with the chemicals used in most household cleaning products. Many contain bleach which is bad on the lungs and the skin. Those cleaners that don’t involve bleach still contain some harsh chemicals which are not good for breathing in or touching. As it turns out, it’s not all that difficult to make your own, healthy, and environmentally friendly cleaning products.
I’ll be the first to admit, I am not a big cleaner. My mom can tell you this has been an issue since I was a little girl. Cleaning my room was a chore I hated. I get the concept of if you clean up everything after you use it, it won’t take as long to clean your room (or house). I really do. But, I had trouble putting it into practice. I still do at times. So, as soon as my kids were big enough to help, I started trying to teach them the little things. They, too, struggle with putting things up after they use them and our house does get messy, but it’s never more than about an hour away from “company clean”. I can live with that (most days).
Laundry Sorting is a Good Place to Start
We started with sorting laundry. No chemicals involved and it’s something even little ones can do. It helps teach them their colors as well as responsibility. It seemed the logical place to start. However, my second son, Micah, started noticing me do other things. He’s probably my most responsible kid, by nature. He’s always taken more pride in his appearance – liking to wear ties to church while the others would be happy in jeans and a t-shirt. When he was about 5, he asked me if he could help make dinner, then he asked to help wash the windows and THEN he even offered to clean the bathroom! We’re still working on accepting responsibility for cleaning his room. But, to be fair, he shares it with his messy little brother. So, that probably doesn’t help! No one loves to clean up someone else’s mess.
What to Use for More Natural Cleaning?
Having my little boy Micah help with laundry and cooking was pretty easy, but what to use to allow him to help me clean was a dilemma. I didn’t want his little hands coming in contact with the chemicals used in most household cleaning products. Many contain bleach which is bad on the lungs and the skin. Those cleaners that don’t involve bleach still contain some harsh chemicals which are not good for breathing in or touching.
I had recently read an article somewhere (well, recently now being about 3 years ago) about a little boy who was using a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (I do love these for certain things that other cleaners won’t remove) because his mom thought it was safer than liquid cleaners. This little boy ended up with red and raw hands when he woke up the next morning. I have no way of knowing if that’s even true (they’ve never bothered my skin and I’ve removed crayon and pencil from many an object with them!), but it was enough to scare me. Besides, his skin is so soft and smooth and chemicals are just hard on the skin. That’s probably why you can pretty easily tell a person’s age range simply by looking at his/her hands. It’s sad, but it’s a reality.
So, what could I use that was safe for his little hands, nose and lungs???? Thankfully, I have a few “crunchy” friends who were smart enough to research this and I had heard from them about using vinegar to make homemade cleaning products. My friend, Rosalie (Hi Rosalie!) had posted on a forum I frequented about her sons using vinegar and NEWSPAPER to clean windows??? How does THAT work? I would have assumed the newsprint would be a mess. But, you know what? I tried it and IT WORKS! Way better than Windex and a paper towel and a million times better than Windex and a regular towel that leaves lint on everything.
So, away Micah went – cleaning windows with stinky vinegar! LOL! He may have smelled funky, but he thought it was FUN and my windows were clean! Bonus is that it re-purposes those newspapers and you can let them dry and still recycle them afterward (at least I’ve never had anyone complain about my vinegar smelling newspapers in my recycle bin!). Vinegar has since become my go-to cleaner. I keep a spray bottle with vinegar and water in all 3 bathrooms and a bottle of vinegar in my kitchen cleaning cabinet and my laundry room (I use a LOT in the laundry room, so I have a HUGE bottle in there! ).
Beyond the Smell of Vinegar – Lemons
While the vinegar does clean very well AND removes odors (strangely enough!), I thought I’d hunt for something a little less strong in the smell department that would also clean well. Not surprisingly, lemon turned up on many lists as a good natural cleaner due to its acidity (what’s even better is that I have a lemon tree in my back yard. So, this one has the potential to be FREE for us other than that it takes TEN MONTHS for a lemon to mature on a lemon tree! Who knew?!?!).
Simply cut the lemon in half and dip the end in baking soda and scrub it across your counter. Then, wipe it with a wet rag. Voila! Clean, fresh smelling counter tops (just don’t try it with marble or stainless steel as it might discolor those surfaces)!
Another great use for lemon is to clean and deodorize your garbage disposal. I now use lemons to counter the icky smell of vinegar (but the smell honestly does not stick around long and it actually, ultimately, removes odors very well), particularly in the kitchen. This is one of my top recommendations for a natural, quick and easy homemade cleaning product!
A Cleaning Tip For Moms of Boys
Having 4 boys (5 counting my husband, but still only 4 who use the kids’ bathroom), bathrooms can be smelly places in my house. If you don’t have boys, you would not understand the hours spent scrubbing in, on, around and UNDER the toilet to remove the ammonia/urine smell. It’s really awful and feels like a losing battle.
Homemade Bathroom Cleaner And Odor Neutralizer
I had resorted to using bleach, but, honestly, this didn’t really solve the issue either. I could clean it with bleach and it would smell better for maybe one day. ONE DAY! It was not worth the risks of bleach for one day. So, when a friend offered a more natural, homemade cleaning solution I thought I’d give it a try.
- Lemon juice
- Baking soda
- Plus vinegar and water in a spray bottle
Essentially, all you do is make a paste out of the lemon juice and baking soda (fresh lemon juice if possible). Spread the paste around the toilet – anywhere you think urine might be lurking (under the tiny edge where the toilet meets the floor and the WALLS are often places in my house that it hides). Let it sit 10-15 minutes until it dries.
Then use a spray bottle and spray it with vinegar. Once the “fizzing” stops, wipe it away with a damp rag. Voila! Your bathroom SHOULD smell better.
Now, I did try this. And, I literally put that paste on every surface, edge, crevice, etc. within a 5 foot radius of the toilet (including the sink next to it that the boys don’t use. Who knows what those kids are capable of!). It’s been 3 days and no smell has returned YET. I am sure it will, but I can handle doing this once a week if it makes the bathroom usable for guests (other than our wobbly toilet, but that’s another story)!
Making Homemade Laundry Detergent
Now that we’ve covered basic homemade cleaning products, I know you are DYING to hear about my homemade laundry detergent! I’ll admit that this one isn’t the most natural of my endeavors, but it is a HUGE money saver and I’ll count it as more environmentally friendly than store bought detergent because it does reuse the containers over and over, making less waste. It’s dirt cheap and it’s relatively easy (easier than running to the store with 4 boys in tow for me. So, that’s a win in my world too!). You can order any of the ingredients online at Amazon.com or our Walmart carries them all if you want to go that route.
Laundry Detergent Recipe
- 1 bar of Felz Naptha laundry soap – grated/shredded (you can use Zote or any laundry soap really, but FN is the smallest I’ve found making it take less time to grate)
- ½-3/4 cup of Borax (I use a little more than ½ cup because I like it to be a bit thicker than the consistency is with a ½ cup)
- 1 cup of Arm and Hammer WASHING Soda (NOT Baking soda)
- (Optional- Essential oil in your favorite scent – a little goes a LONG way)
You will also need:
- A 5 Gallon bucket with a lid
- A large saucepan
- A long handled spoon
- An old laundry detergent container or a well washed out milk carton
Laundry Soap Making Directions:
- Grate your laundry soap and cover the flakes with water.
- Heat on medium heat until completely dissolved/melted. (This will take a while and you must stir constantly so it doesn’t get lumpy. It will be a bit foamy just because of the soap content.)
- Pour the Borax and Washing Soda into the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket and then add the melted soap/water mixture.
- I usually then add another pot (the pot I just used for the soap) to the bucket.
- Stir until well combined.
- Then, fill your bucket with water and cover.
- Let it sit overnight and then stir again. It will be slightly thickened.
- Using a funnel, pour the soap into an old laundry soap container or a washed out milk carton.
To wash, use ½ cup for a top loading washing machine and ¼ cup for a front loader.
The only issue I have had with this detergent is if I leave the clothes in the machine overnight. They don’t smell as “fresh” by the morning. I do NOT add the essential oil, so that may solve that problem. I will also add that I have looked for a more natural laundry soap and haven’t found much other than “soap nuts”, but I don’t know how these would work in this recipe (don’t know if you can grate them up???).
This homemade cleaning product costs approximately $3 for the HUGE bucket (or about 1 cent/load!) and lasts about 2-3 months depending on your laundry load at your house. So, adding another couple of dollars for more natural ingredients is probably not going to break the bank!
Maybe someone can add a comment if they’ve found a more natural recipe because I would be thrilled if I could find something more environmentally friendly that also works.
Homemade Cleaning Products Offer A Great Solution
The benefits of going a more natural cleaning route are many. It’s safer for you and your kids can help out more due to the safe ingredients – which will teach them many life lessons. Also, it’s cheaper and will often save you a trip to the store since these are pretty common household ingredients found around the house (remember, you CAN use lemon juice from a bottle and even water mixed with baking soda will work well).
Do you have a favorite natural cleaner? If so, please add it in the comments and let me know! I’m always looking for new ones and I know they are out there!!! Happy Cleaning!