Sunday, July 21, 2013

Cleaning Up - Week 3: Cleaning Green

Have you ever read the fine print on your cleaning products? You may be surprised by what you find. For Week 3 of our cleaning series, we are going to explore the world of "green" cleaning.

Microfiber Cloths
This was the first "green" cleaning switch I made. I felt like I was wasting so many paper towels when I would clean. I had heard good things about microfiber cloths and decided to try them for myself. I bought the Quickie - Clean Results Microfiber 18 Pack All Purpose Towels from Lowes for $12.98. I love them, especially for cleaning mirrors and windows. I would always have streaks when I cleaned with paper towels, but with the microfiber cloth, my mirrors have never looked better! I like that they don't leave any lint behind. I have also attached a microfiber cloth to my Swiffer to clean windows I can't reach by hand and also for cleaning our floors. Just throw them in the wash when they get dirty. They are so versatile! I have seen these come in packs that have their use embroidered on them (kitchen and bathroom, stainless steel, glass and window, dusting and polishing). If you don't feel like you need an 18 pack, I have seen them at Bed Bath Beyond for as low as 99¢.

Dryer Balls
I hate dryer sheets. I think if they dissolved in the dryer, I wouldn't mind them as much, but pulling out a used dryer sheet and throwing it away just kills me. Also, I wanted an alternative for drying baby clothes without chemicals. So I bought a 2 pack of Dryer Max Dryer Balls from Bed Bath and Beyond for $6.99. (I couldn't find them on BB&B's website, but here they are at Target). I am very pleased with them. Usually when I dry sheets, I have to run the dryer a little bit longer because they are still damp. When I used the dryer balls, I did not have to do that. My sheets were still fluffy too. My only complaint would be that they are a little loud as they tumble around the dryer, but we just close the laundry room door.

Glass Cleaner
Skip the Windex, just use water! I have a squirt bottle filled with water for cleaning my windows and mirrors. Paired with my microfiber cloths, my mirrors and windows still get clean and it's one less chemical that I have to use. You can buy an empty spray bottle (check the dollar stores) or you can just refill an old Windex bottle. I have also seen smaller empty spray bottles in the hair section and travel sections of the big box stores.

Homemade Cleaners
I recently started exploring making my own cleaning solutions when I noticed how bothered I was by the smell of the all-purpose cleaner I was using. Sometimes it even gave me a headache. I did a bit of research before making anything and bought a few items such as an empty squirt bottle, a cheese grater, and some cheap measuring cups and spoons. I found all of these items at the dollar store. Here is what I made:

Laundry Detergent
20 Mule Team Borax: $3.49
Arm & Hammer Washing Soda: $3.29
Fels-Naptha Laundry Bar: $1.09
I searched the web for different recipes and found each one had these common elements: soap flakes, washing soda, and borax. I found all three of these items in the laundry section of my local Meijer and it cost around $8 total (much cheaper than a bottle of detergent!). I grated the Fels Naptha bar with a cheap cheese grater (took at least 10 minutes to grate!). Then I added 2 cups of 20 Mule Team Borax and 2 cups of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda, put it in an airtight container and mixed it all together. I use 2 tablespoons in my laundry. Everything comes out nice and clean! I have a top load washer, but I have read for front load washers, it works best to just put the mixture directly in the washer instead of the dispenser.

All-Purpose Cleaner
This cleaner was the reason I wanted to try homemade cleaners in the first place. I used:
   2 cups of Water
   1/2 teaspoon Dish Soap
   1 teaspoon Baking Soda
   2 tablespoons White Vinegar
   3 drops of Essential Oil
I already had all of those ingredients at home with the exception of the essential oil. I went to GNC to find essential oils. They had quite a few to choose from. I like lemon so I went with that one. It cost $5.99 for a little bottle. I put all of the ingredients into a spray bottle and mixed them up. (I accidentally did not close the spray part, so when the baking soda and vinegar combined, my mixture started shooting out of the spray part! Oops!) I smelled it without the essential oil added because I wanted to see if I needed to add it; it smelled like a dish soap and vinegar combination, which didn't smell very pleasant, so I was glad I had the essential oil in the end. I used an apple scented dish soap and I wish I would have used lemon scented instead to bring more of the lemon smell out. Overall it seems to work nicely. I have read online that the vinegar and baking soda cancel each other out after a while. I have seen other recipes that replace the baking soda with borax instead. I have not tried that yet, maybe next batch.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner
I also saw a lot of different recipes for toilet bowl cleaner on the web, but decided to try this one. It takes 1/4 cup vinegar and 10 drops of essential oil (to help with that nasty vinegar smell). To use it, you sprinkle some baking soda in the bowl, squirt with the vinegar and oil and clean with a toilet bowl brush. Overall, I thought this recipe worked well. You really don't need to use that much of the vinegar and oil mixture, I used just enough to hear the baking soda and vinegar fizz. I decided that I wanted a squeeze bottle for the cleaner, so I got a clear condiment bottle from Garden Ridge. It was $2.99 for a 3 pack. My only complaint is it is always open (there is not cap on the top)! I didn't think about that until afterward. I will probably transfer it to an old toilet bowl cleaner bottle after one gets used up.

Any other suggestions on going "green" with your cleaning?

Next week, we will finish the series with cleaning tips and tricks!

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