Unconventional Cleaning Supplies

by Jessica Brita-Segyde

Try doing things a little different at home this season. Purchase, make, or repurpose household staples into cleaning supplies. Why change things up now? There are several reasons you might want to challenge convention when it comes to house cleaning.

First, you could save some cash. By making your own products or purchasing from a local supplier, you might be able to reduce your cleaning budget. Unconventional supplies work just as well but aren’t as heavily marketed. The fight for shelf space drives up the price on any product, so if you’re willing to forsake brand loyalty for something new, the products you make or purchase could be surprisingly budget-friendly. Second, you can help the environment by purchasing or making responsibly-produced products with natural and ethical ingredients, helping your wallet and the environment all at once. A third option exists for the truly alternative domestic diva…repurposing supplies you already have (more on this later).

Purchase Your Products

Most major retailers offer mass-marketed natural brands like Seventh Generation and Dr. Bronner’s. Of course, you can find small-batch brands at health food stores and farmers’ markets. All-natural and organic cleaning brands tend to cost more than those made with conventional chemicals, but you can drive cost down by purchasing from local suppliers or buying in bulk. Some consumers are willing to part with extra money in exchange for products that are made with ingredients they can recognize and pronounce. Still more are making the switch to unconventional brands to avoid a group of chemicals called “endocrine disruptors,” which may affect hormone balance and overall health within the body. Private watchdog organizations like the Environmental Working Group keep an eye on the chemicals sold legally in cleaning products to help shoppers make informed decisions.

Make Your Own

Homesteading, or relying on one’s own abilities and work ethic to support daily home life, has grown in popularity over the past decade. Ask around and chances are most of your friends and family make at least one of their own cleaning or laundry products. For example, you can whip up a batch of laundry detergent (powder or liquid) right in your own kitchen! Similar to cooking, if you get the measurements right and follow a good recipe, your end result will look just like the picture. Of course, your detergent should also smell nice and clean your clothing well. The initial buy-in for ingredients will probably be around $20, but you can make several batches of all-natural detergent and the cost per load is usually less than commercial products (depending on where you currently shop).

Repurpose What you Already Have

If any of the following products are gathering dust at your house, bring them back to life! The following old-school household staples can be used in many ways that have been forgotten in our mass-marketed culture.

Borax - Borax is the classic laundry booster. What exactly is a laundry booster? It’s a natural ingredient with an alkaline pH value that helps stains to break-up. In other words, it increases the power of laundry detergent but doesn’t take its place. Borax also has at least a dozen other uses including insect deterrence.

Chlorine Bleach - Bleach works on more than just white towels. It is great for deodorizing sinks and toilets. Diluted bleach can also be used as a general sanitizer for bathroom and kitchen surfaces – just be careful not to get it onto your clothes. Never, never, never mix chlorine bleach with ammonia or products that contain ammonia.

Washing Soda - The household name here is Arm & Hammer. Washing soda comes in a bigger box than baking soda and can be found near the laundry detergent in most supermarkets. Washing soda can be used as a scrub for removing kitchen grease, crayon, and most oils from surfaces. It can also be added to laundry along with detergent to boost the detergent’s efficiency (just like Borax but with an even higher pH value). Make sure the fabrics you’re washing are safe for use with soda.

Cream of Tartar - This works great as a general cleaner for stainless steel. Mix two parts cream of tartar and one part water, then scrub with a non-abrasive sponge. If your pans have burned-on food, use a heavier concentration of cream of tartar and let it sit for several minutes in a warmed-up pan before scrubbing.

Vinegar - Vinegar diluted to 6% acidity works best for cleaning, but white cooking vinegar diluted to 5% is also good on glass. Vinegar can be used to clean and disinfect countertops, windows, and vinyl trim. Spot-test on an inconspicuous area first to ensure that your surface and coatings aren’t damaged by the acidity in this natural solvent. Vinegar also works great as a cleaner for drip-style coffee makers. Pour several cups of straight vinegar into the reservoir, let sit for 30 minutes, then run the coffee maker through one cycle. Rinse by running several cups of water through the machine.

 

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