I had such a great time talking with attendees at the Mother Earth News Fair in Puyallup, Washington, this weekend during my workshop about making green cleaners for pennies. As always, I learned a new trick or two from the attendees, and they were so excited about the chemical-free cleaning solutions—based on our grandmothers' wisdom—that I wanted to share them more widely. Today let’s examine one of my workshop’s premises—that you can clean your entire home with vinegar and baking soda.
Acidic vinegar kills some germs and microbes and inhibits their growth; cuts grease, lime deposits and soap buildup; disinfects and deodorizes; removes stains, shines and polishes. I use white vinegar for practically everything I clean, from my wood floors to my toilets. I mix about 1/2 cup of vinegar with a cup of water and add a little orange or lemon essential oil to make a wonderful, all-purpose sanitizing spray. I also like to put a little in a small bowl and place it on a high shelf to absorb odors, and I use vinegar scented with essential oils to wash garbage cans and remove pet stains.
During the workshop, we talked about the importance of checking the label before you buy white vinegar to make sure it’s made from natural ingredients. If the label says “grain alcohol,” “neutral grain spirits” or “wine,” it’s made from natural ingredients such as corn, apples or grapes. Avoid anything that says “synthetic alcohol,” as it’s likely petroleum-based.
Baking soda is an effective (and cheap) deodorizer that also scours and removes smudges or scuffs from floors. When my dog has an accident inside (which, in her defense, is almost always my fault), I add a few drops of lavender essential oil to baking soda, sprinkle it on the rug, let it dry and vacuum. This formula is much more pleasant smelling and healthier than the chemical formulas that are sold for this purpose. I also use a thick paste made from baking soda and water to clean my oven—simply apply the paste, let it sit overnight, remove and follow with a swipe of vinegar-water solution. (You can play with the ratios. One of the great things about cleaning with these simple ingredients is that it doesn’t have to be an exact science.)
The real fun happens when you combine baking soda and vinegar in to clear sluggish drains. Pour in 1/2 cup of baking soda and chase it with 1/2 cup of vinegar, then watch it fizz as the acid and alkaline react to each other. It’s so much fun that my kids beg to clean the drains!
Common baking soda deodorizes, scours and cleans up scuffs and smudges. Photo by Povy Kendal Atchison.