Spring Cleaning Part Two: The Recipes

Before we get started here, let me add a quick plug.  I’d like to introduce my new political blog, Yankee Doodle Sweetheart!  Here at a Rhinestone World, I will keep yapping about movies, domesticity, books, and the like.  At Yankee Doodle Sweetheart, I will get my politic on, y’all.  Check it out!

Okay, moving onto Spring Cleaning.  Today I want to talk about formulations.  As a special treat, I have an extra cleaning to do to add to my plan.  A cat threw up on Will this morning!  Well, the duvet cover, rather.  We did some early mornin’ pre-treating, but the bulk of the cleaning will happen tonight.  Luckily, I have a backup duvet cover for moments such as this.  I’m trying to decide how to attempt to clean the horribleness.  Bleach is a no go, because the duvet cover is print.  I’m thinking an oxygen bleach might do it, with some baking soda for good measure (and deodorizing.)

This illustrates a point. When making your own cleaning products, you have to discern what is right for you.  There are many many recipes for specific types of cleaners.  You have to suss out what’s right for you, what ingredients you have, and other similar considerations.  A golden rule to follow is to use the least potent formulation that will get the job done.  Why use bleach when lemon juice will do?  It’s safer for fabric.  Safer for you.

What follows are some my favorite recipes and ways you can tweak them.

Let’s go room by room.

First, the Kitchen:

While we all have different kitchens with different sinks and countertops and appliances, we all have the same goal: to kill germs.  Stone, marble, wood, and plastic countertops all have different needs and things to avoid.  I am not an expert on this subject.  Consult someone who is if you have really awesome countertops.  I do not have really awesome countertops.  Since salmonella, e. coli, lysteria, and a whole bunch of other nasty germs can inhabit a kitchen, a little power is required here.  A simple solution of 1 part water to 1 part bleach is sufficient to kill most bacteria.  While this formula is a great germ killer, it’s not the best grease cutter.  So, for cleaning a cooktop or range, try this:

In a sprayer, combine:
3 tbs. vinegar
3 tbs. borax
drop of dishsoap (or other liquid soap.  Even handsoap will do.  The goal is to emulsify)
warm water about 2/3 to the top of the sprayer
10-20 drops tea tree oil

Shake and spray.  The Vinegar will cut the grease.  The tea tree oil is antiseptic.  It’s all earth-friendly, and cheap as hell.

Now, if you’ve got seriously baked on grease happening, or a cook top that hasn’t been cleaned in awhile, you may need to break out the big guys.  That means ammonia.  NOTE:  DO NOT MIX AMMONIA WITH BLEACH.  You will keel over from the fumes.  So, use that bleach spray way later.  WAY later.


1/2 cup ammonia
2 tbs. baking soda
1 Cup of White vinegar

That will cut through just about anything.  If you’re still having trouble, let it soak for awhile.  That is a potent combo.


I like to use Bon Ami on the tub and the sink.  No, it’s not a make at home recipe, but it is environmentally friendly and many manufacturers recommend it.  Give it a whirl.  Otherwise, table salt is a great gentle abrasive.  Make it into a paste with lemon juice or dishsoap.

For toilets, it’s another round of “How bad is it?”  I’ll tell you this, I’ve moved into many an apartment over the years and some of the toilets have had what I thought were completely immovable stains, but they all proved to be absolutely temporary if I used the right product.  The real key, is how willing are you to get close?    Gloves make all the difference.  Have a pair especially for the bathroom.  Even try a mask if you want more protection.  Hell, wear a biohazard suit.  Whatever it takes for you to feel protected.

Let’s go from not bad at all to absolutely awful:

Daily toilet cleaner:  A little sploosh of borax and a quick run around with a toilet brush is sufficient to clean a toilet for a single person or a couple.  If more than 1 or 2 folks are using a toilet per day, try this:

Put 1/2 cup of baking soda, 1/4 cup of white vinegar and 10 drops tea tree oil into the toilet.  Give a round with the toilet brush, and that’s it.  (You could do this every couple days if you want to save on the tea tree oil. )

For a weekly clean, you can try this overnight cleaner:

1 cup borax
1 cup vinegar
10 drops pine or lavender essential oil
5 drops lemon or lime essential oil
Combine in a bowl.  Dump in the toilet, making sure you get it up under the rim and along the bowl as well as in the bowl.  Leave it overnight.  In the morning, flush.

Now, if you move into an apartment and the toilet is absolutely horrifying, don your biohazard suit and try this:

Mix up a batch of potent lemonade.  It can be country time, it can be real.  Doesn’t matter.  What you want is the citric acid.  Grab a bucket and take out most of the water in the bowl (you can flush it back down in a little bit.  Once the bucket is empty, give it a rundown with that bleach and water spray.)  Dump in the lemonade.  Grab some paper towels and soak them in the lemonade (I know, it’s gross.  But it works.)  Paper mache the inside of the toilet with the lemonade soaked towels.  And walk away.  Just walk away.  For 20 minutes.  Then come back, remove the paper towels, and throw them out (Don’t flush ’em.  You will have a clog to end all clogs.)  Now, take a pumice stone and dip it in the lemonade.  (Don’t worry.  It won’t scratch.  Pumice is softer than porcelain.)  Now, start scratching away the worst stains.  Once they are out, flush.  Now.  You could leave it at that.  I would pour in a tablespoon of bleach and give it a little more hell with a brush.  YOu can also pour salt onto half a lemon and scrub under the rim.

You are officially everyone’s hero.

Living Spaces are the most fun to clean.  You get to think more about scent and nourishing wood furniture, etc.  A lot of the formulations for living spaces depend heavily on one question:  Do you like citronella?  Well, do ya, punk?  If you do, purchase some Murphy’s oil soap.  It will clean everything except glass.  If you don’t, meet my Momma.   She doesn’t either.

So, let’s assume you don’t.  With a little bit o’H2O and a microfiber cloth, you can dust anything.  If your wood needs a polish, so to speak, you can try2 tbs. olive oil mixed with 2 tsp. lemon juice and 4 drops lavender oil.  This year, I am going to try a linseed oil, turps, and beeswax combo, but I haven’t test-driven it yet.  Plus, it’s arguably spontaneously combustible.

You can do windows with 1 part water, 1 part vinegar and crumpled up newspapers.

Try two cups of corn starch, 2 cups of baking soda, and 20 drops of essential oil as a carpet refresher.  Sprinkle on.  Let it sit, then vacuum it up.

Another recipe I am test driving this year is an “Almost dry clean” mattress formula.  I am actually going to use it on some arm rest covers that are filthy.  If it doesn’t work or destroys them, I am fine with it.  I was going to pitch them.  But if it does work, I will let you know.

Obviously, these recipes don’t cover every job on my spring cleaning agenda.  But they are a little sample of how natural cleaning products are put together.

Tomorrow:  I share The Plan!


Spring Cleaning Part One: The Kit

Admittedly, my cleaning supplies are a bit…extensive. I’m really into antique recipes, natural cleaners, homemade potpourri and essential oils. BUT, while I may overdo it to the furthest degree, you don’t have to. You can clean your whole house with dish soap, baking soda, vinegar, and some rags. Throw in a bucket and a toothbrush and you’re home free. (See this post for further details.) I wasn’t quite sure how to go about this: All natural? Cheap? Clever? Convenient? All of the above?
Instead, I’m choosing a three level approach. Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced. In other words, Into It, Really Into It, and Beyond Saving.
Level 1: Basic (Into It)

  • You’ll need a bucket. You can carry stuff around in it. You can use it for mopping, scrubbing, soaking, and any manner of cleaning liquid.

  • Then you’ll need some sort of mild abrasive.  I like Bon Ami.  But salt or baking soda does the trick too.  Comet, Ajax and the like are pretty harsh, so I try to avoid them.  Our bathroom is hard to ventilate so I like to use stuff that isn’t harmful to the ol’ lungs.  If you choose something other than baking soda, make you sure you also have baking soda.
  • Next up:  Vinegar.  Cuts grease, cleans mirrors, and disinfects.  If the smell bugs you, it goes away when it dries.  But a few drops of essential oil help mask it, too.
  • Toothbrush, scrub brush, and cotton balls, swabs, and toothpicks.  Pick the right size for the job. 
  • Concentrated dish liquid.  Make sure it’s concentrated, not just regular.
  • A mop
  • A broom
  • Rags
  • Gloves (two pairs, one for the bathroom and one for the rest of the house.)

Honestly, that’s all you need to the job.  However, certain formulas and extras can make the job a whole lot easier.  Before we move on to the intermediate level, let me pontificate about some of the previous suggestions.

First, gloves:

These are my gloves.  The pink ones are for around the house.  They have a pseudo cotton lining.  Makes ’em comfy.  Plus they have a nice cuff I can flip to catch drips.  The yellow are cheaper and for the bathroom only.  The small pink gloves are cotton and they do two jobs.  One, they help dust weird spaces like blinds.  But also, you can slather your hands in moisturizer, put the rubber gloves on top and after hours of soaking, you’ll have the furthest thing from dishpan hands.  (I learned that from Kim Woodburn, one of my sassy bombshell heroes.)  Kim decorates her gloves in maribou.  I bought some.  And rhinestones.  I just didn’t get to it in time for this post.

Now, a word on rags.  Not all cloth is created equal.  There are fabrics that serve certain jobs well.  If you don’t really give a shit about that, then cut up an old tshirt and call it a day.  It’s cotton.  It’s lint-free (provided you kept it from the cats) and it will do the job.  BUT if you’re curious, here’s the rundown.

Here we have white terry cloth, microfiber, jersey/lint free, and white flannel.  White terry, is of course, absorbent.  Microfiber dusts without any addition of a cleaning product.  I mentioned the benefits of cotton jersey.  And white flannel can buff wood to a shine.

We also have the aforementioned scrubber, and sponges. 

Now let’s move on tooooo (drum roll)

Level 2: Intermediate (Really Into It)

An All-Purpose Cleaner (as you can see, I’m running out).  I make my own (It’s super easy.)  But any sort of bleach-free all-purpose cleaner will do.  But, in my humble opinion, it’s easier, safer, cheaper and greener to make your own and all with less effort than a trip to the store.  So grab an empty spray bottle and try this:

  • 1 pt. warm water
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 15 drops lavender oil

Shake it up, and off you go!  That’s it!  It’s really gentle.  Lavender is a natural disinfectant, and baking soda is an unbelievable cleaner.  However, a bowl of warm water and a couple drops of dish soap will also do.  Seriously, you can very nearly clean an entire house with only dish soap and water.

Then you need essential oils.

Excuse my terrible photography.  What I’ve got there in front is tea tree, lavender, lemon, pine needle, and well…frankly, I can’t remember what the other one was.  I have a lot.  Tea tree is antiseptic and a disinfectant.  I use it in the bathroom on surfaces (particularly the toilet).  Lavender also has disinfecting properties along with soporific effects.  I actually use it in linen spray.  I iron with it and spray it on beds.  Pine is great for floors and making carpet refreshers.  Lemon is good for kitchens.   The initial layout of cost on essential oils can be ouchy.  They can cost up to and beyond 10 bucks for a dinky bottle.  BUT they last for freakin’ ever.  I very nearly bathe in orange oil and I still have 2/3 of a bottle.  And I’ve had that bottle for a year.  Keep them out of direct sunlight.  In complete darkness is best.  Keep them coolish, though don’t bother to refrigerate, and they will last a very very long time.

And now, the triumvirate:  Baking Soda, Washing Soda, and Borax.  I mentioned baking soda before.  Now I’m mentioning it in reference to the BIG box of baking soda you can get in the laundry aisle.

Washing soda is pretty incredible (you can get it in the laundry aisle).  You can clear drains with it, take out stains, clean pretty much anything.  It’s a grease cutter.  It’s an all-around cleaning super hero.  Like dishsoap, you could very nearly clean an entire house with washing soda (although it’s much more potent, and you should wear gloves.)    Borax is, at it’s heart, a laundry additive.  But I clean my toilet with it.  I clean carpet with it.  It’s old school.  Borax has been around for literally centuries.  In fact, the all-purpose cleaner pictured above is a borax/dish soap combo.

Next, grab a few lemons.

Lemon juice is a natural bleach.  You can get out stains, brighten whites, and cut grease with it.  You can even  clean a toilet with a half a lemon and table salt.

Next up are empty sprayers, squeezers, and the like.

Makes your cleaning concoctions more portable.

Grab some paper towels.

Use them sparingly.  Sometimes a job is so gross, the towel just has to go.  That’s what paper towels are for.

Finally, arm yourself with a second bucket, a string mop, a sponge mop, and a broom.

Okay.  That’s an intermediate kit.

Now.  Ask yourself, am I seriously into this?  Do I want more?  What ELSE can I do with essential oils?  I want to be OLD SCHOOL with my cleanin’…

Okay.  Then let us move on to:

Level Three: Advanced (Beyond Salvation)

This is where I reveal potential psychosis, so bear with me.

Firstly, aprons.

Two, for Spring Cleaning.  I probably have ten.  But for Spring Cleaning you need two.  One cover-all for dirty jobs and general cleaning.  The second for puttery, floofy, fun jobs like scenting things and ironing linens.

These are my selections for this year.

Then, and this is based heavily on how much natural wood furniture or flooring you have, you may want to grab:

Turpentine, linseed oil, and 100% beeswax.

Also have a bowl you can beat the hell out of.  I will be using this one as a double boiler:

I also like to have a junk saucepan around.  I use one I keep at Christmas for simmering potpourri on the stove.

Muslin is nice to have on hand for making sachets:

Cats, of course:

Various herbs, spices, and witchy accoutrement:

A selection of your favorite homekeeping reading:

There are many reasons, as I mentioned before, to make your own cleaning products:  cost, fun, being environmentally friendly.  If being green is your motivation, replace the dishsoap with castile soap.  Castile soap is made from olive oil.  It’s not a detergent, like dish soap.  I use dish soap for two reasons, 1. it’s more effective. 2. I don’t use much at all, and what I do use is a “greener” brand.  But if you dont’ mind a little more elbow grease, try castile soap.  The main brand is Dr. Bronner’s.  But here’s a little hint, tucked deep into the bar soap aisle, is a cheap cheap cheap bar of Kirk’s Castile.  It costs about a buck.  Just shave it up into little flakes using a cheese grater and keep it in a ziplock bag.

Of course there are all manner of nylon scrubbers, squeegees, dusters, and the like that can be in a cleaning kit.  It’s always up to you how you want to do it.  These items I’ve mentioned are the biggies when making your own cleaning products.

I also keep around bleach, grapefruit seed extract, vodka (for linen spray), many more essential oils, jars, bottles, the list goes on.  I also have some measuring cups and spoons specifically for mixing.  Funnels come in handy, too.

So there it is.  I feel like I just came out.  Truly, even to clean a house to a spectacular shine, you only need the basic items.  I like the added herbs and beeswax and essential oils for their different scents, their ability to disinfect, and their history.  Also, this is merely a post about cleaning.  Herbs and essential oils have their place in the world of home remedies.  But that, m’dears, will have to be for another day.

Tune in tomorrow for Part Two:  The Recipes.


First and foremost, before I delve into my yearly Spring Cleaning preparations, I must make this disclaimer: It gives me joy. This is an essential element to understanding how I go about my spring cleaning. Because frankly, in today’s world, spring cleaning need not be extensive, nor is it actually necessary. So you have to know that all this puttering and futzing I do is because I enjoy it. Here’s last year’s rundown: https://rhinestoneworld.wordpress.com/2009/04/06/rubbity-scrubbity-sweepity/.

That said, it’s kind of interesting to note why spring cleaning is such a grand tradition. Back in the olden days, people used to heat their homes with coal which produced a sooty residue on furniture, walls, and linens during the cold months of the winter. When warmer weather arrived, houses required a full scrubdown to get rid of all the soot and grime. Since we use much cleaner heat, we don’t have to worry about this sort of thing. But there is that end of winter feeling to contend with. Everybody sits around, windows shut, breathing all over everybody. paraffin residue from candles, dust, dirt tramped in from outside, salt. As clean as our heat may be, nothing feels or smells better than that first day of spring where you can throw open the windows and air that shit out! Truly, fresh air is a dust mite’s worst enemy.

Since last year, my essential oil collection has grown, as has my natural cleaning recipe collection. I definitely have learned what I like best. New additions to this year’s cleaning kit include beeswax, turpentine, and linseed oil. (Thanks Blick Art Supplies!) I don’t think it’s coincidental that I buy much of my cleaning paraphernalia at art supply stores. Truly, there is an art to housekeeping. Am I good at it? Nope. But I am fascinated by it.

Over the next few days, I am going to provide a sort of Spring Cleaning 101 with pictures, lists, and recipes among other things like my favorite resources, and of course, the ubiquitous Movie and TV lists, and maybe even an Ipod mix.

Part 1 will be The Kit

Part 2 will be The Recipes

Part 3 will be The Plan

A word on the slippery slope of housekeeping and being a staunch feminist:

Again, I bring you the word the Joy and I remove from all conversation the word Obligation. My home is important to me, and making it a place for me and Will to relax and feel comforted gives me such a kick. Finding ways to use limited apartment space also is a little thrilling for me. (Using a suggestion from a decorating magazine, I came up with the little mini-office setup in our living room this weekend that made my damn day.) I love aprons, and cooking, and herbs and essential oils. I get this from my Mom. I also love the history of it. Much of what I love about homes goes way back to the ways of the wise woman before the unwashed made her into a “witch.” Truly, that’s where a lot of this rings for me. So in my own way, I’m gettin’ down and Mother Goddess with the spring cleaning. When I say I love the four seasons, I mean that in a visceral way. I like to bring in the seasons in a ritualistic manner, and in Spring, this is what I do. In Fall, I like to cook things with root vegetables, and read up on spooky things, and immerse myself in color. Winter is about yuletide and Christmas and spices, and summer is about the outdoors and family and fun and adventure.

So as I get older, feminism is about both the future and the past. I revel in new opportunities for women (expect a Nancy Pelosi: Hero post soon). In the past, I think it’s folly to throw out age-old feminine wisdom along with the overdue removal of bad policy. What I mean is, while we can stop the oppression of days past and choose a more enlightened way, we do our foremothers a huge disservice by getting rid of their traditions, too.

It’s dark and deep, I know. Of course, when it comes down to it, it’s a flick of the broom and a scrub of the floor. But it’s rooted in much deeper and more sacred practices that go all the way back to the Beginning, whatever the Beginning was.

So there it is from my weird little world. Tomorrow: The Kit!

Liz Lemon – Disaster Responder

I’ve been serving as a Disaster Responder for the Red Cross for a little over a month now. It’s really been a lot of fun and such a great experience so far. I’ve received great training in disaster response, and am scheduled to receive even more. Next weekend, I am spending Saturday in Kane County getting certified in CPR/First Aid and AED. After that it’s Client Casework and Serving People With Disabilities. Then I’d like to sign up to be a national responder.
The Red Cross responds to all manner of disaster whether it affects 1 person or hundreds of thousands. This includes house fires. I’m “on call” from 8pm-12am every Tuesday night, so this has made for some fairly interesting Tuesday evenings. Since most people are home and awake for the greater part of my shift, house fires don’t often get out of control during my shift. As such I have only responded to a single fire. I’m considering adding an overnight shift on Friday evenings. But, until I have a little more experience under my belt, I’m sticking with the Tuesday night shift. But no matter whether I am ultimately called to respond or not, I really make an effort to be completely available and ready to roll. The way I usually handle it is I come from work and nap in case I find myself out late. Then I basically sit around waiting for the phone to ring, like a high school girl from the 50’s. At some point Will goes to bed and it feels very much like when I was single on a night without rehearsal. Just sort of sittin’ around. I don’t want to get too involved with a project in case I have to take off, nor do I want to doze. So I’ve taken to watching marathon amounts of 30 Rock. It’s perfect. My three favorite shows, in order, on tv right now are 30 Rock, Modern Family, and The Middle followed by Undercover Boss, and then The Bachelor, if it’s on.
So Liz Lemon keeps me company on Tuesdays nights thanks to Hulu and Netflix. Michael Bluth would too, if Arrested Development were available to watch instantly. You hear that, netflix?! Support your local Red Cross. Put Arrested Development on Watch Instantly.

Hail Holy Queen

It’s International Women’s Day!

In honor of women the world over, I’d like to challenge assumptions. Logic. Rules. History. Status Quo. Logic is crazy. Practicality is crazy. Both are a one-way trip to boring and the gods don’t traffic in boring. Round is woman and square is…well…square. Can’t you feel the buzz? I read this recently, “Millions of people gritted their teeth through the economic meltdown of 2009. Our global economic corporate structure was blasted to hell. Institutions fell. Hopes crashed. Businesses folded.


Pamela Slim, from a wonderful e-book I highly recommend

Damn right, good. Kali, Shakti, The Divine Feminine, Estrogen, Mary, whatever you want to call it, she’s tired of bullshit. The Dalai Lama believes the world will be saved by western women. And I think we are ready to clean house. Winter is ending, slowly but surely, and I feel like Spring Cleaning is coming early this year, and it’s starting not with brooms (sacred as they are…metaphorically, before anyone starts laughing about my cleaning habits), but with Earth.

There is a reason the scary witch in fairy tales rode a broom. Feminine power is scary. Feminine power is earth-shattering. We are starting a new decade and I hope, I FEEL that women are collectively beginning to become conscious of … something. I don’t know what it is. I wouldn’t presume to even begin to guess. But I think the active word is “heal.” I also think this healing is going to come in the form of not gentle rest, but violent detox.

I am a feminist of the highest order and true feminism is inclusion. Everyone can be a feminist. Everyone has a stake in being a feminist. Anger isn’t required, but love is. And love can be earth-shattering.

This is my year to challenge assumptions, wherever I find them. I am trying to pledge to myself that the worst words I can say are, “That’s just the way it is.” I vow to ask why. The key to this ride is not to hang on, but to let go.

Running with the wolves

I love esoteric and self-help books, and if somebody throws both into the mix, all the better. Usually, I don’t get much out of them except a weird and exuberant read. But occasionally, one hits home. And that is just exactly what I am NOT going to talk about right now.

The Renaissance Soul is not esoteric. It is self help, but not in a particularly touchy-feely way. It’s basically a 321 page permission slip to pursue all it is you want to pursue. If you are into pursuing a lot of things. And I am. There are some people, God bless them, who have a career path they want to follow and perhaps a couple “life list” types accomplishments they want to tick off their list. So help me, I have been trying to be one of those people for many years and not understanding why I kept being distracted by shiny things. And no, I don’t have attention deficit disorder. The truth is, I yam what I yam. And what I yam is interested in all sorts of things. The Renaissance Soul has given me strategies to pursue all of them, rather than one straight down the line career path. Highly recommended.

In this same vein, I bumped into a very powerful statement this week from Adolph Murie, a naturalist and scientist who both studied and saved American wolves in their natural habitat. He was speaking of McKinley National Park (Denali) when he said, “Let us not have puny thoughts. Let us think on a greater scale. Let us not have those of the future decry our smallness of concept and lack of foresight.” To me, the National Parks are treasures so grand, so impossible to fully comprehend, that I am both proud and yet humbled that I come from the country that came up with them. But on a larger note, Dr. Murie’s statement could serve as a battle cry for our generation. Maybe it will, but I know it will be a motto for me. “Let us not have puny thoughts…” Puny thoughts are frightened thoughts, thoughts made in the process of assuming the position. We have a lot of puny thinking going on in our nation right now. For example I am both saddened and disappointed by Senator Buy’s decision to resign. Gridlock will not be solved sufficiently by retreat. Puny thoughts are also tired thoughts. Exhausted thoughts. While I can’t give a pep talk to the Senate, I can give one to myself. Times are so tough right now…sort of. However, in another sense, there is this little buzz in the air. Maybe it’s just spring on it’s way. Maybe I’m excited about that Kohl’s gift card I have. Or maybe it’s just some new things I’ve been pursuing. Whatever it is, I hope I face whatever comes my way with no puny thoughts, so smallness of concept, and no lack of foresight.