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
- 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.
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.
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.