I would love to have been a fly on the wall – or, perhaps more likely, a secretary eavesdropping on the other side of it – back in the 1940’and 50’s when the real Mad Men were dreaming up ways to convince women they needed to spend a bunch of money on the rapidly expanding selection of household cleaning products. Because here’s the thing: You don’t need most of them. With few exceptions, commercial cleaning products are little more than overpriced perfumed surfactants. Not only are they unnecessary, most aren’t good for you, either. And yet, Americans spend 5 BILLION DOLLARS every year on cleaning products for the home. I say stop the madness and spend your hard-earned cash on more important things. Like chocolate.
For those of you convinced I’m about to present a series of complicated recipes you will never make because you have a life, I will tell you now that to clean almost everything in your house, you need only 5 ingredients:
- Baking soda (tip: you can buy a 5-lb bag of baking soda at Mountain Rose Herbs for $12, or a 1-lb bag for $3)
- Unscented Dish Detergent (I use BioKleen or Seventh Generation)
- Vinegar (white distilled)
- Lavender essential oil (antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antiseptic)
- Lemon essential oil (antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, and antiseptic)
See what I’m saying? You can do this. Below are just a few of my favorite uses for these fabulous five ingredients:
Soft Scrub for Bathrooms and Kitchen
This recipe is ideal for cleaning sinks, countertops , and tubs. Start with just a small amount, though, as a little will go a long way
½ C Baking Soda
Dish detergent, enough to make a thick but spreadable paste
3-5 drops lavender essential oil
3-5 drops lemon essential oil
Mix together, and apply in small amounts to any surface, and clean using a damp sponge.
If you have pets, or throw a lot of parties, you know the value of a good carpet deodorizer. This simple recipe helps lift dirt, odor, and oils out of the carpet, while leaving behind a fresh, calming aroma. You can play around with different essential oils if you prefer. I personally find the soothing effects of lavender and the “this was recently cleaned” impression left by lemon to be the perfect combination.
2 C Baking Soda
20 drops of some combination of lavender and lemon essential oils. I use 10 of each for main floor rooms, but opt for more lavender than lemon in bedrooms.
Combine ingredients in an airtight container or glass jar (for storage). Sprinkle evenly on carpeting and rugs. Wait 15 minutes and vacuum thoroughly.
If your windows have wax buildup from years of using commercial window cleaner, using a simple mixture of vinegar and water might leave streaks. Adding just a bit of dish detergent takes care of that problem.
2 C water
¼ C vinegar
½ tsp liquid dish detergent
Combine in a spray bottle. Shake and spray on your windows, and wipe with a reusable cloth (I like eCloth products) or paper towels.
You know that time you forgot to put a plate or lid over your leftovers before popping them in the microwave, and about 30 seconds after hitting Start, your lunch exploded? Or worse, someone else living in your home created the mess but opted not to clean it up right away (because I know YOU would never do that, right?), so it dried into an immovable layer of ugly? Well, put down the bleach (which you shouldn’t be using for anything, anyway), and toss the paint scraper back in the toolbox, because all you need to get that microwave free of food shrapnel is vinegar and water. No kidding.
1 C water
½ C vinegar
Combine water and vinegar in the bowl, and add the spoon (or a toothpick) to prevent another explosion. Heat in the microwave, on High, for 10-15 minutes. The steam will loosen up most of the mess, making it easy to remove with a sponge. You may want to do a second round after you remove the first layer of gunk, if your microwave is in particularly bad shape.