Tuesday, December 15, 2009

All-Purpose Natural Cleaner

So in my continued quest to use more plant-based, chemical-free cleaning products, I found a recipe* for a homemade all-purpose cleaner online and decided to give it a try. In order to give full credit, you can look at the original recipe that I found online here.

Here is the recipe:

SuperFantastic Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner
1. Mix 1 Tbsp Borax and 1 tsp baking soda in 2 cups of warm water.
2. Add 1/2-3/4 tsp tea tree oil.
3. Add 1/2-3/4 tsp liquid Castille soap (like Dr. Bonner's).
4. Pour mixture into a spray bottle.

While some of these items (okay, baking soda) were easy to find, I found the rest of the ingredients somewhat challenging to track down. I found the Borax in the laundry section of Super Wal-Mart and the tea tree oil and Castille soap at the health food store in town in the health/beauty section. The Borax was relatively inexpensive - $2.98 - especially when you consider that you are using 1 tablespoon at a time. It will take you awhile to work your way through an entire box! Also, according to the box, there are a million and one other uses for it that I didn't even realize, so I look forward to getting my money out of it.

However, the tea tree oil and Castille soap caused me a little sticker shock. For half an ounce of tea tree oil I paid $6.49 (it hurts to say it out loud) and the Castille soap was $4.79. The Castille soap also has a ton more uses, but because the font is so small on the bottle, I can't tell you what any of them actually are. The Castille soap also comes in multiple scents, but I got the scent-free, baby formula because I wasn't sure how the other scents would compete with the Borax and tea tree oil. (UPDATE: At Target over the weekend, I saw that the store carries both Borax and Castille soap. The Borax is in the laundry section with the other stain removers and the Castille soap is with the organic cosmetics, near where the Burt's Bees products are. They have several scents available, but not in the small bottle size that I purchased from the health food store.)

I took a cue from the Pioneer Woman and took a picture of all my ingredients to help you know what you are looking for if you go out searching for these products. Making the mix was not hard at all and it actually made me a little bit eager to clean my bathroom sink, just because I wanted to try it out. Of course, my spray bottle wouldn't work so it ended up being completely anti-climatic, but I had an extra one in the house that I poured the cleaner into and got going. Of course, now I don't have a means of disciplining my cat, not that the spray bottle was all that effective anyway...

I can report that the cleaner worked great. I also used it later that night to clean my kitchen sink and was again pleased with the result. My husband, who usually has an opinion about these things, couldn't pick up on the smell in the bathroom after I cleaned it, so I feel like it's a winner in our household. There is definitely a scent, though, as I found when I was mixing it all together and left the Pirex container on the counter. When my husband came home, he definitely smelled it then! Incidentally, I would recommend the Pirex container to mix up your solution because of the pour spout. Also, don't forget to label your bottle!

If you want to try this out but don't like the idea of spending money on liquid gold - err, I mean tea tree oil - you could always split the costs with a friend so you both can try it out. And you use so little of the Castille soap and tea tree oil in one batch, it will take me awhile to work my way through an entire bottle of either, so I feel like the expense is justified. Also keep in mind that this may ultimately replace all the bottles you keep on hand for cleaning your kitchen and bathroom, so while it may seem like a lot to spend right now, you hopefully won't be replacing those other cleaners once you run out. Again - my own rationalization!

When I originally set out to go more "green" in my cleaning, I thought I would let myself keep a few things that I felt like I HAD to have to get my house really clean, but now I am re-thinking that. For one, I thought I would really want to keep Comet around because it's so good at cleaning toilets and my kitchen sink, but apparently Borax can replace Comet for both of those uses. I also thought I would keep my Soft Scrub, but I realize now that I can either use Borax or even a sprinkle of baking soda to get the same desired result. So I think the only things in my cleaning arsenal now will be my vinegar & water mixture, this new all-purpose cleaner, Bar Keeper's Friend (for cleaning my stainless steel pots and pans), Clorox toilet bowl cleaner (although I might replace with Borax if I can get the same result once I run out of the other) and...I think that's all. I am torn on the Clorox wipes, because they are just so convenient! I will also still keep liquid dish soap and dish detergent as well.

Can I just say, I felt very extra-crunchy granola when I was cleaning last night with my homemade cleaner and homemade cleaning rags!

*Can you call it a recipe when what you're making doesn't involve food?

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