I’ve often wondered when and why Americans went so crazy over household cleaning products. Growing up 50 years ago I recall my Mom having only three or four different cleaning products around the house, at most. I also recall that nothing awful ever happened because of her minimalist cleaning cupboard.
Today, we need a specific – and pricey – spray cleaner for bathroom tile and another for kitchen tile. What we use to clean the bathtub and shower can’t possibly be used to clean the bathroom sink as well, or at least that’s the impression you get based on the non-stop advertisements. And whatever you do, don’t even think about cleaning the windows on your car with the same glass cleaner you use in the house. Apparently that violates the laws of the universe.
Of course, the fact is that most everything in your home can be safely and inexpensively cleaned with a few basic household staples: things like baking soda, vinegar, and – talk about basic – water. Here are recipes for three of my favorite, simple, homemade (and cheap!) cleaning products:
1. All Natural/All Purpose Household Spray Cleaner: I like this recipe not only because it’s inexpensive and powerful, but because it’s a terrific way to repurpose citrus rinds before you compost them or – dare I even say it? – throw them away.
- Approximately 3 cups citrus rinds (whatever you have – oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, etc.)
- Approximately 2 cups distilled white vinegar
- Water to dilute
Loosely pack a one quart canning jar with citrus rinds. Boil enough distilled white vinegar (about one pint) to cover the rinds and pour the hot vinegar over the rinds. Cover, and let the mixture sit for at least one month. Remove the peels, and mix 1 cup of the infused vinegar with 5 cups of water in a spray bottle. Use as you would any general household spray cleaner on countertops, glass, porcelain, appliances, etc.
2. Homemade Laundry Detergent: There are a lot of recipes floating around for making your own laundry detergent, but most of them involve the same basic ingredients. This one my Mom always used seems as good, simple, and cheap as any. It will save you about 75 percent compared to the cost of most commercial laundry detergents and will get your clothes just as clean.
- 1 bar (4.5 ounce) Ivory bath soap
- 1 cup borax
- 1 cup washing soda
Use a cheese grater to shave/shred the entire bar of soap. Blend the soap shavings thoroughly with the borax and washing soda (NOTE: Both borax and washing soda can be found in many stores where laundry products are sold or ordered online.) Store the detergent in an airtight container. Use approximately 1 to 2 tablespoons per load of wash, depending on how heavily the garments are soiled.
3. Spray Fabric Freshener/Deodorizer: Use this to freshen and remove odor from fabric and upholstery, like you would use the popular commercial spray, Febreze.
- 1/8 cup fabric softener (any brand will do)
- 3 tablespoons baking soda
- Approximately 1 quart distilled water
Mix ingredients in a one quart (32 ounce) spray bottle, shake until baking soda dissolves, and it’s ready to use. Now that wasn’t too hard, was it?