Many commercial cleaners contain chemicals that give off very noxious fumes – and they cost a lot too. Here are a few ideas for making your own cleaning products that work well, and are gentler on your hands (and the rest of your system), your wallet and your environment.
These natural home-made cleaning products go beyond the basics of just baking soda and/or vinegar. This isn’t to write off baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) and vinegar – they’re a good start for most surfaces and cleaning jobs. But sometimes, you need more than these two.
All purpose cleaning paste (scratch free): thoroughly mix ½ cup soap flakes (ground to powder or whirled in a blender), 1 cup of powdered chalk or diatomaceous earth and ½ cup of baking soda. Add a little glycerine (no more than 3 T) to make a thick paste. Keep in an air-tight jar when not in use. Good for bathrooms, kitchen benches and white-ware.
Very easy furniture polish: Shake 100 ml liquid paraffin, 50 ml turpentine or methylated spirits together, along with 1 ½ teaspoons of essential oil. Lemon is the traditional essential oil to use, but you can experiment to find your own favourite. Decant the mixture into a spray bottle or mister (or shake them up in this in the first place). To use on any woodwork, spray on sparingly and buff immediately with a soft cloth. This one isn’t so kind to your hands and lungs, so be careful not to breathe it in.
Tile floor cleaner powder: Crush ½ cup soap flakes to powder, then stir in 1 cup of powdered chalk or diatomaceous earth and 1 cup bicarbonate of soda. Make sure that it isn’t lumpy. Add essential oil (one teaspoon) of your choice to the mixture for scent and antiseptic properties. Store the mixture in a tin or jar that has holes punched in the lid (this is a good way of reusing old talcum powder containers – they’re perfect). Shake on and use like any commercial tile cleaner (e.g. Ajax).
Floor cleaner: Mix ¼ cup washing soda, ½ cup soap flakes, 1 cup salt and 2 cups of water together, adding essential oil (2 teaspoons) if desired. Heat these together and stir until everything’s dissolved to a nice, smooth liquid. Let it cool and store it in a screw-top container. Use 2–3 tablespoons in half a bucket of hot water to wash the floor. If you wish to rinse the floor afterwards, use fresh warm water with a cup of vinegar added.
Dishwashing liquid: This is not for dishwashers and doesn’t create unnecessary suds. Mix half a cup of soap flakes in 4 cups of hot water and let them dissolve. When the mixture is cool, add half a cup of glycerine and a teaspoon of any essential oil of your choice. Stir together well into a gel, then decant into a squeezy bottle (old shampoo bottles or commercial dishwashing liquid bottles work well). Use 2-3 teaspoons in one load of dishes.
Disinfectant: Mix 200 ml of methylated spirits with 1 litre white vinegar. Add 100 ml of an antiseptic essential oil such as pine, thyme, oregano or lavender. Shake together and keep in a spray-top jar. Kills most germs. To freshen a toilet, put ½ a cup of this in the toilet bowl overnight, then flush first thing in the morning.
Air freshener: Mix 400 ml water with 100 ml alcohol (vodka or rubbing alcohol). Add in a blend of essential oils – up to 80 drops or so. Leave for a few days to combine and mature, then spray lightly in a room. Experiment to find your favourite combination of fragrances.
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