I love vinegar water. My mom used it as a cleaner when we were growing up and so the smell brings back memories of my childhood home. I've always kept a spray bottle of vinegar water in our home. I have used it for a bunch of small cleaning tasks, but it hasn't been until our most recent move that I have started using it for all my cleaning needs. (Probably because up until we moved to South Carolina I had a housekeeper... read "Domestic goddess"). I want to say what prompted our shift to vinegar water is how environmentally friendly it is, but that's not true. What prompted the switch is how easy it is to make and how inexpensive it is.
What kind of cleaning products did I used to use? I used to use the Swiffer Wet Jet, but you have to buy the Swiffer Wet Jet Cleaner Refills and the Swiffer Wet Jet Spray Mop Cleaner Pad Refills, not to mention have the Swiffer Wet Jet Mop. I also had the Swiffer Dust Mop (needs the Swiffer Sweeper Dry Sweeping Cloths). We had the Swiffer Duster (needs the Swiffer Duster Refills) and the Clorox Toilet Wand with Storage Caddy (needs the Clorox Toilet Wand Refills). Plus we relied a lot on Clorox Disinfecting Wipes. The most offensive of all these cleaners (save for the waste from all these other cleaners) was my Clorox Bleach. We had these cleaners as well: Clorox Anywhere Hard Surface Cleaner, Soft Scrub, and Windex.
When we moved to South Carolina and I started doing all our house cleaning, I couldn't believe how much waste was leaving our house each week. I switched from all the Swiffer products to the O Cedar ProMist System, using vinegar water as the cleaning solution. I also bought the O Cedar Dual Action Dust Mop. I bought these at Target and picked up a couple extra cleaning cloths for them at the same time-- no throwing out, just wash and reuse. I switched from all the other cleaners to Method cleaners.
I still felt like I had a lot of waste and chemicals. Our toddlers are at the age where they want to "help" with everything and imitate everything they see Momma doing. Childproof locks and off-limit areas don't always prevent them from finding cleaners that should be well out of their reach. So I threw out almost all our harsh chemicals and switched almost exclusively to vinegar water. I kept some Method cleaners and put them in a box up on a high shelf in our laundry room. But there were cleaners I just couldn't bear to part with: our Clorox Toilet Wands and my Clorox Bleach.
Switching to vinegar water prompted a huge shift in our thinking. I buy a ginormous jug of distilled vinegar and mix this with water in a spray bottle. I use the vinegar water to clean our bathrooms (including the shower and outside of the toilet), the kitchen, our floors, our highchairs, and for detailing our vehicle (car seat buckles, car toys, center consoles, cup holders-- not the leather or our WeatherTech Floor Mats). I even use it as a dusting solution: spray a little on a dust cloth and send my toddlers to work dusting our house. I love that I can leave this cleaner under our kitchen sink and bathroom sinks with no worries. Not that I want our toddlers wandering around our house spraying everything down with vinegar water, but it can't hurt them! Even better, I never run out. Spray bottle empty? Grab one of my giant jugs of vinegar and fill it up right then and there. I love that convenience. No more shopping lists with dust mop refills, Clorox Wipes, on and on and on. No more gearing myself up for a cleaning day only to find out that I am out of bathroom cleaner.
(Don't care for the scent of vinegar? Try My Merry Messy Life's recipe for Homemade Citrus-Infused Vinegar.)
I started thinking about how wonderful it would be for all our household cleaners to be this convenient. What if I could mix up laundry detergent whenever I ran out? What if I could make our own hand soap refills? What if whenever I ran out of something, I just needed to make a quick trip to our laundry room to whip up a new batch? Also, what if all these cleaners were environmentally friendly and non-toxic? What if I started saving money doing all this? I spent a lot of time Googling. I didn't want to switch from my beloved Tide Pods to something equally as horrible for the environment and my kids (OxiClean). I wanted to find ingredients I could use across the board for my cleaners.
Then I stumbled across my new favorite blog: "My Merry Messy Life," specifically her Green and Natural Cleaning Recipes and Buying Guide. Yesterday my husband and I started buying our materials for making our own household cleaners.
Dr. Bronner's Organic Castile Soap Citrus Orange, 32 oz. $15.99
Dr. Bronner's Organic Castile Soap Lavender, 32 oz. $15.99
Dr. Bronner's Organic Castile Soap Peppermint, 32 oz. $9.99 (on sale)
Now Essential Oils Lemongrass, 1 oz. $6.99
Now Essential Oils Lavender, 1 oz. $11.99
Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda, 55 oz. $4.29
20 Mule Team Borax, 76 oz. $5.49
(3) 1 Gallon Rubbermaid MixerMate Pitchers, $3.99 eachTotal: $11.97
Now Essential Oils Tea Tree Oil, 4 oz. $18.00
Toilet brush with holder $12.00
Glycerin Vegetable Kosher, 32 oz. $13.47
Hydrogen Peroxide, 64 oz. $1.99
Grand Total: $215.68
Lowe's does not carry Super Washing Soda or Borax, but the gal at Whole Foods recommended we try Ace Hardware (where she said they for sure carried it) or Wal Mart (where she thought they might carry it). We went with Ace Hardware where we could for sure buy it. We then went to Target; they carried Borax for about $1.50 less than Ace Hardware but didn't have Super Washing Soda. My husband feels Wal Mart probably carries both for less. Also, some of the ingredients that we bought in store are less expensive on Amazon. We wanted to make everything today, so we went with the in-store option, but next time I buy I will make sure to go with the less expensive option. The reason I bought 3 different kinds of Dr. Bronner's Organic Castile Soap is to give myself some variety when making my various cleaners, same with the lavender and lemongrass essential oils. The tea tree oil was purchased for its antibacterial properties.
What are we making with these ingredients?
All these recipes are from My Merry Messy Life:
- Homemade Laundry Detergent
(already made 2 gallons and am currently washing my second load of laundry in it!)
- Homemade Natural Fabric Stain Remover
- Homemade Toilet Bowler Cleaner (non-toxic)
- Homemade All Natural Foaming Hand Soap
- Homemade Dishwashing Detergent
- Homemade Moisturizing Baby Shampoo and Body Wash
My husband is super excited about the economics of switching to our own homemade cleaners. Yes, we spent all this money up front, but to make the homemade laundry detergent I used 1/2 cup of the Borax, 1/2 cup of the Super Washing Soda, 3/4 cup of the lavender Dr. Bronner's Organic Castile Soap, and a little over 20 drops from the lavender essential oil. I hardly put a dent in our supplies and it made 2 gallons of laundry detergent! If you read My Merry Messy Life's posts with the recipes, she includes the math of how much it cost her per ounce to make and how much it costs per ounce to buy the conventional products. Also, all the ingredients we bought are used in all these other recipes. While my husband keeps a close eye on the bottom line for our family budget, I focus on convenience. Being pregnant with our fourth and a stay-at-home homeschooling mom, I like when things are easy. It took roughly 10 minutes from start to finish to make the laundry detergent; how much easier can it get? I can tell you that was 100% easier than dragging all the kids to Costco! For once, my husband and I are in firm agreement on something-- homemade is the way to go for us! :)
The last point that my husband and I love about all these homemade cleaners is that they are non-toxic. While, thankfully, our children have never eaten anything life threatening, we have needed to call poison control several times in our 5-years of parenting. It is such a comfort to know that we have safe products in our home, the reason why my mom used vinegar water as my siblings and I grew up. I know that Borax raises eyebrows on the "green" blogs, but I have done some reading and for now we are using it. I like that My Messy Life includes links for more information on Borax and I also found this blog post helpful when making our decision: Crunchy Betty's post, "Getting to the Bottom of Borax: Is it Safe or Not?" Of course there is a lot you can read Googling the topic, but I found those 2 posts to be very informative.
UPDATE ON HOUSEHOLD CLEANERS:
I have been getting a lot of questions about our homemade household cleaners. Here are a few:
1. What do you do about the vinegar smell?
First of all, the vinegar smell doesn't bother me, at all. I don't really measure the vinegar and water when mixing it into a spray pump or our floor mop. For the spray mop, I do put in more vinegar than for just our everyday spray pump (read the above post to find out what I use the vinegar water to clean). I find the vinegar smell dissipates quickly and, as I said, it doesn't bother me.
If it bothers you, check out these recipes for citrus smelling vinegar: My Merry Messy Life's Homemade Citrus Infused Vinegar or The Busy Mom's Homemade All-Purpose Citrus Spray.
2. I like the idea of making my own non-toxic, biodegradable cleaners, but do they actually, you know, clean?
Short answer: yes, they do. I would suggest researching some of the properties you are unsure of, like vinegar, baking soda, super washing soda, citric acid, or borax. My Merry Messy Life has really turned me on to Dr. Bronner's Organic Castile Soap. Our homemade foaming handsoap is way better than the store bought foaming handsoap refills. I have very dry skin (genetics and washing my hands all the time with potty training twins!) and the homemade foaming handsoap is so moisturizing!
3. Okay, but what about the laundry detergent? How does that clean?
My Merry Messy Life's laundry detergent recommends 1/3 cup detergent per load. I have been using:
- a little less than 1/3 on very small loads
- 1/3 cup on small/normal loads
- a heavy 1/3 cup on normal loads
- a really heavy 1/3 cup for large/normal loads
- 2/3 cup on large loads.
As a former Tide Pod user, I have not noticed a difference between our laundry washed with Tide Pods and our laundry washed with our homemade cleaners and neither has my husband.
4. How long does it take to make your own detergent and cleaning products? I don't think I would be able to stay on top of that.
I'm a homeschooling stay-at-home mother to a preschooler and toddler twins with our fourth baby on the way, not to mention a Navy wife. I thrive on convenient. The detergent seriously took 10 minutes start to finish, including set up and clean up. Making vinegar water requires popping open my jug of vinegar, pouring it into my spray bottle or floor mop, and pouring water on top. I have a funnel for making the other cleaners and all my cleaning materials are kept in the same bin in my laundry room. I grab my Pyrex mixing cup, my funnel, and whip up my next batch. Sound easy? It is. If you compare it to a shopping trip with kids, it is almost perfect (it would be even better if magic cleaning elves popped out of the homemade cleaners and did the actual cleaning!).
5. How much did all this cost?
I love that on all the homemade cleaner recipes My Merry Messy Life includes a price breakdown when comparing her formerly used store bought cleaning products with her homemade cleaning products. Check out her price breakdowns! We essentially started from scratch when we started making our own cleaning products. I had to buy a toilet brush because I didn't own one; we had always used Clorox Toilet Wands. I also bought gallon jugs to hold our detergent since we only used Tide Pods before. I think My Merry Messy Life reuses her old laundry detergent jugs. We have hardly put a dent in the supplies I listed in the above blog post.