Nontoxic solutions to home cleaning chores

Amanda Riley
Special to The Black Mountain News

I’m not so naïve as to believe that Old man Winter doesn’t have a bit of nippy cold yet in store for us. But with the recent shift to warmer, sunnier days, I’ve got spring cleaning on the brain.

As with most things, I believe simpler is better when it comes to cleaning in and around the home, especially when one considers the unnecessary and harsh (and arguably sometimes dangerous) chemical cleaning “enhancers” that fill the brightly colored spray bottles at the grocery store. We simply don’t need all that junk.

For most of our messes, be they tub funk, baked-on nastiness or sticky, gooey toddler-made messes, a simple arsenal of baking soda, vinegar, essential oils (and a bit of borax, salt, baking soda, and castile soap) are about all you’ll need to send the mess away.

There are ever so many recipes out there for homemade cleaners. Below you’ll find a few simple, easy-to-make favorites that we use in our home.

Window cleaner

There is really no need for ammonia when it comes to washing windows. You can achieve clean, streak-free windows with a simple mixture of plain white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. I have seen recipes ranging from 3 tablespoons of vinegar per quart of water, all the way to a 2:1 ratio of vinegar to water. I have personally found a ratio of 1/2:1 ratio to be perfectly adequate, and usually mix about 1 to 1 1/2 cups vinegar and 2 1/2 to 3 cups warm water in a quart spray bottle. You can add a small amount (1/2 teaspoon) of liquid castile soap to your mix if you are working with particularly grimy windows. For best results, spray on and wipe off with newspaper or another lint-free material, instead of paper towels.

Scouring Powder

1 cup baking soda

1/2 cup coarse salt

1/2 cup washing soda or borax

(5-15 drops essential oil of your choice, if desired, for scent)

Lightly wet the surface to be cleaned, then sprinkle on the powder, scrub and rinse. I have also poured a small amount of the powder into a 4-ounce jar and added water to make a paste, then used that (often with an old toothbrush) to clean smaller surfaces which would have been tricky to clean using a the “sprinkle and wet” approach.

All-purpose counter spray

In a quart-sized spray bottle, mix the following:

1/4 cup white vinegar

2 tablespoons baking soda

Essential oils, if desired (I like several drops each of rosemary and mint or lemon and orange)

3 to 4 cups (enough to fill the bottle) warm water

Disinfecting counter spray

(I like to use this one around the toilet)

In a quart-sized bottle, mix the following:

2 teaspoons borax

1 teaspoon castile soap

Several drops tea tree and/or thyme (or concentrated thymol) oil

3 to 4 cups (enough to fill the bottle) warm water