Saturday, November 28, 2009

DIY Mom Makes All-Purpose Cleaner #1

Do I have the time?

Do I have the money?

Is it really worth it?

When I’m looking at a new DIY/MYO project, these are the questions I ask myself.

I’m a busy mom of two—with another on the way—and, quite simply, I don’t have loads of extra time to spare. And, of course, as a single-income family, we don't have gobs of excess cash lying around either. I doubt any of us do.

That’s why I came up with this simple mantra:

It must be affordable, it must be simple, it must be good.

Today's the time to put the mantra into action. I'm making an all-purpose alkaline household cleaner from my new book on "green cleaning" (Annie Berthold-Bond's "Better Basics for the Home: Simple Solutions for Less Toxic Living"). The recipe for the homemade cleaner is below.

I'll examine cost vs. time vs. effectiveness later in the post, but first, let's get down to the nuts and bolts.

Ingredients needed:

1. 1/2 teaspoon Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda (as I'm mixing, 1/2 tsp. seemed so minuscule, so I made it 1 teaspoon)

2. 2 teaspoons 20-Mule Team Borax

3. 1/2 teaspoons liquid soap or detergent (I also made this 1 tsp., and I used Dr. Bronner's Almond Organic Liquid Castile Soap)

4. 2 cups hot water (nuked it in a 2-cup glass measuring cup for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes)

To Create:

1. Measure all ingredients directly into the hot water in the 2-cup measuring glass.

2. Stir.

3. Pour into a plastic spray bottle (a funnel is helpful here)and shake well. Shake before each use to ensure minerals are mixed in well.

This basic alkaline cleaner is good to tackle grease, neutralize odors, and remove stains and dirt. Use it for things like cleaning floors and wiping walls and baseboards (vs. a basic acidic cleaner, which usually includes an acidic agent like distilled white vinegar, and is good for glass and mirrors, sinks, bathrooms and the like).

I have to talk a sec about ingredients, before evaluating the success of the project, because, if you're like I was when I began learning about natural cleaning, you are going "huh?" on the washing soda and borax. Both are widely used in "green" cleaning. Washing soda is is 100% sodium carbonate and does not contain fragrance, surfactants or other additives. It is used as a laundry booster and household cleaner and is considered an environmentally acceptable alternative to other household products. Borax is a naturally occurring mineral that is mined and is also used as a natural laundry and multi-purpose household cleanser.

Most books and blogs I've read say you can find them both in the laundry aisle of your local grocery, but I have very little luck. I did find borax in my local grocery chain in Pittsburgh, Giant Eagle, but only in its larger "market district" store. I couldn't find washing soda, though, but discovered I can order it online through Ace Hardware and have it shipped to my local store for free. They have borax too, so when I need to restock, I'll be ordering both through Ace. It's a pretty painless process.

For liquid soap or detergent, I chose to use an organic liquid castile (olive oil) soap that's pretty widely available online and at health food stores, Dr. Bronner's. I love the almond scent of my Dr. Bronner's--it reminds me of the spritz cookies I enjoy making around the holidays--but there a variety of scents available in Dr. Bronner's liquid soaps (8, in fact, and almost all sound yummy to me: Peppermint, Rose, Lavendar, Eucalyptus, Tea Tree, Citrus, Unscented and Baby Mild).

But, enough about delectable organic soaps. Did this cleaner meet the DIY Mom Mantra? Remember: It must be affordable, it must be simple, it must be good.

$$$: Excuse the pun, but dirt-cheap: A whopping 13 cents per bottle.

TIME: Speedy. About 2 minutes to measure and mix.

PAYOFF: I saved a massive $3.55 a bottle over store-bought, and I feel much better about cleaning with natural products than toxic chemicals.

But, the million-dollar question is: How effective is this homemade concoction, compared to commercially made cleaners? Since I've just made this particular recipe for the first time, I'm going to be evaluating it for different cleaning tasks around my home. Stay posted for blog updates.

DIY Mom's Math Notes for Those Fiscally Inclined:

* Borax-$4.99 for 76-ounce box, .02 cents for 2 teaspoons (I figured out the cost per ounce and then divided that by 6, since there are 6 teaspoons per ounce and used that figure to come up with cost per tsp.)

*Super Washing Soda--$3.79 for 55 ounce box--.01 cents for 1 teaspoon

*Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap--$9.29 for 16 fl. oz., or .10 cents for 1 teaspoon

*Spray Bottle--free, reused bottle from another household cleaning product

Cost of 22 fl. oz. bottle of Clorox Daily Sanitizing Spray--$4.99, or .23 an ounce--$3.68 for 16 ounces

My 16 oz. homemade cleaner--.13 cents. for 16 ounces

1 comment:

DIY Mom: said...


I'm disappointed to report that so far I don't love this solution. The two main areas I wanted to try it on were our floors (rigged up into our Swiffer Wet Jet bottle, which I cut open and refilled with this--see blog post -- and the bottom of my shower, which is white and textured and always looks vaguely grimy, no matter how hard I scrub. It didn't really work on either. The solution, even when shaken, left yucky white, mineral streaks on the floors and DIY Dad said it didn't seem to get at the dirt. The solution didn't do much I could tell for my shower floor either. I'm not giving up yet--I'll do some more testing and research and try to see what this is good for. Also, please, please, if you're just starting out with making your own cleaners, don't let this deter you. There are always other, more effective solutions to natural cleaning, and I'll let you know as I test and discover what works best.