Friday, June 3, 2011

Clean Green

I've never much cared for cleaning.  I remember my mother telling me once, as I sat in the midst of utter destruction in my bedroom, that I had a certain amount of days to clean it all up or else she was giving it all away.  To six year old me, that was pretty heavy stuff right there.  I did what any reasonable child would; put away my two most treasured possessions, and played with the rest like they were about to be taken away.  And they were.  And once they were gone I had a spotless room without having to clean.  I thought I was pretty smart...until my mother grabbed even the toys I put away and shoved them deep inside that black garbage bag.  I cried bitter internal tears and said a quiet goodbye to my beloved toy typewriter, knowing I would never hear the *cla-ching* of it's platen again.  All these years later, I can still picture it exactly as it was...*sigh*

Though it's still true that I don't particularly care for the process of cleaning, I love a clean house; there is something so rewarding in the relaxation that comes as you sit and bask in the sparkliness of a tidy home.  For me could be just one more thing that classifies me as weird.  Unfortunately it's a reward I haven't been able to partake in for the past couple of weeks.  You see, I gave all my cleaning chemicals away.  I knew if I gave away the old stuff, I would follow through with the effort of ordering the ingredients I couldn't find here, and not fall back into the comfort of the way I've always done it.  So out the old went, and I placed an order for the missing ingredients; castille soap and essential oils. 

Patience has never really been my thing, and today I decided I just couldn't wait for the arrival of my order anymore.  I went to the commissary hunting for substitutes, and found some Avalon Organics Glycerin Handsoap.  Jill Potvin Schoff in Green Up Your Cleanup suggested an organic soap as her second choice if you were unable to find castille soap, so I snatched it up.  Finally, I had everything I needed. 
I also picked up some microfiber cloths, which apparently are the holy grail of green cleaning; except for baking soda.  And vinegar.  And spray bottles. 
I made the All Surface Cleaner and Glass Cleaner recipes.  Thankfully my Mom had the foresight to be a Tupperware lady in the early 90s, or I probably wouldn't own a funnel.  Thanks Mom.  For the glass cleaner you need a blue spray bottle; yes it has to be blue if you want to even remotely compete with Windex.  Pour in one cup of white distilled vinegar and one cup water.
  I used distilled water too, because I'm a snob like that.  Or it could be because we were given a notice on our base along the lines of, "your water is full of lead; don't drink it or you'll die a horrible, painful death."  Something like that.  Thankfully I have a really cool Mother-in-law who just so happened to buy us a distiller a little while before we were sent over here.
Add 1/2 tsp liquid soap, and a few drops essential oils.  The essential oils are not really essential, even though my nose disagrees.  Vinegar and my sniffer are not the best of friends.

For the All Surface Cleaner, use a 16 ounce spray bottle, and pour 2 tsp Borax into it.  Be sure to get an exact measurement like I did *cough*
Fill the bottle with hot water, and shake until the Borax is dissolved.  Then add 1/4 tsp liquid castille soap.
Now I was armed and dangerous, and ready to see the fighting power of my concoctions. 
I set to work on one of the dirtiest surfaces in my house; the windows.  I have never cleaned the windows here, because everytime I have ever cleaned windows in the past, it's been an epic, streaky failure.  But with little fingers and little paws all over the sliding door, something had to be done.  I armed myself with the recommended squeegee, and set to work.  And the smell of vinegar filled ther air...hurry up essential oils, I need you! 

I was pleasantly surprised with the results, and while I can't honestly call it "streak free" I think that has more to do with my lack of squeegee expertise than the actual cleaner.  I used to be pretty magical with one of those things; back in the days of girlhood when cleaning the windshield at the gas station was the coolest thing on earth.  Somehow it doesn't seem quite as appealing anymore; or maybe I'm just too distracted by the maniacal laughter of the meter as it "ca-chings!" it's way through our hard-earned money... 

I was so excited the cleaners actually worked, that I went on a cleaning frenzy.  I organized my pantry.  I cleaned out my fridge.  I pulled my stove out and cleaned behind it.  Now I sit, basking in my reward.  A clean house.  And remarkably, it doesn't smell like salad dressing.

Try these out; they really work.  I will be doing a break-down comparison of price soon...

All Surface Cleaner:
16 oz spray bottle
2 tsp Borax
hot water
1/4 tsp liquid castille soap

Put the Borax in the spray bottle.  Fill the bottle with hot water and shake until the Borax is dissolved, then add the soap.  Spray on surface and let sit 1-2 minutes.  Wipe with sponge or microfiber cloth.

Glass Cleaner:
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 tsp liquid castille soap
3-8 drops essential oil

Fill a spray bottle with vinegar and water, and shake gently.  Add essential oil.  Add the soap just to dissolve waxy buildup (from standard cleaners.  Once it is gone, you can leave out the soap).  You can also use sprayed on club soda.  Don't clean in direct sun as it will dry too fast and leave streaks.  Use a squeegee.

All Purpose Liquid Cleaner ~ Large Batch: 
 1 gallon hot water
1 Tbsp baking soda
2 Tbsp liquid soap

Fill a bucket with hot water, then add the baking soda and soap.  Add the soap last to prevent foaming.  Add 1 Tbsp of washing soda for removing heavy grease, or 1 Tbsp of Borax for disinfecting and killing mildew.

I also found that baking soda works great as a scouring powder today.  My bathroom sink had some gunky, grimy, nastiness in it, and the All Surface cleaner just wasn't doing the trick.  I grabbed a brush and some baking soda, and voila!  Sparkly clean.  And here I thought nothing would ever replace my beloved Comet.


  1. I think you might get me started on home-made cleaners. :]

  2. Great!! Thank you for the recipes! =) Now I'll have to try them out.