Monday, January 20, 2014

Cheap Homemade Bathroom Cleaners that are Safer for Kids

I keep homemade cleaners in the rooms where they are used.
I label the tops with the purpose, and on the side, I put the recipe
on a label for easy refills. I keep the microfiber towel
right with the Glass cleaner.
I have a big Vegan confession to make. I'm not the great environmentalist that I'm supposed to be.

I don't even recycle faithfully (we don't have curbside here - and I just don't get it done very well).

But, when I was pregnant several years ago with my daughter, my concerns about the abstract world-wide environment changed into concerns about the concrete environment INSIDE my home! I began childproofing the house, and noticed what a HUGE number of things said "Harmful or Fatal if Swallowed" and were kept on the floor of virtually every home and business.

Prime example: Commercial Toilet Cleaner. That stuff is HIGHLY CAUSTIC! And, it's right where little kids can crawl and drink it in a split second. If they're speedy, they can even get to it while you're actively watching them (not to mention in that split-second when you go to stir something on the stove).

I decided that all the mega-toxins in my home would be either eliminated, or sequestered far from reach, past the locking baby gate, down the stairs,  in the basement laundry room. I wasn't even comfortable with the idea of pulling them out for 20 minutes to use them around my daughter.

So, I started researching safer alternatives. The internet & books had lots of great choices. I tested many of them - some worked, most didn't. These are the ones I have found work for me (and, a couple I created myself when I found nothing else that worked). An added bonus? They're MUCH cheaper than their chemical counterparts! : )

The New Good Life by John Robbins had the best selection of formulae of the books & resources I tried - and a couple of these are adapted from that book. His wife has cleaned houses professionally for years, and shared her tested-and-true favorite cleaners in the book.

I like to keep a spray bottle with any spray bottle formulations in EACH room in which they are used. Professional cleaners do this, and it really helps encourage that impulse-cleaning when you see a dirty spot - without making a huge job of hauling out the cleaning supplies. ( see The House that Cleans Itself for great tips of this sort - I think it's where I first found this idea)

All of these cleaners are reasonably safe around children - but even pure water requires caution with kids around - so do be careful. But these are all things I feel comfortable having my young daughter "help" me clean with. And, they're all easy to make - from grocery ingredients : ) Just get a couple of spray bottles, a microfiber towel, and you're ready to go!

Just a disclaimer here: These are the cleaners that work for ME. I'm not a scientist with a lab & huge budget. I can't guarantee that they won't harm any surface on the planet. I am not AWARE of any potential problems, but my knowledge is limited like that of all humans. Test on a small area before jumping in with both feet. I've been using these for a few years now -and I'm happy with them. And, exercise proper caution when using them around kids.

First and foremost, I had to solve the Caustic-Toilet-Cleaner-On-The-Floor problem. Turns out that was the easiest one to solve (why does anyone buy that horrid commercial stuff when this works so well?)

The Toilet Cleaner
Pour about 1 cup of White Vinegar into the toilet
Brush as normal
(It's really that easy!)
For really yucky ones, you can let the Vinegar sit for 20 minutes before brushing - I often pour it in the toilet before my shower - and brush after. How's that for convenience?

I'm no chemist - but something in vinegar neutralizes something nasty-smelling in human waste - so I've read. And, it works great. Vinegar also dissolves hard water residue, so a little soaking helps that, too.

A Note on Vinegar & Odor: A lot of people hesitate to clean with vinegar because they don't like the scent of vinegar. But vinegar actually deodorizes! It often reacts with odor-causers and neutralizes them. Then, when it dries, vinegar leaves no odor of its own. In fact, many household tips suggest putting bowls of vinegar around the house to get rid of unpleasant odors - like cigarette odors.

Then, there was the need for a safer glass cleaner (have you read the warnings on the big-name glass cleaners?):

For Mirrors, Windows & Shower Doors

Glass & Mirror Cleaner ***
Fill a Spray Bottle 1/3 full with White Vinegar
Fill it the rest of the way with Water.
Wipe with Microfiber Towel for best anti-streaking results.
(if your shower door is very yucky, use a fresh cloth to clean, then spray and re-wipe with the Microfiber cloth to polish)
Once again, the vinegar neutralizes base soap residue, AND dissolves hard water stains.

And, of course, I had to clean the fiberglass & porcelain surfaces:

For Those Shiny Bathroom Surfaces
(I use this for Fiberglass Sinks, Counters & Bathtub, and Porcelain or similar Toilet surfaces -like Tank, Seat & Rim)

All-Purpose Cleaner
Fill a Spray Bottle 1/2 full with White Vinegar
Fill it the rest of the way with Water
Add a Squirt of EITHER Dish Detergent or Bronner's Liquid Castile Soap* (about 1/4 teaspoon)

Simply Spray on, and wipe off. This stuff works great!

My very non-politically-correct cleaning method is to use a disposable shop towel for cleaning. I start with the cleanest surfaces, work my way to the germiest, then discard. I know a lot of you won't approve of this method - but one day it finally dawned on me that I avoided cleaning because it grossed me out to put filthy bathroom-cleaning rags in the washing machine with our clothes. So, I just stopped cleaning that way! (Besides which, I inherited a huge supply of disposable shop towels, and don't like to waste them)

For Everyday cleaning of shiny bathroom surfaces (such as the sink & counter), I use an "Eraser" type sponge (such as Magic Eraser or Quick Eraser) cut in quarters - and I use one quarter for everyday cleaning until it is worn out.

For Shiny Chrome surfaces, I usually just spray with the All Purpose Cleaner & wipe clean. But, if something more is needed, I use a little Baking Soda on a cloth and then rinse away, or else I use a stain removing dollar-store brand "eraser" similar to the Magic Eraser. (These need to be kept away from small children, because they can bite off small pieces & choke, and there is some danger if they rub them on their face or skin but, I still see them as much safer than many chemical alternatives)

But, my cleaning nemesis was - THE SHOWER!

A few years ago, we moved into a rental which had severe hard water stains on the floor of the shower. For YEARS, hard water had drip, drip, dripped onto this shower floor before we moved in, and had never been taken care of. They just wouldn't scrub off!

So, this was my solution for the hard water stains on the shower floor:

Hard Water Stains on the Shower Floor
Place folded paper towels or rags over the problem area.
Saturate with vinegar (I actually used wine vinegar for this one- as it was what I had)
Wait an hour or two (make sure the cloths stay saturated & don't dry out)
The stains were soft, and just scrubbed away with the tiniest effort!

Another Shower floor at one time was badly stained - it was a non-shiny surface that was hard to damage- but very hard to clean. I tried EVERYTHING -bleach, other harsh chemicals of virtually every brand, more than one brand of scouring powder, abrasives including Baking Soda and Pumice. NOTHING worked.

This was my solution, harkening back to everyone's Grade School Science Project (much like my gradeschool experience - I have NO idea WHY this cleaner works, but it's neat to watch ; )

The Shower Volcano
Sprinkle the (reasonably dry) shower floor with a visible layer of Baking Soda
Spray with All Purpose Cleaner (Above), till small fizzy bubbles form (if you start getting big bubbles, you're adding too much All Purpose Cleaner in proportion to the Baking Soda)
While the bubbles are actively fizzing, I scrub with a stiff brush, using a circular motion, while the stuff fizzes. (If you need to, add either more Baking Soda or more All Purpose cleaner, to keep a consistency similar to hand lotion.) This seems to have both a cleaning and bleaching effect -and made the shower floor look better than anything I've ever tried! It still wasn't perfect, as some stains were permanent, but it was miles ahead of all the alternatives - chemical or otherwise.

The Drain Deodorizer
If your shower has been cleaned, but doesn't smell good - it may well be that the drain is yucky. This old trick (promoted as a way to prevent clogs) really helps: Pour 1 cup of baking soda into the drain. Follow it with some vinegar (about 1 cup) to bubble lots - it will probably bubble up out of the drain. The bubbles may not be pretty if the drain was really yucky. Once the bubbling stops - pour in a little more vinegar if needed to react with all the soda. Then, follow with about a quart of boiling water to thoroughly clean. I use an electric kettle in the bathroom to get the boiling water - because back to kid safety - I don't want to risk carrying a pot of boiling water through the house with my little girl underfoot. After all that, rinse the shower floor with warm water from the shower.

*The Bronner's Company Recommends NEVER combining their product with vinegar, because they feel it de-saponifies the soap and turns it back to oil. All I can say is that I'm not a chemist, but this formulation works great for me with Bronner's, whether I understand the chemical processes or not. If you prefer (as I often do) a dash of basic Dishwashing Liquid (such as Joy or a similar product in the store brand) will work great here, with none of the drawbacks.

If you found this article helpful, you might also like my article on

Kitchen Cleaners

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  1. Love these tips :-)
    I have been using friendly cleaners for 18ish months now and I could never go back to harsh chemical products!

    1. I couldn't go back, either - These cleaners have NO drawbacks! They're cheaper, safer & work better! It's also nice to think that some factory worker doesn't have to spend their working life with dangerous, toxic chemicals so that I can have a clean sink.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Anna :-)
    Blessings :-)

    1. Thanks a bunch for vising, Kath - it's great to see you again : )

  3. Hi Anna,
    It is so important to replace those harsh, toxic household cleaning products with safe, natural, homemade alternatives like these. I also make cleaning products like these at home.
    Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful, green alternatives on the Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural Blog Hop! I appreciate it!

    1. Thanks so much for visiting & for hosting! I'm glad you already use ones like this - it is amazing the marketing that surrounds the chemicals - as if you can buy their product it will make your house magically clean (without you ever actually using it ; )

  4. What great tips. I don't have little ones around anymore, but I do love using natural and inexpensive cleaners. I would love it if you would share this and any other frugal posts you have at the Living Big On Less Money link party. I hope to see you there!

    1. Thanks so much for the invitation! I love your Living Big on Less Money party - I get lots of great ideas there!

    2. I have tried to make my own cleaners before, I just put some vinegar, water and essential oils in and mixed it up. It smelled nice and it cleaned fine .

      Brisbane carpet cleaners & Leather cleaning Gold Coast

  5. I use vinegar and baking soda for most of my household cleaning. It's doing a great job of cleaning and I feel better not having so many chemicals in the house. Thanks for sharing at Inspire Us Thursday on Organized 31.

  6. Great cleaning solutions! Thanks for sharing on The HomeAcre Hop! Hope to see you again today! We have a brand new giveaway going sure to enter for a chance to win!

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