The next time you want to clean your bathroom or kitchen sink, don’t reach for that chemical-laden cleaner. Use instead your very own homemade cleaning products and you can be sure what you’re using is non-toxic and all natural.
WORDS SUE-ANN BAUMGÄRTEL
Have you ever stopped to read the label on your window cleaner? Or have your set aside a whole afternoon to give your shower and toilet a good scrub, only to find your bottle of cleaner half empty? Much like processed food, cleaning products can sometimes seem like an endless list of strange chemicals. As consumers, it is good to know what is in a product, but do we really know what we are buying and using? Are they actually necessary, or are we simply shopping according to habit and familiarity? Whilst off-the-shelf cleaning products are effective, they can also be highly toxic. Aerosol cleaning products might be easy to use, but have a damaging effect on the environment. Not only do they release greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming, they also contain organic compounds, which can add to smog pollution. Perhaps it is time to rethink how we clean our homes. As consumers, we want a clean home, but we also want to protect our family and the environment. It’s time to go back to the basics!
The Home Lab
Making your own household cleaning products is much like baking a cake. Once you have the basic ingredients or components, all you need is a little mixing and stirring, and – voilà! – you have your very own bottle of window cleaner or bathroom scrub. And since you are working with many non-toxic elements, treat it like a science experiment, and let the children join in with the mixing and bottling. However, make sure children are supervised at all times. Although you probably have most of the products on hand in your home, here is a list of the basics that you will need in order to make your own household cleaners:
· White vinegar
· Baking soda
· Natural soap and detergent
· Alcohol – vodka, for example
· Rubbing alcohol – a general topical antiseptic solution like isopropyl can be found in pharmacies
· Hydrogen peroxide – comprised only of water and oxygen, hydrogen peroxide is sometimes considered to be the safest natural sanitizer available
· Essential oils – tea tree, lemon, orange, rosemary, eucalyptus
· Empty spray bottles, plastic bottles, glass jars, a funnel
¾ cup water
¼ cup alcohol
1 squirt natural detergent
a few drops of essential oil of your choice (optional)
Put all the ingredients in a spray bottle. Use on all surfaces like counter tops and fridge shelving. Not recommended for wood surfaces.
2 cups water
½ cup white vinegar
¼ cup rubbing alcohol
Put all the ingredients in a spray bottle and shake. Spray on windows and glass surfaces, and wipe away with a microfiber cloth.
Half a lemon
½ cup of borax or baking soda
Dip the lemon into the borax/soda and use the lemon to scrub surfaces such as bathtubs, sinks and enamel surfaces. Works well on rust.
Heavy-duty Kitchen Scrub
¼ cup natural detergent
¼ baking soda
1 tbsp water
a few drops essential oils (optional)
Mix together to make a thick paste. Using a sponge, scrub the dirty surface with the paste and rinse well. Works well on burnt pans and kitchen sinks.
Lime Scale Remover
Over time, lime scale can build up in kettles and showers, especially in hard water areas. Descale your kettle by pouring in water and vinegar – 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water. Leave to soak for at least two hours and rinse out.
Clean your showerhead by filling a plastic bag with the same
vinegar–water mixture, and securing the bag around the
showerhead with a rubber band. Leave the showerhead immersed in the mixture for several hours, and rinse out well.
Mould and Mildew
Singapore’s climate is notorious for producing mould and mildew. Mix two teaspoons of tea tree oil into two cups of water and wipe onto the mouldy area. Corners in the shower, tiling in the shower, silicone sealant around the shower – mould seems to have a soft spot for the shower. Leave for twenty-four hours, and then work some baking soda into the area with an old toothbrush. Rinse away with clean water.
Children and stains are partners in crime. Whether it is a tomato stain on a favourite white dress or scribbles on the wall, children will always find a way to leave their mark! Here are some ways to deal with these troublesome stains:
· Protein-based stains, such as blood, urine, milk and egg yolk are best treated straightaway. Soak the affected area in cold water. Make a paste with equal amounts of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda and rub it on the affected area.
· Grease and oil can be soaked up with a light sprinkling of baking soda. After a few minutes, brush off the excess baking soda and soak the affected area in white vinegar for about 15 minutes.
· Tomato stains can be pre-treated with a light vinegar soak before washing normally.
· Paint can be removed by soaking the affected area in some rubbing alcohol for about 30 minutes.
· Sweat marks can be pre-treated with a solution of equal amounts of hydrogen peroxide and water. Rub in some baking soda for stubborn stains. Wash normally.
· Chewing gum can be removed by putting the item of clothing into the freezer and then scrapping the frozen chewing gum away with a sharp knife.
· The sun is a natural brightener of whites, and best of all, it is free in Singapore. So hang out those white t-shirts!
· Oxygen bleach is a safer alternative to chlorine bleach. It is made from natural soda ash or borax and hydrogen peroxide. Not only is it colour-safe, it doesn’t break down the fabric structure like chlorine bleach. It not only brightens whites, it also brightens colours.
1 cup baking soda
¼ cup citric acid
1 tbsp washing up liquid
a silicone ice cube tray
Mix all the ingredients together until they form a thick paste. Press the mixture firmly into the silicone ice cube tray, making sure to wipe away any excess. Leave to dry overnight. Once completely dry, gently pop them out and store in an airtight container. To clean your toilet, simply toss a toilet bomb into the toilet bowl. Once it stops fizzing, flush away any remains.