These days there is a palable anxiety around the pursuit of a clean and healthy household. There is a rallying cry to abandon all harsh chemical cleaners and energy-draining appliances. While this is excellent news for the environment, figuring out the best way to make your home a healthy place can be a challenge. Balancing that with your time and budget constants can create tension around an exercise that is intended to increase your well being.
Not only do you want to find the right and most cost-effective cleaning products and methods for your home, the search can take time and you could end up with product or ingredients you do not absolutely use. Then there is the quandary of whether you make everything yourself or buy what you need.
I follow a number of bloggers who are way ahead of me in terms of being conscious with the way they live and run their households (especially homesteaders). Even they can feel overwhelmed at times. One blogger was at a loss during flue season to keep up with her inventory of homemade remedies, like cough syrup.
Balancing an Eco-friendly Clean Home with Practicality
The lesson here is to be practical and know your limits. Do what you can, when you can. Having gone through this eco-friendly adventure myself, these are some findings I've compiled over the past four years.
Basic Supplies to Consider for Your Cleaning Pantry
- Distilled white vinegar
- Bragg's Raw Apple vinegar
- Distilled water
- Baking soda
- Rubbing alcohol (91+ percent)
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Castile soap (I use it sparingly because I do not like the scum it can leave behind)
- Essential oils (like tea tree, lavender, lemon or orange, peppermint)
- Lemons and lemon juice
- Basic olive oil (does not need to be the extra virgin variety)
Where to Find Recipes for Natural Cleaning Solutions
- Essential oil supplier websites
- Online publications
I do not think any of us can escape the need to experiment with homemade cleaning recipes. I know I have tried a number of variations and extremely customized most of them. So it does take some time find your rhythm with these formulas. However, I have found that it has been well worth the effort. Here are some highlights of my adventures.
Adventures in Laundry
On one hand, using these natural buds to clean your clothes sounds great. It's nature, right? On the other hand, I worry about how well today's fabrics generally hold up to their bulk (even when inside a cloth bag). How many of us have sturdy denim and cotton clothes as the bulk of our wardrobe? Personally, I'd rather use some form of liquid soap (either handmade or from an eco-friendly brand). For me it's Seventh Generation or Eco. Measured accurately, I find the large size of these brands can last at least 3 months.
As for drying clothes in a dryer, I've seen Pinterest recommendations like tennis balls as a replacements to conventional dry sheets. Given the materials used to make these balls, this looks like an unwisely choice for two reasons. First, these balls are intended to hold up to some pretty rough use. I'm thinking they might in turn rough up my clothes and linens as a result. Second, new tennis balls give off a fairly strong odor, not one I want to have in my laundry. There are also some plastic or rubber versions that put me off.
I've also read plenty about people scrunching up aluminum foil into dryer balls. Frankly, this solution seems more like a potential problem, as in being too abrasive for the walls of my dryer.
What I have found works best are the wool dryer balls (I use six together). They hold up well, reduce drying time, and provide me with almost wrinkle-free, non-static laundry. Plus, you can add a bit of essential oil to them for a fresh scent.
A note on drying: I generally use the dryer on low, just to get out wrinkles. Then I hang most things to dry thoroughly.
Dusting Bunnies and Wood Care
In my experience, it turns out that dusting, and caring for wood furniture, is actually pretty easy and straightforward. For dusting I have two approaches that work best. First, I find a microfiber facecloth is the most efficient way to collect dust from furniture and other surfaces, without having any airborn. Second, a wet cloth works best for corralling dust bunnies and other strains from the washer and dryer, the top of the toilet tank, and other smooth surfaces.
After a short period of experimentation, I've come to the conclusion that simple olive oil is the best wood care product. As a result of some Pinterest frenzy over coconut oil, I gave it a try. I found it absolutely counterproductive. It appeared to suck the moisture right out of the wood. Once upon a time I used Teak oil, but it is very expensive, so I gave my handy olive oil a try. Eureka! It works beautifully and all my wood furniture is happy. I rarely have to recondition it.
Those Dirty Dishes
Making my own liquid and dishwasher soaps are not for me. I prefer to rely on Seventh Generation liquid soap for hand washing. As for the dishwasher, I've yet to find any sustainable brand able to hold its own against hard water. So I fully admit I use a conventional brand in this case. Come to think of it, it is the only conventional kitchen cleaning product I now use.
The Practicality and Benefits of Eco-friendly Cleaning Products
Whether you make or buy sustainable home cleaning products, or use a combination of the two, is up to you. Beyond being environmentally sound, the basic cleanser ingredients I list above do not take up a lot of storage space. So they get extra brownie points. Essential oils also do not have to take up a lot of valuable real estate in your pantry. Many are multi-purpose oils, but below are which and how I personally use them on an average basis.
Here are the essential oils I keep on hand for general cleaning:
- Tea Tree
For aromatherapy and first-aid purposes I keep:
- Rose water concentrate
- Cinnamon Cassia
- Earth and Wood (Eden's Garden)
My Personal Practices and Tradeoffs
After much consideration, this is what I've come to find works best for me and my household. I absolutely love not chocking on toxic fumes or feeling lightheaded from using strong chemical cleansers
- General house cleansers: I make my own
- Reed diffuser fragment: I make my own
- Dishwashing liquid: I buy it
- Dishwasher soap: I buy it (still in pursuit of eco-friendly version)
- Laundry: I buy liquid soap and wool dryer balls
- Hand washing: I buy liquid soap (but am about to experiment with making my own , for which I will try out Dr. Wood's Rose Castile Soap and their Lavender Organic Shea Butter Castile Soap)
A special note about toilet cleansers: So far I have failed to either find or create a formula that can conquer the toilet bowl. I use a small amount of bleach every other week or so. No, I'm not proud to say that I do. My quest for the proper cleanser continues.
The best advice I can offer anyone considering an eco-friendly shift in their household cleaning routine is to take your time. Do not try to change everything all at once. You will feel overwhelmed.
If you have not already, experiment with making your own general household cleanser, then branch out from there. Make one change to how you use your washer and dryer. Learn about and then try out two to three essential oils.
It is like cooking. First, you learn to cook a handful of meals, following the recipes precisely. As you become comfortable with the process and ingredients, you gain enough confidence to experiment more and more. The same applies to your household and how you manage a paradigm shift in caring for it.