Thursday, July 9, 2009

life made simple

Over the past few years, I’ve slowly acquired quite an arsenal of cleaning products that help to keep my home company ready. Notice I said help to keep, as my procrastination and perfectionism keep me from getting it all done sometimes.

Due to the aforementioned problems with my housecleaning, there are a few conditions that most household cleaners have to meet for me:
  1. Cheap
  2. Fast-working
  3. Fairly effortless
  4. No harsh chemicals (I rarely wear gloves and have a dog who licks everything off the floor that doesn’t taste like dirt)

So here for your enjoyment and use are my top 5 ‘cleaners’ and the many uses I’ve found for them.

1. Vinegar

Windows & Mirrors – I just mix it with water and a bit of cornstarch.

Counters & Floors – I use a slightly stronger ratio of vinegar to water with a touch of added bleach for sanitization purposes, and it cleans up any stains on my counters, appliances, and floors, with out any left over residue. (Please don’t ever mix bleach into a premixed window cleaner. Bleach + Ammonia = toxic gases that have been used in wars.)

Clogged Drains – Did you ever do the science experiment where you mix vinegar and baking soda to make a volcano?? The same premise basically applies here. Dump some baking soda down a drain, followed by the vinegar (a 1:1 cup basis works best). If possible, put the stopper into the drain immediately after pouring in the vinegar; this helps the reaction to push downwards rather than bubbling all out the top. The next morning, pour a pot of boiling water down the drain to clear out the detached gunk.

Fabric Softener – Thrown some vinegar into the rinse cycle of your washer, or use it in the nifty new front dispensers instead of fabric softeners. The vinegar helps to break down the soap residue which can make fabrics rough and stiff. Towels will lose some of their absorbency if washed with fabric softener, so vinegar is a great alternative!

2. Fels Naptha

A bar laundry soap. You may have to look around for this one. Some grocery stores still have this on their laundry product shelves, but it may take some searching. Other ‘laundry soaps’ may work just as well for the laundry, but nothing beats the multipurpose fels naptha.

Laundry – Create an economical laundry detergent by mixing grated fels naptha, borax, and washing soda. A liquid detergent can be made by using water to melt the ingredients together and then to form a ‘gel’. Full recipes can be found here at
Soaps Gone Buy (also a resource for purchasing the detergent ingredients). The bar of fels naptha can also be used as a stain remover if you dip the bar into some water and then rub it into the stain.

Poison Ivy – If you’ve been out hiking in the woods and noticed you were traipsing through some Poison Ivy, fels naptha will help to prevent a reaction. First, have a shower with the fels naptha as soap; it will be very drying to your skin b/c it breaks down ALL oils (including the oil off the leaves of that itchy plant) but if any rash has started, this will also help to dry it up quicker. Next, grate some fels naptha into a bucket of boiling hot water (or into your washer if you’re at home and not camping), and after agitating the water, allow your clothes to soak. (Poison Ivy residue can remain on clothing for up to one year if cleaned in normal detergent!)

Insect Control – Mix a Fels Naptha Solution (shave 1 inch of Fels Naptha bar into a gallon of boiling water along with 4 oz. liquid dish soap(Ivory); It will have a gel-like consistency.) Mix 1 cup of Fels Naptha Solution with 1 cup antiseptic mouthwash and 1 cup chewing tobacco juice (optional) in a spray bottle.

3. Original Blue Dawn

Sink Tub & Tile Cleaner – Mix blue Dawn with water (or vinegar for a ‘power’ mix and spray onto tub and tile. Let sit for about an hour, and then rinse off. Some tough stains may need a little scrubbing, but most scum seems to just melt off!

Anti-Residue Shampoo – Use once a month to remove hair spray and other residues from hair. Just as good as many of the salon shampoos for this purpose!

Hand Cleaner – Works great at degreasing your hands after some hard work.

Stain Remover – Just rub a bit into a stain and throw it in the wash.

Ice Pack – Place some blue Dawn into an sturdy zip loc bag (double bag for extra protection), and place in freezer. Detergent will stay colder longer, but will remain fluid enough to form to body parts.

4. Microfiber Cloths

If you’re able to find some good quality microfiber clothes, you can avoid many cleaners altogether. Windows and mirrors can often be cleaned with just a little bit of water and a cloth, and will sparkle for days! These cloths also gather up dust, and can be thrown into the washer or rinsed out by hand (with some blue dawn!) whenever they get dirty (use vinegar instead of fabric softener, as the latter can decrease fabric absorbency!).

5. Rubber Brush

I could have saved hours of work around the house if I had found one of these brushes sooner! I purchased mine from, but others can be found in home hardware stores.

Track Cleaning - We've all got many tracks around our house: window, shower door, patio doors, etc, and the rubber brush attacks all of that grim that gets in there and can be difficult to get out. Use the rubber brush to ‘sweep’ the area out first, then a little water and soap can help to break down the dirt and allow the brush to dig it out.

Dog Brushing – Have you ever heard the tip that pet hair can be removed from clothing and furniture by rubbing them down with a rubber glove, or tried to do your hair with a rubber band (ouch!)?? The same premise applies here, but it can also work on the pet as well (without the pain)! Our dog loves being brushed down with my rubber brush, and it seems to get down into her undercoat as well, which means less cleaning the furniture and carpets!

Baseboard cleaning – Our vacuum cleaner never seems to get the dirt, dust, and hair that settles along the baseboards, so I just run my rubber brush along where the carpet meets the wall and it sweeps up all of that left over rubbish!

I’ve hear of some people using the rubber brush to wash dishes and to exfoliate their skin, but mine hasn’t made it to those realms yet.

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