Vinegar and Baking Soda Unite: DIY Eco-Friendly Cleaning
Just in time for spring cleaning, we were thrilled to host a demo on eco-friendly cleaning products. Our presenters, Jen Wills and Mellenie Runion, showed us how to avoid household chemicals by making your own cleaning products and embracing environmentally conscious lifestyles.
Jen Wills is a Del Ray parent and environmentalist who has done extensive research on household chemicals. Jen started out by describing some of the common chemicals in our homes, saying “you name it, they’re there.”
U.S. law allows manufacturers of cleaning products to use almost any ingredient they wish. If they make a claim like “kills bacteria,” though, they have to list the pesticides in the product. For example, this Soft Scrub product says “it kills 99.9 % of germs,” and therefore, also lists an active ingredient.
Some labels sound rather innocuous like “BabyGanics: The Sparkle Maker Glass Surface Cleaner—Fragrance Free.” Well, that one contains this crazy-sounding chemical combination: HEXAHYDRO-1,3,5-TRIS (2-HYDROXYETHYL)-S-TRIAZINE.
If you’re curious about what a specific ingredient is, like the one in the BabyGanics product, you can easily look it up on the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning to determine the product’s safety rating.
But one way to avoid the questions and uncertainty is to clean our homes with the powerful, natural, non-toxic ingredients: vinegar, baking soda, Castile soap, and water.
In our demo, we described the pH levels of these ingredients and how they work to clean just about every surface in our homes. Castile soap, a vegetable-based soap like Dr. Bronner’s, is alkaline and has properties that attach to soil that you can rinse away with water. Baking soda is alkaline, so it works well on acidic substances, like proteins, grease, and pet messes. It’s abrasive, a deodorizer, a grease cutter, and has mild bleaching qualities. Jen and I tested how it works to both clean and deodorize by sprinkling some on a pet stain.
After letting it sit for about a half-hour, we vacuumed up the baking soda and then scrubbed in a mixture of vinegar, Castile soap, and water. After that, we blotted it with more warm water and let dry.
Vinegar is acidic, so it works well on alkaline substances, like mold, soap scum, stains, coffee, rust, tea, and liquor. Jen and I tested a mixture of vinegar and water on a mirror marked up with fingerprints.
Using a soft cloth, the window was squeaky clean after just a few wipes.
You can download our collection of Eco-friendly cleaning recipes to make your own toilet bowl cleaner, bathtub scrub, sink and stovetop cleaner, glass cleaner, drain cleaner, wood polish, and an all-purpose cleaner.
Together in the demo, we made some of the all-purpose cleaner in 12 oz. spray bottles for everyone to take home with them.
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon Castile Soap
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- Warm water to to the top of the bottle.
- Few drops of eucalyptus, lavender, lemon, tea tree, or thyme essential oils (optional)
- With a funnel, mix baking soda, soap, and vinegar in a spray bottle.
- Let it settle and then fill with warm water.
- Shake again.
- Let it settle and then optionally, add essential oils.
Some chose to add a few drops of tea tree oil in addition to another essential oil, or by itself, as a natural disinfectant.
Mellenie Runion, owner of Truly-Life, hosted our demo in her lovely home where she makes her own eco-friendly soaps and skin-care products (including this all-natural lip balm she showed us how to make at a previous demo).
She shared some of her tips and tricks for cleaning and being environmentally conscious. For example, she says she doesn’t line her garbage can with plastic bags. Instead, she mostly composts her kitchen waste, and then tosses out the garbage rather than putting a plastic bag into a landfill.
Before we left, she offered everyone a piece of the loofahs she grows in her garden to use as a natural scrubber.
Jen and I had brought a few books to the demo to show everyone. I had checked a few out from the library and really liked Green Clean. It has an excellent chart on where to dispose of chemicals and how to deal with stains.
We’ve written about other ways to use eco-friendly solutions in your home too: You can also improve the air quality in your home naturally, and you can make homemade room scents using natural ingredients like lemons and rosemary.
If you have any tips for eco-friendly cleaning, please share in the comments below.
Also, we’re planning our next demo and want to hear from you! Is there a particular subject you’d like to learn at a future demo? Would you like to host a demo in your home? Please contact us and share your ideas.