Spring Cleaning Naturally

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Spring Cleaning Supplies
Photo by: THINKSTOCK

When it comes to housecleaning, I count myself among the minimum-but-good-enough class of rural dwellers.

Heating with wood (smoke, ash, wood chips, sawdust), living with a food-producing solar greenhouse that communicates directly with the house (dirt, dust), and preferring to spend my time growing, foraging, and preserving as much of my own food as possible makes maintaining high cleaning standards challenging.

For my good-enough housecleaning tasks, I use a small and admirably versatile array of natural housecleaning products: vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, salt, borax, wood ash.

I started using these products many years ago, mostly because so many commercial cleaning products gave me headaches and irritated my eyes and nasal passages.

The headaches stopped, the natural products worked well, and they’ve saved a lot of money over the years.

Astonishing versatility

I continue to love the fact that this half-dozen of natural products singly or in combination will clean my toilet, tub, teeth, upholstery, carpets and windows, super-clean our grubbiest laundry, deodorize our pets and our car’s interior while they also soothe sunburns and insect stings, relieve an itch, gargle away many sore throats, and wash and condition my hair.

And please note: four of the six are pantry staples and safe enough to eat.

Below, I remind you of just a few of the ways I use these products for tough cleaning and deodorizing tasks.

white-vinegar_quarter_width.jpgVinegar
I use white vinegar in a spray bottle to sanitize kitchen and bathroom surfaces, prevent or remove hard-water scale from the coffee pot, tub and toilet, as a window cleaner, and to remove labels from products or stickers from walls. It will unplug most drains by pouring half a cup of baking soda, followed by a cup of white or cider vinegar. (Don’t use a commercial drain product first, as you could create toxic fumes.)

I’ve learned those tough, longstanding, tough limescale stains in sinks and toilets that no amount of scouring will clean will eventually give way after repeated, long soakings with white vinegar.

Oh, and a couple of tablespoons of ordinary olive oil in a cup of vinegar works well to dust and polish wood furniture.

baking_soda_quarter_width.jpgBaking Soda
Especially in combination with salt, baking soda works well for scouring sinks and tubs, brushing your teeth, wiping down and deodorizing the refrigerator, removing smells and stains from carpets and upholstery (rub in, leave for an hour, shake or vacuum out).

Lemon Juice 

Half a cup in a gallon of water helps brighten white clothes without bleach (es
lemons_quarter_width.jpg

pecially if you hang the clothes in the sunshine.) Sprayed or rubbed on straight, lemon juice removes stains from countertops and rust stains from clothing. Clean toilets with a paste of baking soda and lemon juice; squirt lemon juice for fresh smell.

Half a cut lemon left on a shelf will deodorize the fridge. Sprayed or rubbed on with a cloth, straight lemon juice (or straight vinegar) will remove mold and mildew from many surfaces.

morton_quarter_width.jpgSalt
One part table salt mixed with four parts each of borax and baking soda makes a good scouring powder for tubs, sinks and toilets. Adding a little vinegar to a teaspoon of salt makes a good scrub for removing coffee or tea stains from mugs and cups. (And don’t forget the health benefits of salt.)

Boraxborax_quarter_width.jpg

Borax helps clean the tub, remove tough stains in laundry. I add it to baking soda and salt to make a general purpose scouring powder.

wood_ash_quarter_width.jpgWood ash
In a paste with a little water, cleans glass! Sprinkled on and scrubbed into pavement, bricks, and stone, it will help remove oil stains.

Actually, when you come up against challenging cleaning or deodorizing tasks, try one or more in combination and you’ll probably find something that will do the trick. That’s what I do, and it almost always works.

~ By  Margaret Boyles

About This Blog

Margaret Boyles lives in a wood-heated house in central New Hampshire. She grows vegetables, keeps chickens, swims in a backyard pond in summer, snowshoes in the surrounding woods in winter, and commutes by bike whenever possible.

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very old grandfather clock

Hi ,
How do we clean the brass face of a very old grandfather clock and also the brass chime weights. The clock is over a hundred years old and is beautiful but, has lost it wonderful brass shine. There are many little nooks, and crannies on the face and around the raised numbers.

Think twice

Hi, Cece: Bear in mind that if you remove the beautiful patina on this clock, you will almost certainly reduce its value. That being said, you could try some tiny test areas on one of the chimes, always being very gentle and drying thoroughly afterward. First, try just plain warm water. Sometimes the culprit is just built-up dirt. Next, try just plain lemon juice or vinegar. If that doesn’t work, add ½ teaspoon salt to ¼ cup water, then add enough flour to make a paste. Apply for 15 minutes, then wipe and dry. Remember, just try a little patch at a time. FWIW, we would leave the patina as is–but good luck and thanks for asking! 

Hair tips

So where are the tips about washing and conditioning hair?

How do i remove paint I 'scraped' onto my white car???

I made a boo-boo by hitting my parking fence by accident...didn't dent my car, but brown paint got onto my white car! How do I remove it? Looks terrible, considering I try to keep my car nice! Any suggestions, please?

You can soak orange/lemon

You can soak orange/lemon peel in the vinegar ,prior to clean ups .Usually a week or better .You'll have a pleasant citrus smelling cleaner .

Wonderful article!! I find

Wonderful article!! I find it interesting that we are moving back to the, more natural, ways of our grandparents and great grandparents. I wish that, when I was a child, I had written down all of what my grandmother did and said. Worth a gold mine today!!
Sheila :)

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