Sunday, May 12, 2013

Best Cleaning Supplies - Old School

Modern Americans really are pretty obsessed with cleaning. People don't want things clean - they want them sterile. I do not think most people are interested in relaxing their standards, but for those who are, I have created this post.

Most people would be appalled by my cleaning standards, because I suspect that the human immune system probably functions better when presented with a broad spectrum of mild challenges. I'm not saying that I let the dogs lick my dishes clean or I wipe my counters with raw chicken, but
(for example) I no longer have a dishwasher to heat-sterilize my dishes - in fact, I often have to use cold water to wash my dishes, as the water heater is only on a few hours a day. I also only use Ivory or handmade soap - no modern detergents. This means I have to wash my dishes very carefully, and it takes longer, but they are old-school clean. I don't clean any part of my kitchen or bathroom with any chemical other than soap or pine cleaner water, though the toilet gets a bit of a scrub with a pumice stone from time to time.

Modern cleaning products are:
  • Expensive - and the least offensive or highest quality products are, of course, usually the most expensive.
  • Too specific in their uses - the list of cleaning chemicals in most household would include: soaps and hair products, dish and laundry detergents, oven cleaner, fabric softeners and stain removers, glass cleaner, all-purpose cleaners, no-scrub cleaners, mildew removers, toilet cleaners, bleach, floor/carpet care products, and air fresheners.
  • Inconvenient to store - Cleaning products are generally harmful to store near pretty much anything, due to fumes, or the likelihood that their containers could leak.
  • Harmful to the environment  - I couldn't use most modern chemicals if I wanted to because I have an aerobic septic system. An aerobic septic system causes a homeowner to recognize the direct impact of chemicals on the environment, as the water that goes into the septic tank will be sprinkled onto plants. 
  • Almost impossible to get rid of - I had to buy several specific-use chemicals to restore old bathroom and kitchen fixtures/appliances before installation in my new house. I had to eventually give them to a city person who took them to a chemical disposal station. Scary.

This is a list of great cleaning agents, and positively the only ones I use:
  • Vinegar - I use vinegar in my laundry, about a quarter to a half of a cup per load depending on how large and how stinky. Try to add it during the rinse cycle rather that the start of the load. Can also be used to clean windows, shower curtains, washing machines, coffeemakers.
  • Liquid bluing - makes whites whiter as they dinge with age. Not really a cleaning application, but bluing can be used as a dye with salt/vinegar as a mordant. Blue and black the only colors I can think of that can't be commonly found in nature.
  • Ivory/hard Castille/homemade soap - I clean every dish, appliance, and fixture in my house with soap and water on a worn-out green scrubby. I wash myself with soap, as well.
  • Pine cleaner - Use pine cleaner diluted in water to disinfect floors and other surfaces. It also makes toilets, clothes, etc. smell good.
  • Borax - A good non-abrasive scrubbing agent and for stains, odors, etc. 
  • Baking soda - Absorbs smells, good scrubbing agent, good for cleaning silver. Can be used to brush teeth, and is awesome for cleaning tea stains off of dishes.
  • Liquid Castille soap/baby shampoo - To wash people hair and dogs. 
  • Toothpaste - I use commercial toothpaste rather than natural alternatives because I do not have fluoridated water. It can also be used an a silver polish.
  • I've read a lot of good things about citrus oils, peroxide, ammonia, lemon juice, and salt but have never actually used them myself.
Many of these substances combine to do other chores. For example, I make my own laundry soap by using borax, Ivory/hard Castille/homemade soap, and washing powder. Lemon juice on baking soda can remove tough stains on porcelain. Vinegar and baking soda combined can remove mineral deposits.

This is not an exhaustive list of what can be done with these substances, only what I use them for. Internet searches yield many more ideas. Try these sites:

To clean, I use:
  • Broom: Easy for tile and wood floors. I have a vacuum but I rarely use it.
  • Pumice stone - Mineral deposits in toilet.
  • Toilet brush - Twice a week toilet scrubbing.
  • Green scrubbies - For dishes and porcelain fixtures. 
  • Washable cloths made of old T-shirts - Floors, counters, walls, windows, dusting, and any task typically involving sponges or paper towels.
  • Steel wool - scrubs and shines stainless steel and copper.

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