I’m sorry, but Kermit the Frog was wrong. Sometimes it IS easy being green! Whether you’re concerned about the potential toxicity of commercial cleaners or if you’re looking for ways to cut household spending, vinegar and baking soda are about to become your new best friends. Check out the post on procrastination here to motivate you to clean! As you begin your journey into the world of green-cleaning, these two simple, inexpensive, safe items will be the backbone of nearly any recipe you create at home. Make a mental note to pick up super-sized quantities of baking soda and vinegar on your next shopping trip.
I see you clinging to your bottle of scrubbing bubbles! Relax. Going to green cleaning is easy and does not require you to adopt the “Crunchy” label unless you want to. Vinegar and baking soda both possess qualities that actually make them just as effective as most commercial cleaners. And, vinegar and baking soda are known quantities – both are edible and biodegradable. If you have pets and/or small children, this is a huge bonus.
Vinegar is the result of the fermentation of grains, vegetables and fruits. If you have ever left a bottle of wine too long (stop laughing, it happens!), it will turn into vinegar. Vinegar’s acidic base is what makes it such an excellent cleaning ingredient. It cuts grease, kills germs and eliminates odors. Even if you dislike the smell of vinegar, you’ll find the smell dissipates rapidly and leaves you with a fresh, clean “whatever-you’ve-been-cleaning.”
While vinegar’s strength lies in acid, baking soda had alkaline properties that react with acids. On it’s own, baking soda can be an effective antacid, laundry aid and gentle scrubbing agent. In fact, while working on the Manhattan Project, scientists discovered that clothing contaminated by uranium could be decontaminated with a run through the washer with baking soda. (Not that any of you are worried about uranium poisoning, but it’s a fun fact to know.) Seriously, the baking soda box should come with a cape!
Below are a few ways to use vinegar and baking soda to keep your house clean, fresh and healthy.
- 1 1/4 c. water
- 1 1/4 c. white vinegar
- 2-3 drops DAWN dish detergent (yes, it has to be DAWN)
- 1-3 drops essential oil (tea tree is nice for its antibacterial properties, but you can choose) (optional)
Use this for cleaning non-wood surfaces, appliances, and cabinets. It is also great for a bathroom cleaner in the sink and tub. Heat it up a bit and spray glass shower doors, let sit for two minutes and wipe clean with a micro-fiber cloth. Do the same for stubborn bath tub rings and cleaning fixtures. The results are spectacular.
Sealed Floor Cleaner
Your best defense against pets, kids, crumbs and general dirt on your floors is to dust mop (not sweep) everyday. A dust mop will pick up more dust and allergens. Keep 2-3 mop heads so you can wash after 1-2 uses. In addition, mopping 1-2 times per week (depending on the kids/pets/mess in your life) will keep your floors shiny and fresh.
- 1 c. vinegar
- 1 gallon of water
- 2-5 drops essential oil (lavender if you are seeking calm, tea tree for disinfection, peppermint for energy, lemon because it’s yummy or whatever mix makes you happy) (optional)
Use this cleaner for sealed wood, tile, vinyl, laminate floors.
Tough stuck-on gunk? Make a paste from 1 T. baking soda and a few drops of water. Apply to gunk, scrub after 1-2 minutes with a nylon net scrubbing pad. Follow up with mop.
Whether your shower head seems to be clogged or if it is just looking oogy, fill a quart sized zip-lock bag 2/3 full of white vinegar and attach to shower head with rubber bands. Let soak 1-3 hours. Remove the now disgusting bag, run shower for 30 seconds and you’re good to go!
Fill a small cup with ½ water and ½ lemon juice, place in center tray of microwave. Heat for 1-2 minutes. Remove cup. Wipe out microwave with paper towels. For remaining, stuck-on stuff, mix up a few tablespoons of baking soda and a few drops of water. Use paste to scrub, let dry for 15 minutes. Wipe again with damp cloth. Your microwave will smell fresh and look new!
Windows, Glass, Mirrors
Everyone likes to say they don’t do windows, but the reality is, most of us do do windows. (I won’t tell if you don’t!) Skip the blue stuff, try vinegar.
- ¼ c. vinegar
- 1 quart water
- 22 oz. spray bottle
Spray windows, starting at top and working down. Let sit for 1 minute. Wipe clean with crumpled up old newspapers (the black and white newsprint, not the ads) and be dazzled by the shiny clean! (When newspaper sheet gets damp, start with a new sheet. )
This is just the beginning. With the internet at your fingertips, do a search to find ways to do the following with vinegar and baking soda:
- clean leather sneakers
- soften laundry (especially towels)
- clean coffee makers and steam irons
- buff up patent leather
- deodorize your dishwasher
- polish silver (the real stuff)
- scouring paste (using salt)
- science fair volcanoes
Next up? We’ll talk about borax, washing soda and making your own soap. Have fun being and saving green!