Why You Need to Use DIY Cleaning Products and How to Start
Homemade cleaners are often better than store-bought options because you know exactly what they contain. Some advantages of DYI’ing your cleansers, according to Toby Schulz, CEO and co-founder at Maid2Match, include: You won't use harsh chemicals that can be harmful to your health or the environment; They can be more cost-effective in the long run, as you're using simple ingredients often available at home; You control over the ingredients, which means you can customize the scent, strength and other properties to your liking.
But you need to use homemade cleaners carefully. Natural surfaces require gentler cleaners, Todd Saunders, CEO of Flooring Stores, points out. So, a cleaner you make to remove soap scum from shower tiles would not work for the granite countertop in your kitchen.
One most popular homemade cleaners combines white vinegar with equal parts water. However, it's not suitable for all surfaces, said Saunders: “Wood floors, for example, can be damaged and discolored by vinegar over time.”
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Homemade cleanser do’s
Start by putting together a natural cleaning tool kit, suggested Janice Imbrogno from Home Health and Spirit. This can include: baking soda, washing soda (and/or borax), salt, white vinegar, peroxide, grain alcohol, (possibly isopropyl alcohol), essential oils and a natural plant-based cleaner such as Thieves Cleaner. “Even though these products are natural and not petroleum based, caution must still be taken,” she advised. For example, alcohol is flammable and drinkable and must be locked.
Peroxide or grain alcohol in an 8-ounce spray bottle works as a good natural disinfectant. Adding a few drops of essential oil enhances a room’s scent, said Imbrogno, who also recommended using salt, borax and baking soda for a scouring powder. Peroxide makes an excellent toilet bowl cleaner, she said. You can also use baking soda and a toilet brush to scrub out stains. Other tricks include adding white vinegar to your rinse cycle as a natural fabric softener.
Photo credit: Kaboom Pics/Pexels
Muffetta Krueger of Muffetta's Domestic Assistants offers the recipes for three basic cleaners:
All-Purpose Cleaner: Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. This can be used on various surfaces like countertops, glass, tiles and stainless steel.
Baking Soda Paste: Combine baking soda with a small amount of water to form a paste, which is excellent for scrubbing and can be used on surfaces like sinks, bathtubs, and oven interiors.
Citrus Vinegar Cleaner: Fill a jar with citrus peels (lemons, oranges, etc.) and cover them with white vinegar. Let the mixture sit for a few weeks, then strain it and dilute with water. This cleaner works well for removing tough stains and grease.
“Apply homemade cleansers just like you would with commercial ones” said Krueger. “Spray or apply the cleanser on the surface to be cleaned and let it sit for a few minutes for better efficacy. Then, use a sponge, cloth, or brush to scrub if necessary, and finally, rinse thoroughly with water.”
Photo credit: Lukas/Pexels
Homemade cleanser don’t’s
Never mix vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. “They can be powerful cleaners on their own, but together they create a toxic, potentially corrosive mixture,” said Saunders. “If you use baking soda with your vinegar, you'll have to mix these ingredients right at the time of use. Don't store them mixed together in a closed container since the reaction created can cause an explosion.”
Never mix white vinegar or other acids with bleach — this can create toxic chlorine gas.
Not measuring the ingredients. “[This] can lead to a solution that's too weak to clean effectively or too strong and potentially damaging,” said Schulz.
Not doing a patch test. “Natural cleaners can be used safely on most hard surfaces and even on some fabrics,” offered Imbrogno. “Always test an inconspicuous spot before you clean with any cleaner, natural or store bought.
Don’t store homemade cleansers too long. “ It’s also important to know that most homemade cleaners don't have the same shelf-life as commercial ones,” said Schulz. “So, they should be used right away and stored in a cool, dark place.” Baking soda and white vinegar is safe to mix in small amounts for immediate use, but this should never be stored, as it can build up pressure and burst, according to Schulz. “Always keep all cleaning products, natural or not, locked and away from children and pets,” added Imbrogno.
Tea tree oil. Photo credit: Dominika Roseclay/Pexels
Different rooms and furniture may require different cleaners
What you use in one room might not work for every space. For example, in your bathroom, where you're likely dealing with more mold and mildew, you might want a cleaner with tea tree oil for its antifungal properties, Schulz suggested. In the kitchen, where food particles and grease are more common, a degreasing agent like vinegar or citric acid could be more helpful.
Be sure to assess the type of furniture you are treating. For example, a dusting spray made from water, vinegar and a few drops of lemon oil for the living room can keep furniture clean and smelling fresh, Schulz said. “However, full strength essential oils should not be used directly on plastic, painted or varnished surfaces,” warned Imbrogno. Ingredients like grain alcohol should not be used near any flame or heat.
She also recommended not using salt, vinegar or anything acidic on granite, marble or natural stone along with grout and painted and waxed surfaces. Ultimately, though selecting “the cleaner you will use on an area, will have more to do with the surface and material it is made out of than the room it is located in,” said Imbrogno.
Read our blog post on how to care for your home's fabrics.
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