Daily Tip: Don’t be afraid to buy items that you really need to help yourself succeed. Frugal doesn’t mean cheap, it means carefully chosen.
When I first got married, I bought all the same stuff my parents had used — things like Soft Scrub, caustic toilet cleaner, regular ol’ dishwasher detergent, bleach…. Those are what I used to clean my house. They did the job…and gave me a headache in the process.
My first foray into natural cleaning was when my daughter was around 10 months old and I was newly pregnant with my older son. I had tried desperately to clean my shower, which was gross, with everything chemical out there — bleach, CLR, I don’t even remember all the options. The mildew didn’t budge.
Being pregnant and having a mobile child, I didn’t feel safe using those caustic chemicals. I wondered what would happen if I tried something different. I plugged the shower drain and flooded it with warm water and sprinkled baking soda all around. I let this sit for about 20 minutes, then came back to it. All I needed was a sponge, and the mess just wiped away. Seriously — that easy.
I was sold.
Natural Cleaning Tools That Work
There’s still a perception that natural cleaning doesn’t really work. As my experience above shows, they certainly do! You might need some different tools and different methods, but really — they work.
To make your life easier (I hope), I’m going to share my top 10 cleaning tools and methods with you.
1. The Soak
Fill it with water and soak it for awhile. 10 – 15 minutes is usually enough. This goes for dishes, showers, tubs, anything that is dirty. Water alone is a powerful solvent and it doesn’t take long to work. Let whatever is dirty soak for awhile in warm or hot water, and then wipe away the junk easily. If it’s not that easy (for example, if something’s burned on), all you need is….
2. Baking Soda
This is super safe, but also very abrasive. If something needs a scrub or has some burned or caked-on junk, add baking soda to the soak and use more when you scrub. If you have a dirty pot, you can even boil it with baking soda water and it will come clean more easily. I sprinkle baking soda on counters, sinks, bath tubs, dishes, stoves, and more, and use it to help get a nice shine (if applicable) and to loosen the junk more easily. Works every time.
White vinegar goes in so many places. I keep a spray bottle filled with half vinegar, half water. When the kids want to “help” I let them spray this and wipe. It cleans glass, counters, stoves (I have a glass top), just about anything. White vinegar also goes in the dishwasher as a rinse aid, or into the washing machine as a fabric softener. I keep a gallon of it in the house so I can use it as needed. It’s super cheap, too.
4. Spray Bottles
These are super handy. They can be filled with straight vinegar, vinegar and water, water and essential oils, or various other combinations. Using water and essential oils can function as a disinfectant around your home, and a very safe one at that. Keep a few around to make your job easier and label each.
5. Microfiber Cloths
I have a lot of these…I had up to 50 at one point in time. They are my go-to for scrubbing anything because they work and they are cheap, so they can be thrown out after a really dirty job. I use them for wiping down counters, the stove, bath tubs, mirrors, really anything. I also tend to use them for covering bowls of food that are soaking on my counters. They sell these in the automotive department. Clean ones can also be used as diaper inserts.
6. Essential Oils
Some of these just add a nice scent. Some disinfect. Tea tree oil, thyme oil, oregano oil — these are the primary ones that can disinfect. Mix a few drops in with water and a little white vinegar and spray any surface. It makes cleaning toys easy, and is safe for most furniture too (to be used like ‘Febreze”). This is excellent on door knobs, faucets, etc. after a recent illness!
7. Toilet Brush
There’s no getting around this one — you need a standard toilet brush. I used to use those disposable pads that came with their own cleaners, but they don’t work as well and who knows what is in those little pads. Buy a regular, cheap brush and replace every several months — they get pretty gross. I keep one in every bathroom so I’m not constantly hunting for one when I need to clean a toilet. I recommend at least one per floor of your home.
8. Spray and Wipe
Most of the time when I am cleaning my kitchen, I will spray down all the surfaces at once (with the vinegar-water) and then go back to the first surface to start wiping. Allowing it to sit for just a couple minutes makes it much easier to wipe the junk off. If I have stubborn spots I may repeat the process on those while I work on another area.
9. The Scraper
I have a plastic scraper that I use. It mostly is used on dishes, but I also use it on counters and floors to remove any sticky, stuck-on junk. (Think waffle batter that spills and doesn’t get wiped up right away, or chunks of banana the kids dropped under the table and didn’t tell you about.) This is much easier than just scrubbing and getting frustrated! It also makes washing dishes easier. I can’t stand to get big clumps of food on my dish sponges (I may have mentioned that before), so I use the scraper to get off as much as I can first. If the scraper isn’t working, steel wool is my next go-to.
10. The Walk and Scoot
I used to use a mop of some kind to clean my kitchen floor. But I had to constantly rinse it in the sink (unwieldy, to say the least) or I’d have to get a bucket out (dangerous with small children — they could drown, or at least spill it and make a huge mess). Plus, it often wasn’t “scrubby” enough to get up the sticky spots. No thanks. Instead, now, I just use my microfiber cloths. I soak them with hot water, wring them out, and drop them directly onto the stickiest spots. I use my foot to scoot them around and clean the floor. This is much faster and I can get just the trouble spots, instead of feeling like I need to mop the whole floor. It works on dried-on juice and chocolate milk…not that I’d know anything about that. 😉
And that’s it! My simple cleaning tools and methods, to keep my home looking decent.
Okay, I really do have more than that. But I included just my favorites, things that were less obvious. I also have:
- Natural dishwasher detergent (after failing with various homemade concoctions, I buy Trader Joe’s brand)
- Toilet cleaner (I go back and forth between ‘natural’ ones and the most caustic I can find…I haven’t found a natural one that consistently works)
- Vacuum (need I say more?)
- Wash cloths (I keep a whole drawer full in my kitchen to wipe fresh spills, faces, etc. We don’t use paper towels at all)
- Sponges (I use them for cleaning dishes, mostly, but sometimes bathroom counters too)
- Dish liquid soap (I have varied between Dawn and plain Dr. Bronner’s, depending on my mood)
- Steel wool (if nothing’s working to get burned-on junk off, I switch to this)
- Soap nuts (this is the only thing I use in my laundry most of the time, and it works on everything and is completely natural)
- RLR (this is the one laundry additive I have, it is natural, and I use it on cloth diapers from time to time if I have a big/especially dirty load)
Notice I do not keep bleach, air freshers, and other such things around. I don’t use any scented products unless they are made with essential oils only, because the fragrances are made from petrochemicals and they are carcinogenic (cause cancer).
The simple stuff works, it’s in expensive, it’s versatile, and it’s safe! Can’t go wrong there!
What are your top cleaning products or tools?