Monday, March 13, 2006

Cleaning the House in a Frugal, Earth Friendly Way

We spent Sunday in a cleaning frenzy, which was good because there certainly was plenty to do. Our bichon, Mel, is getting older and seems to have sprung a leak recently, so the first order of business was cleaning the carpet in the living room.

I have a Hoover Steam Vac, because with kids, dogs and carpets you just need one. I use Natural Choices Carpet cleaner from Gaiam's website. It does the job nicely without a chemically smell. I've heard of people using vinegar in their carpet cleaners but I've never tried it. This cleaner is a bit pricey but it lasts a long time, even in my house.

The next order of business was the laundry. I've already taught my 6 year old to sort the laundry into four piles; lights, darks, jeans and mommy's nasty gym clothes. (I keep talking about setting up hampers for each pile but it never happens.) I make my own laundry detergent based on a recipe from The Dollar Stretcher. I actually grate a bar of Ivory soap because I couldn't find soap flakes and mix equal parts of the grated soap, borax and washing soda. I wash far too much laundry to make the tiny quantities mentioned, so I mix mine in an old 9 pound peanut butter tub.

BTW, you only need to use about 2 Tbs of this mixture for each load of laundry, not the amounts listed in the link. I use an old ice tea scoop to measure this. The only time I use more of this mix is when washing my gym clothes. In that case, I double the amount and add 1/4 white vinegar directly to the laundry. (What can I say, I teach two classes a day, 4 days a week. My gym clothes reek!)

I gave up on fabric softener over a year ago when I read somewhere that white vinegar does the same thing. It really does! I use 1/4 cup white vinegar in the rinse cycle. This is seperate from the vinegar mentioned above. I put this in the automatic fabric softener dispenser of my washer. I buy the white vinegar in gallon jugs, not those teeny bottles.

Jim cleaned the windows, inside and out! Not only that, it was his idea to do it in the first place! (He's a keeper, don't you think?) He used just a squirt bottle of plain water and two rags, one wet and one dry. I had planned to use a mix of vinegar and water but he did such a good job it wasn't necessary.

Although there wasn't time to clean these place, my favorite cleaner for counters, sinks, and tubs is a sprinkle of baking soda. It really does wonders. I use it with a scrub brush on the tub to get rid of soap scum.

In the dishwasher, which with four kids is always as full as it can be, I use a mix of equal parts powdered dish detergent (usually Ecover or Seventh Generation, depending on what's on sale), borax and washing soda. This cuts the cost of the more expensive, environmentally friendly dish detergent. Once you've tried this, you'll never go back to the scary chemical dish detergent again. I use 1 Tbs for a regular wash or 2 Tbs for a heavy wash with pots and pans.


AnnMarie said...

I've been looking for a natural carpet cleaner for our machine. We haven't cleaned our carpet in over a year because I just can't stand the idea of the chemicals now that our daughter spends all her time on the carpet. (Yeah, the chemicals seem worse than the dirt, to me!) How much of the cleaner do you use or do you just follow the directions on the machine? I think we have the same machine.

Missy said...

Thanks for the friendly cleaning tips. What is "washing soda?"

Debbie said...

I use vinegar in my carpet cleaner (also a Hoover Steam Vac) sometimes, it does a pretty good job; as well as any of the commercially available products I've tried, anyway. The odor is pretty powerful, though, and can take a few days to go away -- I'd only use it when you can keep the windows open continuously until it's gone. (And run some fans.)

Katie said...

I use about 2 tablespoons of cleaner for each full water reservoir. I know that's much less than what is on the machine but I', pretty sure its what is suggested on the cleaner bottle.

Washing soda is a detergent booster. It helps with stain and odor removal. Its found in the laundry detergent aisle of your grocery store. Its not the same as baking soda, although Arm & Hammer does make both.

How much vinegar do you use?

AnnMarie said...

ps, The comapny is also having an Earch Day sale and you get a 10% discount on orders under $50. So it is a couple bucks cheaper than Gaiam right now.

AnnMarie said...

That's weird. I posted a different comment that didn't show up. Anyway here's sort of what I said: thanks for the tip. I've just purchased some, but from the company website, It's about the same price, when you account for shipping (Gaiam has a shipping deal right now), but you can get a 1 qt bottle instead of 2 8-oz bottles for the same price. You can also buy it by the gallon if you use a lot.

Katie said...

Thanks for the heads up. I think I might pick up a little extra to have on hand. Especially since I just spilled coffee on the rug!