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.