My first home of my own was on a relatively small Caribbean island, which means most products were imported from other countries. This resulted in a high cost of living. I’m thankful that I formed many of my adult habits- cooking, cleaning, and general independence- in an expensive foreign country because I learned how to be resourceful and frugal. Cleaning with inexpensive products I could buy in bulk for a plethora of uses just made sense. Even living back in the U.S. with a wider variety of products to choose from and an income, I still choose my green house cleaning methods over chemicals the vast majority of the time.
I say the majority of the time because occasionally I have to draw the line for my own peace of mind. When I pull leaky thawed chicken from the fridge and get chicken juice all over my kitchen, I may reach for something commercial so I don’t imagine salmonella slowly spreading over all surfaces. Everyone has their own level of what they consider clean, but I’m pretty happy with the following green house cleaning solutions:
General Surface Cleaner
My go to cleaner is white vinegar and water. I keep an industrial grade spray bottle of 3/4 vinegar and 1/4 water under my kitchen sink for cleaning countertops, the stove top, the sink, refrigerator shelves, and just about any other surface that I’d wipe down with a rag. It cuts grease well and also gets my cutting boards extra clean. The same cleaning solution can be used on bathroom surfaces. Full strength vinegar can be used for disinfecting. Do use a heavy duty spray bottle or the vinegar can clog the mechanism of a lesser quality bottle. I learned that the hard way.
Cleaning a coffee pot with vinegar is fairly well known, but you can also clean a dirty microwave interior. Microwave a glass container with a cup of water and a couple tablespoons white vinegar for about a minute. The stuck on food particles should wipe out easily. And if you haven’t cleaned your coffee maker with vinegar, it’s easy, too. Empty all coffee and grounds, fill water reservoir halfway with white vinegar, and allow it to brew. When the machine has cooled, brew another cycle of plain water one or two times.
This mopping solution doubled as an ant repellent when I lived in Grenada, although I still use it despite not battling endless ant trails. Mix 1/3 part white vinegar, 1/3 part rubbing alcohol, 1/3 part water, 2 tablespoons liquid soap or detergent, and if you’d like, a few drops of oil (like tea tree, lemon, or peppermint) in a mop bucket. The rubbing alcohol enables floors to dry faster, but can be left out. The oil leaves behind a nice scent.
Do you remember the awesome volcano science experiment from your childhood? I think it’s still just as fun to create a big bubbling reaction even if it is for cleaning instead of learning. Pour baking soda into sink or shower drains, follow it up with white vinegar to create a fizz, plug the drain for a couple minutes, and flush with hot water. Chemical drain uncloggers aren’t recommended for some types of pipes or old pipes, and I’ve found this to be a decent alternative.
Moisture and Odor
Baking soda is great for many areas with unwanted odor or excessive moisture. In fact, many people learned from their parents or grandparents to keep an open box of baking soda in the refrigerator and freezer to absorb food smells. You can keep an open box under your sinks, in closets, near shoe racks, or even empty baking soda into a kitty litter box to mix with the litter. Baking soda can also be mixed with scented oils in an open jar and used as air freshener.
Bonus: Salt Stained Winter Boots
My boots have gotten a lot of wear this winter, and it shows! When I’d had enough of the white and grey swirls sticking out on the black surface I looked up how to clean them. There are, of course, products you can buy to clean and condition leather shoes (although I don’t know if that applies to my faux leather), but wouldn’t you know I found another familiar cleaning agent. Diluted vinegar on a cloth removes the salt stains and prolongs the condition of the boots when cleaned regularly in the winter.
What other cheap and green house cleaning tricks do you employ?
Photo courtesy of Jay Mantri.