Part of the decision to homestead is a desire to live a more natural and healthy lifestyle. It involves eating a more natural diet, leaving a smaller footprint on the environment, and even embracing a holistic healthcare routine. One of the simplest, but often forgotten, things anyone can do to achieve a healthier, more natural living environment is to forgo the toxic cleansers we use in our homes in favor of natural, chemical-free cleansers. Learning how to have a naturally clean home is something any homesteader can do.
Natural cleansers are easy and inexpensive to make. Making your own chemical-free cleansers is a small but significant step towards health and self-sufficiency. Some of the ingredients in chemical cleansers have been linked to asthma, allergies, liver and kidney damage, blood disorders, depression, damage to the central nervous system, and cancer. They are especially risky for pregnant women, children, and the elderly. If you want to add one thing to your established homesteading routine, or if you are still simply considering a simpler lifestyle, consider making your own natural cleansers.
If you question whether natural cleansers can work for deep cleaning, yes, they can. If you are afraid you will miss the “smell” of clean, essential oils can provide any scent you want. There are no verifiable reasons for the toxic ingredients in most store-bought cleansers. Your dishes, floors, carpets, fabrics, bathroom, and furniture will be clean – and completely safe to use.
You can clean your entire house with a few simple and inexpensive items. Stock your cleaning cabinet with white vinegar, baking soda, borax, washing soda, bottom-shelf olive oil, liquid Castile soap, and essential oils. With these items on hand, you will be able to make any of the following safe and effective natural cleansers.
Combine, shake and store in a spray bottle. This cleanser will clean most surfaces, except fabrics, and it smells great.
Combine 2 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol and a quart of water in one of the spray bottles. In the second spray bottle combine equal parts white vinegar and warm water. Spray the alcohol mixture on the glass surface. Spray the vinegar mixture over the alcohol mixture and wipe with newspaper or a lint-free cloth.
For greasy windows, add ½ teaspoon of clear liquid soap to the vinegar solution.
Sometimes, a quick wipe down just isn’t enough. For tougher jobs that need a true scrubbing, combine 1 cup baking soda, ½ cup non-iodized salt, ½ cup washing soda, and 10 drops of essential oil. Mix well and store in a lidded glass jar. To use, sprinkle the powder on a damp surface, let sit 5 minutes, scrub and rinse.
I am always surprised at how many people who are trying to live a more natural and healthy lifestyle have no problem spraying for bugs. Keeping foodstuffs put away, cabinets wiped, and trash cans cleaned does a lot to eliminate bug problems. Still, infestations happen: ants, roaches, palmetto bugs, flies, and mice are fairly common homestead happenings. Combine peppermint, rosemary, and tea tree oil with a small amount of mineral oil. Dampen a rag and wipe down cabinets, corners, and problem nooks and crannies once a week. Use mint sachets to discourage both flies and mice.
For unvarnished wood floors, damp mop with liquid Castile soap diluted in 2 gallons of warm water. For varnished or no-wax floors, damp mop with a solution of one part white vinegar to 10 parts warm water.
For leather furniture or fine wood furniture, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil to a jar of white vinegar. Soak your rag with the mixture and rub over the surface.
If you combine 3 parts white vinegar to 1 part water, you can lift stains from cotton, linens, and synthetic blends. Really tough stain? Dab a bit of hydrogen peroxide on the problem area before cleaning.
It is more efficient to use a dishwasher than wash by hand if you only run full loads. The trouble with using the dishwasher is with commercial dishwasher detergents, which are high in phosphates. The runoff causes excessive algae growth. Excessive algae buildup decreases the amount of light and oxygen available to aquatic plants, killing them. The fish who depend on these plants then die. In addition to the phosphates, many dishwashing detergents use petroleum, which is toxic to humans.
To make your own non-toxic dishwashing detergent, combine 1 cup Borax and 1 cup baking soda in a 16-ounce container. You can add a few drops of essential oil. Shake to mix. Use 2 tablespoons per load. To eliminate residue, add a shot of white vinegar during the rinse cycle.
Laundry detergents are also filled with unnecessary and harmful chemicals, which is concerning since our laundry is constantly touching our skin. It is cheaper to make your own laundry detergent and very simple. As an added bonus, your toddler will not be tempted to pop a colorful laundry soap pod in their mouth!
To make powdered laundry detergent, finely grate one bar of natural, unscented soap into a large bowl. Add 1 cup of borax and 1 cup of washing soda. Add 10-20 drops of essential oil if desired. Mix well and store in a quart-sized Mason jar. Depending on the state of your laundry, use 2 tablespoons to ¼ cup per load.
For a liquid detergent grate the bar of soap into a pan. Add 2 quarts of water and heat, stirring constantly, until the soap has dissolved. Put 4 ½ cups of hot tap water into a 5-gallon bucket. Stir in 2 cups of Borax and 2 cups of washing soda. Stir until dissolved. Add the soap mixture. Add 20-30 drops of essential oil if desired. Cover for 24 hours. Stir until smooth and pour into easy-to-use containers. Use ½ to 1 cup per load.
Before reaching for the bleach to whiten dingy clothes, try adding a quarter of a cup of lemon juice into the load with half the amount of detergent. Wash your laundry in cold water and hang laundry in the sun to dry.
Many people want to line dry their clothes but don’t because they say their clothes and towels get hard and crackly instead of soft. Fortunately, it is very easy to make your own fabric softener crystals, and much less expensive than buying them at the store. Simply add 40 drops of your favorite essential oil, or a combination of two oils, to 2 pounds of Epsom salts. Add ¼ cup to your laundry for softer, fabulous-smelling clothes.
Washing soda is a terrific chemical-free cleanser to use in your laundry detergent, but that is not all it’s good for. You can use it on hard-water stains, as a weekly drain cleaner, to remove soap scum in the bathroom, to cut greasy buildup on pots, pans, and outdoor grills, and to remove coffee and tea stains from plastic containers and ceramic mugs.
Washing soda can be found in most stores, but if it is unavailable in your area, don’t despair. You can make your own with baking soda and heat. This is very cost-effective if you buy a large bag of baking soda. The large bags can usually be found on the shelf with laundry detergents but is often cheaper at farm supply stores.
Turn your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour a thick layer of baking soda in a large baking dish or a large, rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour, stirring a couple of times. You will know the baking soda has turned to washing soda by the appearance and texture. Baking soda is silky and has a powdery texture. Washing soda will be coarse and grainy.
Remove the washing soda from the oven and let cool. Store in an airtight jar.
If you are anything like me, you have a long list of things you want to accomplish as a homesteader. Some of the projects are long-term – building a greenhouse, installing solar panels, and rain catchment systems. Some are quick – learning to bake your own bread, making pickles and jams, or mending clothes. Making your own cleaning supplies is the quickest change you can make on your journey toward self-sufficiency. For approximately $50.00, you can make all the chemical-free cleansers you need for a year. Not only will it save money, but it is also something you can feel truly good about doing for yourself, your family, and the environment. Here’s to a happy, clean new year!