I got a head start on spring cleaning this year when the cable company had to switch out our antiquated modem. We live in a 118-year-old “summer home” whose charm includes ornate wainscoting and radiant heat on the one hand and nonexistent closets and one electrical outlet per room on the other. Our internet hookup is on one wall in our foyer with the outlet clear on the other side of the room. So we run an extension cord between the two and “hide” our modem and router conveniently under a piece of furniture. Until last week, said piece of furniture had not been moved since we relocated to this house several years ago. Nothing initiates a flurry of cleaning like company or cable installers.
We chucked conventional cleaning products about seven years ago when our nephew came to live with us for a while. He is extremely sensitive to chemicals (read: toxins), including those found in common household cleaners. We bought The Naturally Clean Home, a great book with herbal formulas to clean everything from the kitchen to wood to carpeting to your car. We were instant converts. In addition to having a sparkling clean home, I didn’t get headaches from fumes, loved the smell, and felt great about “going green.”
Using chemicals to clean our homes is a relatively new phenomenon. Our grandmothers were natural “greeners.” They could clean put-near anything with vinegar, castile soap, lemons and some elbow grease. Most of the cleaning “hacks” (is it just me that can’t stand the new use of that word?) circulated on the Internet are just throwbacks to Gran’s Saturday bucket list (literally). Of course, cleaning with herbs has a much longer history. In the Middle Ages, households used to strew their floors with herbs to combat pests, ward off disease, and make their rooms smell fresher. Thankfully, now you can use herbs in the form of essential oils and a spray bottle to achieve the same effect with less straw (and pestilence).
Below are two recipes from The Naturally Clean Home that I use regularly. The eucalyptus and tea tree oils in the second recipe fight fungus, viruses and bacteria and are common ingredients in many DIY formulas.
Hardwood Floor Wash
Especially helpful for cleaning floors under wood furniture that haven’t seen the light of day in quite a while.
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups vinegar
20 drops peppermint essential oil
Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle. Use sparingly, working on small sections of the floor. Dry mop the floor after washing.
Germs-Be-Gone Toilet Cleaner
This antibacterial spray cleaner is especially formulated for cleaning the general surface area of the toilet, and under and behind the seat.
2 cups water
1/4 cup liquid castile soap
1 tablespoon tea tree essential oil
10 drops eucalyptus (or peppermint) essential oil
Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle and shake well. Spray on toilet surfaces and wipe clean with a damp cloth or sponge.
Note: I like to buy my ingredients at Mountain Rose Herbs. They have a nice starter kit of essential oils as well as castile soap. You can also find them at health food stores.