Basic cleaning essentials: meet the miracle workers

Today we’re covering the basic essentials for non-toxic home cleaning. Using these simple items, you’ll be able to create endless combinations of cleaning products without harmful additives. It’s an investment in your family’s wellbeing and can save you hundreds of dollars on store-bought cleaning products.

Your shopping list:
Lemons                            Dishwashing liquid    
Baking soda                     Castile soap
Cornstarch                       Salt
White vinegar                   Essential oils
Borax                               Microfiber cleaning cloths
Isopropyl alcohol             Empty spray bottles (buy from the $2 shop)
Hydrogen peroxide          Labels
Washing soda                  Black marker pen
Lemons contain high levels of citric acid, which makes lemon juice a powerful natural cleaner. It has a low pH and acts as an anti-bacterial agent. Lemons add a fresh, clean smell and can be used to clean almost anything, except brass. For disinfecting, eliminating grime and deodorising, lemons are a must-have item for your cleaning kit.

Baking soda
Baking soda is a natural abrasive, ideal for scouring, polishing and brightening all kinds of surfaces. It has a high pH, meaning it’s alkaline, the opposite to vinegar which is acidic. This property makes it a powerful odour eliminator, as it effectively neutralises bad smells by balancing the pH. Don’t use baking soda on aluminium, as it can damage the oxide layer of this metal. Baking soda can be purchased in larger quantities from bulk food stores.

Not just for cooking, cornstarch is a highly absorbent substance ideal for lifting grease and oil. It’s non-abrasive, with a fine, silky texture and deodorising properties.

Vinegar was discovered about 10,000 years ago, the product of wine left to oxidise. It was used both as a preservative and a medicine by the Ancient Greeks and Romans. Acetic acid is the secret to vinegar’s grease cutting powers. Acetic acid also acts as a disinfectant, reportedly killing 82% of mould, 99% of bacteria, and 80% of viruses. White vinegar is the best vinegar for cleaning purposes. It’s great for dissolving mould, mildew and general surface grime, and has deodorising properties. Don’t use it on stone or marble, as the acid content in vinegar can damage these surfaces.

Borax is a natural mineral, a compound of boron. It was discovered approximately 4000 years ago and is usually mined from deep within the ground. It’s an ingredient commonly found in liquid and laundry soaps, toothpastes and some household cleaners. Borax converts some water molecules into hydrogen peroxide, for enhanced cleaning power. Borax is NOT boric acid, also known as hydrogen borate. A lot of articles have been written which suggest they are the same thing, but this is not true. Borax is generally considered safe for natural cleaning. It’s non-carcinogenic, does not absorb through the skin, accumulate in the body or damage the environment. You can buy borax from hardware stores.
Rubbing/Isopropyl alcohol
This form of alcohol is not suitable for human consumption, but is very useful for cleaning. It’s a solvent that dissolves in water and is great for cutting through grime and sticky residues. It also disinfects and sterilises, killing bacteria, fungi and viruses. It is the active ingredient in the alcohol prep pads used by medical professionals before administering an injection.
Hydrogen peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is made up of water and oxygen. It kills micro-organisms (germs) by oxidation, making it one of the most pure and natural choices to sanitise your home.

Dishwashing liquid
This kitchen staple can be used for much more than cleaning the dishes. The grease cutting power of dishwashing liquid is useful for attacking all kinds of greasy, grimy messes. Dishwashing liquid is pH neutral, making it a safer choice. It’s is a key ingredient in many of the combinations in this book.
Castile soap
Regular soaps can contain animal products or artificial ingredients, but castile soap is a vegetable soap. The traditional recipe is composed of olive oil, water and lye. Castile soap is named after a part of Spain which was once known as Castile, which is how the soap acquired its name. Castile soap is non-toxic and environmentally friendly. It is less likely to leave residue than some other soaps, and comes in bar and liquid formulations.
Salt is an effective natural abrasive. It also mixes well with other ingredients to enhance their cleaning power, vinegar being one example. It can absorb stains, deodorise, kill weeds, extinguish grease fires and even banish ants.
ALWAYS read ingredient labels before mixing them for warnings of possible interactions. These recipes do not contain ammonia, but please NEVER mix ammonia or anything containing ammonia with bleach or bleach-based products such as powdered dishwasher detergent. The fumes they’ll create are extremely dangerous. Pour solutions into containers with clear and easy-to-read labels, and list ingredients, date mixed, instructions for how to use, and all warnings on the label. Store all cleaning products out of reach of children and pets. Wear rubber gloves when using any cleaning products, and make sure you’ve got lots of fresh air flowing around you.
Next time: Let’s get started! Make your own multipurpose cleaner.

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