DIY Green Cleaning Products

One of my earliest memories is of walking along a sandy winding road in Sicily with my paternal grandmother when I was three years old. She had a glass bottle in her hand that had just been emptied of the last of its olive oil. We stopped at her outdoor laundry room - a tub complete with cold running water - and she filled the bottle about half way. What she did next blew my little three year old mind - she bent down, gathered a handful of pebbly sand, which she dropped down the bottle's slender neck. Holding her palm over the opening, she then proceeded to vigorously shake the bottle for several seconds, finally dumping the entire contents back onto the ground, refilling the bottle with water for a final rinse-and-spill to clear out any remaining grains of sand.

And voilá: the bottle was spotless!

Somehow, though our grandparents kept clean and tidy homes without employing cleaning products that have nightmarish lists of health warnings, most of us are only now realizing that you can find much of what you need to clean your home in the pantry.

Here are a few simple recipes, along with some go-to multi-taskers to help you clean your abode without harsh chemicals. I think nonna would have approved!

Multi-Tasker 1: Club Soda
  • Poured into a spray bottle, club soda holds its own against much harsher and pricier all purpose cleaners.
  • Since it is alkaline, it's especially adept at getting out acid-based stains, like coffee.
  • Also a great window cleaner.
Multi-Tasker 2: White Vinegar
  • On its own in a spray bottle, a killer disinfectant.
  • Mix two teaspoons in a quart of warm water to use as a window cleaner.
Multi-Tasker 3: Baking Soda
  • Used dry, it's a great appliance cleaner; wipe it off with a damp sponge.
  • Sprinkled in an oven and spritzed with water, it makes a good (if slow-working: it needs to sit overnight) oven cleaner. After it sits, wash it out with water.
Simple Recipes

Drain Cleaner
1/2 cup salt
boiling water

Pour salt down the drain, followed by boiling water. Run hot tap water until clog clears.
Toilet Bowl Cleaner
white vinegar
baking soda

Sprinkle bowl with baking soda and spray with vinegar. Scrub with a toilet brush
Air Freshener
2 cups hot water
2 tablespoons baking soda

Mix baking soda and hot water in spray bottle until baking soda dissolves. Spray those nasty odors away!
Copper and Brass Cleaner (I use this one to shine pennies before decoupaging them and making earrings)

Dissolve 1 part salt to two parts vinegar. Soak till shiny. To use as a scrub, increase salt to make a paste and scrub your little heart out!
Laundry Detergent
one part washing soda
one part borax

Mix and use as you would regular laundry detergent.
(Note: both washing soda and borax are available at soaps gone by)