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Cleaning without chemicals

I'm not much of a cleaner.  Our house is pretty messy most of the time.  About once a week I try to at least tidy everything away and sweep the floor (we have tiles throughout the tiny house).  I try to keep the kitchen clean and sanitary (what will all the crazy things fermenting on the bench!), and we wipe the bath out before we have the next bath :)  I have never been one to buy lots of cleaning products.  I find the range of different products quite bewildering and try to avoid that isle of the supermarket because I can't stand the smell of the fake fragrances.

The things that we do buy are dishwashing liquid, toilet cleaner and a bench-spray-cleaner-thingy (we already replaced laundry powder with soap nuts).  I've been thinking for a while that we really need to find an alternative to all these products.  I hate the smell of these products, I hate that they have unnecessary blue and green colouring in them (why do I want to wash my dishes with flouro green? when did that come to represent "clean"?) and I hate buying the packaging that they come in.

Washing the dishes
A friend who makes soap recently introduced me to her soap shaker.  I had wondered what people did before the flouro green liquid was invented!  I had heard of soap shakers, but I didn't know what they actually looked like.  They are now almost impossible to buy.  You can either get them antique or from this person who started making them.  I did ask Pete to make me one, but he was very busy lately, and I didn't want to buy anymore flouro green, so I got impatient and decided to support a small business instead :)  They are quite expensive, but I think I will save that money by using soap instead of flouro green.

The soap shaker arrives from New Zealand and has been opened by customs -
It said "soap shaker" on the declaration, what's not to understand?

The soap shaker works by simply loading it up with soap and swishing it in the water before adding the dishes.  Its no more complicated that the flouro green liquid, just went out of fashion I suppose (you can work out the conspiracy theory for yourself).  I am lucky that the same friend who told me about it, also makes her own soap in the perfect size to fit the shaker with citrus oil, which smells lovely, but any plain soap would do the job (I'm thinking of using up all our odd soap ends in it).

Wiping the benches
Normally I just wipe the bench tops with hot water, but occasionally I will use a spray product, especially on the oven top if its greasy.  I had read that vinegar was a good substitute and had tried sloshing it around on the oven top, with surprisingly good results.  The other day when I was juicing the third bag of lemons that had been given to me by someone with an overflowing lemon tree, I decided to try a recipe that I had seen where the lemon rinds are soaked in vinegar.  After several weeks, this has resulted in a pleasing lemony smelling vinegar.  I'm sure it does the same job at the plain vinegar, so I wouldn't go out of my way to get lemons, but if you're just going to chuck them in the compost anyway, this is something else you can do with them.

Cleaning the toilet
In our house Pete cleans the toilet far more often than I do.  I don't know why, but I just don't really care so much.  We have always bought a commercial toilet cleaner.  Really its just a detergent with some colour and smell in it.  Some of them have disinfectants, but that's not great for our septic tank anyway - we want the bacteria to thrive in there!

Most of the natural cleaning ideas involve a combination of vinegar, baking soda and/or borax.  I decided that the easiest way to deal with this was to make up a mixture of baking soda and water in the old toilet cleaner bottle, so that it could easily be squirted around, and to use the vinegar spray that I made for the kitchen (in a different "bathroom bottle").  This seems to do the job and is probably better for the septic too. The baking soda can also be used in the bath if it needs some extra scrubbing.

(We also used a similar method to clean the BBQ recently, and it worked there too, and didn't burn Pete's hands like the oven cleaner he used up last time).

Mopping the floor
This usually gets done when we have visitors coming or something starts to get really sticky.  I have been using up the natural shampoo now that I stopped washing my hair, a splash of that seems to get the floor pretty clean.  When that runs out I will be using vinegar with a few drops of eucalyptus oil.  I find if the water is hot enough, you don't need much else anyway.

Any other suggestions?  What other natural cleaning products do you use?


  1. Hi Liz, I love hearing someone else admit they are as house proud as I am! I've been digging over a garden bed this morning while the kids trash the house. I haven't made beds or anything yet. If I did that first it would be too hot to get outside. I would love a soap shaker (nana had one) but I'm not going to get one unless we can make it ourselves or come across one somewhere. I just swish soap in the water by hand. I make our laundry powder so I use that for the floors. Citrus cleaner, bi-carb and vinegar do everything else around here. Okay. Break's over! Back to digging.

  2. Oh I remember those soapy shaker things :) No wonder customs got confused. I have laminate wooden floors and find that a bit of vinegar and eucalyptus oil is the best for mopping them. I have the idea that the eucalyptus oil deters those pesky spiders from building webs in the corners.

  3. Very similar to yours, but haven't used the soap basket for washing up. A friend of mine has always used one but i guess it hasn't been high on my list because I can buy a non smelly detergent and can refill my bottle at the shop. But it's certainly worth considering as it's probably much cheaper.

  4. When you live on a property and you let the dogs live with you (like we do) you have a tidy house only if you want to be carted away to the nearest mental facility because you were obsessivly sweeping 23 of the 24 hours in your day...We stopped buying toilet cleaner when our lecturer told us that it screws around with your septic tank and makes you need pumping faster...we now use vinegar and water to clean it and it works really well :). My mum had a soak shaker!Its amazing what customs will open when they flagrantly let other things through that should be MUCH more suspicious isn't it? I am exited about soap shakers now...might have to get Steve to make me one :). We ripped up the white tiles all over the house when we moved in and exposed a Tas oak floor. We stripped it back, rubbed bees wax and turpentine polish into it and when visitors come it gets mopped...we don't have a lot of visitors ;). Love the post, the ethos and the tips. The lemon and vinegar can have orange in as well and the orange is supposed to be pretty good stuff.

  5. Sounds like you and I have a lot in common. I like to have a clean kitchen and bathroom but the rest of the house gets a lot less love. I think part of it is that both of us work full time and have lots of other things to do on the farm. I use my bicarb cream cleanser followed up with vinegar from a spray bottle. I use hot water and vinegar for the timber floors and make my own washing liquid for the laundry. I buy and have blogged about Kin Kin dishwashing liquid and have spent a lot of time corresponding with the owner and I support his ethics and am happy to support his family business.

  6. During the winter time I save all my orange peel and make up bottles of the vinegar and citrus cleaner, then I just dilute it with more vinegar into spray bottles as I need it...I was also given an Enjo mop recently which does not use anything but water to clean the floor! The fibres do it apparently, I think they are expensive, but like I said I was given it as a gift, so I will give it a go. I find carb soda and vinegar good for polishing up the sink, making drains smell better....good luck with your swish new soap swisher...

  7. I have been wanting a soap shaker for a number Of years now and never new where to get one. I remember my aunt using one some 40 odd years ago. Thanks for the link Liz!

  8. that soap shaker looks pretty cool and might help avoid 'soap soup' that the youngest puts together in the shower by mushing up the Ecostore soap with water!

    Wanted to add my tip - I put eucalyptus oil and water in a spray bottle for benchtops etc (and I have used vinegar/water too).

    BUT the best one is that eucalyptus oil and water (about a teaspoon or two in a spray bottle with water) when sprayed on the small/medium cockroaches, kills them. yep.

    came across that one by accident one night when in frustration I grabbed the nearest thing and sprayed it. Happened to be my euc/water cleaning spray bottle I picked up. tried it again and again and they all died. bonus.

    So that's another use for euc oil!



  10. I think it's amazing how much you can clean with just bi carb and vinegar.

    I do the orange peel in vinegar. It works great for the floor. I think the oil from the orange peel is supposed to help lift the grease.

    Bi carb is great for the sink. I just sprinkle it on and scrub it off. It makes the sink so shiny!

    I clean our windows (like once a year) with the vinegar spray and newspaper. The newspaper gives a streak free finish!

  11. great to know I'm not the only one who doesn't hold cleaning as a high priority! I think the thing that takes the most getting used to is that you don't actually need a whole lot of different potions, just vinegar and bicarb do most of the jobs, but it feels too simple at first. Its a good feeling being able to skip an entire isle of the supermarket.

    As for the soap shaker, I love gadgets, but I was thinking you could also just use an onion bag or just shake the soap in your hand.

    Thanks for all the extra tips too :)

  12. Looks like my "basic" housekeeping is in fine company - thanks all :)
    We are mostly bicarb/vinegar cleaners here. Keen to start making my own tallow soap this year though. Thanks for the tips!
    Mum always used a soap saver, thanks for sharing details of the NZ made one, will order a couple :)


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