{All natural} Natural cleaning - making your own cleaning products

Roughly 2 years ago I started researching more natural ways of doing daily things. I can't remember why exactly but know it had something to do with saving money, saving my family and saving the planet. In that order. While I was doing my Masters study in consumerism vs green living the bug bit, and I guess I just went further down the rabbit hole. 

So here I am, 2 years later, with a cupboard full of glass bottles filled with white powder, spray bottles with yummy-smelling water and toothbrushes in weird places. This journey was full of trails and errors, a few oopsies, but luckily also a long list of successes. Now I want to inspire you to take the same plunge!  

If I look back, I can definitely see the difference in my house, my family, and myself. Since starting to make my own products for cleaning as well as hygiene and self-care I have changed my whole attitude to cleaning. Before it was a chore, now something to be excited about.  Not because I love cleaning but because I am doing it on my terms. If I get tired of a scent I change it. If our needs change, I adapt the products. Run out of something? I quickly make more. So easy. And much cheaper! Because I want to inspire you, here are a few concrete reasons to switch to natural:

1.    Reduce your waste. Ever wondered what happened to those empty bottles of all-purpose cleaner and dishwashing liquid? They end up on a landfill, where they will stay until (almost) eternity. They are not biodegradable, and cannot be recycled unless someone digs them up, clean them and send them in to be recycled. By making your own products you are reusing the same bottle or jar, thus minimizing waste by prolonging the life-cycle of what would otherwise be single-use plastics.

2.    Save money! For some, this will be point number 1. Making your own products saves you a lot of money! I spend about R800 every 3 to 4 months and then I buy ALL of the ingredients needed to make my cleaners, makeup, self-care items, beauty items, toiletries, etc. That works out to just under R200 a month. Go to the shops and get the prices for dishwashing liquid, laundry detergent, all-purpose cleaner and toilet cleaner. What would that cost? See what I mean? Saving!

3.    Help control allergies and asthma. The VOCs that some of these products emit are highly irritating, especially to people who have asthma or allergies. Some ingredients like ammonia should be avoided by asthma sufferers or anyone with lung sensitivities.  

4.    Minimise the risk of skin irritation and eczema.

5.    Reduce pollution of air and water. Certain ingredients have a great impact on nature, such as phosphates which can cause algae blooms in water bodies that can lead to the destruction of aquatic life.

6.    Antibacterial ingredients can have an effect on your thyroid and hormonal balance.

7.    Minimise toxins. Commercial cleaning products are packed full of nasties and can be life-threatening if ingested. Household cleaners can also contain dangerous ingredients such as petroleum-based chemicals and organic solvents that can release volatile organic compounds (or VOCs) into the air. By switching to natural you are not only reducing the toxins but also the chances of poisoning someone else, like your kids, or even yourself.

Some of the common ingredients found in commercial cleaners can cause extensive symptoms, such as:

Ammonia – a known-irritant for the eyes and lungs. Can cause headaches, and must be avoided by anybody suffering from lung disease.

Phosphates – destructive to the water life, and widely used in automatic dishwashing detergent as a water softener.

Phenol and cresol – when inhaled or ingested, can cause dizziness, fainting, diarrhoea, kidney and liver damage. Widely found in disinfectants.

Corrosives – include chemicals such as hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, lye, and phosphoric acid, and can burn the skin, lead to internal burns if ingested or inhaled and can even explode if used incorrectly.

Nitrobenzene – can cause shallow breathing, poisoning and even death if ingested or inhaled. Has also been labelled as carcinogenic and can cause birth defects.

Chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite) – releases the toxic gas chloramine when mixed with an acid-based ingredient such as ammonia or vinegar. Can lead to an exasperation of asthma symptoms and serious respiratory problems.

Formaldehyde – can cause acute health effects such as burning, watery eyes, burning nose and throat, nausea and vomiting, coughing, skin rashes and more. Have also been found to be carcinogenic.

Petroleum distillates – products containing this solvent should be used with extreme caution. Wear gloves and never inhale the vapours.

Hydrochloric acid or sodium acid sulfate – can lead to skin burns, and blindness if splashed in the eye. If ingested, can burn the stomach and intestines.

Paradichlorobenzene – can harm the central nervous system, the liver, and kidneys.

Naphthalene – a volatile hydrocarbon, it is a suspected carcinogen and can lead to damage of the eyes, blood cells, kidneys, central nervous system and the skin.

I don’t want any of these ingredients near my family, not even in small amounts. We are exposed to so many detrimental substances in our everyday life that I choose to remove the risk of exposure in my home. If you decide to not make your own cleaners, at least choose brands that are all-natural, biodegradable, responsibly-packaged products. If you want to try your hand at making your own, these are the ingredients that you will need to start:

·         Baking soda

·         Borax salt (some people avoid Borax)

·         Cornstarch

·         Hydrogen peroxide

·         Lemon juice

·         Liquid soap such as castile soap

·         Newspaper or old cloth scraps

·         Olive oil

·         Steel wool

·         White vinegar

For more in-depth recipes, see my other blog posts. For quick and easy cleaning solutions, here are some recipes to get you started:

All-purpose cleaner –

Use a 1:1 solution of vinegar and water. Rinsing not necessary. Great for cleaning mirrors.

Mix 1 tbsp borax and 2 tbsp vinegar with 2 cups of very hot water. Apply and rinse.

Bathroom cleaner –

Scrub with a paste made from cream of tartar and hydrogen peroxide.

Make a paste with baking soda and water, scrub the area you want to clean (such as shower walls or floors) then spray with vinegar. Rinse.

Dishwasher detergent –

Mix 2 tbsp baking soda with 2 tbsp borax. Add to the machine as you would normally add powdered detergent.

Grease cutter –

Scrub with a paste made with lemon juice and salt.

Oven cleaner –

Scrub with a paste made from baking soda and warm water. Allow to stand for a while, then scrub off.

Disinfectant cleaner or spray –

Mix ¼ cup borax in 1 litre of hot water. Spray on the area you wish to disinfect. You can also use essential oils to disinfect.

Drain cleaner –

Pour ¼ cup baking soda down the drain, followed by ¼ cup vinegar. Allow to stand for a few minutes, then rinse with boiling water.

Carpet cleaner –

Mix 1 cup borax with 1 cup baking soda. Sprinkle on carpet, then vacuum.

To whiten clothes –

Add ½ cup borax to warm water wash

Fabric softener –

Add 1 cup vinegar in the final rinse cycle.

Share with me your DIY recipes!