Monday, February 16, 2009

To Clean Or Not To Clean- That Is The Question

I've been thinking about and working on this post for the last week. I was at our homeschool co-op mom's meeting last Monday night and we got talking about my post about homemade laundry soap. Well, that turned into a 'how do you do this' and 'how do you do that' conversation. Some things I've done for years, other things I've just started to do. Being that everyone is talking about 'the economy' and cutting back- I thought some of these ideas might be appropriate. I certainly didn't start here, we've 'evolved' to this spot and it's working great for our family! I hope some of these ideas can help save money for other families who struggle to make ends meet...just like us.

I've been contemplating lately about the things I always seem to run out of. What am I spending the most money on and what am I always running out to the store to buy? I thought I would keep this post to non-food related items. Maybe I can post later on 'all about babies.' If there's something, my faithful readers, you'd like to know about or ask- I'd be glad to try and answer!

One of our biggies is toilet paper. Sorry, can't help you there. I have no other alternatives except using leaves- and I'm not that desperate. I did, however, switch to Angel Soft (is that the name?) awhile ago because it's still soft and not so paper-like, and a lot cheaper than Charmin.

Another biggie was paper towels. We do a LOT of cleaning around here! A few months ago I read an idea about taking old socks and turning them into rags. My husband happened to have a ton of thread bare socks...his drawer was badly over run with them. His mom buys him socks every year for Christmas so he was in need of a clean-out. He loves the calf height socks so I had good size rags when I was done. I simply cut off the toe and cut off the elastic part that keeps the sock up on the calf. I was then left with a 'tube' that was open on either end. I just made one cut down the side and then I had a big rectangle. I cut that rectangle in half and was left with 2 perfect size rags. I did this with all his old socks and we love them as rags. I took a yellow bin (from the Dollar Tree) and placed it on the kitchen counter by the sink. We use them for spills, to clean bathrooms, to clean floors, to clean walls/ get the idea. If all the wash cloths are dirty, the kids also use these for dishes. I use the soft side of the terry cloth to even wipe mirrors and they don't leave little fuzzies. There you go, paper towel alternative. I put another one of those yellow bucket/bins on the top of my dryer and wrote with a sharpie: Dirty rags only. My kids know to put those rags in there and I wash them when the bin is full. That way the wet/dirty rags aren't sitting on our clothes for a day or two...

If we used a lot of paper towels,
can you imagine the napkins we used? 10 people in one meal alone- and with the little ones, they just grabbed a handful! So, I went to Walmart and bought some flour sack towels (I couldn't spare any from my kitchen). I cut the towels into good size napkins and used my zig-zag stitch to finish the edges. I used yellow thread to match another one of those yellow bins. I have one in the middle of our table to hold the napkins and a second on top the dryer that reads (in sharpie): Dirty napkins only. I wash whites every day so these go in with our clothes and come out sparkly clean. There you go, napkin alternative.

I make our baby wipes too- I'll save that for the 'all about baby' post...

Since adding 4 more children to our family, we have more than doubled in the amount of cleaning supplies we use/need. The cost started to become outrageous and I was tired of running out of things so quickly. Our house is only so big, we don't have tons of room to store EVERTHING. And if I forgot to buy it when I was in town, I certainly didn't want to load everyone back up just to go to town for dish soap! So, I started making some cleaning products and we've been pleased (so has our pocketbook!). And I usually don't run out of these ingredients so I can make up a new batch in a quick hurry. ** Also, I was worried about chemicals with the small children and the fact that our African children have never cleaned with any type of chemical before. I was worried they would mix something they weren't supposed to mix or that they would somehow hurt themselves or their skin while cleaning. Everything is a learning process here so we try to go as non-caustic as possible.

If you feel so inclined, give some of these a try and see what you think. Our 3 year old loves to clean so now she can grab our kitchen spray bottle (filled with vinegar and water) and go around the house and 'clean.' She cleans doors, windows, trim, walls, etc.

Mix water and white vinegar in a spray bottle. You can use anywhere from one Tbsp. vinegar per cup of water to a solution of half vinegar and half water. Add a few drops of blue or green food coloring if you miss the tint. Try using newspaper as a ling-free 'cloth' to wipe windows clean- it works! (If you have a scratch on window or glass, try rubbing a little toothpaste into it and polish).

For general heavy-duty cleaning around the home, try this solution: Into a warm gallon of water, stir one Tbsp. borax and one Tbsp. of liquid soap (not detergent). For grease cutting purposes, also include a Tbsp. or more of vinegar. For all purpose cleaning, mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda into a gallon of warm water.

Don't use poisonous disinfectants to wash your child's things. Mix a little baking soda into a cup of warm water and wipe down crib railings, car seats, playpens, toys, etc. Also, plain white vinegar can be used as a mild disinfectant. Mix with water and clean baby's things, but first test on an inconspicuous spot for color fastness and to prevent other possible damage. Plain hot water will wash away and kill some of the germs.

Clean stuffed toys by sprinkling liberally with baking soda or cornstarch (put in a large plastic bag first for less mess). Let remain for atleast 15 minutes and then shake it off or vacuum or brush it off.

Sprinkle baking soda into plastic storage bags along with the summer toys before storing to keep mildew from forming: pool toys, beach toys, small blow-up children's pools (sprinkle inside before rolling up), canteens, picnic coolers, etc.

Equal parts borax and baking soda. Use about a quarter cup of this mixture (two Tbsp. borax plus two Tbsp. baking soda) per dishwasher load. I put one Tbsp. of each in both the open and closed detergent compartments. **We use this a lot- our dishwasher runs twice a day, atleast!

Use plain white vinegar to clean your bathroom- it disinfects and gets rid of soap scum buildup. In a spray bottle, mix equal parts vinegar and water and use to clean fixtures, floor, tub, tile and shower curtain. Rinse with water. To remove soap scum, mildew and tub grime, wipe with undiluted white vinegar and then scrub with baking soda on a damp sponge. Rinse with water.

Clean the toilet bowl by pouring in one cup of white vinegar, let soak for 5 minutes, brush and flush. A sprinkle of baking soda can be used in combination with the vinegar to remove a stubborn toilet bowl ring.


Remove hard lime deposits around faucets by covering with vinegar-soaked paper towels. Let sit for an hour before cleaning. Chrome will be clean and shiny. Soak a clogged shower head in vinegar and water to remove deposits.

As with the bathroom, baking soda and vinegar can be used on kitchen sinks and faucets. To make your counter tops sparkle, pour club soda on them, clean with a wipe-up towel, rinse with water, and wipe dry. **As of now, our spray bottle just has a 1:4 ratio of vinegar to water. We use it to wipe counters, the stove, the fronts of our cupboards/fridge/dishwasher, and it cleans the table top great.

If you live up north and deal with a lot of ice and snow- this idea would be great! Sprinkle plain baking soda on your sidewalks to prevent slipping and to melt the ice. If the baking soda comes in on people's shoes, babies and animals will be safe with it. Soda will not damage your rugs, sidewalks or shoes. If you need more traction, you could always use sand from your child's sandbox (provided it's not frozen!).

1 comment:

Andrea Robinson said...

THANK YOU! for these great ideas. I remember using your home made baby wipes with both kids & thought hey if that worked lets try the laundry soap one. It was a huge hit. My mom was in from Detroit & had to know what brand of soap I used b/c the laundry smelled so good. She was shocked at the fact that it was home made. I am definitely going to try your new ideas!! Thanks again!