Natural Cleaning ProductsPosted December 07 2012
Several ingredients surface over and over again in recipes for natural home made cleaning products. This is a quick list (a what's what) of these basic components and how they are used.
Bicarbonate of soda, sodium bicarbonate, cooking soda NaHCO3. A white-colored, alkaline powder. A lot more familiar as a baking ingredient and as one of the components of baking powder. Non poisonous but doesn't taste all that pleasant on its own. Baking soda is a fantastic all-purpose cleaner either alone or in tandem with other ingredients. It assimilates odours and can scrub hard surfaces (e.g. white ware, china, formica, metal, glass) without scratching. When used with vinegar, it reacts and the ensuing effervescence (fizzing) can loosen challenging dirt.
Vinegar is an acid (acetic acid) that may be described as brewing gone wrong – all liquid that is supposed to become an alcoholic drink might end up being vinegar. Vinegar can be made from all sorts of sources, with the most typical being white vinegar (from white grapes), cider vinegar (apples), malt vinegar (barley) and wine vinegar (red grapes). White vinegar is the best to use for house cleaning purposes, with malt vinegar running a close second. Other vinegars work but since they are more pricey, they should not be wasted on cleaning. Don't use balsamic vinegar for cleaning – it is too sticky to clean efficiently and too delicious/expensive to waste on cleaning a pantry. Non toxic. Vinegar cleans without leaving behind a residue, which makes it ideal for window cleaning. Vinegar has anti-bacterial attributes when it is used neat or somewhat diluted (which is why it is used in pickling and preserving) and can kill mould. It reacts with baking soda to "fizz" off persistent dirt or to unblock drains. It may also neutralize alkaline substances such as ammonia or soap.
Alcohol is a liquid made by fermenting sugars and yeasts, then distilling the results to eliminate as much water from the fermented brew. Strong spirits are best for cleaning, for instance vodka, brandy and whisky. Rubbing alcohol or surgical spirits, and methylated spirits may also be used for cleaning. Mostly non-toxic if taken in small amounts, except for the methylated spirits, which is basically toxic. Don't use low-alcohol beverages such as beer and wine, liqueurs or anything sticky for cleaning. Alcohol kills bacteria, dissolves some substances (e.g. ink) that won't come off with just water and evaporates without leaving behind a residue. Suitable for use as a stain remover in the laundry, as a glass cleaner and as a disinfectant.
Lemon Juice is citric acid squeezed out from the lemon fruit. Citric acid is also present in the juice of other citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit, but not in such great proportions. Non toxic and wonderful for you. Can be a bit on the costly side to use, except if you grow your own lemons or be able to access large quantities of lemons. Lemon juice is a gentle bleach in sunlight that can be used as a stain remover. It acts as a mild disinfectant that can kill mould spores. Whilst it does not assimilate odours, the aroma of lemons (juice and peel) freshens the air.
Soap is a mixture of strong lye (caustic soda) and fats, more often than not tallow or palm oil. Sometimes, soaps have other bits and pieces added in to change the colour, the scent in addition to the texture. Very likely non-toxic but highly unpalatable – the old "wash your mouth out with soap after using such filthy language" in no way killed anyone but was very unpleasant. Need to be rinsed off the skin after use. Manufacturing your own soap can be a lucrative and enjoyable hobby/craft. Soap breaks the surface tension of water, which means that water is better able to interact with dirt and lift it away from whatever you want to clean. It works best in the form of foam (lather) or gel (made by pouring boiling water over scraps of soap). Additionally it denatures oils and grease so that they can be cleaned off more easily, and is a mild disinfectant. For best results use liquid hand soap.
Essential oils are the volatile aromatic principles (essences) taken from plants usually via distillation. Since they are concentrated, they are toxic, even if they are produced from a non-toxic plant.
How it's used: For domestic cleaning purposes, essential oils are mainly used to scent other ingredients. Some oils also have antibacterial properties (e.g. lavender, pine, thyme, oregano) and others eliminate stains (eucalyptus).
Other ingredients that are used in natural cleaning products, though not as frequently, include:
* washing soda