Green Cleaning Matrix, Rag Bag, and Lemon Bowtie Salad

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Green Cleaning Matrix, Rag Bag, and Lemon Bowtie Salad

Why I Care

Those of you who have stopped by Kreateeedoo before know that I have been on a journey to drastically reduce the plastics in my home and to adopt a more minimalist lifestyle focused on saving money and the environment.  And with the weather beginning to turn and spring about to have sprung, I’m in the mood for cleaning! This month’s focus on green cleaning combines all of those elements together.  Making my own green cleaning products means less plastic waste, fewer harmful chemicals to my family and the environment, and way more money saved.

If you are like me and have googled for green cleaning then you are most likely like me and are very confused.  On one site you find a recipe for The. Best. Cleaner. Ever. made out of baking soda and vinegar.  One another site you find a caution not to mix those two ingredients.  One site says baking soda and washing soda are interchangeable. Elsewhere it cautions you that washing soda is caustic and to use it with caution.  It’s hard to figure out what’s what.

Kreateeedoo green cleaning ingredients
You likely already have everything you need to clean your home!

One of my longtime favorite cleaning ingredients is Blue Dawn dish soap. So I was very disheartened to see that the Environmental Working Group gave Dawn dish soaps grades ranging from C to F.  The one that I usually buy was given a D grade. Because I don’t know what a dimethylamine oxide or cyclohexanediamine are, I needed some help to understand if this was a safe ingredient to use in cleaning my home.

Help From an Expert

Luckily, I happen to know a chemical engineer from Michigan State University’s College of Engineering (“Dr. B.”), who was kind enough to let me pick her brain.  Dr. B. told me one very important thing that you should always remember when mixing your own cleaning solutions from common household items: Don’t mix any household ingredients unless you have investigated that the combination is safe. Ammonia and bleach mixed together can be deadly.  Peroxide and vinegar mixed together is dangerous. Vinegar and baking soda together are not harmful, but the chemical reaction results in slightly salty water.  Unless you know your chemistry, be very careful in mixing any ingredients. It’s safest to mix fewer ingredients and always first check out if mixing them is safe.


Super Important: Don’t mix any household ingredients unless you have investigated that the combination is safe.

Dr. B. explained to me that the effective ingredients in products like Dawn comes from the surfactants.  The chemical makeup of surfactants cause them to be both “oil loving” and “water loving”, which is why surfactants are so good at removing grease.  Dawn has several surfactants in it which is why is works so well. Liquid detergents, Dr. B. told me, commonly have more surfactants then powders because it’s easier to put these compounds into liquid form.

I also asked Dr. B. about the internet-wide belief that vinegar is a good disinfectant.  Dr. B. said because vinegar is a relatively weak acid, it is likely not a good disinfectant.  Vodka or rubbing alcohol are good disinfectants, however, because of the alcohol in them. Also you need to avoid using anything acidic when cleaning any natural surface like marble, stone, or wood. Acids like vinegar should also not be used on grout because it will weaken it.

Time to Change My Ways

I’ll be honest, I was rather upset when I saw the D grade my Blue Dawn received from the Environmental Working Group. The grade for Dawn likely comes from the methylisothiazolinone, Dr. B. explained.  This chemical is a poison, particularly to water life. I recognize that while we can’t know the exact formula, this chemical is far down the list of ingredients. But still. . . I can’t in good conscience continue using Blue Dawn.

I had read that Dawn works so well because it contains protease and amylase enzymes which break down starches and proteins.  That’s why Dawn is such a good dish soap as it helps to break down these food compounds from your dirty dishes. I asked Dr. B. if there were other natural ingredients you could find around your home that contain these enzymes that you might use in DIY cleaning ingredients.  She explained that it is likely the surfactants in Dawn rather than the enzymes that make it so good at cleaning. While many natural foods like raw honey and many fruits contain these enzymes, most wouldn’t do well in a cleaning solution. Can you imagine the mess trying to clean your dishes with a honey mixture?  

The Matrix

Even with all that good advice, I still had trouble figuring out which ingredients to mix in what ratios to use on which surface.  I did countless hours of research around the web and came up with a matrix that I hope will help you make sense of it all. Even though I try to stock all of these ingredients, sometimes I find myself missing one or two when it’s time to clean.  You can use this matrix to help you find substitutes or to make your own recipes. I’ve also added warning signs for ingredients you should not mix.

Kreateedoo's green cleaning matrix

Tips and Stuff

Here are a few other hints I’ve discovered in my research and in my life experience:

  • As my momma always told me, you can’t get anything clean with a dirty solution or a dirty rag.  Change your solution and your rags often while cleaning.
  • To help avoid plastic waste and save a lot of money, purchase castile bar soap, grate it, and melt it in about 4-8 cups of water, depending on the strength and viscosity you want to achieve and use it like you would the liquid soap.
  • Use unscented castile soap and you can choose to add your own essential oils to scent your cleaning solutions.
  • Because DIY cleaners don’t use harsh chemicals, sometimes letting the cleaner soak on your surface is very helpful.  Experiment in a small area first to see what works best.
  • Change your essential oils with the seasons or by which room you are cleaning.  If you like citrus smell add lemon essential oil in the kitchen but perhaps use a more herby scent in the bathroom.  By making your own cleaners, you can mix it up.
  • In the winter, when you’re more cooped up in the house, add essential oils with antibacterial and/or antiviral properties to help fight off winter colds and flu.
  • If like me you are concerned about plastic waste, these great glass spray bottles are a great solution for your solutions!
  • Check out this terrific recipe for an all-purpose cleaner found on The Make Your Own Zone blog!

Final Notes

Vinegar

Don’t be fooled by the more expensive “Cleaning Vinegar” you may see in stores.  It’s only slightly different from regular old distilled vinegar and not worth the extra cost.  Other vinegar types – like wine or apple cider – may stain your surface or fabrics. Save your orange, lemon, lime or grapefruit peels and soak them in vinegar for a few weeks.  This combination smells terrific and works great for cleaning. I’ve had a batch of this citrus vinegar brewing for a couple of weeks and it made my tub and shower sparkle! Compost your rinds when they start to turn gray.  Just add more peels for a constant supply.

Because of the acidity, don’t use on natural surfaces like stone, tile, granite or marble.  Also don’t use on grout because it will weaken it. Don’t mix this with castile soap or it will partially solidify into gunk.  Don’t mix with baking soda as the chemical reaction results in simply salty water.

Baking Soda

This stuff is a wonder and it’s super cheap and versatile.  Baking soda is easy to find in sustainable cardboard packaging.  It’s not harmful to the environment or people, unless ingested in large quantities.  It’s really true what they say – sprinkle it on your carpet, leave overnight a vacuum the next day to remove odors and dirt.  Deodorize your shoes by putting a tablespoon of soda in a square of cotton fabric, make a pouch and cinch it tight.

Don’t mix with vinegar as the two neutralize each other’s effectiveness. Don’t use baking soda on glass or chrome unless highly diluted and always rinse well to avoid leaving a film.

CREATE.

I don’t know about you, but I need a better way to store all the new rags I’ve created from my work on pursuing a more minimalist lifestyle. Currently I store the rags in a drawer in a repurposed cardboard box.  I would like to be a little better organized. I’ve got a plan in mind on how to create a one-stop storage system for my rags and cleaning supplies.  If I can get that to work out, I’ll show you how to make yourself one in my next post.

EAT.

Perhaps it’s because the weather is beginning to warm up, but I’ve had a taste for lemon lately.  And some pasta salad is really sounding terrific. I haven’t made it in a while but I used to make a tasty salad with a garlicky lemon dressing.  Unfortunately, I don’t usually write my recipes down but I’ll put that together to share with you later in the month.

DO.

While I’ve been whittling down on the commercial cleaners in my house, there are some remaining.  I’ve started doing some research on how to safely dispose of these chemical-laden products. I’ll do some more checking and share what I learn with you in a later post.  If you choose to pursue green cleaning methods as well, I expect you’ll want that information as well.


I hope you found some of the information here helpful.  I’m still finding my way with green cleaning. Because spring is just around the corner, I suspect I will have lots of opportunities to experiment and practice!  

Thanks so much for visiting Kreateedoo.  Please stop by again!

Peace and be well.

Marin

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