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Non-Toxic Cleaning Series: Product Review & Giveaway

July 12th, 2012

The non-toxic cleaning series continues, I’ve been busy testing a few homemade recipes for items like rug cleaners and mildew busters. When I first started the series I had a few different companies contact me about testing their products. I told Better Life I would because their products sounded great. I know many of you don’t necessarily want to be making your own cleaning products and would rather purchase a good non-toxic alternative. So I figured I’d test them out for those of you who do.

They sent me a box with 6 different cleaners. Last weekend, when we set off the clean the house in a jiffy for some potential buyers, I put these products to the test. I was fully ready to not like them as much as my homemade cleaners. Generally I find myself disappointed in purchased products, especially with the price! I was pleasantly surprised, however and really liked these.

The what-EVER cleaner was great for cleaning cabinets and other areas with greasy/oily buildup. After using them to clean my kitchen cabinets they looked amazing. This product really does clean very well, so well in fact that I’m thinking I’ll always have a bottle on hand for those tougher jobs that my homemade multi-purpose cleaner doesn’t work as well on.

The stainless steel cleaner EINSHINE working wonderfully on my appliances. Those of you who asked about cleaning stainless steel will be happy about this product as it can be difficult to find a product that cleans it well. I’ll definitely be keeping a bottle of this on hand for shining up that beautiful stove of mine.

SIMPLY FLOORED was another hit here at Chiot’s Run. Since the entire house is hardwood flooring, we use a mop for everything. I loved that this product has just a touch of sage scent, just barely enough to detect. One of the reasons I do not like store-bought cleaners is I find the heavy scent to be very offensive to my very sensitive nose. That’s one thing I appreciated about all the Better Life Products, no overpowering scents that scream “I JUST CLEANED MY HOUSE”.

The one product I wasn’t super excited about was the glass cleaner I CAN SEE CLEARLY. I didn’t find that it cleaned my windows any better than using the window cleaner or vinegar. I also received a bottle of granite cleaner which I haven’t used since I don’t have stone in my house. The wood polish was used, but I haven’t yet decided if I like it more than simply using my homemade multi-purpose cleaner.

Lucky for you, Better Life will be giving one lucky reader a You Pick 6 box. You can choose which 6 products you’d like to try; simply comment below for your chance to win. Here at Chiot’s Run I’ll be keeping some of the what-EVER cleaner on hand from now on, and I might try their Knock-Out clothes spot treatment as well.

Which cleaning product are you least likely to make yourself at home?

NON-TOXIC CLEANING SERIES
Stocking Your Non-Toxic Cleaning Kit
Learning to Love Castile Soap
Make Your Own: Foaming Soap
Make Your Own: Infused Vinegar
Make Your Own: Multi-Purpose Cleaner
Make Your Own: Color Safe Oxygen Bleach
Non-Toxic Bathroom Cleaning
Friday Favorite: Charlie’s Soap
Friday Favorite: Twist Sponges
Homemade Whitening Scrub

We have a winner:

Disclaimer – Better life sent me products to try to free, but I did not get paid to write this review or to talk about their products.

Non-Toxic Cleaning: Doing the Dishes

May 16th, 2012

Here at Chiot’s Run we typically wash dishes by hand. My dishwasher control panel went out about a year ago and we decided it was faster to wash everything the old fashioned way. I mix castile soap in a foaming soap dispenser (see instructions here) and use a Twist compostable sponge. I also keep a parmesan cheese shaker with baking soda at the sink for sprinkling in any pots and pans that need a good scrubbing.


Like most people, I have a collection of various bottle brushes and stainless steel scrubbers for kitchen and household cleaning. They certainly come in handy for washing water bottles and hummingbird feeders!

Scrubbing the dishes by hand really doesn’t take much longer that loading and unloading the dishwasher, at least for us here. We wash them as soon as we’re finished cooking/eating and then they’re done. No saving up a sink full of dishes here – one of my biggest annoyances is dirty dishes on the counter. I don’t want to see them. Having the dishes all washed and put away right away is also a great benefit to hand washing, no waiting for hours for the dishwasher to wash and no noise either.

What would the non-toxic cleaning series be without a proper automatic dishwashing detergent recommendation? So I ordered a new control panel and a new seal from Repair Clinic and the dishwasher was fixed for a fraction of what it would cost to replace it.

Up until a year ago when the dishwasher kicked the bucket, I used Ecover Automatic Dishwashing Detergent and was fairly happy. I purchased a container of Tropical Traditions Detergent Detergent with Enzymes, but the dishwasher died before I could use it.

It was used for the first load and I must say, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Tropical Traditions detergent*. The first time I used it I was amazed at how spotless the dishes came out. We have hard water and the dishes have never come out this clean, ever. I’ve washed a few more loads with it and it has performed just as well each time.

What goes in my rinse aid dispenser? White vinegar, citrus infused if I have it. Even with our very hard water, it seems to work just as well as the store-bought varieties at a fraction of the cost!

I do use the high heat wash setting on my dishwasher. Since our diet includes lots of butter, whole milk and other high fat foods, the high heat setting is needed to help dissolve all the residue on the plates. The low-temp simply doesn’t work.

If your dishwasher isn’t doing a great job cleaning the dishes, think about cleaning it. Once a year, we take apart our dishwasher and clean all the parts, this keeps it cleaning perfectly. I can always tell when it’s needing a good cleaning. This step is especially important if you don’t clean all the food off of your dishes before loading it. You’ll also extend the life of your dishwasher saving you money if you take the time to perform yearly maintenance.

Even though my dishwasher is now fixed, I’ll continue doing most of the dishes by hand. For me it’s a great way to get some down time, I really enjoy looking at the tulip hillside and the woods while I clean. There are claims that washing dishes by hand uses more energy/water, but I have not found this to be the case. My electric bit went down when we started doing dishes by hand.

Do you do dishes by hand or with an automatic dishwasher?

*Disclaimer – I do have an affiliate program with Tropical Traditions, if you click through my blog to make your first purchase they give me a gift certificate. Rest assured, I have been spending my hard earned cash and recommending Tropical Traditions long before they offered a program like this.

NON-TOXIC CLEANING SERIES
Stocking Your Non-Toxic Cleaning Kit
Learning to Love Castile Soap
Make Your Own: Foaming Soap
Make Your Own: Infused Vinegar
Make Your Own: Multi-Purpose Cleaner
Make Your Own: Color Safe Oxygen Bleach
Homemade Whitening Scouring Scrub
Friday Favorite: Charlie’s Soap
Friday Favorite: Twist Sponges
and more to come

Non-Toxic Window Cleaning

April 26th, 2012

Cleaning windows is one of those things that can drive you CRAZY. You scrub, wipe, polish, buff and then the sun comes out and there are STREAKS. What to do, what to do. This alone can make people who normally use non-toxic cleaners to resort to that blue stuff.

Like anything else, the more often you clean your windows the easier and quicker they will be to clean and the fewer problems with streaks you will have. The streaks are usually caused not by dirt, but by oily deposits on the glass, mostly from VOC’s. You’ve probably heard that indoor air is usually more polluted than the air outside and the reason is VOC’s. They come from just about everything in your home, the couch, mattress, fabrics, furniture, carpet, paint, detergents, cleaners, adhesives, cooking, etc. These collect on the glass and can be difficult to get off. One of the best ways to help keep the windows clean is to get rid of the some of the VOC’s.

Houseplants are one of the best ways (here’s my post on that topic),but there are some other things you can do: use non-toxic cleaners, use exhaust fans when cleaning and cooking, let new items off gas in garage or outdoors before bringing them in (if it smells “new” it’s off gassing VOC’s), don’t use air fresheners or burn candles, and open up those windows and let some fresh air inside! Another place those streaks come from is the rags that you’re using to clean, if you use fabric softener or detergent with fragrance, then your rags will most likely leave streaks.

Usually I just use cotton rags for cleaning my windows. I’ve tried using a squeegee before and didn’t like it. For this series however, I purchased one of the best rated scrubber and squeegee sets to cover all my bases. I must say, spending the extra money for a the right tool makes the job go so much faster and let’s face it, we’re more likely the clean our windows monthly if it only takes a few minutes! The one I got was the Ettore Steccone Products 65000 Progrip Window Cleaning Kit. I like it so much I’m going to be buying the handle extension and will be using it often.


So, how do I clean the windows here? I mixed about a quarter cup of my citrus infused vinegar with about 6 cups of hot water in a bucket. Then I dipped in my window scrubber in, squeezed out most of the water and scrubbed the windows. Next I squeegeed off the water, wiping my squeegee with a towel after each pass. Finally, I used a microfiber to clean up any bit of water left around the edges. It took less than a minute to do each window.


If your windows are super dirty you might want to add a squirt of castile in with your water, just a small amount, about a quarter teaspoon. I found that the citrus oil from the infused vinegar did just fine and I didn’t need any soap. If you don’t have a window scrubber, simply mix water and vinegar in a spray bottle, spray on windows and wipe off with clean cotton rags or old socks. If your windows are really dirty you might need to use a few rags, using dirty rags will also cause streaks! If you wipe in one direction (up/down) when cleaning the inside and the opposite (side/side) when cleaning the outside, you’ll know exactly where your streaks are if you have any.

If you do notice streaks, a microfiber towel will usually work to buff them off, turn towel regularly. A small squirt of vinegar will sometimes make it easier to buff off the streaks (not too much vinegar though a few drops usually works). Sometimes, if your windows are pretty dirty you might need to scrub them twice (which is a great reminder to do them more often). I find that cleaning mine once a month is the right frequency so that they never get that dirty, I don’t get too much dirt build up and it takes only a few quick wipes to clean them again. If I wait 2 or 3 months it takes much, much longer to clean them. Try to come up with a schedule, I generally clean my windows around the first of the month.

Of course when you have pets you’ll never have clean windows. As soon as you clean them the pets start sliming them up again so “clean” is a relative term around here when it come to windows here at Chiot’s Run (once a month they’re clean).

How often do you clean your windows? Any tip/tricks to share?

NON-TOXIC CLEANING SERIES
Stocking Your Non-Toxic Cleaning Kit
Learning to Love Castile Soap
Make Your Own: Foaming Soap
Make Your Own: Infused Vinegar
Make Your Own: Multi-Purpose Cleaner
Make Your Own: Color Safe Oxygen Bleach
Homemade Whitening Scouring Scrub
Friday Favorite: Charlie’s Soap
Friday Favorite: Twist Sponges
and more to come

Make Your Own: All Fabric Oxygen Bleach

April 10th, 2012

When it comes to detoxing your cleaning routine, getting rid of bleach is one of the best things you can do. You really don’t need bleach around for disinfecting, good old soap works well enough for that. Sometimes however, you really want something that will get rid of stains and brighten up your laundry. Chlorine free bleach can be quite expensive and making it at home costs next to nothing. I get the ingredients to make a gallon of oxygen bleach for about a dollar.

HOMEMADE OXYGEN BLEACH
1 half gallon bottle or jug
2 cups hydrogen peroxide (the kind you get in the brown bottles)
water 

Pour peroxide 2 cups of peroxide into half gallon bottle or jug and fill jar the rest of the way with water (I use water filtered through my Big Berkey Water Filter). Use like you would use store bought all-fabric bleach.  1 cup per load of laundry.

Oxygen bleach will help remove stains and brighten clothing. It also does wonders for removing odors, making it perfect for pet bedding and kitchen rags. There seems to be endless choices for whitening your clothes without chlorine, some people swear by vinegar, other say lemon juice is the way to go, and a little sunshine never hurts. The key is to find something that works for you and that you feel comfortable using.  I like using oxygen bleach and sunshine!

What’s your favorite way to brighten & whiten your clothing?

NON-TOXIC CLEANING SERIES
Stocking Your Non-Toxic Cleaning Kit
Learning to Love Castile Soap
Make Your Own: Foaming Soap
Make Your Own: Infused Vinegar
Make Your Own: Multi-Purpose Cleaner
Make Your Own: Color Safe Oxygen Bleach
Friday Favorite: Charlie’s Soap
Friday Favorite: Twist Sponges
and more to come

Sherri from Little Home in The Country asked where I got the lovely tea towels in the second photo. I found these beauties when I stopped at Seed Savers Exchange in Iowa last summer. Luckily they have them for sale on their website. They’re the best towels I’ve ever owned big absorbent flour sack towels with beautifully illustrated with garden fresh goodies – I’ll be ordering some more soon to replace a few more towels!

Make Your Own Multi-Purpose Cleaner

April 4th, 2012

I spent a few years trying to come up with just the right recipe for a multipurpose cleaner. At first I simple mixed some castile soap with water and tried using that. It works OK for some surfaces but not for others. Then I tried adding vinegar but that didn’t quite work either. I wanted something that would disinfect, clean, cut grease, and do away with stains and odors. Somehow I ended up with this recipe and I LOVE it.
I use it for everything, cleaning my hardwood floors, toilets, windows, pet stains on the carpet, and it also gets rid of pet odor like you wouldn’t believe. It’s also so really great at getting rid of stains, but beware, it’s so good that you might notice a clean spot and the rest of your carpet might look a little dingy (from personal experience).

HOMEMADE MULTI-PURPOSE CLEANER
1/2 cup peroxide (the regular kind in a brown bottle)
1/2 cup distilled water
1/2 teaspoon castile soap or Sal-Suds*
(*Note that as Sage pointed out in her comment Sal Suds from Dr Bronners does contain SLS. I keep a bottle around and use it sparingly only if I actually do need to dissolve grease from my hands/clothing. It’s then followed up with castile soap to remove any residual SLS. Definitely not something you want to us all the time. )

Mix ingredients in spray bottle, use for cleaning floors, dusting furniture, cleaning toilets and other hard surfaces. This is also a powerful stain cutter and odor pet neutralizer. Make sure to test on an inconspicuous spot before using over a large area of your furniture or carpet. I spray my furniture and carpet without issue, but all fabrics are different. The Sal Suds will cut grease better than a regular castile soap will, that makes it perfect for cleaning windows.
When it comes to mixing up your own homemade cleaners, don’t be afraid to tweak things, add more soap, less soap, swap in vinegar. Just be sure not to mix ammonia & bleach (do you even keep those in your house?). A while ago I purchase The Naturally Clean Home. It’s filled with 150 different recipes for cleaning just about anything you can think of, including a number to clean various surfaces in your home, even one to can make your own car wax. For me, having one that use for everything makes it easy, I don’t want a bunch of bottles of various things sitting around. Sure every now and then I might need something special for cleaning carpets or something else, in case I’ll grab this book and mix up one batch to use. Other than that, you’ll find me using this mix for everything!

If you’d like to have a nice reference filled with a bunch of different recipes I’d recommend purchasing The Naturally Clean Home. For less than $10 it’s a valuable resource to have on hand. Who knows, perhaps you can even start a small business mixing up non-toxic cleaning products to sell at your local farmers market!

Is there anyone in your area that sells homemade non-toxic cleaning products? Would you be willing to purchase them from a small local business?

NON-TOXIC CLEANING SERIES
Stocking Your Non-Toxic Cleaning Kit
Learning to Love Castile Soap
Make Your Own: Foaming Soap
Make Your Own: Infused Vinegar
Make Your Own: Multi-Purpose Cleaner
Make Your Own: Color Safe Oxygen Bleach
Friday Favorite: Charlie’s Soap
Friday Favorite: Twist Sponges
and more to come

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About

This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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