Taking the plunge
I think it is fair to say that I spent a fair few weeks procrastinating before I took the plunge and decided to make my own natural cleaning products. One of the reasons for this was that I couldn’t find a ‘how to’ book that worked for me. I was already sold on the idea that I wanted to use natural cleaning products so I just wanted the basics of what I needed to buy and how to do it.
One of the first hurdles I had was deciphering some of the ingredients and where to buy them. For this reason before I share some basic recipes with you I have provided an overview of the basic ingredients, what they are and where you can get your hands on them.
I have to admit that when I made my first batch of anti-bacterial spray I mistakenly used white wine vinegar rather than white vinegar naively assuming that they were the same thing. To make matters worse I bought several bottles of it in my excitement at making my own cleaning products.
I don’t care what Jamie Oliver says, I have never needed to use white wine vinegar in the kitchen and I am now left with numerous bottles gathering dust on the shelf!
The one you want – white vinegar – is most commonly used for pickling foods and as a cleaning product. It is known to be effective at killing bacteria, mould and viruses and it is made through the fermentation of anything that naturally contains sugar. I have spent time researching how white vinegar compares to bleach when it comes to killing germs and this article from Rodale’s organic life seems to sum it up in the simplest way. All I can say is that I am a convert but that you will have to make up your own mind.
I have been to a number of shops trying to find white vinegar on the shelf but so far the only place I have found it is in Wilkinson’s where it costs £1 for 750ml or online where you can buy it in larger quantities.
Baking Soda vs Bicarbonate of Soda
After being stung by the white vinegar experience I did some research before heading to the shops to buy baking soda and if I hadn’t I am pretty sure I would have come home with a basket full of baking powder.
Simply enough baking soda is America’s equivalent to bicarbonate of soda which is available in all supermarkets but you can buy it in a larger pack at Wilkinsons for £1.75 for 550g. It is great for absorbing odours and I primarily use it to clean the carpets.
Bicarbonate of soda is a salt composed of sodium ions and bicarbonate ions. It is an alkali and needs both moisture and acid to activate it which is where the white vinegar comes in when they are both used together for cleaning. The reaction produces carbon dioxide and if you have small children the bubbles that result from mixing bicarbonate of soda with white vinegar are perfect for making magic potions and volcanic ‘explosions’.
Citric acid is a weak organic acid which occurs naturally in fruit and vegetables, particularly citrus fruits. It is known for its antibacterial and antiseptic properties, creating a foam when it reacts with bicarbonate of soda and water making it effective for cleaning dirt and grime.
It is surprisingly hard to find in the shops. I have read two conflicting reasons for this and I am not too sure which is true. One was that it can be used for bomb making and another is that it is used to ‘dilute’ drugs such as cocaine or heroin. Whatever the reason, it does make it a bit of a faff to get hold of.
The best place to look is in a pharmacy but you will need to ask at the counter as it will not be kept out on a shelf. The other place to look is a local brewing shop as it is used in wine making. You may be limited on how much you can buy in one purchase; so far the most I have been able to purchase in one go is two packets but I do not use it regularly.
The purpose of distilling water is to reduce the impurities. This is achieved by boiling the water and then condensing the steam into a clean container. It is this collected steam that makes up the distilled water and any contaminants are left behind.
Until recently I mistakenly believed that cooled boiled water was the same thing as distilled water and it is this that I have been using. I suspect that I will continue to use cooled boiled water for the time being as the boiling process will have killed off the bacteria and I do not add it to my cleaning products that regularly. However, if you want to do things properly you will need to purchase some distilled water.
Essential oils are created through distilling flowers or plants. The resulting oil is said to contain the ‘essence’ of both the plant’s fragrance as well as its other properties, for example anti-bacterial.
The main tip I have stuck with when buying essential oils is to make sure that the botanical name is included on the label as this is said to be an indication of a higher quality oil. Different essential oils will also range in price as the the costs of making them will vary.
When I first started making my own cleaning products I was living near a great aromatherapy shop called Amphora Aromatics so I initially purchased my essential oils from there. I really like their oils and they have a great range so I have continued to order through their online shop since returning to Cornwall.
How much is a cup?
A ‘cup’ is an American measurement which is appearing in British recipes much more commonly. I have to admit that the use of ‘cups’ as a measurement completely baffles me. In my home we have both cups and mugs but they come in all different shapes and sizes and I have no idea which one I am meant to choose to measure out my ingredients.
For those like me who don’t understand how much a ‘cup’ is I hope that the following link will help. Due to my ineptness in this area I will provide my recipes without using ‘cups’. However, if you decide to try some recipes from America, Dove’s Farm have produced a handy conversion table.
But where are the recipes?
Fear not, I will post the natural cleaning recipes that I use on Sunday and in the meantime I will leave you with this conundrum – what to do with your old cleaning products…..
This is something that caused me a fair bit of angst. Should you pass your old cleaning products on to avoid waste or chuck them in the bin because you don’t want to expose someone else to the chemicals you are trying to avoid? I passed mine on but I still don’t feel totally comfortable with that decision.