Posts Tagged With: Cleaning

Thrifty Thursday: DIY Swiffer Cloths

We have hard flooring throughout our house here.  Tile in the kitchen and bath and wood floors everywhere else.  There is a great tool for keeping those floors clean, most of you know it; the Swiffer.  But those Swiffer cloths get expensive.

My solution: mirco-fiber towels.  I have a couple of micro-fiber towels that will fit perfectly onto the head of my Swiffer.

And when I need to spot clean something with a mop?  I just get the cloth wet, wring it out and poof! – a Swiffer wet mop.

Micro Fiber Cloth

Go forth and attack your dust bunnies!

Categories: DIY, Thrift | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

The Other Cleaners

I mop and clean the windows vinegar and water, and I use baking soda to scrub everything else.  But what about the rest of the house?  I don’t make everything we clean with around here.  We buy a few products to keep everything else clean and as chemical free as possible.

Laundry:  I used to make our own laundry detergent using a recipe of grated soap, borax and washing soda.  I thought it worked great for a while and we saved a bunch of money… until our clothes started to STINK.  All of our clothes.  All the time.  It was super gross.  So now we use store-bought stuff.  I’ve tried pretty much every brand because I have very sensitive skin.  Right now we’ve settled on Whole Foods Market brand Green Mission Organic Laundry Detergent for all our clothes and Rockin Green for the cloth diapers.  In the past we’ve been happy with Charlie’s Soap for both, as well. For the diapers, I use a few drops of tea tree oil when I need to deodorize.

Fabric Softener:  If I had my way, it’d just be dryer balls (when we use the dryer), but the husband can’t seem to give up dryer sheets.  He even makes special trips to buy them all by himself.  I don’t use them, but since we tag team everything, including laundry, they still get used about half the time.  They are at least fragrance free, but not really ideal.

Dishwasher:  Like the laundry, I tried making my own for a while.  I used Borax and washing soda with white vinegar as a rinse aid.  But after a while there was terrible build up on all of our dishes.  Nothing looked clean, everything had a hard, chalky film on it.  I could even remove the film with hand washing.  I thought all my glasses were etched.  I went back to commercial detergents, everything from Seventh Generation to Cascade.  I was thinking my dish washer was broken.  Then somewhere, on some random forum, someone said try Lemi Shine.  It is for hard water, and it WORKS.  It is phosphate free, and I only need to use it periodically.  And I use the phosphate free tab detergent things.  It fixed everything; we’re sparkling again.  What do you use?

Shampoo:   Still looking for a good natural shampoo.  I tried the baking soda thing.. . yeah, no.  What do you use?

Body moisturizer:  I used to sell natural soaps, scrub and body butters by a local company, but they went out of business.  But there is a new company here in Colorado making a wonderful body butter called Simple Sundries.  My friend Genny started it after she couldn’t find a good moisturizer.  She’s obsessive about ingredients.  This stuff is awesome, and I’m not just saying so because she’s my friend (though a shameless plug in never a bad thing, is it?).  The butter is sooo creamy and is a great moisturizer.  It cleared up C’s awful cradle cap within two days.  I use it on my legs after shaving, and it is very lubricating, if you catch my drift.  You can get it with different essential oil combinations or unscented.

Soap:  I use Vermont Soap company bar soaps, which can also be bought from Simple Sundries.  They are facial quality, non-drying and organic.

Toothpaste: We like JASON PowerSmile All Natural Whitening Toothpaste.  It’s the only toothpaste we’ve found that is fluoride and SLS free, doesn’t contain artificial sweeteners and actually gets our teeth clean.  All of the other brands we tried left a weird filmy build up.  Yuck.

Deodorant:  Based on a recommendation from Deanna Duke, author or The Crunchy Chicken blog and the book The Non-Toxic Avenger, we tried the Crystal Body Deodorant Stick.  And by we, I mean Rick.  And it works great.  It has no smell, and leaves no stain on his white undershirts.  And he really sweats at work sometimes.  I have not read her book yet, but plan to.

What green products do you use at home to keep things squeaky clean?  Have any recommendations for me?

Categories: Simple Living, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , | 11 Comments

Green Cleaners in the Kitchen

The kitchen is the urban homestead’s work horse.  And boy do I ever give my old porcelain sink a workout.  It gets pretty stained and dingy and needs a good deep cleaning every week.  Like the bathroom, I basically use white vinegar and baking soda to get the job done.

I start by rinsing the sink, and then I sprinkle baking soda in (again, like many people use Comet).  I drink coffee and my sink gets easily stained.  I grab a sponge and start scrubbing.  Baking soda is actually pretty abrasive and it cuts odors.  Just a little water on your sponge makes this pretty effective.

After the scrub down, I rinse the sink again, plug it and pour in a little white vinegar to take care of any staining that I couldn’t get with the baking soda.  I leave it to soak there while I take care of the back of the sink.  I use a butter knife wrapped in a dishcloth with a little baking soda to get the edges and hard to reach places.

Or for areas that need more muscle, I use a knife/sponge combo.  Like the crack between the sink and the wall, under the window sill.  It’s impossible to get my hand back there – the butter knife does the trick.

By the time I’m done with all of that, the vinegar has done its job in the sink.  So I drain it and move on to the rest of the kitchen.

I use baking soda to scrub my stove top, and dish soap that cuts grease to clean the back of the stove and the toaster oven.  For the counters I have vinegar mixed with water in a spray bottle that I spray over all the counters, let sit for a bit and then wipe off.

But recently, I had a stain on my counter that white vinegar couldn’t take care of.  Bleach didn’t cut it either.  It was rust from our cast iron griddle.  What got it finally was lemon juice.

Lemons are powerful.  They can cook shrimp or fish in their juice, they kill germs and bacteria, and the are amazing bleaching agents.  I have proof.  First I squeezed a bit of juice on the stain and rubbed it around.  Then I let it sit for a couple minutes.

I was afraid it wasn’t working.  I sprinkled on some baking soda.  Salt would have been better but I already had the soda out.  It made it all fizzy, and probably neutralized the acid a bit, but I wanted its scrubbing power and figured it had set there, full strength long enough.

So I scrubbed it, and scrubbed it.  And…. it worked.

Then I threw the old, dead, juice-less lemon into the garbage disposal and ran it with water to make it smell nice.  Kitchen cleaned.

What do you use to clean your kitchen?

Categories: DIY, Simple Living, Thrift, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Green Cleaners in the Bathroom

This week’s boot camp is about green cleaners.  Lots of urban homesteaders are into doing things with less chemicals, more frugally, and more self-reliance.  Using or making some green cleaners around the house is a great skill to add to the homesteading arsenal.

The thing is, I don’t really use any cleaners in the house.  I use good old baking soda and white vinegar, and lemon juice.  And I think these have been talked about an awful lot on the internet already.  So while I can wax on about how effective these normal household items are to clean with, I am not sure I have much new information to offer as far as ingredients go.  Here it is, none the less.

I can tell you that these things really do work in Colorado where the water is hard and full of minerals that build up on everything.  Like my shower head, all covered in calcium build-up (or is that lime scale? or…  ??):

To get that puppy clean, first I tried just straight up vinegar with a grout brush.  Which did a pretty good job.

But I kind of needed something that would stick a bit better so that the vinegar could sit and work at it for me.  I’m all for scrubbing if it means I don’t have to use CLR, but if I can not scrub, that’s even better.  So I mixed some vinegar with some corn starch.  And poured the gloopy paste all over the shower head.  And then, while I let that sit, I used some on the tub faucet that is always sticking and tough to pull the shower lever thingy on (wow – the technical terms in this post are astounding).  Then, after I got impatient, I rinsed the shower head off… pretty good, eh?

It’s not perfect or anything, and probably if I had been a little more patient, it would have been, but I think it was decent. What’s even better is the mix worked on the tub faucet puller thing.

On to the rest of the bathroom!  Here is what I use:

Like the package says, there are hundreds of uses for baking soda.  That’s why I have a huge bag of it.  In the bathroom, I use it like most people use Comet.  I use it to scrub down the sink and tiles and tub.  And it works.

So what about the throne?  Well, lots of homesteaders are either into saving water or have male persons in the house.  Or both.  And so the toilet often gets stained from letting the yellow mellow.  And in our house, that hard water alone can leave a ring.  The best cleaning tool I have for cleaning a stained toilet is a pumice stone.

The first time I used it, I was scared to death.  I thought for sure I was going to scratch the porcelain and end up with a horrid looking toilet that I was going to end up replacing.  But that was needless worry.  It worked great.  And as far as I can tell, it didn’t scratch a thing.  First I don my rubber gloves and do a scrub with the toilet brush and a flush so the water in there is clean.  I don’t put any cleaners in there.  Then I grab the pumice stone.

I scrub around the water line, in the hole and under the rim.  It gets everything off.  You can see that the corners of my stone are getting rounded off.  The stone crumbles instead of scratching the bowl.  It works.  The toilet is sparkling.  After that, I will throw a splash of vinegar in the toilet and use the toilet brush again, for good measure.  Clean as a… well, not a whistle, but you get the idea.

I also use vinegar and water mixed in a spray bottle to clean the mirror with a lint-free cloth.  And to clean the floor. And to spray down the shower walls.

How do you clean your bathroom?

Categories: DIY, Simple Living, Thrift, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

20 Weeks: The Last Junk Drawer

Last summer, during my 20 Weeks of Organizing project, I organized two of my three junk drawers, with the promise to organize the third one the following week.  But the next week I had my hands full with this:

And it’s taken me a while to get the last few items crossed off of that original list.  But last weekend, I tackled the last and worst of the junk drawers in my house.  The one in the kitchen.  It’s a big drawer, 26.25″ x 16.5″.  Too big really.  It collected all kinds of things.  Things we needed, things we didn’t, useful stuff and… junk.

Something had to be done.  But it was overwhelming and one of the projects I put off the longest.  There was way too much in there.  The bottom of the drawer kept slipping out of its slots.  It nearly broke one day, so I finally took care of the problem.

First I took the drawer out and emptied and sorted its contents.

There were FOUR broken watches in there.  Four, people.  A dead cell phone.  Two empty calling cards.  A recorder flute and a bird whistle.  I’m not kidding.

And YES that little blue thing really is a bird whistle.  You put water inside of it and blow through the little spout and it makes a sound like a bird singing.  I know what it looks like, but it’s not that.  My mom always kept it in the junk drawer of our house when I was growing up and I loved it, so she passed it on to me (and my junk drawer).  Unfortunately it’s gotten a little chipped in the years of getting tossed around with all the junk in the drawer.  But it still works and I still love it.  


There was a lot of stuff in the drawer that didn’t belong in there.  And I wasn’t sure what to do with it either.  I emptied the drawer, and I grabbed some wood glue and started fixing the drawer.  I enlisted Rick’s help to reinforce its huge bottom, which he did with a scrap of wood from the garage.

And then I bought a drawer organizer – the biggest one that I could find that would fit inside.  It was $20 bucks.  And totally worth every penny.  I also used three little wooden baskets from the kids’ wooden play food set.

And I put the stuff we use back into the drawer.

The empty space is for Rick’s things, like his wallet.  Since the garage door-opener is in this drawer, it’s the last stop before leaving the house and the first stop when coming home.

Yes, I know there are still things in there that some people would not hang onto.  The flute is in the way back and the whistle is still in there.  And you never know when you’ll need a puzzle ball.  But it is mostly organized, and I’m really happy with it.  What I really need now is some of that non-slip stuff to keep the organizer thing from sliding around.

I still don’t know what the heck to do with the watches.  Do I just throw them out (not the guitar one)?  Can they be repaired?

There are only two items left on my 20 Weeks list.  I’m loving that this challenge is almost over, no matter how long it took me. Are you organizing anything in your life/home?

Categories: 20 Weeks of Organizing | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

20 Weeks: Kitchen Cabinets

So, back on the wagon, I promised to get that list of twenty problem areas in my home taken care of.  This week, I cleaned out the kitchen cabinets under my counters.

Here are the before pictures:


YIKES!!  These cabinets are particularly troublesome.  They always start nice and neat and then, after a few loads through the dishwasher, they end up a jumbled mess again.

To tackle them, first I took everything out.  Yep.

Things got sorted.  The thermos made it all the way to the top shelf cupboard next to the water bottles.  The potato ricer went into the roasting pan in another cabinet, since I usually only take the time to rice potatoes when I’m making a big fancy roast or turkey.  The ice cream attachment for my mixer got put away with the stuff in the basement that only gets used occasionally.  A few things got donated.  The rest I tried to put away in some way that would make it simple to keep nice.

The mixer attachments are inside the bowl under its cover.  The pitchers and flower vases have been removed from this cabinet as well.  I got a nice drink container for Christmas that I’m storing in the buffet, so I could get rid of the lame old plastic pitchers I was hanging on to.

And speaking of plastic…

Besides that pitcher back there, one large Tupperware container and the popsicle molds, I finally chucked the rest.  Well donated.  But, I finally feel like I have enough glass containers and have slowly over the last two years weeded through most of our plastic to the point where I feel like I can be plastic free.  That should make things a lot simpler!

Looking at the before pictures on this project, it looked huge and daunting.  But really it took me less than half an hour to get the job done.  Looking forward to finishing this last few items of the list!

Be sure to check out the other projects I’ve completed: 20 Things.

Categories: 20 Weeks of Organizing | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

20 Weeks: Junk Drawer No More!

Well, it’s my 12th project from my 20 Weeks of Organizing Challenge!  Unfortunately I got sidetracked, so I’ve been at it for 19 weeks.  Ha!  I may or may not catch up (most likely not), but I’ll keep going until I get all my items crossed off anyway.

Buffet Drawer - BEFORE

Here’s what my current list looks like:

  1. Bathroom cabinet
  2. Boys closet shelf and clothing
  3. Boys toys and bedding storage
  4. Desktop/drawers and move desk out of office
  5. Office corners
  6. Office closet upper shelf
  7. Junk drawers
  8. Buffet
  9. Our bedroom closet
  10. Seed Storage
  11. Make a place for table linens
  12. Canned goods/canning and food storage supplies
  13. Find a place for Rick’s work clothes and my business supplies
  14. Kitchen glasses cupboard
  15. Bathroom linens/storage
  16. Scrapbooking table
  17. My sewing items
  18. Lower kitchen appliance cabinet

Notice that there are only 18 items on there?  See – this is me not being all crazy A.R.  😉

This week, I get to cross off the junk drawers!!  I have a confession.  There was not one, or even two junk drawers in my house.  There were actually THREE!  Now this week I wasn’t able to get all three done, but I did tackle the first two and I wanted to share them with you.

The first drawer I took care of was the easiest and the smallest.  The drawer in the buffet.  We like to keep playing cards and dice in there for quick access when guests come over.  But it sort of became a catch-all for extra coasters, batteries, phone chargers (for a phone we don’t even have any more?), and what ever random things that were on the buffet that needed to be stashed before a guest came over.

Here’s the cleaned out drawer…

Buffet Drawer - AFTER

Now it’s back to it’s purpose… cards to play games with guests, matches to light candles when guests come over, and that is pretty much it.  There are two plug covers in there because this drawer sits right under an outlet that we use to charge the batteries for the camera.  That charger is about the size of a deck of cards and does not have a cord, so I deemed it worthy to get use of the drawer too.

The second junk drawer in the house was in the desk.  The big center drawer.  This is an especially problematic area for me, because the drawer is so big and wide that I have a tendency to just clear off the desk into this drawer in a pinch, so when people come they won’t see the mess on my desk.  Are you noticing a trend here – I’m a stasher… I hide my messes instead of finding places to keep things.


To get this mess in order, I emptied the drawer.  There was a lot to recycle, and a lot that didn’t belong in there in the first place.  I put those things in their rightful homes.  After the cleaning out, there really wasn’t much left to put back in the drawer.

I added a paper file thingy, since our desk is out in the open now and we often have paperwork that needs addressing, but also kept away from the kiddos or put away until we can get to it.  There are spare pens in a ziplock and some sticky notes, and our box of checks.  That’s it.  I’d like a drawer organizer for this space, but until them, this will do.

Next week, I plan to get that third drawer done too.  In the mean time, here are my other 20 Weeks projects.  If you really like organizing or need some more inspiration, check out the Organizing Junkie.

Categories: 20 Weeks of Organizing | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

20 Weeks: Nursery Done… ish.

Last week I posted pics of the before and after job I did on the basement junk room – turned guest room.  This project kinda happened along side it.  The new nursery was formerly the office and getting it in shape was pretty intertwined with the basement project.  Neither of these things were on my 20 Weeks of Organizing Challenge list.  But I did them, so here is the second part for you to see.


Since this used to be the office and you saw how that changed already, these are sort of “during” pictures.  Here you can see the three chairs that I’m selling on craigslist.  The book shelf went downstairs to the guest room.  The cedar chest under the shelf was packed and there were some blankets without homes.  You can see that Rick’s work clothes are no longer in the closet, but there is a new hanging organizer in there for the newbie and a nightstand that went downstairs too.

Here are the after pictures:


You can actually SEE the cedar chest now, blankets have been organized (some donated) and the shelf above cleaned off.  The afghan on top of the chest was made by my great-grandmother for me when I was a baby.  I kept it stored all this time, but I finally decided that, girl or boy, it’s coming out and getting used.

The closet is cleaned out and ready for some baby clothes (some are in the wash, some I need to buy yet), and a hamper.  I might (if I get ambitious) make a little curtain to hide my birth class supplies on the top shelf.  but I might not.

This corner has the crib and dresser.  I had that dresser as a little girl too, and I gave it a fresh coat of paint before H was born.  I changed out a few knobs this week, since one of the old ones was broken.  You can’t really tell in the picture, but the sheet in the crib has little lambs all over it.


I stole the idea for fabric in embroidery hoops from my friend Meg.  Her nursery is SUPER cute… perfect to go with her new super cute baby boy!  And the sheep and shepherd mobile is probably my second favorite item after the afghan.  Last is the shelf-turned changing table.  I’d like to get some picture frames put on the wall above this.

As you can see, it’s pretty simple.  I’m still missing some details, like curtains for the window, a lamp… a few little things to make it feel homey.

This week, the Organizing Junkie posted about Enough.  The bones of the space are essentially done.  I’d like to get a rug and some cute things for the shelf and the walls too.  But, the set up, cleaning and organizing is finally done.  The rest is just details.  That’s good enough for me right now.

Categories: 20 Weeks of Organizing, Simple Living | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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