Cleaning the house certainly isn’t the most popular job here on the Farmlet. This would be obvious to anyone who sees the cobweb collection around our windows. Yes, Kevin and I both have a soft spot for spiders, but that’s not the only reason why this place is starting to look like the haunted house. The cobweb situation has been getting out of control. (Actually, Kevin had a “pet” spider called Igor for a while — a fabulously fat black arachnid, who lived outside the front door and had a hearty appetite for fly carcases. He/she seems to have moved on, now.)
Although some of the house-cleaning tasks are not our favourites, I can say that I take a real satisfaction in finding ways to clean the house that are kind to the environment and to our wallets. Annie Berthold-Bond’s Better Basics for the Home, and Karen Logan’s Clean House Clean Planet have lots of fantastic ideas along these lines.
Today, as the rain poured down, I dusted and washed the insides of some of our windows. Then it was time to clean the bathroom. I imagine that a lot of people will already be familiar with these tricks for eliminating the use of expensive/toxic cleaning products, but felt inspired to share a few of them, in case they are of interest to someone.
Washing windows? Use hot water with some white vinegar and a tiny bit of liquid soap in it. Dry and polish with screwed/up pieces of newsprint paper. You can use newspaper for this, but I don’t like the black smudges it puts on hands — and windowsills and walls if you are not careful. We save any plain newsprint we find (in packaging and so forth) for this purpose.
Cleaning tubs and tiles? Scoop a bit of baking soda onto the dirty surface, add a squirt of liquid soap, mix them together, and you’ve got a cream cleaner that will bring a shine to the grubbiest bathroom sink. Baking soda cuts through grease, is a mild abrasive, deodorant, and disinfectant. Pretty neat stuff.
Removing coffee and tea stains from mugs and other kitchen items? Another job for the baking soda. Baking soda also helps clean grease and baked-on grime from baking pans and other kitchen utensils.
Cleaning the toilet? Drop 1/2 cup of baking soda into the toilet bowl, and scrub thoroughly. Now add 1/2 cup of white distilled vinegar. It will fizz like mad. Leave to sit for a while before flushing. Of course, we can’t use this method on our composting toilet! Unfortunately, our flush toilet gets pretty crusty, even if we hardly ever use it, because of out water supply. The water comes from a spring, and leaves discolouring and mineral residues in the toilet bowl. We’d have to use something stronger than baking soda and vinegar to solve this problem. Maybe borax? But I haven’t found any borax in the Kaitaia shops. . . and we are happy enough to put up with a bit of discolouration, as long as the bathroom is clean and fresh.
Note: We’d love to have a go at making our own soap at some stage. When I looked at the cost of buying materials to make soap, however, it started to look like an expensive project. We are lucky to have access to good quality and affordable liquid and bar soap (made using vegetable oils, and free of toxic chemicals) in the ready-made form, for the time being. We buy these in bulk. Even better than buying oil and lye for soap-making, would be to make our own oil and lye. . . but I think we’ve got a few other projects to tackle before we go there!