Mak­ing your own home-clean­ing prod­ucts? Some pro tips

El Dorado News-Times - - Living -

To re­duce waste and avoid un­nec­es­sary plas­tic bot­tles and chem­i­cals — and to save money — many peo­ple are opt­ing to make clean­ing prod­ucts from scratch at home. You can find an abun­dance of recipes for house­hold clean­ing prod­ucts on­line, along with re­us­able glass spray bot­tles de­signed to hold them.

But not all home­made clean­ing prod­ucts are cre­ated equal, and some sim­ple con­coc­tions can be down­right dan­ger­ous.

"To have an un­la­beled clean­ing prod­uct in a Ma­son jar with kids around can be a dan­ger­ous thing," warns Carolyn Forte, di­rec­tor of the home ap­pli­ances and clean­ing prod­ucts lab at Good House­keep­ing. "And be care­ful never to mix bleach with any­thing but water. Cer­tain com­bi­na­tions can be toxic."

Bak­ing soda and vine­gar also should not be com­bined. Mixed to­gether they are in­ef­fec­tive at clean­ing and, if con­tained in a jar, likely to ex­plode, she warns.

So when mak­ing your own clean­ing mix­tures at home:

—Dou­ble check the safety of the com­bi­na­tion you choose;

—Keep all prod­ucts out of reach of chil­dren or pets; —And list all in­gre­di­ents clearly on the jar or spray bot­tle.

Test your clean­ing mix­ture be­fore us­ing it. "Mak­ing your own win­dow cleaner may be OK, but years of chem­istry and safety re­search have gone into prod­ucts like laun­dry and dish­washer de­ter­gents and fur­ni­ture pol­ishes, and you don't want to risk ac­ci­den­tally dam­ag­ing some­thing that's pre­cious to you," Forte says.

Even so, it can be use­ful to know what to use in a pinch when you don't have time to rush to the store, says Stephanie Sisco, home ed­i­tor at Real Sim­ple magazine.

And many home­made clean­ing com­bi­na­tions do work, with far fewer chem­i­cals than in many store­bought brands.

To help peo­ple make gen­tle clean­ing prod­ucts at home, Mike and Martha Robin­son founded Clean­ing Es­sen­tials, which sells sturdy glass bot­tles in var­i­ous col­ors and sizes, la­beled with recipes for so­lu­tions that can be made us­ing mostly vine­gar, water and es­sen­tial oils.

"Sixty years ago our grand­par­ents wouldn't have gone to the store for clean­ers. They would have used vine­gar, bak­ing soda, some el­bow grease, and been health­ier for it," says Mike Robin­son.

Katy Ki­ick Con­don, se­nior ed­i­tor for home de­sign at Bet­ter Homes & Gar­dens magazine, agrees: "Just steam, hot water and some el­bow grease can ac­com­plish a lot."

DO's:

Know the basics about the clean­ing prop­er­ties of var­i­ous house­hold prod­ucts:

—Bak­ing soda is a great de­odor­izer and is use­ful as a mild abra­sive;

—Vine­gar cuts grease, re­moves mineral de­posits and has dis­in­fec­tant qual­i­ties;

—Le­mon juice with some salt can re­move rust stains.

DON'Ts:

- NEVER com­bine bleach with any­thing but water. And re­mem­ber that bak­ing soda and vine­gar, while trusted stand­bys in­di­vid­u­ally, are in­ef­fec­tive for clean­ing if com­bined — and will bub­ble up ex­plo­sively.

- Don't use le­mon on wood, since it can de­stroy pro­tec­tive fin­ishes, says Sisco.

- Don't overdo it with vine­gar, which can dull sur­faces, she says. There's a rea­son that clean­ing-prod­uct recipes call for adding water.

RECIPES:

With the above basics in mind, here are a few recipes rec­om­mended by the pros.

Win­dow cleaner: For clean, streak-free win­dows, Con­don, at Bet­ter Homes & Gar­dens, swears by the com­bi­na­tion of 2 cups hot water, 1 ta­ble­spoon corn starch, 1/4 cup white vine­gar and 1/4 cup rub­bing

al­co­hol. "I tested a bunch of recipes, and this one is hands-down the best for mir­rors and win­dows," she says.

All-pur­pose cleaner: Sisco, at Real Sim­ple, rec­om­mends com­bin­ing 2 ta­ble­spoons le­mon juice, 2 cups of water and 1/2 tea­spoon of castille soap, such as Dr. Bon­ner's. For a stronger cleaner, she rec­om­mends mix­ing 1/2 cup vine­gar, 1/2 cup vodka, 10 to 20 drops of es­sen­tial oil and 1 1/2 cups water.

Car­pet cleaner: Sisco rec­om­mends blot­ting the stain then sat­u­rat­ing it with club soda. "The bub­bles will work the stain to the sur­face," she says. Then coat it with a hefty dose of ta­ble salt, which will ab­sorb the stain, she says. "Then just vac­uum it up once it's dry, maybe 12 hours later. It's a good overnight clean­ing so­lu­tion, and great for wine and other stains. The key is to blot all ex­cess stain be­fore start­ing with club soda and salt."

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