Welcome to Green Boot Camp

Welcome to Green Boot Camp blog, a 52-week program to help you become a greener you in 2008. This is the companion blog to The Lean Green Family (formerly Suddenly Frugal).

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Week Thirteen--DIY Cleaners with Vinegar and Baking Soda

One of the best ways to go green and save money is to make your own household cleaners, our topic of discussion during this Week Thirteen of Green Boot Camp.

It's a topic in the May 2, 2008 issue of All You magazine (pictured, at right). In fact, I've got a six-page feature on greening every room of the house and saving money in the process. You'll find that feature in the center of the magazine, in an inserted booklet called "Live Green and Save."

In case you're interested in figuring out how you can make your own cleaners that won't harm Mother Earth, here are some ideas to consider using vinegar and baking soda only:

* Vinegar is fabulous as a floor cleaner.
Forget oil and vinegar. A mixture of vinegar and water can clean your floors better than any store-bought cleaner. And it's cheap, too. Only downside? Your house can end up smelling a bit like a salad bar after you're done, so you might want to open the windows to air it out.

* Vinegar works well to "fix" a pet's accident.
If your dog gets skunked or your cat pees on the rug, vinegar can help get the odors out. With the peeing-on-the-carpet instance, the lingering smell of vinegar will likely dissuade the animal for peeing there again. Hopefully she chooses her litter box the next time and not a patch of carpet six inches away.

* Vinegar cleans appliances, too.
I can remember my mother teaching me to use vinegar as a way to clean out the gunk in my coffee machine without poisoning myself in the process. Just fill the coffee pot with vinegar and "brew" until the pot is filled. Dump out and then fill with water to brew a clean pot and get rid of the vinegar. It might take three or four "pots" of water to get rid of the vinegar smell, but I'll bet it will be worth your time--you'll see how your coffee brewing times speeds up after this kind of cleaning.

* Vinegar deodorizes the laundry.
At the end of the last soccer season, I never thought I could get my daughter's cleats to smell normal again. They smelled like the inside of a litter box, and no amount of airing out, or washing and rewashing was helping. Then someone told me about vinegar as a laundry deodorizer. So back into the washing machine the cleats went, with a generous amount of vinegar. After air drying, they may not smell like a bunch of flowers, but they don't trigger my gag reflex anymore either. I'd call that a success.

* Vinegar and baking soda are a green clog-clearer.
My mother also taught me how baking soda and vinegar can clear a clogged pipe better than any chemical cleaner, and if the plunger fails to work, I'll always turn to my trusty vinegar and baking soda combo in a pinch.

* Baking soda won't let you down as a scouring agent.
When my tub gets soap-scum grimy, I pour some baking soda on it and use some elbow grease with a rag to get the tub and tile sparkling again. Some people use borax in a similar way.

Let me know how your switch to these DIY green cleaners goes.


Michelle said...

I have just started using vinegar to clean everything--and I love it! My mom too used to clean the coffee pot every so often with it, and I do nowadays as well.

The baking soda/vinegar drain cleaner is great, and I love that my child can really help with the cleaning now with no worries about toxic chemicals.

Also, I have to say, I am loving Borax in the laundry room!

John Trosko said...

Not only does this save money, but it makes for easy storage of the products under your sink-- which (again) makes for less clean up. A fancy plastic clear bottle and you're ready to go.

- John

~M said...

So besides the baking soda in the tub, do you do/use anything else to clean it? I'm trying so hard to switch to frugal green products as I finish the nasty conventional products.

Leah Ingram said...


I'm glad you're finding Borax in the laundry room helpful.


I never thought about the easy storage approach. Thanks for pointing that out.


I wet the tub with a little water, sprinkle on the baking soda, and then use a cloth rag or face cloth to scrub down everything. Then I rinse, and I'm done. The extra bonus of using baking soda is how it gets rid of any nasty smells that might have been lingering.

Thanks, all, for commenting.