7 Simple Ways to Spring Clean Your Home Faster

Looking for ways to spring clean your home in no time? Good. I’ve got some tried and tested ways that I’m going to share with you. Spring cleaning is one of my favorite things about the spring season, but unfortunately, I can’t enjoy it to the fullest since my schedule is always overloaded. So I’ve found a few ways to spring clean my home fast that are also great for those who don’t like cleaning.

1. Clean mini blinds
Yes, I want to start with the worst part about spring cleaning. I’m sure many of you would agree that cleaning mini blinds is a great pain. However, I’ve learned a small tip that makes it really easier. Just take your mini blinds down and wash them in the bath. They’ll be cleaner in no time!

2. Wash your walls
If you used to wash your walls by hand, this spring try washing them with a mop instead. This will save you a lot of time, I promise! Now that I know this little trick, washing my walls isn’t a big problem anymore. Give it a try and you will never think of washing the walls as a great pain.

3. Clean your oven
I don’t understand those people who clean their oven by hand when they have a self-cleaning one. A self-cleaning oven works amazingly and is so easy to operate. If you have a self-cleaning oven, just turn it on and it will do its thing. While it’s cleaning, the oven gets extremely hot and there can be a terrible smell, but you can go outdoors to avoid the smell, or do another chore to complete your spring cleaning faster.

4. Give your carpets to the professionals
If you have carpets, I suggest you to hire them done. It’s better and easier. It’s also incredibly time-saving. The professional knows what they’re doing and they can be more experienced at stain removal than you are. If you can afford, give your carpets to the professionals.

5. Purchase a ceiling fan cleaner
Purchase a ceiling fan cleaner so that you don’t have to climb up and take it all apart. Indeed, there’s a great device that you can purchase that cleans the ceiling fan. It’s like a duster but created to fit over every blade. While you still should clean the globes, it helps save you immense amounts of time and headache.

6. Clean your curtains
If you have trouble cleaning your curtains, I recommend doing all of your curtains at once. Take the day, take your curtains down and wash them. After washing, hang your curtains back up. Don’t forget to check the instructions and learn how to properly launder them. Maybe your curtains are dry clean only ones. Follow the instructions on the label and you won’t have any problems.

7. Don’t do it alone
If you share a home or if you have a big family, don’t do your spring cleaning alone, it’s just too much for one person. Have everybody muck in and help and you’ll get it done quicker and you will even have time for a spring picnic or family BBQ.

Follow these tips and you will do your spring cleaning faster and easier. Which tricks do you use to do your spring cleaning quicker? Share them with me, please, I will certainly try them all!

10 Amazing Beauty Uses for Baking Soda

There are many uses for baking soda. You can use it to whiten your laundry, deodorize your closets and carpets, or to improve the airiness of baked goods. Is there anything that baking soda can’t do? Well, it can’t cure the common cold, but that is one of the very few limits of baking soda. Here are ten ways to use baking soda to enhance your appearance.

1. Exfoliant
Actress Emma Stone told Elle that she uses baking soda mixed with face wash to create a gentle exfoliant for her skin. You can also mix baking soda with lemon juice, a mild acid, to create a foamy exfoliating scrub that not only improves complexion, but can also remove a spray tan, soften skin, and help to neutralize acids.

2. Teeth Whitener
Major manufacturers of toothpaste use baking soda and peroxide in combination to create a whitening formula. You don’t need the peroxide if you don’t want it. A little baking soda, made into a paste by adding a small amount of water, makes a great teeth whitener. Don’t use it too often though, because it is abrasive and can wear away at enamel. Use it once a week to remove plaques and stains.

3. Breath Freshener
Many breath mints just cover up odors, but baking soda can eliminate them entirely. The same properties that allow baking soda to deodorize your closet and your fridge will work just fine in your mouth. Dissolve a teaspoon of baking soda in half a glass of water, then swish and spit the mixture to get clean, fresh breath.

4. Skin Softener
When mixed with a bit of water and soap, baking soda can clean and condition your palms. It is gentler than harsh scrubs for persistent stains and will leave your skin smooth and clean. As an added bonus, baking soda can neutralize odors on your hands, such as those deep down odors you get from preparing a meal.

5. Hair Clarifier
You can use baking soda to remove the crud that accumulates in your hair as a result of normal shampooing. Doing this once per month will leave your hair softer and shinier, but beware that baking soda has a very high pH and can throw off the pH balance of your hair. Use a low pH conditioner after a baking soda treatment to restore your hair’s normal balance. Some people use vinegar to clarify their hair, apple cider vinegar to be exact, but that leaves an unpleasant odor that baking soda does not.

6. Body Soak
Adding a half of a cup of baking soda to bath water can neutralize skin acids, clear away oils, and cut through perspiration and odors. It will leave your skin feeling soft and looking radiant. A baking soda body soak is just as good as any of the highest quality bath salts.

7. Brush Cleaner
Baking soda is a great way to remove oils and caked on makeup from cosmetic brushes. Soak your brushes in a mixture of one teaspoon of baking soda in a single cup of water, rinse them and let them dry. The next time you use your brushes, your makeup will go on more evenly. This may not seem like a beauty tip, but it can really make a difference.

8. Nail Cleaner
Baking soda makes a great cleaning and polishing agent for both finger nails and toe nails. Whether you are going for a pedicure or a manicure, use baking soda on a nail brush to scrub under your nails and polish your cuticles. Make a paste of three parts baking soda to one part water. Rub the paste into your nails to exfoliate and polish them.

9. Deodorant
Mix four tablespoons of baking soda with up to ten drops of a pleasant-smelling essential oil to create an underarm deodorant that you can apply with a brush or your hand. You may need to reapply this deodorant throughout the day, but it contains no dangerous chemicals and will keep you smelling fresh.

10. Acne Treatment
A drawing agent is a substance that pulls moisture from a pimple to help dry it out and reduce inflammation. A baking soda paste will do this just as well as most commercial agents when it comes to surface acne. It will dry the blemish and sooth surrounding inflammation, helping to hide any redness.

There are few home remedies that live up to their hype, but baking soda is one that continues to deliver in almost every task it is put to. What makes baking soda so great is that it is completely non-toxic. You can eat it, slather it on your skin, or take a bath in it without any worries. The tips above are just the beginning though, so consider that baking soda may be the perfect solution to your next beauty need.

10 Smart Ways to Care for Your Makeup Brushes

Makeup brushes afford you easy application of everything from your cosmetic foundation and blush to eye shadow and lip color. A good set of brushes may last you for years at a time, but only if you take proper care of them. Brushes that are not cleaned, or are mistreated, will soon collect dirt, bacteria, and excess product and need to be replaced. Here are 10 tips to extend the life of your cosmetics brushes, saving you money and a trip the department store.

1. Wash your brushes
Brushes should be cleaned on a regular basis to get rid of built up makeup residue, skin oils, and other dirt. If you don’t clean your brushes, the oil and dirt on your brushes will end up being transferred to your face with each make up application. You can wash brushes with a brush cleaner or shampoo, but use something gentle enough to get out the dirt without damaging the bristles.

2. Separate new brushes from old ones
Remember that the dirt and oil from one brush can transfer to another when your brushes are all stored together. Bacteria from one brush may also jump to nearby brushes, which is damaging to the brushes and your skin or lips. To that end, if you have brushes that are currently unclean or older, it’s smart to store them in a separate location from new, clean brushes.

3. Reshape bristles
Another way to care for your makeup brushes is to reshape the bristles as soon as you are finished washing them. Prior to laying your brushes down to dry, shape them gently with your fingers. This will encourage the bristles to dry in a natural orientation, not bent or in a position that may lead them to break.

4. Learn how to dry brushes
A brush that is properly cleaned but improperly dried can actually end up in bad shape. Immediately after you wash your makeup brush, lightly brush it against a towel to get rid of some of the moisture. Then lay your makeup brush on a towel to dry, never using a blow drier. Air drying is the best means of drying your brushes because too much heat can warp the shape of your bristles. A brush may take up to 8 hours to dry, so plan ahead.

5. Store your brushes upright
Once your brushes are dry, store them upright whenever possible. This discourages the bristles from becoming bent or suffering other damage. If you must store the brushes horizontally, make an effort to keep them from becoming crushed under other, heavier, cosmetics or small appliances.

6. Keep your brushes from staining
Clean your brushes as often as needed to keep the bristles from becoming stained. While foundation brushes may only need to be washed once a week or so provided you tap off excess makeup after each use, other brushes should be washed every other day. Lipstick and lip gloss brushes, for instance, should be washed about every other day because they are used with stickier cosmetics that can damage bristles faster.

7. Keep your brushes out of direct sunlight
Much like a hair dryer can damage the bristles on your cosmetics brushes, direct sunlight can do the same. Sun may also cause the bristles to weaken or fade, so try to store your brushes away from window sill or other locations where they will be in the direct path of sunlight for more than a short period of time each day.

8. Store your brushes in a cabinet or drawer
Just like your toothbrush should be kept in a cabinet for safekeeping, your skin will thank you from storing your makeup brushes in a cabinet or drawer. Perfumes, hair spray, germs from a sneeze, moisture from a shower, and any number of other of contaminates can settle onto a brush if you leave it out on the bathroom counter for a long period of time. Protect your brush and your skin by storing it in a safe location.

9. Don’t share your brushes
While you might occasionally loan your brush to a friend or roommate, avoid making this a common practice. Sharing brushes between users only encourages the growth of more bacteria on the bristles. After you share a brush with someone else, be sure to give it a thorough cleaning and dry it fully before you use it again.

10. Consider an alcohol-based cleaner
While warm water and shampoo can do a good job of breaking up the dirt in your brushes, consider using an alcohol-based cleaner. This is especially true if you want to expedite the drying time. Cleaning products that use alcohol will allow the moisture to evaporate much more quickly than a regular soap or shampoo.

Makeup brushes are a woman’s best friend, and are often thrown into purses and travel bags to be put to use away from home. With the proper care, you can get the most from your money by utilizing the same brushes for years at a time. Remember, however, that even with proper care makeup brushes do have a finite lifespan. When bristles become too stained or dirty, it’s a good idea to toss them and replace them with a clean set. How do you clean and store your makeup brushes? Share your secrets with us, ladies!

Natural Tile and Grout Cleaner

Making the switch to natural cleaners for tile and grout is incredibly easy and very inexpensive. You likely already have all the things you need, and they are more effective, in my opinion, than store-bought alternatives. You also don’t have to worry about your kids bathing in a chemical cocktail after you clean the tub, or a toddler crawling around on a floor covered in carcinogens.

I’m a big fan of homemade cleaning recipes and these were born out of necessity for me. A few years ago, we moved in to our first home (that we ever owned). It needed a lot of work and we remodeled most of it ourselves. One thing we left was the vintage tile in the hall bathroom. Thankfully, it was a light blue color and not a horrible yellow or bright pink as many other 1970s bathrooms.

Unfortunately, this bathroom came with complimentary mold in the grout and tile and I had to figure out how to get rid of it. I read that bleach doesn’t actually kill mold but just bleaches it so you can’t see it so I didn’t want to go that direction. (Plus, with toddlers in the house, bleach wasn’t something we kept around anyway). These natural tile and grout cleaner recipes were created in response to our mold-decorations in the bathroom and they cleaned them right up. 🙂

Natural Tile and Grout Cleaner Recipes

Light cleaning of water spots or dirt- Get a damp sponge, dip in a bowl of regular baking soda and wipe down tub or tiles. Rinse with warm water.

Tough stains or set in dirt- Use a damp sponge in full strength white vinegar to wipe down entire surface. Immediately scour with baking soda and a brush or sponge.

Really tough stains and spots– Mix 1/2 cup baking soda with 2 TBSP of washing soda and 2 TBSP of borax. Add 3 TBSP of Liquid Castille soap and stir (if you don’t have liquid castille soap, you can use liquid dish soap). Pre-wipe with full strength white vinegar and scrub with baking soda mixture. For tubs, wipe with white vinegar, sprinkle with mixture and let sit for 15 minutes. Scrub with heavy-duty brush and rinse.

Moldy Grout Stains- For mold on grout make a mixture of 1 part Hydrogen Peroxide (3%) and 1 part water in a spray bottle. Spray on grout until saturated. Wait 45 minutes and wipe down with sponge and rinse well.

How to Make Natural Floor Cleaner for a Healthier Home

When my oldest child was about six months old I suddenly became much more interested in finding a natural and homemade floor cleaner recipe because I had a pint-size inspector who would eat/lick anything I missed!

At the time we had several different types of floors in our tiny one-bedroom apartment, so I had to find something multi-purpose and easy to make with ingredients I had on hand: white vinegar, washing soda, and dishwashing liquid.

The great news is I discovered natural cleaners are incredibly easy to make and save a lot of money too!

Why Try and Make Natural Floor Cleaner?

So with all a mom already has to juggle, why not just use conventional store-bought cleaners?

Ever read the ingredients in regular floor cleaners, Swiffer mops, and other store-bought floor cleaning products? Here’s a sampling, all of which have a D-F rating from the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Dipropylene glycol
Methylisothiazolinone
Dialkyl dimethyl
Ammonium chlorides
Didecyldimethylammonium chloride
Preservatives
Artificial fragrances
Most of these substances are a) not natural in any sense and b) known to have health and environmental concerns. Not what I want my little one crawling around in!

Don’t Have Time to Make Your Own? That’s OK!

Of course life has changed a bit since I first experimented with homemade natural cleaner recipes years ago. I’ve had a few more kids (just a few!). Schooling and working from home makes for crazy hours sometimes. In fact, I often get the question, how do you do it all?!

The answer is … I don’t! Life goes through certain phases and I certainly didn’t tackle living a healthier life all at once. I’ve learned, experimented, and grown bit by bit. And since vinegar stinks and Borax is controversial, once I found store-bought brands I liked, I’ll be honest … my homemade cleaners appear less and less on the scene.

The good news is there are a lot of health-conscious companies and brands out there now, thanks to consumers who ask for these products and support them with their dollars. I’ll be sure to list my favorites at the end of the post.

But first, on to the recipes that started it all: my easy, sustainable, DIY natural floor cleaner recipes!

Natural DIY Floor Cleaner Recipes

Here are my favorite homemade floor cleaner recipes from over the years. With a little practice, they are so easy to make it becomes almost automatic.

Natural Wood Floor Cleaner

Combine 1/2 cup white vinegar and 1 teaspoon vegetable oil (finally a good use for it!). Add 1 cup of water. Mix well and rub lightly into floors to bring back shine and clean spots. Add a few drops of essential oil of choice for nice scent. (Make sure to wipe off completely to avoid slippery floors!)

Natural All-Purpose Floor Cleaner

Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water and dampen mop. For really tough stains, pre-treat with 2 tablespoons of washing soda dissolved in 16 ounces of water. Mop well. Damp mop with pure water to rinse.

Natural Carpet Stain Removal

Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water. Spray on stains, let sit for 5 minutes, and scrub with soft brush. Add 1-2 drops of dishwashing liquid for tough stains.

For tough grease stains, pour cornstarch liberally on the stain and let sit until dry. Vacuum up and then use method above.

For heavy-duty stains that won’t come out, mix 1/4 cup each of salt, borax, and vinegar. Rub into the stain. Let sit until dry and vacuum up. Use methods above if any part of the stain remains.

My Favorite Store-bought Floor Cleaner (+ Other Good Options!)

Vinegar and water make for a pretty easy recipe, but when a ready substitute is needed, try these brands which are rated by the EWG Consumer Guide.

Sal-Suds (A rating, and the one I use the most personally as it works for everything from floors to laundry)
Babyganics Floor Cleaner, Fragrance Free (A rating)
BioKleen Bac-Out Floor Cleaner (B rating)
How do you clean your home naturally? Any floor questions I forgot to cover here? Share below!

References:

Environmental Working Group’s Consumer Guides, Guide to Healthy Cleaning.

Homemade Glass Cleaner Recipe

Sometimes the best things in life are free… or really, really cheap, like this natural glass cleaner recipe. I’ve experimented with many types of natural cleaners and have finally found natural options that are as good (or better) than conventional cleaners.

Natural Glass Cleaner

This natural glass cleaner was a pretty easy recipe to figure out after I got the tip to use vinegar from an elderly neighbor. Apparently, that is what everyone used in past generations and we’ve just been slow to figure it out. What’s old is new again, I suppose…

I was motivated to create a natural option for cleaning windows when I discovered my one-year-old licking a window one time. I wasn’t sure what was in my conventional glass cleaner but I was pretty sure I didn’t want her eating it. Also, with five professional Fingerprint On Windows Creation Experts, cleaning windows is sometimes a daily job at our house! I love that this cleaner is completely non-toxic so I can let the children help clean without worrying about them being exposed to chemicals.

In fact, I now keep little glass spray bottles and microfiber cloths in a basket in our pantry and cleaning the lower part of windows is not a daily job for our 4 and 5 year olds.

Since taking the picture for the post, I also found large glass spray bottles and prefer to use those now. You can make your own with an empty glass apple cider vinegar bottle and a spray top.

This cleaner has a somewhat strong smell that completely evaporates once it dries. I prefer to use microfiber cloth to wipe down the windows now, but old newspapers or t-shirts also work. Just avoid paper towels as they tend to leave lint on them.

Glass Cleaner Ingredients

2 cups of water (distilled or filtered is best so it doesn’t leave residue)
2 tablespoons vinegar
10 drops essential oil of choice- I use lemon (optional- but it helps cut the vinegar smell)
Glass Cleaner Instructions

Combine ingredients in a spray bottle (preferably glass) and use as needed to clean window. I like to use a microfiber cloth to wipe windows clean with this recipe.

Note:  If you have always used commercial window cleaner in the past, mix a couple drops of liquid castille soap or liquid dish soap in some of this mixture the first time you clean the windows to remove detergent residue.

Homemade Carpet Cleaner Recipe

Today, I’m writing and homeschooling in a corner of our kitchen surrounded by furniture that is supposed to be in the living room/family room, all because we’re finally putting in hardwood floors to replace the carpet that was there when we moved in.

Even though I’m no fan of carpet (especially white carpet, with kids), we’ve put this project off for over a year and were finally able to get a company to replace our floors…. when I just happen to be super-pregnant. Here’s hoping they get the flooring installed before this baby decides to arrive!

Cleaning Carpet Naturally

While that piece of white carpet covering the main walkway of our home has pretty much been the bane of my existence for the past several years, I realized while rejoicing it’s demise that I had never written about how I (attempt) to keep it clean with five kids, one husband, and a dog traipsing across it hundreds (thousands!?) of times a day.

In fact, in almost a decade of marriage, we’ve lived in a place with white carpet the majority of the time. For the first five years, we lived in apartments with white carpet (with toddlers… that was fun). We didn’t have the option of replacing the carpet so I got to practice and experiment with natural ways of cleaning it.

With our first home, we bough it at a great price but it needed a lot of work. We spent months replacing pretty much everything (we did almost all the work ourselves to save money). Since we had the choice on this one, we opted for hardwood floors from the beginning and that was one of my favorite things about that house.

When we moved into our current home, it already had white carpet in the living room but all the surrounding areas were hardwood and the kitchen was tile. After this week, everything should *hopefully* match and the carpet is gone, but for many years, getting rid of carpet was not an option, and I know many people in the same situation.

I have a few friends with some supernatural ability to keep their carpet from ever getting stained (and with children who are naturally spill-immune), but for us mere mortals, stains are a fact of life in carpeted areas of the home.

Over the years I’ve found some ways to treat stains naturally by creating my own carpet cleaner. These methods have worked for me, but I haven’t tested them on every kind of carpet, so you should check to make sure all the ingredients are safe on your own carpet and spot test a small patch before using on yours.

Homemade Carpet Cleaner Recipes

Just like with treating laundry stains naturally, there is a little chemistry involved in treating carpet stains. Don’t worry, no need for nightmarish flashbacks to high school chemistry, just a few basics…

Pre-Treating Wet Stains

For stains that you catch right away while they are still wet (such as pet urine, kid urine, ketchup, wine, chicken soup… don’t ask), you can help remove the liquid by immediately sprinkling baking soda directly on the affected area. The methods below will help remove the actual stain but often the stain is made worse by the dirt that gets tracked on it while it is drying, so the baking soda can help solve this problem.

What I do: Sprinkle liberally with baking soda to completely cover the stain. If the baking soda gets completely wet, sprinkle more until a layer of dry baking soda remains on top. Let rest for about 5 minutes. Vacuum up. (TIP: change vacuum bags and filters often if you vacuum up baking soda. To minimize the amount in the vacuum, I keep a small hand-held broom and dustpan exclusively for sweeping up baking soda from the carpet. This also helps loosen the stain, too.)

For Urine Stains: For really stubborn urine stains or to get rid of the smell, you can add borax powder to the baking soda (1 part borax to 3 parts baking soda). Borax is somewhat controversial (here’s why I feel safe using it), but it does help neutralize the smell of urine in carpets which may also help keep pets from deciding to re-wet the area.

Why Not Vinegar?

When attempting to figure out what worked on wet stains and pet stains, I tried vinegar but it didn’t work. At all. I researched and realized why (this is where the chemistry comes in). The highly alkaline urine reacts with the highly acidic vinegar and if not done in the exact ratios needed, this can actually create more of a stain. Also, when vinegar is added directly to the stain when still wet, it can further soak the carpet and pad, making the stain worse in the long run. Vinegar can be an effective way to help remove the odor and the stain after it has dried, but it never worked for me as an initial treatment. Vinegar should also be used with extreme caution undiluted on carpet or upholstery as it can cause discoloration.

If you want to use vinegar, especially on set-in stains, try a mixture of 3/4 cup warm water and 1/4 cup white vinegar sprayed on the area. Use old towels to absorb the liquid and repeat until the stain is gone. I would still follow this with the baking soda and vacuum treatment to remove excess moisture. Vinegar can set some stains in, so definitely spot test and proceed with caution on this one! (Something to consider: you’ve probably used vinegar at some point to set stains with easter eggs or even dying fabric so it really may not be the best option for carpet.)

All-Over Natural Carpet Cleaning

This will be very anti-climactic for a post about natural homemade carpet cleaning, but in many cases, warm water in a steam cleaner will work for stains and overall cleaning. My parents have a steam-cleaner machine which I’ve borrowed on many occasions for carpet cleaning. Warm water works well and doesn’t leave any residue, which is a plus, but it won’t take out really tough stains.

If you have a carpet cleaning machine of some kind, there are three important caveats before you try any of the following tips:

Make sure using these methods won’t void the warranty on your carpet cleaner as many of them require you to use their formula to keep the warranty valid
Spot test and make sure these won’t harm your carpet
Do not add more of any ingredient than listed as leaving residue in carpet is a surefire way to make stains worse!
Ok, now that we got that out of the way, here are the methods that got nasty, dirty, apartment carpet back to white and that I have used to keep my sanity in our house until now:

Natural Carpet Cleaner Recipe

The most effective recipe I’ve ever found is incredibly simple with only two ingredients and one of them comes from your faucet. This is the most effective all-over carpet cleaner I’ve ever used and the one I use when we move into a new place to make sure the carpet is clean for my kids to crawl around and play on. This is meant to be used in a carpet cleaning machine of some kind (I used an old school Thermax but a friend has this professional type carpet cleaner and loves it).

Ingredients:

2 quarts warm water
1 drop Sal Suds Liquid (not a typo- that says one drop- don’t add more!)
Instructions:

Use the above ratio to make as much or as little cleaner as needed for your steam cleaner or vacuum. Do not add more Sal Suds! It is tempting, but more does not equal cleaner in this case! It will leave residue on the carpet if you add too much soap.
A Note About Sal Suds:

This is by far the most effective carpet cleaner I’ve found and it is completely natural and receives an “A” safety rating from the Environmental Working Group (it is also Green Certified). The only concern listed on its safety sheet is that because it is such a strong cleaner, it should not be used on skin. It is also incredibly cost-effective. Though it can be used for many things around the house, if you just got one bottle it could be used for over 18,000 carpet cleanings at that dilution ratio. It can also be used to clean virtually anything around the home and even (diluted) as a very effective stain treatment for laundry. I’ve also used it to mop floors and clean grout with great results.

I also find it important to note that Sal Suds contains Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) but I don’t find this concerning for several reasons. For one, it is not being used on the skin. SLS is a highly effective surfactant and is incredible on set-in stains. There is some concern about its safety in beauty products, but for cleaning products it is considered safe. It is often confused with sodium laurethsulfate, which does carry concerns and which has been linked to cancer.

Additionally, the amount used in this recipe is well below the recommended dilution ratio for SLS on skin and the SLS in Sal Suds comes from Coconut Oil. If you have concerns about SLS, this article from Dr. Frank Lipman helps explain the way SLS works and why it is considered safe when diluted in cleaning products but not recommended for cosmetics or skin use.

Does it Work?

In my opinion, it works really well.

The pictures at the beginning of this post are taken one hour apart after my 9-year-old volunteered to clean the carpet. They haven’t been retouched or photoshopped and the one on the right is when it is still wet. I cringe because it shows just how dirty our carpet gets in about a month (five kids and a dog can do that!).

I love that this recipe is super-simple and only two ingredients, and costs less than one cent per use!

If you want, you can add essential oils for scent, though I’ve never found this necessary and would rather just diffuse the oils or make a room spray for scent as the carpet cleaning mixture is essentially washed out of the carpet.

At the end of the day, I’m glad our carpet is on its way out, but wanted to share these tips while they are fresh on my mind since they’ve helped me preserve my sanity over the last ten years!

Finding the Best Vacuum Cleaner For Our Family

To say that my kids are capable of making messes would be an understatement. Don’t get me wrong, they are also a great help around the house and in the kitchen, but the sheer nature of having 7+ people in our home means I have to deal with a lot of dust, little pieces of paper everywhere, and other small items on the floor constantly.

https://imgur.com/E0crQby

Many days, I feel like I’m losing the battle against this endless pile of little items on the floor, so this popular Pinterest quote sums up my feelings well:

Cleaning with kids in the house is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos.

Part of my struggle has been finding a good vacuum that can actually stand up to my kids and their messes. We finally found a great vacuum that works and that is still running after a year of heavy use, and ironically, it was one of the last options I was willing to try.

We have literally tried dozens over the years, including all the popular name brands. I bought vacuums at yard sales, asked for them for Christmas presents, and saved up credit card reward points to buy them online. Some worked well for a while and then died. Others had problems from the beginning or weren’t strong enough to actually keep up with our floors.

Why A Post on Best Vacuum Cleaners?

I’ve been putting off writing this post for a long time because I felt silly chronicling our years-long vacuum saga, but all of the reviews and “best vacuum cleaner” lists and posts that I found while researching only covered the same name brands and none of those ended up working for us. In fact, I doubted that many of the websites actually tested those vacuum cleaners (or at least used them more than once) before reviewing, as they focused on the best features “out of the box” and the manufacturer data.

This post isn’t a review and none of the companies I’ve listed in this post even know I exist, I just hope it might be helpful to other moms who are looking for a good vacuum and who don’t want to over-spend on one that won’t work.

Don’t care about what I thought was the best vacuum cleaner?

I don’t blame you… it isn’t a very exciting topic! Go check out some recipes, or read about how adult coloring books can improve your brain or how tampons may be poisoning you…

If you are looking for a vacuum that actually works, this is my attempt at making this mundane topic a little more interesting.

My Vacuum Cleaner Criteria

I wasn’t concerned with how many awards a vacuum had won or how many special features it had. In fact, from my experience over the years, more features just meant more things that could break. After years of trial and error, the only criteria I cared about were (in this order):

Ability to clean
Durability
Weight (if possible, lighter weight was preferable so the kids could use it too)
No expensive upkeep (some vacuums had expensive bags, filters etc.)
Allergen-friendly (if possible, though many allergen and HEPA vacuums weren’t very effective)
Vacuum Cleaners I Tried:

Dirt Devils (they eventually broke)
Shark vacuums (not heavy duty enough)
Dyson Vacuums (they also broke)
Roomba Robotic vacuums (It worked well, but the noise drove me nuts and the canister wasn’t big enough so we had to constantly empty it)
Miele Vacuums (It worked pretty well but was really expensive and not easy to use for the kids)
Quite a few more from yard sales or hand-me-downs. The oldest ones seemed to be the most heavy duty but they eventually all died too!
I finally started looking at commercial vacuums, thinking they would be more durable and that is how we found the one that has actually worked for us.

The Best Vacuum Cleaner I’ve Found

The surprising vacuum that ended up being our best vacuum cleaner and the one we still use is…

An Oreck Commercial

I know, I know. I was surprised too. Especially because it was so inexpensive compared to many other options we’ve tried. It also wasn’t on any of the lists of best vacuum cleaners that I read while researching and I couldn’t find many reviews for it online (other than the 1,000+ on Amazon).

I put off trying this one for a really long time because I remembered the terrible commercials that used to air about “The 8-pound Oreck” and I doubted how well it would actually work. I eventually bought the commercial one on a Black Friday sale without high hopes for it.

It definitely met my criteria for ability to clean well, but I still wondered about its durability. It is lightweight so the kids can easily use it and there is no expensive upkeep (replacement bags are inexpensive). The one downside is that it isn’t specifically HEPA or allergy friendly, but since we use air filters in our home, I was less concerned about this than the vacuum’s actual ability to sweep things up.

Over a year later, and this vacuum is still going strong, despite quite a few bag changes and even a rough tumble down the stairs thanks to a certain 2-year-old (who was using it to vacuum the landing of our stairs).

It wasn’t the vacuum I expected to like. It certainly isn’t pretty and they had terrible commercials, but I do love that we finally found an option that works (and that cost much less than many of the others we tried).

Natural Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner (That Works!)

Once upon a time I was a single college student in a one-room dorm and it didn’t take much to keep it clean. Fast forward a few years and I was married to an amazing (but super neat and orderly) guy and had a couple of kids who weren’t so neat and orderly! I needed an all-purpose cleaner that worked stat!

(Psssstttt… Click here to see how to get the bottle and some of the ingredients for free this week only!)

A Natural Way to Clean

As a mom, I soon learned that child is a synonym for “maker-of-dirt-and-messes-while-being-absolutely-adorable” and was amazed at the messes my toddlers could make.

I also realized that kids put everything in their mouths, so I started looking for natural cleaning options that could stand up to toddler messes but without accidentally poisoning them if (when) they licked the floor or counter.

I learned about all the chemicals that are contained in most commercial household cleaning products and found that I could make healthier ones at home. One of the hardest ones to create was a homemade all-purpose cleaner, but I finally found one that works well (and my kids have tested it hard!). In fact, I’ve calculated that over the years, I’ve saved over $200 making this myself!

Why Make Your Own Natural Cleaner?

Short answer:

It takes literally 30 seconds, saves money and works better!

Longer answer:

This all-purpose cleaner is so simple to make that those first couple of toddlers are now older kids who can make and use this cleaner on their own! And their younger siblings have happily filled the toddler mess-making shoes for them.

Also, it is free from the more toxic chemicals found in many cleaners and completely customizable to your taste. Plus, until Monday, you can get the glass spray bottle cleaning caddy, essential oil and cleaning powder for free! (Click here to find out how!)

Important note: There is some debate about borax and if it is safe to use in homemade cleaners or not. I personally feel it is safe to use and much safer than most cleaning products, but this article has a good breakdown of the information and my thoughts on it. Don’t agree? Just leave it out.

All Purpose Cleaner Ingredients

1 tsp borax
1/2 tsp washing soda
1 tsp liquid castille soap
Essential oils of choice- I use 4 drops lemon, 4 drops lavender and 10 drops orange
Glass spray bottle for storage (I get my glass bottles and all ingredients for this recipe here)
All-Purpose Cleaner Instructions

Place borax, washing soda and soap in a spray bottle (preferably glass).
Add 2 cups of warm water. Distilled is best, but any water that has been boiled will work. Cover bottle and shake well. Use as needed. I use as bathroom cleaner, floor pre-treater, kitchen cleaner and on toys to disinfect.
All-Purpose Cleaner FAQs:

Worried about the chemistry of making your own cleaners? Want to make a substitution? These are the most commonly asked questions about my homemade all-purpose cleaner:

Is Washing Soda the Same as Baking Soda?

No, They are similar but with some important differences. Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate and washing soda is just sodium carbonate. Washing soda is stronger and more effective in this recipe (but still non-toxic). Don’t have it? Make your own with baking soda using this tutorial.

Is This a Disinfectant?

Technically no, but most home messes don’t need a disinfectant and using too many disinfectants can cause problems as well. I wouldn’t use this on food related messes, especially raw meat, but it works really well for other hard household surfaces like counters, floors and cabinets. The essential oils do have mild disinfectant properties in some studies, but I personally would stick to hydrogen peroxide or food grade alcohol and soap/water to disinfect raw meat messes.

Why Isn’t There Vinegar in this Recipe?

Vinegar actually isn’t the cleaning powerhouse it is made out to be. It does have its uses and shining moments, like cleaning windows, but isn’t an effective degreaser or disinfectant. Also, vinegar and washing soda (Acid and base) will cancel each other out and this whole recipe would be less effective if vinegar was added. Want to use vinegar in natural cleaning? Save your fresh lemon and orange peels, pour white vinegar over them and leave for a few weeks. This makes a great citrus-infused vinegar that cleans windows and most smooth surfaces.

Vinegar also un-saponifies the soap in this recipe, leaving a nasty stringy mess. Use vinegar if you want to, just don’t use it in this recipe!

Is Borax Dangerous?

There is a lot of debate about this. I talked about my opinion here, but I generally feel safe using it on non food surfaces. If you aren’t comfortable using it, just omit or use witch hazel or food grade alcohol in its place.

Does This Actually Work?

Yep. it works really well. But don’t take my word for it… a reader Anne, commented:

Ok, I’m a little slow, just found this. Good news – the gunk on the bathroom floor that no other cleaner in the world could get rid of (I have tried at least a dozen over the years) is now gone. I sprayed this, let it soak about 5 minutes and wiped it up with a microfiber cloth. I am astounded! Thanks so much for this!

Best Place to Get the Ingredients?

Like I said, I get all of the supplies for this recipe and the glass bottle to make it in from Grove Collaborative. Use this link and you can get the bottle, cleaning caddy and essential oil for free this week!

I Don’t Like Lemon/Lavender/Orange Oil. Can I Use a Different One?

No way. Just kidding!

Use whatever scent you like in this recipe. Mint is lovely too and Geranium has a mild bug-repelling property if you have flies in the kitchen. You can even omit the oils entirely for an unscented version.

How Long Does This Last?

I haven’t personally had this last longer than 3 months because I use it up in less time than that. I can personally vouch for its shelf life of at least three months though.

Does this Need To Be Stored in Glass?

I always prefer glass personally. If you use the citrus essential oils, it is important to store in glass, as it can break down a plastic bottle over time, but glass is always a good idea!

Easy DIY Granite Cleaner for Naturally Clean Countertops

I use my homemade all-purpose cleaner on almost everything around the house, but it doesn’t work for every surface. Our home has granite countertops in the kitchen and since granite can be a little fickle depending on what you use to clean it, I decided to test out creating a cleaner specifically for granite surfaces.

After several attempts, this natural granite cleaner effectively gets my granite countertop clean and streak-free without damaging it, and thankfully, it’s still fast and simple to make! Simplicity is key when it comes sustaining natural choices for a family, and this one is no exception.

Why Any Old Cleaner Won’t Do

There are plenty of homemade natural cleaners out there, but granite is a picky material when it comes to cleaning. Some store-bought cleaners can strip the protective sealant off of the beautiful granite. Vinegar or lemon juice is acidic and can etch its surface. Baking soda can be too abrasive and can also scratch.

Even plain old soap and water won’t do the trick. Soap can leave a film if too much is used, and plain water isn’t great either because it doesn’t disinfect and can often leave streaks.

So… what’s a mama to do when she wants clean counters?

It’s much easier than it sounds!

A Homemade Granite Cleaner that Works!

So what does work as granite cleaner? Although many of my usual natural cleaning ingredients are off the list when it comes to cleaning granite, one simple ingredient (plus water) cleans granite to perfection.

All a granite cleaner really needs is a little alcohol added to water. Alcohol both disinfects and evaporates quickly so the cleaner doesn’t leave streaks behind.

Store-bought natural granite cleaners are much more expensive than my homemade version, and contain the same basic formula as this one. One popular natural granite cleaning option contains water, alcohol, a surfactant (like soap), preservatives, and natural and artificial fragrances.

This homemade granite cleaner works the same, minus the less ideal stuff!

Favorite Essential Oils for Cleaning Granite

Of course, I feel a little extra rewarded for my effort when my kitchen not only looks clean but smells fresh too. And let’s face it, in a natural kitchen with a lot of kid-cooking and from-scratch food prep going on, I need a little extra cleaning power at times.

Thankfully, there are two essential oils especially good for cleaning in the kitchen, and safe for use on granite.

Basil

Basil is a favorite herb to use in the kitchen and is also antibacterial and antiviral. This study foundthat it successfully inhibited E-coli, as well as various strains of bacteria and fungi. The scent of basil essential oil also helps to uplift and energize.

Grapefruit

Citrus essential oils are popular in homemade cleaners for their refreshing scent. Grapefruit pairs well with basil and is used in this granite cleaner for its range of antimicrobial benefits.

This study looked at common hospital-acquired infections and antibiotic-resistant strains. Grapefruit essential oil showed considerable efficacy against the antibiotic resistant strains tested, including MRSA and resistant strains of candida.

Note: I did mention that vinegar and lemon juice are too acidic to use on granite, so I had to check if a citrus essential oil would be safe to use in a granite cleaner. It’s true citrus essential oils can be caustic when it comes to plastic, which is why they need to be stored in glass bottles. In this recipe, however, the grapefruit essential oil is diluted to about .25%. Also, unlike citrus juice, citrus essential oils don’t have an acidic pH. From what I’ve seen, there shouldn’t be any concern when it comes to using diluted citrus essential oils on granite.

Other Essential Oils for Cleaning

I always enjoy switching up essential oils for different scents and benefits. When you’re ready for a change, substitute another essential oil or two. Lavender and lemon essential oil are cleansing and smell great together. Another good option is the antimicrobial powerhouses of cinnamon, clove and orange in a “thieves” type blend.

There are plenty of essential oils that are great for cleaning. It really just depends on preference.

Natural Granite Cleaner Ingredients

  • ½ cup vodka (or rubbing alcohol)
  • 1 and ½ cups water
  • ½ tsp castile soap
  • 7 drops basil essential oil
  • 20 drops grapefruit essential oil
  • (OR roughly 20-30 drops of essential oil of your choice)
  • 16 ounce spray bottle

Granite Cleaning Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in the spray bottle and shake well to combine. Shake well before each use.
  2. To use the granite cleaner, shake and spray liberally on a granite surface. Wipe the granite gently with a microfiber cloth, applying a bit more elbow grease where needed.
  3. Enjoy beautiful, shiny countertops!

Protecting Granite from Damage

Using a dedicated, granite-safe cleaner is just the first step when it comes to keeping your granite looking as good as new. Here are some other tips for granite care:

  • Wipe up spills immediately to avoid staining.
  • Use pot holders or coasters when setting warm or cold items on granite countertops.
  • Refresh the protective coating on granite countertops when needed. I haven’t needed to seal ours yet, but thankfully there are some greener options out there.