So Fresh, So Clean: Natural Cleaners to Keep Your Home Tidy (And Smelling Great:)

I was looking up ways to make my own yoga mat spray a few days ago and finally landed on this video from Yoga with Adrienne. She uses witch hazel and essential oils to make her spray and I thought, “I should be taking this off the mat”. Maybe not that spray exactly, but I’m sure there are ways I could be making eco-friendly cleaners for my house.

I’m already using household items such as baking soda and vinegar to do some of my more thorough cleaning. So naturally I was wondering what else I could substitute for some of the harsher chemicals amongst my cleaning supplies. In the following, I’ll be going over some products, their cleaning properties and a few recipes to utilize these ingredients. Hopefully helping you to make the more natural selection for your cleaning choices.

The Usual, Unusual Suspects

The Basics:

The following is a short list of basic cleaning ingredients you can use to start making your own natural household cleansers.

Vinegar: This is a basic and one of the heavy hitters in your cleaning arsenal. It’s slightly acidic which makes it great for breaking down stains and when mixed with other ingredients in this list, such as baking soda, it’s a great tool for cleaning up tough dirt and grime around the house.

Baking Soda: Sodium bicarbonate has long been used to absorb odors and clean messy surfaces. And when mixed with vinegar, not only does it do a thorough job of cleaning up messes by acting as a mild abrasive, but it also leaves behind what amounts to saltwater. How much more natural can a cleaner be 🙂

Lemons: Speaking of natural, this article from A Taste of Home says that lemons are a natural disinfectant and due to their acidic nature, are great at fighting stains. You can use them on anything from disinfecting your compost bucket to cleaning wood surfaces mixed with a little vinegar, warm water and castile soap.

Castile Soap: Castile is a soap made from vegetable oils. This article from Very Well Health says it’s safe enough to use as on your produce while also being able to be utilized as an all purpose cleaner as well. This versatile soap is cheap while being safe and effective on just about everything from shaving cream to washing your dishes. Pretty impressive for a simple soap.

Salt: Bacteria and other forms of microscopic life aren’t able to live under the harsh conditions that salt creates. So bacteria and viruses aren’t able to grow or survive on its surface. It can also be used as an abrasive while cleaning. And don’t you just feel cleaner when you get out of the ocean after a soak?

The Essential Oils:

Below I’ll be listing a few of my go-to oils for cleaning and listing their basic properties. Not only will these oils leave your home smelling fresh, but they also have antibacterial and antiseptic qualities as well as other cleansing characteristics that will keep your home clean and bacteria free.

Tea Tree: This industrious oil covers a lot of ground. As well as being known as a fungicide it’s also an antimicrobial, antibiotic and antiseptic. It has a strong pine like scent and can be overpowering if you use to much, so be sparing.

Lavender: Lavender oil not only has a soothing effect on our emotional states, but it also acts as an anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, antiseptic and disinfectant. This oil has soothing floral notes, subtle and airy with a shade of green.

Lemon: Here’s another citrusy oil that’s packed full of cleansing properties. It’s most common trait may be of disinfectant, but it’s also effective for its bactericidal attributes, as well as antiseptic, anti-fungal, and antibacterial. Plus it smells great to boot!

Eucalyptus: This oil has equally as many cleaning properties. Some of which are, anti-inflammatory, decongestant, antibacterial, antibiotic and antiviral. It’s no wonder it’s one of the most used ingredients in cough drops. One whiff will clear your senses with its slightly mentholated scent.

These are only a few of the oils that are available to use for cleaning purposes. I referenced Lather Lass for this short list of cleaning characteristics of different oils. But there are about 150 listed on their site and worth taking a look at if you’re interested in learning more.

Some Recipes

Now that we’ve gathered the essentials, here are a few recipes to utilize them in your cleaning routines. The recipes are pretty basic, which is good knowing that you don’t need to be a chemist to naturally and effectively clean your house.

All Purpose Cleaner: Let’s start with a basic. An all purpose cleaner that is safe for most all surfaces is a simple combination of water to 1 teaspoon of castile soap. Pour them into a 16oz spray bottle, put the lid on and shake. This cleaner should be safe on wood, tile, metal, glass and painted surfaces. For an extra boost of antibacterial or anti-mold cleaning properties, try adding lemon or tea tree oil to your cleaner. Or both! about 10 drops of each should be sufficient. If you use lemon, you’ll also be disinfecting as well!

Bathroom Cleaner: This combination of 3 parts water, 1 part vinegar, 1 teaspoon of castile soap and 10 drops of lavender oil, does a thorough job of cleaning all the crevasses that could be harboring bacteria in the bathroom. Thanks to the acidic nature of the vinegar and the disinfecting properties of the lavender, your bathroom will not only be spotless, but have a soothing scent as well.

Baking Soda & Vinegar: Baking soda is a base and vinegar is an acid. when the two are combined, they create a chemical reaction that is a powerful cleanser. Baking soda can be used on its own as an abrasive. And the acid in the vinegar works to dissolve the stain, breaking it down and allowing it to be washed away. You can use this cleaner on tough stains in the kitchen, bathroom or anywhere you find stubborn areas that accumulate dirt. For example, it could be used to remove stains on the wall next to your coffee maker. Or that dingy area in your bathtub that doesn’t seem to lift no matter what you throw at it.

Simple Cleaning Hacks

Using these simple ingredients above, you can clean most everything in your house. Below I’ll be listing a few ways of incorporating them in your cleaning routine to make your place shine. Let’s start in the bathroom.

Bathroom:

You can use baking soda to clean your toilet bowl by putting a cup of the powder in the bowl and scrubbing it with a toilet brush. The abrasive properties of the soda will scrub your bowl clean.

And to remove tough soap scum from your bathtub or kitchen sink, make a paste with baking soda and a little bit of water, rub it into the dirty areas of your wash bins, around the bottom where the tub may be a little discolored from the soap scum buildup. Then rinse with vinegar and let the two foam and dissolve while cleaning as it dissipates. This should leave your surfaces refreshed and sparkling.

If you’re interested to go a little deeper in your bathroom, this article from Real Simple has a great layout of how to clean it from top to bottom using natural cleaners. And it’s where I learned how to clean your toilet bowl with baking soda. Def a recommended read.

Kitchen:

The kitchen is where I spend a lot of time cooking, cleaning and just plain living. So naturally this room has a high priority on my cleaning list. These simple tricks will leave your kitchen looking its best.

If you have a large, wooden cutting board on your countertop, try sprinkling it with coarse salt and using the cut half of a lemon to scrub the board clean. The lemon and salt help to disinfect the board while the salt also acts as an abrasive to scrub tiny bits of stuck on food off. The lemon also lifts odors left over from veggies like onions or garlic. Leaving your board fresh and clean.

If you use cast iron in your kitchen, salt can help to get rid of some of the tougher bits of burnt on food on your pan. You can also use a wooden spoon, or they also make bamboo scrapers for just this purpose. rubbing the pan with salt to lift the rest of the oils and food debris while wiping it down with some olive oil will help you to avoid having to wash your pan with soapy water, which could strip the pan of it’s seasoning and do damage to your pan. Also, FYI never leave your cast iron pan soaking in water! They will most definitely rust and it will happen much more quickly than you expect.

Speaking of soapy water, you can use castile soap to wash your dishes. Mixing them with either lemon or eucalyptus oils to help disinfect while you scrub. Win, win.

General cleaning:

If you have hardwood floors, it can be difficult to get the dirt that builds up in the corners of heavily trafficked areas. By using warm water and vinegar, you can loosen the ground in dirt from shoes and general use that slowly builds up. It will also leave your floors looking refreshed. It may take a few passes so be patient, and don’t forget the elbow grease! Perhaps one of the best cleaning tools in our belts ; )

For cleaner air, try burning a beeswax candle. The wax releases negatively charged ions into the air, which attach themselves to positively charged particles like dust and pollutants. So the candle is literally cleaning the air you breath while it burns.

And finally, this isn’t necessarily a cleaning hack, but it helps to make me feel more at home. Using an essential oil diffuser can help to create a calming atmosphere to match your clean house. One of the elements for me that makes a house, feel more like a home. A friend of mine’s mother puts essential oils in her vacuum air filter. So while she’s vacuuming, she’s also freshening the air, leaving the room feeling a bit cleaner.

There are loads more cleaning tips out there for sure. If you have any that you swear by, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below. Cleaning isn’t always easy to do. Especially if you already have a full schedule and responsibilities that need your attention. But a well maintained house is satisfying in its own right.

Being organized in your surroundings, helps you to bring order to what’s happening inside as well. So burn a candle, put some music on, grab a cup of herbal tea or a glass of wine and appreciate what you’ve done for yourself. After all, cleaning your surroundings is another way to practice self-care. Peace, and thanks for reading : )

Image Credits: “Dishes Cleaning supplies” by wuestenigel is marked with CC BY 2.0.

Living Your Life: Self-Care

Self-care is something I’ve written quite a bit about on this blog. And fortunately, there are a bunch of ways to practice it. But finding healthy routines that are sustainable and not getting caught in the trap of finding what just feels good for the moment is difficult. And unfortunately, our unhealthy habits are usually ones that are passed down by those closest to us. There was no class, in my in high-school anyway, for teaching us self-care or how to take care of our needs.

This is an unfortunate truth for those of us who didn’t have the support to find out how to practice self-care. It is also at the core of how we grow and become the best versions of ourselves. That’s why I go over it so frequently in this blog. Because I believe the more we take care of ourselves, the better we our at taking care of our environment. Immediate sure, but also globally. In this post, I’ll be taking a look at some of the ways I practiced unsustainable self-care, and the healthier habits I’ve picked up in their stead.

Learning to Disconnect & Protect

I think the first ways I learned how to practice self-care was by playing video games and watching T.V.. These aren’t inherently bad habits in anyway, but they are ones that I definitely used in unhealthy ways. I was using them, video games especially, to dull my senses. To “zone out” my surroundings so I didn’t have to interact, be a part of what was happening to, or around me. But I was also introduced to video games shortly before some traumatic events in my past took place. So in a way I was playing them to escape the chaos of what was happening in my life. It was a defense mechanism. Something unchanging in a chaotic world.

But they were something that I did for decades. And to avoid those closest to me. I was well into my thirties and still playing games like World of Warcraft for up to 4-5 hours a day. If I had gotten a second job and worked as many hours as I played, I’d have a healthy retirement fund by now.

It also took a toll on my marriage as well. I was spending more time with a video game than connecting with my then wife. This makes me sad to think about now, but I also recognize that I was still in protection mode. I still hadn’t realize that I wasn’t able to trust those closest to me and that I was perpetuating the cycles of my past. Looking back, there was a lot of pain that wasn’t being recognized. Or that I even knew about. First by me, and secondly by everybody I was pushing away with my arrogant disposition.

But that’s the nature of what happens after you experience trauma. You go into emotional shock and dissociate. I was definitely dissociated from all of my emotions. Save for the very strong ones such as pain and anxiety. The times I wasn’t feeling these emotions, I was doing whatever I could to numb myself incase they came rushing back in. T.V. is another good example of dissociation in my case. I spent so many hours watching others live their lives out on the screen, only to avoid what was happening to and around me. Another way for me to zone out, aka dissociate.

Different Methods of Dissociating

But again, I was still only trying to protect myself, the best ways I knew how at the time. Using this method, I could still be around those closest to me, without actually having to connect with them in a meaningful way. I could be around them, and keep up the appearance of being a functioning member of my community, while still keeping largely to myself.

And the same was true of alcohol and medication. For me, being numb was safer than being present. This was because there were so many ways I was afraid of being hurt.

But all the while, using all the different modalities I could find to dissociate, I was really seeking to numb the fear of being with those closest to me. But also with myself. The relationship I was most frightened of was of being with myself and the ways I had picked up the habits and ways of abusing myself, as I was abused and how I saw my caregivers abuse themselves. Because these were the ways they, in turn, abused me. Like a cursed family heirloom being handed down from one generation to the next.

Waking Up & Finding Resources

And while I was avoiding and numbing my relationships and my feelings in my other relationships, what I didn’t realize was that I was numbing the most important relationship, with myself. I had no idea outside of alcohol, video games and T.V., what brought me a sense of joy. I had no idea what I liked as a way to treat myself. Asides from the unsustainable methods. This was a shock. When I realized how disconnected I was from who I am.

Luckily I wasn’t completely in the dark, or without resources. I know that I like music. Still a great source of comfort for me. Also one that has been there for me, in one form or another, for most of my life. I can remember the first time I ever heard and loved a piece of music. I was probably no more than four or five years-old and I had just gotten my first alarm clock-radio. Not that I had anywhere to be back then. But I remember scanning the stations and exploring my new musical gift. I came across a piece of classical music and was mesmerized. The violins in particular were what struck me. From that day on, I knew I loved music.

Becoming Re-Acquainted with Myself

But it was exactly these types of memories, this type of intimacy with myself, that I had lost or forgotten. The moments of, “I enjoy this, this makes me happy”, was something I had lost touch with shortly after my trauma. And then again when I was actively seeking to numb myself with whatever I could. AKA, video games, T.V., drinking and medication. It was definitely not easy to come to this realization and account for my neglected emotions. I usually felt as though there were some unattended emotion, just waiting around the corner to make me feel anxious or fearful if I stopped my methods of numbing them.

And there were lots of neglected emotions. I still hadn’t dealt with my abuse and the trauma I endured. How could I have, when I was actively seeking to numb them for so long! So it wasn’t until I stopped my numbing methods that I truly began to feel and understand my emotional life. The one I was neglecting.

How I Got to Know Myself, Alcohol

I first started with lessening my alcohol consumption. This was a difficult task. Seeing as how I was drinking five to six drinks a night just to wind down. But I gave it up save for a beer with my self-care dinners. And as a bonus, I’ve felt healthier ever since. I’ve replaced my nightly beers or mixed drinks with a few cups of herbal tea. This way I can relax and unwind without being intoxicated. I can stay present in the moment instead of zoning out.

It’s important to remember too, that this is a big transition. Or it was for me. I sometimes feel as though I’m drinking too much tea. This is where it is important to reality check myself. Having three, sometimes four cups of herbal tea is not the same as having four mixed drinks. I like to think of this part of me as Freud’s classic super-ego. This is also incidentally the part of me that is a perfectionist. The one that sets unreasonable standards and then will beat myself up for not achieving them. This can be dangerous if left unchecked.

How I Got to Know Myself, Healthy Eating

I’ve also been eating healthier overall, leaving one night a week where I make a special meal for myself. This way I am eating healthier foods and making healthier nutritional decisions. But also treating myself to something tasty. Something that I can look forward to making for myself. I also plan a dessert into my special meal. Something I feel is a break from the norm, a treat.

When I was drinking as much alcohol as I was at night, I was 80 pounds overweight. Also the meals I was eating were definitely not planned in regards to their nutritional value. I was overweight and felt unhealthy. So the time I spend on taking care to nourish myself brings me a sense of satisfaction. A sense that I’m looking out for my health. But also finding foods I enjoy cooking and eating. I’m happier knowing that I don’t have to sacrifice the things I like, in order to take care of my nutritional needs. Such as flavor or the act of cooking for myself.

How I Got to Know Myself, Yoga & Exercise

Yoga is another way I incorporate self-care into my routine. With the amount of T.V. and videogames I watched and played, I needed to get my body moving. Also to reconnect with the parts of me that had been stagnant for far too long. And it’s worth mentioning that it took me a while to figure out a routine that was healthy. One that took care of my need to move and connect with my body in a healthy ways and not over doing it the ways I had with TV and videogames.

For example, when I first started doing yoga, I was going to two 60 minute classes a week. On top of that, I was running 10 to 20 miles a week as well. Until recently, I was also working out three days in a row. Two days doing yoga and one run day, without a rest in between. My cycle was three days on, four days off. This was tiring and it left me feeling depleted, drained. I enjoyed the workouts, but the intensity of doing it all in one block was too much. Again with the super-ego : )

I’ve since switched to a workout every other day. I now take two days off in a row at the end of my week to get some much needed rest. This way I have a chance to relax a little between workouts while also not feeling as tired on a workout day. I also look forward to my workouts more often. Knowing that I’m taking care of my need to rest between workouts is a huge step towards me being able to listen to and care for what my needs are. Learning how to listen to what my body needs and is telling me.

How I Got to Know Myself, Rest

I’ve also been paying attention to what my body needs for rest more frequently as well in the name of self-care. I used to stay up late. Two or three am. And for no reason other than to watch more T.V.. Or I would play videogames for stretches of 4-5 hours at a time. Now I go to bed when I’m tired. Or at very least I recognize when I’m tired without trying to cover over those feelings with alcohol or caffeine. It’s amazing what your body will tell you when you’re not trying to drown out its messages with something stopping you from listening.

How I got to Know Myself, Budgeting

Another way I’ve been trying to implement some self-care into my routine is in an unlikely place. Though it’s one that needs some attention nonetheless. My budget. I got into a lot of debt when I was in my twenties and thirties. Credit cards, student loans… If it was money someone was willing to lend me, I was willing to take it. Now that I’ve been paying off my debt, I’ve kicked it into overdrive and have been going hard. Again with the Super-Ego.

I picked up a second job/side hustle and am funneling all available funds towards my debt. I’m using the Dave Ramsey method to get out of debt. I was going so far as to not buy a cup of tea or coffee on the mornings I was working 18 hour days. Including a three hour commute! This was going a bit too hard.

You’ll be happy to know that I now buy myself a tea once and a while. But I also plan on budgeting a treat for myself while I’m paying back my debt. I plan on treating myself to a massage for every 10k I pay off in loans. This way, I’m still focused on my goals, but also have something to look forward to in the self-care department while I’m in the mists of working two jobs and doubles. This can be stressful incase you’ve never been in that boat. : D But also necessary to keep some balance and not feel completely burnt out.

Self-Care, Get Involved : )

These are a few of the routines I’ve developed in helping to live a healthier, more balanced life. I’ve stopped watching T.V. almost completely. But plan on watching again, as I don’t want my super-ego to get out of hand. Having healthy habits isn’t always easy. But it’s possible and also rewarding. So if there’s a habit that you feel you’ve been leaning on too much, that may be unsustainable like watching too much T.V., maybe try replacing it with a healthier hobbie.

Exercise is a good one to start with for self-care because a lot of what you need to start is free or cheap. Yoga with Adriene is a great resource if you’ve been thinking of yoga as an outlet. And if running is something that’s piqued your interests, all you need is a pair of shoes! And keep in mind, you don’t have to make major life changes all at once! Living a healthy life takes time and practice. And if you’re an over achiever, don’t give into the super-ego. : ) Take your time and you’ll be in good shape. Peace : ) & thanks for reading.

Image Credits: “Juicy Mountain Retreat (Göcek, Turkiye 2018)” by paularps is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Updated: 10/24/22

%d bloggers like this: