Psst… it’d make my day if you’d hop on over to Pinterest and hit that “Follow” button. I try to follow everyone back.
As someone who is very sensitive to chemicals, from bleach to commercial cleansers to perfumes, I’ve tried different natural/homemade products for cleaning and pest control. I’m always on the lookout for something natural that can replace something store-bought, and especially so if it will save us money.
What REALLY works
Homemade Ant Killer
What you need: 20 Mule Team Borax, granulated or powdered sugar, water, and cotton balls or paper towels.
Mix together 3 tablespoons of borax and 2 tbsp granulated sugar (or 4 tbsp powdered sugar) in a cup of hot water (some recipes say to boil it, but I haven’t needed to). Let cool. Line your container(s) with cotton balls or paper towels, pour in enough bait to just soak the material, then place the bait. If the ants are in your house, find their entry point, and place a container there. If there’s an ant trail, place additional containers along it as well. If placing outside, make sure there’s a lid to keep pets and wildlife out, and put it near an ant trail or 1-2 feet away from the ant hill.
I use 1/2 ounce deli cups, or reuse a plastic container (like the kind lunch meat comes in). Poke holes big enough for the ants to get in and out of around the sides of the container and in the lid, if using one. The ants come marching, take the tasty death syrup back to the nest, share it like good little drones, and they all die by desiccation.
It’s not a permanent solution, because ants are jerks and they’ll be back eventually, so you might start seeing ants again in a month or so. I’ve used this for several years, and each time I’ve eradicated the ants for at least a month (even a whole summer).
The only warnings I would issue are that it is really hard to get off the floor if you spill any. Almost like a glue. You will also want to keep kids and pets out of the mixture. Make sure you use only real sugar – granulated, powdered, or brown.
Homemade Laundry Detergent
What you need: 1 bar of body soap (your choice), 20 Mule Team Borax, and Arm & Hammer Washing Soda.
I’ve never made the liquid kind, but I swear by this powdered detergent. It really, really works. Everyone I’ve made a batch up for has loved it too, especially if they have a front loader. I’ve been using it for over two years now. One tablespoon will clean a full load of clothes, and the BEST part for me is that my front-loader doesn’t get that funky smell that it always had with commercial detergent.
How to make it: Finely grate the bar of soap. Mix with one cup Borax and one cup washing soda. If you have a good blender (it will burn up the motor of a cheap blender), you can get this really powdery by blending it all together after the soap is grated, but it’s not necessary if you can grate the soap small enough. That’s really the only not enjoyable part of the process.
I spend about $50/year on laundry detergent now. My clothes get cleaner than they did with commercial detergent and they seem to fade less, too.
Baked-on grease or oil on your cookware or stove/oven? Rub it with a paste of baking soda, dish soap, and water.
Dirty sink? Baking soda and a damp sponge.
Hard water spots? Make a paste of baking soda and vinegar.
Gross grout? Baking soda, a tiny bit of water, and a toothbrush will get it clean.
Smelly garbage disposal? Mix 2 tbsp baking soda, 1/2 cup vinegar, and 1/2 cup water, pour into disposal, and let sit for 15 minutes.
Toilet dirty? Sprinkle baking soda in it, let sit for 30 minutes, then scrub and flush. Baking soda replaces commercially available cleaning products like 409, Scrubbing Bubbles, etc. You don’t need those unless you’re concerned about disinfecting, in which case you can spray on non-diluted isopropyl alcohol, but keep in mind it can degrade rubber surfaces over time and discolor rubber and plastic. I personally use Lysol and Clorox wipes to disinfect because I have no negative reaction to them like I do to bleach and other products such as Lysol bathroom cleaner.
I did try to make the homemade version of Clorox wipes last year, but I just didn’t like it much. It cleaned kind of good, but I really dislike the smell of isopropyl alcohol and can’t stand the smell of ammonia (I use nothing with ammonia). You may find that it’s an option for you though.
Another product I rarely see mentioned anymore is steel wool, either by itself or Brillo pads. If you’re not aware, Brillo pads contain only four ingredients: steel wool, soap, colorant, and fragrance. The soap is natural, made from beef tallow. I haven’t found anything that cleans aluminum pads as well as Brillo pads.
I hate buying floor cleaner. It can get expensive, and it rarely works better than mixing up my own.
I use a Swiffer Wet Jet because I have pergo flooring and it can’t get too wet. I mix 1/8 cup white vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon dish soap in a large spray bottle (holds about 16 ounces of water). I just spray that on the floor as I’m going along with the Swiffer.
Vinegar to clean up pet urine
A 50/50 ratio of white vinegar to water applied to rugs and carpets where pets have marked or had accidents removes both the stain and the smell. I used it just this morning on a light blue and cream colored area rug. I used a Bissell Little Green Machine but spraying and blotting can work just as well. Just remember to use cold water only – no heat or steam – as it can set the stain instead of getting it out.
You’ll still have to use a product afterwards that is specifically made to break down the urine enzymes, such as Stink Free, otherwise dogs will still be able to smell it, even if you can’t.
What doesn’t work
Vinegar to kill weeds
Why doesn’t it work? Vinegar neutralizes as soon as it hits dirt. It can cause the top of the weeds to shrivel up and turn brown, appearing to have killed the weed, because the acidity of the vinegar wreaks havoc on the leafy bits. However, it does not, and cannot, kill the weed unless you are using it in concentrations high enough to need a hazmat suit.
Because it can take a week or more for the weed to start showing new growth, it can seem as though the weed had been killed. If you can catch seedlings before their root system has taken hold, vinegar can be just enough to prevent the weed from growing, but this would require some serious diligence on your part. And maybe a magnifying glass.
Keep in mind that vinegar doesn’t care if it’s sprayed on grass, weeds, or your rose bush – it will cause all greenery to whither and turn brown, which makes using it as a widespread yard application impossible. It could be used if you have an area that you don’t want anything growing in, such as cracks in your driveway or walkway, or a rocked yard, but you’d have to reapply weekly.
Now, there are cleansers with hydrogen peroxide as the active ingredient. Clorox makes a professional grade hydrogen peroxide cleanser designed for hospitals. It’s very effective. But there’s the key words: Designed for hospitals. You are warned to use skin and eye protection, and to avoid contact with skin. That’s the opposite of what you usually do with hydrogen peroxide, now isn’t it? It’s safe to put on your skin, or in your mouth. In concentrations high enough to be an effective broad spectrum disinfectant, it’s no longer safe to do either.
What’s different about Clorox’s hospital-grade products? It’s not the same hydrogen peroxide that’s in your medicine cabinet. It’s a more stable formula that’s in a higher concentration than that of regular hydrogen peroxide, which has NOT been considered effective as a disinfectant by the EPA.
Let me repeat that: The brown bottle of hydrogen peroxide we all know and love does not disinfect at a level that is considered effective by the EPA, or by hospitals. If a hospital won’t use it as a disinfectant, and the EPA says it isn’t, then I’m inclined to not rely on it to kill bacteria in my home.
Like most people in the Pacific Northwest, I have a moss problem. I want the moss gone because I want grass, not moss, and I don’t want my steps and bricks fuzzy. I read that soapy water will kill moss and gave it a whirl.
The moss just laughed at me. It was a sad day.
Clipart courtesy of clipart.co.