Don't bother keeping out of reach of children: Safe, natural household cleaners

Getting your home clean and sanitary without the risks associated with chemical cleaners, and while saving money, is easier than you think.

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  • Organic Consumers points out that common cleaning ingredients can cause skin or respiratory irritation, watery eyes, or chemical burns, while others are associated with long-term effects such as cancer or hormone disruption. Cleaning doesn't have to become a health hazard.

  • Getting your home clean and sanitary with natural cleaners is easier than you think. With a few basic ingredients, you can mix up some cleaning magic right in your kitchen. As a bonus, it will also save you money.

  • Here are the basic staples you'll need:

  • Vinegar

  • Vinegar contains 5% acetic acid, which makes it antimicrobial. Not only is vinegar good at fighting germs, it is excellent for combating mold. It can also dissolve through mineral deposits and stains. Don't worry if you don't like the smell of vinegar. The odor dissipates once it dries.

  • Baking soda

  • Baking soda is a mild abrasive, which gives you a bit of scrubbing power without scratching. AnyClean.com says that baking soda adds to the surfactant power of water, meaning it helps water float away the dirt you don't want. It is water soluble, so it is easily rinsed down the drain.

  • Castile soap

  • Castile soap is a natural liquid soap made from vegetable oils. Livestrong.com says it provides a clean, fluffy lather in both hard and soft water. It cuts through grime, making it a great all-purpose cleaner.

  • Essential oils

  • Essential oils are high in antibacterial, anti-fungal and antiviral properties. Not only do they have a wonderful scent, but they are excellent disinfectants. Lemon and melaleuca (tea tree oil) are especially good for cleaning.

  • Containers

  • Purchase a couple of spray bottles and plastic storage containers with a snap lid.

  • Now that you have your supplies together, it's time to mix up the magic. Here are some basic recipes that can tackle the everyday chores around your home.

  • All-Purpose Cleaner

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  • Mix together equal parts vinegar and water. Add 5 to 10 drops of essential oil. Pour into a spray bottle. Alternatively, fill a spray bottle with water. Add 1 teaspoon of Castile soap and 5 to 10 drops of essential oil. Shake to mix.

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  • All-Purpose Cleaner is good for most of your cleaning needs. You can use it on counter tops, sinks, toilets, and bathtubs. Just spray and wipe clean. Frugal Living recommends that you do not use vinegar on marble counter tops, and you should test on a small area before using on finished wood surfaces and tiles.

  • Scrubbing Cleanser

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  • Mix together ¾ cup baking soda, ¼ cup Castile soap, and 1 tablespoon of water. Add 3 to 5 drops of essential oils. Store in an air-tight, plastic container.

  • Scrubbing Cleanser is great to use on those tough jobs that require a little elbow grease, such as your bathtub or shower. To use, spread mixture on the area you want to clean. Rub lightly with a rag or sponge and rinse off. For added cleaning power, spread mixture on the area you want to clean, and then spray with vinegar. Mixture will bubble. Wait half an hour, and then rub with a rag or sponge and rinse off.

  • Air Freshener

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  • Add 5 to 10 drops of essential oils to a spray bottle of water. To use, simply spray the area where you have odors. The essential oils kill the germs that cause odors instead of just masking the smell.

  • As an alternative, mix ¾ cup of baking soda with 5 to 10 drops of essential oils. Place the mixture in a decorative bowl, and put it in an area where odors are common, such as the kitchen or bathroom. Simply stir or shake the mixture from time to time to freshen the scent. Discard after about a month of use, or use it as the base for your Scrubbing Cleanser.

  • Floor Cleaner

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  • Add 1/2 cup vinegar to a gallon of water. You may also add 2 tablespoons of Castile soap or 3 to 5 drops of essential oils, if you would like. Then, mop your floor as you usually do.

  • Window Cleaner

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  • The vinegar and water All-Purpose Cleaner works well on glass and windows, too. Use undiluted vinegar to dissolve and clean any hard water spots.

  • Oven Cleaner

  • Yum Universe recommends that you mix together 1 tablespoon of Castile soap, 1 1/2 cups of baking soda, 2 to 4 drops of essential oil and 1/4 cup of vinegar. Add water as needed to make a thick but spreadable paste.

  • To use, apply to the surface of your oven, and let sit six to eight hours or overnight. Fill a bowl with warm water. Dip your scrubber, wipe and repeat until the oven is clean. You may want to empty and refill your bowl of water from time to time if it gets very dirty.

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  • Here are a few more tips:

    • To freshen your garbage disposal, pour a cup of ice cubes into the disposal. Add a drop or two of essential oil. Turn on the disposal without water running. Rinse with hot water.

    • Add a drop or two of essential oil to the inside of the cardboard tube of your toilet roll. You will release a fresh scent every time someone uses the bathroom.

    • Add half a cup of vinegar to your rinse cycle while washing laundry. It will help soften clothes and remove lingering dirt. You can also add a few drops of essential oil to destroy odors and freshen your clothes.

    • Add a couple of drops of essential oil to a damp washcloth. Add the washcloth to your dryer while drying your clothes for a light, lasting fresh scent.

  • With these easy recipes, you can now have your clean house, and breathe in it, too.

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Shelli Howells is a creative fiction writer, and a mother of six.

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