My Best Homemade Cleaning Solutions

This spring, as I approached Spring Cleaning with zeal (no, really, I did), I decided to use some “tried and true” homemade cleaners. I had the ingredients (frugal), the chemistry seemed logical (smart), and I was not up for spendy possible solutions (expedient). Here are a few of my favorite, which include liquid cleaners, as well as simple solutions to cleaning issues.

Last year when I had the shower grout addressed, the contractor suggested switching to a liquid body wash because it would not build up as badly as bar soap can (and did, in my case — I hated cleaning that up). So I switched, and we have loved it. The shower stays cleaner longer.

With our hard water here, dried minerals really look bad, even though there is now almost no soap buildup. I found several online versions of this cleaner:

  • half blue Dawn
  • half white vinegar

The vinegar cuts through lots of stuff, and the Dawn dissolves oils and dirt. The vinegar also leaves chrome fixtures and ceramic tiles sparkling. I put mine in the fillable handle of a kitchen scrubber ($3), and keep it in the shower. Each day I do a different wall, floor or shower curtain. It takes 20 seconds, including rinsing with water. The solution is so mild I don’t mind doing it while I’m actually in the shower. No spray, no odor, no excuses. Eliminating excuses was important.

Keeping bathrooms clean is more important to me this spring. When disinfectant wipes went on sale, I grabbed some to keep in each bathroom for daily or spontaneous cleanup. Yes, I would prefer to use cleaner and a washable cloth. And I tried that method, unsuccessfully; the wipes just work better for me. One container has enough for a month, they’re handy and easy to use, and again there are no excuses. Online recipes have been around for decades, and still have some I’ve tried. Once the habit is established, I will likely use one, and find a better material than cheap paper towels. Stay tuned.

Mirrors and windows are tough to get and keep clean. Our exterior windows hadn’t been addressed in a few years. Okay, a bunch of years. I hired my son to wash all 20 of our exterior windows, using another online recipe:

  • half gallon warm water
  • 1 Tablespoon Finish/Jet Dry dishwasher rinse aid
  • 2 Tablespoons blue Dawn

This works awesomely well! Spray the window with a garden hose to loosen and soften dirt. Spray the solution or dip a squeegee/spongee in a bucket of solution, then scrub with the sponge scrubber. (We have a very long telescoping pole, and I rigged the scrubber to the pole…voila!) Then rinse with the hose spray again, no squeegee necessary, as the rinse aid helps the water sheet off. I am impressed, and now use the same spray cleaner to do the insides and mirrors, like a conventional window cleaner (with a rag, not a hose).

The house has blinds on most of the windows, which are a pain to keep clean. A new-to-me technique has me not dreading that chore.

  • Close the blinds. Using a microfiber cloth, lightly moistened with water and/or cleaner, wipe the blinds horizontally, moving from top to bottom.
  • Open the blinds, then close them the opposite way. Clean the cloth or get a new one, and repeat the wiping.
  • Now remove the blinds, turn them so the back is to the front, rehang them temporarily, and repeat the process. Most blinds have cubical holders with clips, which makes this part really easy.
  • Raise the blinds all the way, remove them and set aside. Clean the window, sill, moldings (especially the top where the dust lands), and rods (you should wash your curtains at this point, too) with mild cleaner.
  • Replace the blinds the correct way. You’re done.

In the kitchen, I’m keeping a bottle of vinegar handy on the counter and a mini scrub brush under the sink. I find the vinegar helps cut through and soften some crudded cooking messes, keeps the mineral deposits at bay, and helps remove odors. It does not clean by itself; it helps the effort by its mild acidic nature.

For greasy or stubborn dirt, and when I need to soak something a long time, I’m using Dawn Direct foam in the pump. I don’t use the online recipes for refills that use regular Dawn; the formula is different, and the Direct foam works better than regular Dawn for different jobs. I got a closeout on refills last year, and it lasts a very long time. Try this on stovetops, oven racks, broiler pans, grill utensils, etc.

These are my current favorite solutions for cleaning. What are yours?

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Good To Be Home, Returning To Comfort

We’ve just returned from a week-long trip to the Washington, DC area. Arlington, VA, and the National Cemetery, to be exact.

It was for placing Col. FIL to final rest, with a ceremony the likes of which I have never before seen. It was a very befitting honor, which he deserved: Caisson, Honor Guard, Army Band, 21-Gun Salute, Riderless Horse. Col. FIL’s site looks over the Pentagon, with a pretty good view of DC. He is with his soldiers. I would encourage everyone to make a visit to this place if you are ever in the area. It is mostly quiet, and sobering, with thousands and thousands of gravesites of those who defended our freedom.

Our trip itself was fraught with challenges: weather, accommodations along the way, and some bad food. We decided we do not like city living, at least East Coast city living. But we did make it home when we expected, and were able to see some sites along the National Mall, the White House, the Capitol, the Holocaust museum, and one of the Smithsonians.

The Subs developed an awful rattling/scraping/clunking sound around Pittsburgh on our trip there. There was no smoke, no dash lights, and no apparent mechanical trouble, so we pushed on. The Subs had a thorough checkup right before we left, so I wasn’t too concerned. DS#1 had a vehicle, so we were able to drop the Subs at a dealer for diagnosis that Monday morning. Meanwhile, I called our local Omaha mechanic, Russ Garage, the best Subs people in the area, for advice on how to handle the issue. Turns out it was a loose heat shield; these things happen, especially with Interstate driving. The dealer said they would have to remove and replace it with an OEM part (ka-ching!), and they were not allowed to rig it with a clamp or tap weld (I get that, dealers, warranty and such). It was not falling off, and posed miniscule probability of engine damage, so on RG’s advice to us, they gave it another thorough safety check (all systems go), and sent us on our way, rattling all the way to the hotel. We used the Metro and DS’s vehicle, or walked, for the rest of our stay. Cost for the diagnosis/safety check was $60, but well worth it for the peace of mind. It doesn’t seem to be as loud now, but I’m still taking it to RG this week, for this, an oil change and an alignment.

On the way there, we paid about $50 in tolls! South of Chicago and Indiana were acceptable, but Ohio and Pennsylvania turnpikes were outrageous! And in Tyson’s Corner, VA (near the dealership), there was a $2.50 toll for driving 1/8 mile to the non-toll Interstate. Really?! So on the way back, we went a different way, with no tolls the first day and minor tolls the next. Thanks, Google Maps directions lady, and Waze app! If you travel that way, be aware, and do your planning, unlike us.

Our trip cost more than expected, because of the cost of gas Out East, and the tolls. And on the way back we stayed at a different, much better hotel for a bit more. But overall, we spent exactly what we were quoted for accommodations, less for food (because we bought groceries and had a full kitchen), and way too much for a horrible pizza delivery experience. I have never Yelped until this trip, and I have Yelped honestly.

When we got back, it was very nice to know that the new roof and ventilation had done their jobs! I had turned off the AC/heat, and didn’t know what we would encounter. We also turned off the water, learning from someone else’s experience. Normally when we returned from trips, the house felt and smelled, well, musty and dusty. This time, it was a little stuffy, but after a short time with the AC and ceiling fans on, all was well. It has been very comfortable since that work was done. The new downspouts have addressed most of the problem of water coming in at the corners of the basement (I think another round of minor grading b/c of erosion at one corner will fix it for good). Hire an expert: Done Right.

The sprinkler system guy just conducted our spring startup, but with all the rain expected this week, we won’t need them for a while. Still, they will be ready when we do. We have a contract with Hoich, so there is no additional cost for this, except for two repairs that had to be made. Right before we left town, I had T&K Plumbing come out to replace the sprinklers shutoff valve, which had been leaking for the last few winters. I wanted that done before the spring startup, of course. T&K sends very professional installers (they did my water heater last year), on time, and they do great work without gouging me. Tomorrow I’m supposed to get my AC annual check, but we’ll see. That is also covered by a maintenance contract, and is just a couple years old, so no extra cost anticipated there. So all is well, and we are comfortable in our home.

It is good to be back. I don’t plan to take anymore trips this year. This was built into our budget. But our budget is blown after the roof and ventilation surprise. The house is still calico-colored (base color, some trim color, new garage door color, primed fascia boards, raw cedar boards…), and will need to remain that way for a while until we can get the EF where it needs to be. I’ll be scrambling to rework the budgets for the coming months, and will be having a monster garage sale in June. Right now I need to schedule some contract work.

Have a great month!