I’m not sure how it was decided, but as soon as I could steadily hold a broom and reach the countertops, I became our family’s designated housecleaner. While my brother took out the trash and mowed the lawn, I did the dishes, swept the floors, cleaned the windows, ironed the laundry, scrubbed the sinks and polished the furniture. I don’t think my mother was necessarily capitalizing on having free labor (or was she?). I think she was simply seizing on my natural proclivity for cleaning.
For as long as I can remember, I have been a cleaning machine. My dad is the same way, so perhaps it’s a genetic trait. (I’m beginning to see signs of a fondness for cleaning in my two-year-old son, fueling my theory.) Whether tweaking the placement of my toys, vacuuming my bedroom rug or meticulously organizing all of my Barbie clothes, I’ve enjoyed straightening or tidying and otherwise cleaning for, well, ever.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve swapped a number of the products I previously used for more natural options. And as my interest in DIY has progressed, I’ve since traded in many off-the-shelf items for ones I can whip up at home, saving time (spent shopping for the items) and money (many homemade cleaning products can be made with very basic materials) in the process. For today’s Small Measures, I’m sharing two of my easiest homemade cleaners: furniture polish and an abrasive scrub. Using ingredients you likely already have on hand (or can easily source), you’ll be making your furniture shine and your sinks sparkle in no time. — Ashley English
Instructions continue after the jump . . .
This simple blend makes a go-to polish that is ready in about a minute flat. Don’t use your best olive oil for this, as you won’t be ingesting it and benefitting from its healthy properties. I highly recommend performing a spot test before use. Blot a small amount of polish onto a cleaning cloth and apply it to an inconspicuous area. Work it into the furniture and look for any changes in the surface, such as discoloration.
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon lemon extract* or 20 drops lemon essential oil or 1/2 lemon, juiced**
*Lemon extract can be found in the baking aisle of your grocery store.
**If you use fresh lemon juice, you’ll need to use the polish within several weeks; otherwise, it will turn rancid. Or you can store it in the refrigerator, allowing it to come to room temperature before use (this method will keep for about one month).
1. Place the olive oil in a lidded container or jar.
2. Add the lemon extract, lemon essential oil or fresh lemon juice.
3. Shake liberally for the mixture to fully combine.
4. Blot some of the polish onto a cloth and polish your furniture.
A little baking soda and some castile soap are all you need to get scrubbing naturally. Feel free to use a scented soap, if you prefer.
- 1 cup baking soda
- 1/3 cup liquid castile soap*
- 1–2 Tablespoons water (optional)
*Castile soap is made from olive and other natural oils. I used Shadow Lake’s Eucalyptus Spearmint scent, which smells incredibly invigorating, a great thing when you’re cleaning! Dr. Bronner is another well known and easily accessible manufacturer of liquid castile soap.
1. Combine the baking soda and castile soap in a small bowl.
2. Stir with a small fork to fully incorporate the ingredients.
3. This creates a thick paste that you can scoop out and apply with a scrub brush to bathtubs, sinks or tile surfaces. If you prefer a slightly more liquid scrub, add 1 Tablespoon of water at a time until you reach your desired consistency.
You’ll see that I used cloth cleaning rags in both projects. I’m always looking for ways to curb the use of paper towels and have found that old cloth napkins (oil-stained and with small tears) and flannel sheets (“lovingly” chewed up by my black Lab, Dexter, when he was a puppy) make ideal cleaning cloths. Simply cut your sheet, pillowcase, towel or clothing garment (whatever you’ve got that’s beat up and would otherwise be tossed out) into small squares, about the size of a washcloth. Welcome to your new favorite cleaning rag!
If you’d like more ideas for DIY cleaning products, check out these previous Small Measures posts:
- All-Purpose Cleaning Spray (one of my first D*S posts!)
- Wood Floor Cleaner, Glass Cleaner and Jewelry Polish
What about you? Got any go-to natural cleaning solutions you’d like to share? I’m always on the lookout for items to add to my cleaning arsenal, so I’d love to hear them! Otherwise, now that I’m a mom with a messy (albeit seriously wonderful) spouse, two dogs, three cats and 11 acres of forest to conspire against my cleaning efforts, I’m off to clean something (always). Admittedly, though, I’ll likely be whistling while I work.
Images and styling by Jen Altman