DIY Discoveries

Courtney Miller

In supporting your efforts for a fantastically clean 2013, I’ve decided to summarize the results of my DIY product experimentation last year. No new info, just streamlined. Here you go:

Glass Cleaner

Hands down, my favorite discovery and the unequivocal best glass cleaner ever is hydrogen peroxide. It provides a cheap and easy clean with absolutely NO streaking! Plus, it’s a naturally occurring compound – it’s just a water molecule with an extra oxygen atom – it has no added chemicals, and it’s odorless, so it’s easy to add your own scent.

Due to its natural properties, hydrogen peroxide doesn’t evaporate quickly, as do our store-bought products. So here’s my recommended cleaning method: spray the solution on the glass, rub in circles to remove grime, wait a couple of minutes to allow some evaporation, and rub dry to prevent water marks. If you want a scent, add 10-20 drops of lavender.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Toilet bowl cleaners are a tricky thing – they need to be sufficiently viscous to adhere to the bowl and hardy enough to break down some pretty nasty deposits. I’ve discovered a dual-assault method that’s become my new eco-friendly-DIY favorite, however. Primary attack: a powder cleaner called BonAmi. Added support: vinegar + essential oil.

A chemical-free version of Comet, BonAmi has been around since 1886; and it’s maintained nearly the same recipe throughout that time – plant-based (read: coconut or corn) surfactants are cleaning agents, soda ash and baking soda are basics that neutralize the acidity of the cleaning agents, and feldspar and limestone are abrasives. The vinegar adds some extra strength by fizzing when it comes into contact with the BonAmi, and some extra coverage – if you re-use an old toilet bowl cleaner bottle, you can squirt the vinegar up under the rim, an area that’s inaccessible to the powder. Add 10-20 drops of essential oil to the vinegar to provide the toilet with a pleasant smell. I like something potent but earthy, like pine or frankincense.

Here’s the method: Sprinkle BonAmi around the toilet bowl, avoiding the water to the best of your abilities. Let it sit for a few minutes while you clean the rest of the bathroom. Squirt the vinegar solution under the rim. Give it a few seconds to fizz. Scrub and flush.

Shower Cleaner

Cut a grapefruit in half, pour some coarse salt on one cut side and some additional salt in the bottom of the tub or shower. Squeeze the juice out of the fruit as you scour the surface tile, picking up more salt as necessary from the tub.

This is a surprisingly effective method for giving your shower a basic clean – it removes soap scum and mineral deposits from tile and tubs. And the olfactory benefits are unrivaled! It’s also completely toxin-free, and just about as friendly to the environment as a cleaning agent could be, especially if you compost the rind when you’re finished. The method above works well for a basic clean but it’s only partially effective at removing the mineral deposits from your metal shower fixtures, and it doesn’t touch grout gunk at all. You’ll need a supplement for a deeper clean.

Stainless Steel Polish

In researching a DIY stainless steel polish, I came across a recommendation for baby oil. While baby oil is DIY, it’s not eco-friendly – not only does it contain an awful chemically-derived fragrance, but the “mineral oil” that serves as the active ingredient is petroleum oil. So I turned to natural, edible oils – canola, vegetable (soybean), coconut, grapeseed, and olive. It turns out that grapeseed oil is a great option for an eco-friendly product. Grape seeds, along with stems and skins, are a byproduct of the wine-making process. These materials are cold-pressed so that what would otherwise end up as waste is repurposed as an oil.

Cleaning method: Wipe down your stainless steel first, with water or glass-cleaner to remove any gunk. Then pour a small amount of oil on a rag and rub in the direction of the grain of the steel. It works well as a polish – the lack of cleaning agent in the oil prevents the streaking that can often occur with store-bought products, which clean and polish in one. It does, however, require more elbow grease than store-boughts, as the oil needs to be rubbed into the surface more vigorously than does a traditional stainless steel polish.

That’s it for now. Hope you’re keeping clean!