If you can’t fit your cleaning solutions into one bucket, then you’re doing something wrong. Becky Rapinchuk, founder of the Clean Mama blog and author of Simply Clean, is here to set you straight. You may remember her from Expert Advice: Our Editors’ Most Pressing Cleaning Questions, Answered a few weeks back. This time, we’ve asked her to help us reduce the number of cleaners we have on our shelves (much of it gathering dust) and decrease the amount of toxic ingredients we use—essentially to spring-clean our cleaners.
An advocate of using gentle and more natural cleaning solutions, she recently shared with us the only four ingredients you need to scrub, wipe, and shine your way to a sparkling clean home. Without further ado, Becky’s four picks for the only cleaners you need.
1. Hydrogen Peroxide
“Hydrogen peroxide is unstable when it comes in contact with light, so you need to store it in the original brown bottle. It’s great for safe disinfection—toilets, sinks, cutting boards. My favorite way to use it? Simply put a sprayer on the bottle, spray on a surface that needs disinfection, let it sit, and then rinse clean. If you want to give germs the one-two punch, you can spray a surface with hydrogen peroxide and follow with white vinegar. Let it sit and rinse clean. This is a very potent combination and the two ingredients should never be combined in a container; always keep them separate. It also has an acidity of 11.75 so do not use it on stone [granite, marble, etc.] as it will etch the surface over time.”
Tips: “Use it straight out of the bottle if you’re pretreating a stain [on white clothing]. Mix it with a little baking soda for a cleaning paste, scrub, and rinse clean. This works great for icky grout too.”
2. Vegetable-Based Soap
“My preference is castile soap or Sal Suds for cleaning, but you can also look for a vegetable- [not petroleum-] based dish soap. If you do go the route of dish soap, look for one without fragrance. Castile soap is a natural, vegetable-based product made primarily of coconut and olive oils. It’s simply soap that uses naturally found and sourced ingredients. A lot of soaps contain petroleum and other toxic, caustic ingredients. Castile soap is an effective and safe alternative. It’s a great multipurpose cleaner. One word of caution—castile soap and vinegar don’t mix. The acid in the vinegar mixes with the castile to make a sludge.”
Tip: “It’s so safe that you can use it to clean fruit and vegetables and to brush your teeth.”
3. White Vinegar
“You can get a gallon or so of it at a warehouse store for under $3. White vinegar is used for pickling, but in the correct ratio and concoction, it’s a wonderful household and cleaning product. As with hydrogen peroxide, don’t use white vinegar on marble or granite as the acid can etch away and damage the surface over time.”
Tip: “Use it in the laundry room, to deodorize, as a cleaner, and as a disinfectant.”
4. Baking Soda
“That little box is a powerhouse: You can use it to scrub away tough stains; shine your sinks, showers, and tubs; and to deodorize or freshen up everything from a refrigerator to a mattress or carpet.
Tip: “Keep a mason jar on hand for sprinkling with your soap or cleaner whenever you need a little scrubbing action or deodorizing.”
Be sure to check out Becky’s Clean Mama blog for her DIY cleaning solution recipes. And here are more domestic science stories on our site: