Swap Out Commercial Cleaners for DIY All-Natural Alternatives

Before you roll-up your sleeves and get down to a good, deep cleanse around the house, let’s talk about the type of cleaners you’re using. When you walk down the cleaning products aisle, the labels call out with powerful statements about killing bacteria and viruses. Other bottles claim to root out mold and demolish mildew or give your windows a streak-free shine. Sounds good, right? 

What if I told you there’s something better? Something safer. Something that will deep clean and leave behind a fresh scent without chemical components. Even better, what if I told you that it’s something you could make on your own? Here are 5 do-it-yourself cleaners that will be good for the environment, good for you, and good for your wallet

The basics: 

When you’re making out your shopping list, you’re going to want to stock up on white vinegar, baking soda, tea-tree oil, and lemons. These simple ingredients are powerhouse natural cleaners. As you dig into the recipes here or find others to experiment with online, you’ll quickly learn that at least one of these basics is a component you’re going to need. 

1. Glass cleaner

Grab a spray bottle and add two cups of water to it. Combine ½ cup of white vinegar, ¼ cup of rubbing alcohol, and a few drops of your favorite scented essential oil. I recommend trying a citrus scented oil or peppermint. Shake the spray bottle gently to combine the ingredients. Spray the solution on a microfiber cloth and apply it to your window or mirror to clean. 

2. All-purpose cleaner

You’re not going to want to use this one on your windows, but everything else is fair game. Combine ¾ cup of water with ½ cup of rubbing alcohol and a squirt of natural dish soap. Add the same essential oil you used to clean your windows. You can combine these in another squirt bottle for easy application. 

3. Removing mold and mildew

Tea-tree oil is a natural disinfectant and one you ought to keep around the house for a myriad of uses. One task ideal for tea-tree oil is banishing mold and mildew. Add a couple of teaspoons of the oil to 2 cups of water and spray the mixture on the area you wish to clean. You’re going to want to let it sit – the more deeply rooted the mold and mildew, the longer you want to leave it. When you’re ready to remove the cleaner, apply some baking soda. If you’re working on a vertical surface, you may need to make the baking soda into a thick paste with a bit of water. If you’ve cleaned a horizontal service and the tea-tree treated water is still pooled there, just sprinkle enough baking soda to form a paste. Using a small brush, scrub the area gently and then rinse. For tougher stained grout and tile, try using some peroxide, either on its own or in a paste with baking soda. Apply, let sit, and then scrub as needed.

4. Garbage disposal

If you’ve got a garage disposal that smells a little funky, there’s a natural freshen-up for that, too. The next time you’re enjoying an orange or using lemon in a dish, save the peels. Fill an ice cube tray with them and top each cube off with white vinegar. For an added aromatic boost, throw in sprigs of fresh herbs like rosemary or lavender. When you want to freshen things up, toss in a frozen cube and turn on the garbage disposal.

5. Wood polish

Treat your wooden furniture to a natural clean with a few items from your kitchen. Combine the juice of one lemon with a tablespoon of water and a tablespoon of grapeseed or olive oil in a small jar. Seal the jar tightly and shake the ingredients until they emulsify. Using a clean cloth, apply the mixture to your furniture.

by Anjie Cho

Yes, You Can Use Rugs (Even With Allergies!)

Our goal at Holistic Spaces is to help you create a nurturing home where you feel safe, nourished and uplifted. This can include anything from the way you choose to design your space to the type of artwork you hang to the materials of your furniture, bedding, rugs, etc. This last aspect of creating an ideal home can be incredibly important if allergies are a concern for you. Fortunately, you don't have to forego beautiful rugs to avoid the sniffles!

If carpeting is a problem for you because of allergies (or even if you live in New York City, where carpeting is rare), rest easy in the knowledge that washable rugs and hardwood floors are actually much better, health-wise! It's easy to understand with hardwood floors; they're easier to clean and contain no fibers to trap icky dust mites and the like. Hardwood is notoriously not so great on cold feet, though, so don't kiss rugs goodbye! If you choose washable rugs and pay close attention to the material, it is absolutely possible for gorgeous rugs and allergies to co-exist.

Swing Low (Pile)

First things first, opt for low-pile rugs. While lush, thick carpeting is comforting during the cold winter, it offers many more places for mites and allergens to hide out, which is no good for those of us who are sensitive. In choosing shorter threads and less plush materials, we can add rugs to our space and still breathe easy.

Go Natural

In the same vein, check out natural material options, for a variety of reasons. Many natural materials, like jute, contain organic substances like tannin that repel some of the gross creatures that make us sneeze and tear up. In addition, there are a variety of companies who produce jute and other organic rugs that contribute directly to Fair Trade practices and serve to help others in developing countries and save on your pharmacy bill. 

Keep It Clean!

Finally, no matter what type of rug you choose, make sure to clean it regularly! This should go without saying, since part of having a holistic space is having a clean space, but especially in the case of allergens, it's important not to skip the rugs. Vacuum rugs regularly with a HEPA filter to ensure you're picking up everything you can, and be sure to take them out for a good shake from time to time! 

If you've read any of our rug posts and wished you could add rugs to your holistic space, this is the way to go! By taking care to pay attention to materials and styles and keeping your space clean, we're confident you can bring rugs into your space without buying an extra box of tissues. If you decide to go for it, let us know! 

by Anjie Cho

3 Different Ways to Put Essential Oils to Work in Your Home

I want you to take a deep breath. Imagine inhaling the sweet, invigorating smell of citrus or refreshing smell of peppermint. It makes you smile, doesn’t it? While you're sitting in front of the screen, relaxed and remembering your favorite scents, let’s talk about essential oils. 

First, let’s define what we’re talking about. Essential oils are plant oils that contain the essence or smell of the plant. You may think of soaps and perfumes when someone says “essential oil,” but did you know that these nose-delighting oils have a place in your home, too? Here are three of the applications for essential oils in your home.

Pest Control

To paraphrase an old camp song, the “ants go marching…” away from peppermint oil. So will spiders and rodents. Add 10-15 drops of peppermint oil to a spray bottle full of water. Spray your concoction into the cracks and crevices that pests may use as an entry point into your home. You can also add a few drops of the oil to a cotton ball and leave that near exterior doors and windows. The peppermint may help deter flies and other winged insects, as will drops of citronella oil.

Clean and freshen up the bathroom

Are you running out of elbow grease trying to get soap scum off your shower curtain and walls? Fill a spray bottle with warm water, then add four drops of eucalyptus essential oil and 4 drops of tea tree oil. Apply the spray to the surfaces you wish to clean. Leave it there to help fight mold, too! 

You can also add a few drops of your favorite scent to the inside of a toilet paper roll or on a cotton ball placed behind the toilet to freshen the room. Grapefruit, lavender and citrus are fantastic picks for this task. If you’re looking for something to help clean (in and out of the bathroom!) add 20 drops each of eucalyptus, lemon, and pine along with 1 ounce of white vinegar to a 2 ounce spray bottle. Add water to the bottle to fill it. Shake well before each use. This fantastic, natural cleaner will do wonders for your counters, sinks, windows, mirrors, and more!

Kitchen Powerhouse

Grab the lemon essential oil and tackle burnt pans and hard-to-remove, stuck-on food! Just fill your tough-to-clean pots and pans with water, bring the water to a boil and add a few drops of lemon oil. When the pot/pan is cool enough to handle, clean as you would normally. You can also add this oil to the soap compartment of your dishwasher for spot-free dishes! Don’t put that lemon oil away just yet. Add 2-5 drops directly to a damp sponge to combat bacteria and germs on countertops and cutting boards

Essential oils have more work to do in your kitchen. Combine 5 drops of bergamot and 5 drops of lime oil with ½ cup of baking soda and ¼ cup of peroxide. You can use this mixture to clean your sink! Just scrub gently and then rinse with warm water. 

Have tough odors haunting your kitchen? Pick your favorite essential oil and add a few drops to a cotton ball. Drop the cotton directly in your garbage can before placing the garbage bag. If the odoriferous offender is lingering in your fridge, there’s a cure for that, too. Try combining 5-10 drops of a citrusy scented oil to a small bowl of water. Wipe down the shelves and compartments of your fridge with the scented water. 

These simple uses for essential oils in the home are just the beginning! What’s your favorite way to use essential oils? I’d love to hear your ideas!

by Anjie Cho

5 Tips for Green Cleaning with White Vinegar

If this isn't your first visit to Holistic Spaces, you may know how much I love to use household products to create safe, non-toxic and eco-friendly cleaning materials. In fact, we've even discovered new ways of using coconut oil, apple cider vinegar and lemon juice to handle household cleaning and even as all-natural beauty products. One of my all-time favorite household products for use in green cleaning is white vinegar. 

You can check out my recipes for eco-friendly washing detergent, natural shower cleaner, all-purpose cleaner and even my tips on how to use white vinegar to make a smelly chair smell new or to get rid of those pesky salt stains on suede shoes, and on top of that, white vinegar can do so much more!

Neutralize Odors

White vinegar is an amazing tool for making a place that may not smell so good, smell better! Whether you've recently burnt supper, painted with some not-so-eco-friendly paint, cooked with lots of garlic or just need to refresh a new space with icky odors, placing a shallow bowl of white vinegar in the area can do the trick. Lots of times, we dilute vinegar with water, but in this case, just let plain old, 100% white vinegar do the trick all on its own.

Disinfect Air Filters

While you're busy making the air in your home smell better, take a peek at your air conditioner filter, if you're lucky enough to have one. Air filters can collect a ton of gross stuff (think dust, germs, and if you have a pet, pet dander too)! Soaking your filter in a 50/50 water to white vinegar solution for about an hour can help get rid of these unhealthy particles and make sure you're putting clean air back into your home.   

Unclog Drains

We all know the pain of dealing with a clogged drain and a landlord who won't put that on his list of priorities. If your efforts at unclogging haven't worked so far, or if you're looking for a less toxic route than store-bought chemicals, try baking soda and white vinegar! Be careful with this combination, because it does cause a chemical reaction and will bubble and fizz, so you'll want to keep that reaction in the drain...not on your counter. Just pour boiling water down the clogged drain, follow it up with a half cup of baking soda, and a few minutes later, add a mix of 1 part boiling water and 1 part vinegar (2 cups total). Plug up the drain, let it sit for 5-10 minutes, then flush with more boiling water. After a few minutes, flush with cold water, and you're good to go!

Clean Kitchen Gadgets

Some kitchen utensils and pieces are easy to clean and require nothing but soap and water. But other gadgets aren't so easy, and that's where white vinegar comes in. 

To clean a coffee maker, just run a batch of white vinegar, diluted 2:1 with water. Make sure to use a clean filter, and once the brew cycle is finished, run another cycle with a clean filter and pure water. You'll want to run two batches with just pure water after the vinegar to make sure you don't end up with a cup of black coffee and a touch of vinegar. 

Can openers are another kitchen gadget that can't be cleaned as easily as a dish wash cycle. If the rotating wheel is starting to look filthy, dip an old toothbrush in 100% white vinegar, then turn the wheel and clean with the brush. This works for manual can openers as well as electric! 

Keep Colors Fresh

Nothing's worse than buying a new red shirt and watching it turn every other piece of clothing in the washing machine a cool pink. Sometimes this can happen even if you wash it with "like" colors! If you're worried about a bright new piece of clothing fading or running onto other shirts or towels, soak it in pure white vinegar for 10-15 minutes before the first wash. A few cups should do the trick!

by Anjie Cho

What To Do With Castile Soap

What To Do With Castile Soap.jpg

If you've been to a health store, you've probably seen Castile soap, most likely Dr. Bronner's. Castile soap is a soap made with natural oils and chemical reactions. The only chemicals involved in making Castile soap are sodium hydroxide and/or potassium hydroxide (commonly known as lye). Since these chemicals are all used up when they react to the oils, Castile soap is chemical free, non-toxic and eco-friendly. Not only is this soap completely safe and holistic, it has multiple uses outside the shower! 

All-purpose Cleaning

Since Castile soap is safe to use anywhere, it makes the perfect ingredient for all-purpose cleaner, in fact, my favorite DIY recipe for non-toxic cleaner includes Castile soap! Take a peek at the recipe below for making your own eco-friendly all-purpose cleaner. 

All Purpose Cleaner

1/2 cup vinegar
1 cup hot water
1/8 tsp Castile soap
optional (but recommended!) - 9 drops essential oil (Eucalyptus or Tea Tree oil is naturally antibacterial/antimicrobial)

Pour into a spray bottle and shake before each use

If you're not the DIY type, check out the Citrus All-Purpose Cleaner from Celadon Road. I discovered the Celadon Road all-natural cleaning line last year, and I've been using it ever since! I love it!

Mop It Up

Hardwood floor cleaner can be expensive and potentially toxic, depending on the brand, but if you have a little Castile soap and some hot water, say goodbye to spending your hard-earned money on cleaning supplies! For a three gallon bucket of hot water, just add half a cup of Castile soap and a mop for shiny floors (unless they're carpeted) and a clean, holistic space. 

Sop It Up

We mentioned above that using the Castile soap/hot water solution with a mop on carpet might not work, but you CAN make a carpet cleaner using the same ingredients! Instead of renting carpet cleaning gear or paying someone to do it for you, mix a cup of water and 1/4 cup of Castile soap in a blender until you get a foam consistency. Then use that to clean your carpet holistically, without toxins and without making a dent in your wallet.

Castile soap is often sold in the personal care aisle, so we know it's great for use as body wash, shampoo, pet shampoo and even for acne treatment, but its power goes far past that one room. Next time you're on the health aisle, remember all the amazing ways Castile soap can help you create a nurturing space, and pick up a bottle! 

by Anjie Cho