Products I Frequently Use

During my career I have used all sorts of commercial cleaning products, but I started to turn away from them when I realized the negative effects they had on my skin, eyes and respiratory system. I teach housekeepers to use natural products as much as possible and to protect themselves from chemical cleaning products when they do by covering their skin, eyes and mouth. One of the rules of basic professional housekeeping is to use weakest cleaning product solution (try water and a soft cloth first) and the least abrasive. One reason is speed, if you over use a product you will have to spend more time rinsing it away, which slows you down and if you don’t rinse cleaning products away the surface will probably be dull and sticky. Also using the wrong product or overusing it can damage the surface. Another rule is, more often lightly is far better than heavily occasionally, keep putting chores off and you’re more likely to get out the “big guns”, which tend to be toxic, abrasive and time consuming.

Scratches are unsightly and caused by abrasives, they ruin the look of things such as stainless steel, but they also make it harder to clean the next time. Think of it this way, it’s easy to climb up rocks as there’s something to hold onto, if the stone surface is highly polished like a kitchen counter you wouldn’t get very far without chipping holes in it. It’s the same for dirt, it’s harder for it hold onto an unscratched surface. Most commercial cleaners don’t list their ingredients, legally they don’t have to! You could argue they want to keep their formula a secret, but often they use harmful substances and even when ingredients are listed the names are changed to sound more appealing. The labels say “natural”, but that doesn’t mean it won’t harm you, so why take the chance when you can use food ingredients to clean with? Too many products (even so called “green” ones) contain known carcinogens and how many people stop to read the warning labels? They are usually printed in very small letters on the bottom of the label and frankly speaking some should have a large skull and crossbones in bigger print than the products name.

The Product List

  • White Vinegar

  • Ph. Balanced Cleaner

  • Dishwashing Liquid

  • Baking Soda

  • Oxalic Acid (Bar Keepers Friend)

1. White Vinegar

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This has been ingested and used as a cleaning agent for centuries and there’s no reason to stop using it now. Removes lime scale and rust, germs and neutralizes pet-stain odor. For cleaning my shower, sink and toilet I mix vinegar and a Ph. Balanced cleaner (turning it acidic) in equal parts and pour in a spray bottle, the soap cleanses and the vinegar demineralizes. As I squeegee after each shower all I have to do is spray some on a cloth and wipe down or brush the surfaces and rinse. For really heavy soap scum mix a petroleum dishwashing detergent and vinegar in equal parts and spray all the surfaces, leave on for an hour to digest the soap scum and then scrub using a cloth or brush until the surfaces feel smooth and then rinse away. Trick here is to use as little of the solution as possible as it gets messy and petroleum dishwashing detergent isn’t good for the environment. Now the shower, tub or sink is clean try not to let get that bad again!

2. Ph. Balanced “multi-surface” Cleaner

Okay, I admit it, life’s too short to keep rinsing everything after cleaning it so I tend to clean most things (unless they need sanitizing) at home with a damp cloth. If I need a little extra help I use a Ph. Neutral cleaner because I don’t want to leave acids damaging painted and varnished surfaces. Another reason is when I clean I don’t like wearing gloves and a neutral cleaner doesn’t irritate my skin.

3. Dishwashing Liquid (DWL)

I use DWL more than any other cleaning agent and not just in the kitchen. It’s non-abrasive and good for most surfaces, use as little as possible; if not rinsed properly, it can leave a film that will leave surfaces sickly and dull. Common household brand named DWL is usually either petroleum or palm oiled based, both of which have a negative environmental impact, I admit I do use these for specific tasks such as removing grease from protein based fabrics. Most of the time I use a DWL with better environmental credentials and usually opt for fragrance and dye free, after all “clean” is odorless and color can be fun, but it’s unnecessary.

4. Baking Soda

There have to be a billion articles on baking soda uses from teeth whiting to, well, almost everything. I wish I had time to try them all to see if they’re true. I do use it as an abrasive to remove stains on my Corian countertops and to deal with odors both dry (sprinkle on fabrics) and diluted for washing clothes. I use it for cleaning my refrigerator and freezer, I remove the plastic bins, door shelves and glass shelves (let glass warm to room temperature before placing in hot water) and wash them in hot soapy water, but the interior walls I wipe with baking soda dissolved in hot water. I haven’t got a box of baking soda inside for odor control, yes it does a great job, but as I drink coffee I simply spread out the used grounds on a tray and when they are dry place them in large yoghurt containers with holes punched in the lid and pop one in refrigerator and the other in the freezer

5. Oxalic Acid (Bar Keepers Friend)

When all else fails and I am about to rethink my policy of no scouring pads I reach for BKF, yes its classed as a souring powder, but I am not interested in abrasion it’s the oxalic acid I after. Oxalic acid is present in many plants and vegetables and I mainly use it for stainless steel cookware (although it good for old bathtub ring marks and removing rust), BKF for cookware has a higher percentage of oxalic acid than the regular version. The trick to avoid scratching is to allow it to dissolve and very gently work it over stains with a soft cloth. Take are when handling, wear gloves and gently pour a little out of the container to prevent inhaling a dust cloud.

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