Cleaning Toilets: Two New Products I like

With 2 little boys in my home, toilet cleaning is something I’m really interested in these days! ๐Ÿ™‚

Tip: Vinegar neutralizes urine. Try it on toilets, carpet (don’t ask) with a water rinse.

The toilet was pretty dirty, so I started with my vinegar/water spray on the toilet, and wiped it down with a paper towel.

Next I sprayed with a new product from Seventh Generation: Bathroom Cleaner and wiped with a rag.

I found a great sale on Seventh Generation products (half off at Fred Meyer’s Founders Day Sale, plus used a coupon) so I picked up their bathroom cleaner to try out. It must be made with Thyme oil, as the strong smell suggests (thymol is a strong anti-bacterial oil, rivaling any chemical, yet is non-toxic). The spray comes out like a foam, which works well for wiping all over the outside of the toilet, around the seat, the floor, etc. It seemed to clean well, and I liked there being a nice scent at the end.

Last, I dumped about 1/4 cup of Washing Soda by Arm and Hammer (found it alongside the “regular” laundry detergents at the grocery store) into the bowl, and scrubbed with a rag. It seems to scrub just as well as baking soda, and the fresh scent is really great. Great deodorizer. It is all natural, but not edible, and should not be used in place of baking soda.

And now that the toilet is really clean again, we can consider painting a bullseye inside it!

Clean Floors: Bliss to My Feet

I love it when my carpets are freshly vacuumed, and my hard floors are freshly mopped (as they are right now!). Bliss to my feet!

Clean floors are an important part of home health, especially if there are babies in the home who spend a good portion of their time on the floor. Those sweet little hands that crawl on the floor. . . they go right into the mouth, don’t they?

Shoe Removal

In addition to keeping floors much cleaner through the week, shoe removal contributes to a healthy home. Most parents are aware of the hazard of lead from paint, and its toxic effect to children. Since I’ve only lived in homes built after 1978 since becoming a parent, I did not pay much attention to these warnings. Then I learned that children can still be exposed to lead through roadside dirt that has been tracked into the home (roadside dirt generally has a high concentration of lead from exhaust residue which came before lead was banned from gasoline).

Of course, I don’t do a lot of walking along major roadsides. But it did get me thinking about what else might be coming in on my shoes. From the grocery store, and occasional public restroom, to the library and local farm for eggs and milk, my shoes go many places and must have an entire mini ecosystem of bacteria and filth living on them.

And so I began removing my shoes when I enter my home, and requiring my children to do the same. It did help that we moved to a home with new carpet around that time, and the No-Shoes-on-Carpet rule became so ingrained into my children that they are now self-appointed Shoe Police, ordering all to drop their dirty duds.

Large metal bins, placed both near the front and back doors, help contain the pile of little shoes and boots that now reside near the doors.

Cleaning Floors

  • Carpets: vacuum with a strong vacuum. For spots, first blot or scrub with plain water and a terry cloth rag (old wash cloth). If it doesn’t release, use a soap-based non-aerosol carpet/upholstery shampoo. I have had good results on both carpet and upholstery with Howard Naturals Upholstery Cleaner. Equal parts vinegar and water can neutralize urine odors.
  • Hard Floors: Sweep all loose debris from floors, then mop and wipe dry.

    • For vinyl, tile, and varnished wood floors, use 2 gallons warm water and 1 cup of vinegar.
    • For Linoleum floors, use 1/4 cup vegetable oil based liquid soap in 2 gallons warm water.

    I put the solution in a bucket, and wash the floor with a rag while on my hands and knees. I use an old bath towel to dry behind as I go. More difficult than a mop? Absolutely, but a mop is really just a filthy sponge that gets used and reused on floors without cleanings in between. If you have a mop where the cleaning rag can be removed and laundered between use, awesome! Since mine was the old sponge type, I chucked it in favor of a truly clean floor. I always have a laundry load of rags to launder together in hot water and oxygen bleach at the end of cleaning day.

Natural Egg Dyes

I’ve been intrigued by the idea making your own egg dyes from foods. Artificial dye isn’t a great thing for anyone to be eating, and although we don’t eat the egg shells, in years past some dye has soaked through the shells onto the hardboiled eggs. So this year I decided to try making my own dye.

First I hardboiled 9 white duck* eggs (I have a chicken egg allergy) and placed the boiled eggs into glass jars. Then I made these dyes:

  • yellow: orange peel boiled in 1.5 cups water, with 1.5 tsp. white vinegar added when dye is poured over eggs
  • pink: the juice from a can of pickled beets
  • purple (blue?): several large purple cabbage leaves boiled in 1.5 cups water, with 1.5 tsp. white vinegar added when dye is poured over eggs
  • orange: dried outer skins from several yellow onions boiled in 1.5 cups water, with 1.5 tsp. white vinegar added when dye is poured over eggs
  • brown: leftover strong coffee, with the grounds thrown in with the egg as well (I put some vinegar in with this for good measure, although some people don’t as the coffee should already be acidic enough to set the color)

We had several blue and green chicken eggs, as well as brown, which came ready-dyed from the hens. ๐Ÿ™‚ So I decided not to attempt more blue and green colors. If you are wanting to add these colors then the following could be used:

  • blue: 1 cup frozen blueberries boiled in water, with 1 tsp. vinegar added for each cup water
  • green: spinach boiled in water, with 1 tsp. vinegar added for each cup water

You can see in my picture the array of colors in the jars. They are so jewel-like; the picture doesn’t do it justice. For several colors I did not have enough dye water to cover the eggs completely, so I stuffed some of the oranges, beets, and cabbage down around the eggs to raise the water level. Boiled orange peel smells heavenly . . . can’t say the same for the cabbage! ๐Ÿ™‚

The eggs should be left in until you are happy with the amount of color, and then removed from the dye and dried with paper towels. It looks to me like the beet colored ones may be done tonight (after only 1-2 hours), but the rest will be going in the fridge in their dye overnight.

I will post a picture of the final product tomorrow!

My children thought the whole process was amazing, especially which kind of food we were using for each color. Of course, the event wasn’t the same as the dipping procedure we’ve done in the past . . . it’s more watch and wait, and less hands-on for the kids. (But it’s also less mess for mom to clean up!) They will get to help me pull the eggs out in the morning and dry them. If we had started earlier in the evening, we would have had time to use a white crayon to make designs on the eggs before their dye bath; maybe next year!

Update: Next Morning

Here is a picture of our eggs the next morning. (Left to right dyes: natural chicken blue eggs, orange peel, yellow onion skin, cabbage, beet juice, coffee -back, natural chicken brown -front.)

I was surprised that it wasn’t the beet juice that gave the strongest color, but the cabbage and onion dyes. I actually took the eggs out of the onion dye last night, leaving all the rest in overnight.

The yellow (orange peel) was a disapointment, with only a tinge of yellow staying on the eggs. Perhaps a naval orange isn’t the right kind of peel, but I think I’ll try paprika boiled in water next year.

We noticed that it was easy to make smudges on the eggs when blotting the eggs dry, so be careful, or rub with an intentional pattern in mind.

All in all, it was a colorful success!

 

How to get a Really Clean Bathroom (without asphyxiating yourself in the process)

Everyone knows how to clean a bathroom, right? Just grab your aerosol can of mega-disinfectant, spray everything in sight, wipe with a paper towel, swish the toilet with a brush, and shine the mirror with a fragranced blue liquid, and you’re done.

Perfectly clean. Or is it?

In addition to the sizable amount of grime left behind by this method, numerous toxic chemicals are left on the surfaces of your fixtures for hours or days. Not to mention all the dangerous vapors you had to inhale as you sprayed those products.

What if we cleaned our dishes this same way; some disinfectant spray and a paper towel for all the silverware and glasses after a party? Yuk, I’m not sticking that in my mouth. Although I never plan to put my mouth on my toilet, the same concept holds true: a soapy water wash is a cleaner clean.

It’s time for a new paradigm in bathroom clean.

A non-toxic clean:

  • Isn’t complicated, you’ll use items already in your kitchen
  • Can be much more affordable than using standard chemical products
  • Means you will remove the grime and odors, not cover them with disinfectants and fragrances

Read my post on Washing the Bathroom to get a blow-by-blow (albeit mundane) how-to on getting a really clean bathroom.

Step 2: Preclean Vanity

  • Before actually cleaning the vanity area, it is necessary to remove all the stuff that can makes its way onto the countertop; put away personal care products, medication, toothbrushes, and jewelry. Move candles and/or any other decorative items to a different area so they are protected and you can clean under them.
  • Next, spray the mirror and vanity with the vinegar water, and buff with a dry rag. If you notice streaks on the mirror, this is from the previous glass cleaners you have used which leave a film. You can add a small amount (1/8 tsp) of liquid castile soap or liquid dishwashing soap to your vinegar spray and this should help wash away that old film. Next time you make up your vinegar spray it should be unnecessary to add this.
  • Once the mirror has been shined, wipe the counter clean of dust, cosmetic spills, and hair, thoroughly rinse rag in the sink.

Go to Step 3: Wash Vanity andย Sink.

Step 3: Wash Vanity and Sink

  • Respray vanity area and faucet with vinegar spray. Using your thoroughly rinsed rag, scrub counter and backsplash tiles, paying close attention to edges and ledges that collect dust, and to any areas with dried on toothpaste or other gunk.
  • Sprinkle about 1/8 cup baking soda in the sink. Add water as necessary to make a thick paste
  • Scrub all areas of the sink
  • Scrub and wipe all the areas around the faucets to remove gunk and mineral buildup, rinsing your rag as necessary
  • Next, pull the drain stopper out of the drain. If you have not cleaned it for awhile this will be disgusting, however, it must be cleaned, and next week it won’t be so filthy. Pull off any hair balls with attached muck, and flush down toilet. Use the soda paste in the sink to scrub away all the black muck on the stopper, rinsing periodically as you go. Scrub the top of the drain, and wipe around the inside of it an inch or so.
  • Rinse the entire sink and replace stopper.
  • Retrieve those decorative countertop items, wipe them free of dust, and replace.
  • If you have oversprayed or splatter the mirror with water, rewipe those areas with a dry cloth.

Go to Step 4: Mop Floor.

Step 4: Mop Floor

Note: this recipe is suitable for vinyl flooring. Check out cleaner recipes for tile, wood, and linoleum. If you have carpet in your bathroom, I highly recommend replacing it right away with a hard surface which will not harbor bacteria, biological waste, and dust mites. In the meantime, vacuum for dust and lightly spray with vinegar water to reduce urine odors.

Prepare a mop bucket with 4-6 quarts warm water and 1/2 cup vinegar.

  • Vacuum or sweep entire floor, removing the wastebasket and other items on floor.
  • Using a rag wet in the bucket solution and wrung out, wipe floor surface, starting at the bathroom door and working towards the toilet.
  • Continue to rinse the rag in the bucket as you clean, paying attention to the edges of the floor and baseboards as these are dusty areas. You may want to fold an old towel/rag for your knees to rest on, and to use to wipe up any water left behind.
  • The greatest amount of bacteria and grime will be in immediate area around the toilet, so it makes sense to finish with this area rather than spreading the grime around the bathroom.

Go to Step 5: Wash Toilet.

Step 5: Wash Toilet

  • With floor rag, wash the exterior of the toilet tank, continuing to rinse the rag in the bucket.
  • Pay attention to the area where the toilet is bolted to the floor. This make require multiple scrubbings to come clean. Wash as far as you can reach around the back of the bowl, and in all crevices.
  • The baking soda which you left in and on the toilet at the end of your precleaning will help to deodorize and scour away mineral deposits. Wash the entire inside of bowl, using the rag and soda to scrub under the lip where stains are not visible from overhead. Flush, holding tightly to rag to rinse it. Repeat soda scrubbing if necessary. For tough mineral deposits, a scouring stick will do the trick; removing the water from the bowl may be necessary to allow it to work effectively.
  • Once the cleaning rag has cleaned the toilet/toilet area, it is fully soiled, and should be laundered and disinfected before it is used again for cleaning. The solution in the bucket should be discarded and the bucket washed out.

Go to Step 6: Hydrogen Peroxide Spray.

Step 9: Shower and Tub

I’m of the theory that showers are too difficult to clean from the outside, and I much prefer to clean mine while using it.

I keep a scrub brush and spray bottle of hydrogen peroxide in the shower for a quick all-over scrub of the walls, floor and crevices around the door. Periodically the floor needs a scouring, which requires baking soda and a little more elbow grease. A daily spray of hydrogen peroxide in areas prone to mold help keep it in check, as does an all-over squee-gee to remove water drops before you exit the shower.

Tubs that are used often will also need periodic scourings with baking soda and water. On a weekly basis, spray with vinegar water and wipe down with a damp rag, then rinse.