Sticky counters, gritty surfaces, and are those ants?!!
Have you ever experienced any of those after cleaning with green cleaning methods like lemon juice or baking soda? Me too. The disappointment of going back to your sparkling stainless-steel sink after cleaning it only to see a dusty-white film of baking soda still covering it is all too real! Green cleaning is cheap and a great way to avoid nasty chemicals but as with anything else, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it.
If you are finding sticky lemon juice residue or dusty baking soda residue on the surface you just cleaned it means one thing: You didn’t rinse well. You do need to rinse off the cleaning agents you use. Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean you can just let it sit there and not rinse it off. So take care to rinse well, there’s nothing more disappointing than a residue of gritty baking soda on your nice clean counter top! I recommend using a clean cloth and rinsing it in clean water after every pass or two when rinsing and wiping down your surface.
Oil & Water Don’t Mix
Essential oils are awesome, and incredibly helpful with properties ranging from killing bacteria to just giving your natural cleaning products a lovely scent. However, they are still OIL, they are hydrophobic (literally afraid of water), they do NOT mix with water or other hydrophilic liquids without some sort of emulsifier. It’s just like making a dressing. Make a vinaigrette of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, add your favorite herbs, a dash a salt & pepper, and w hat happens? You have bands of vinegar and oil. Now make one that contains mustard, it helps emulsify the water and oil so you get a dressing that doesn’t separate and looks creamier in texture. The first vinaigrette is what happens when you add essential oils to your vinegar cleaning solution: it sits on top of the vinegar in an oily blob and will do nothing to help you clean. Shake all you want, those few drops of oil won’t be evenly spread throughout your mixture – unless you add an emulsifier.
Natural Isn’t Non-Toxic
Lots of things that are natural can kill you, just think of all the poisonous plants that are out there from belladonna to poison ivy. I’ve talked about this before, but it’s a big one. You must be careful with natural ingredients just as you would with synthetic ones. In addition to any inherent toxic attributes there is also the possibility of having allergies to natural ingredients. This also includes essential oils! Remember, essential oils are HIGHLY concentrated, and your pets and children may be especially sensitive to them or they can be downright toxic to them. They can also burn or irritate the skin, especially cinnamon oil! Always use a carrier oil if you are applying them to skin, and ask your Doctor or Vet before applying ANY essential oils to your young children or pets.
Special Treatments for Special Things
If you want to keep your special things looking their best, then you need to learn how to care for them. There are right ways and wrong ways to do that. For example cast iron, soap and water will break down the protective patina you get from using them, so you should always keep them nice and dry and minimize use of those cleaning agents. Recommended methods of cleaning them involve, using salt to scrub off left over bits on a still warm pan and quickly rinsing it off then drying completely, by heating on the stove, let it cool enough to handle then rub some oil into your pan. Don’t use baking soda and vinegar on your wood furniture (it would really prefer something with oils in it, like Murphy’s Oil Soap) or it will ruin the finish and maybe the wood! Same goes for your stainless steel appliances, don’t use scratchy Brillo pads, or other scratchy cleaners – even baking soda or you can scratch it! Remember, always select your cleaner for the job you are doing. If you have something you don’t know how to clean, look it up! Especially if it’s worth a lot to you! Even natural cleaners can screw up your things if you use the wrong product on the wrong thing!
Don’t let these common green cleaning mistakes sour you on greening up your cleaning routine! You can easily avoid them with a little extra work and a little extra research. Green cleaning is still a great frugal and safe alternative to the expensive and harsh chemicals often found in conventional cleaning products.