Homemade cleaning products and the unintended confusion of colour coded cloths

Homemade cleaning products and the unintended confusion of colour coded cloths

Do homemade cleaning products really work? Is it possible to get great results without the chemicals? I’ve done the leg work so that you don’t have to. This blog post will explore what really works, what doesn’t, how we clean our house without chemicals and how Mr Sidestepping-normal has really got into this whole green cleaning malarkey.

Mr SN whizzing around the house…

Why we opt for homemade cleaning products…

I’ve always been ‘earthy’ but it wasn’t until I started to clean my own house that it felt so wrong to spray everything in a fine mist of strong chemicals, breathe them in and then flush them down the toilet and sink. But what are the alternatives, and do the alternatives actually work? 

After ascertaining that I wanted to use cleaning products that are less chemically, I began purchasing environmentally friendly products. Even these weren’t as kind as I’d hoped for, and had a long list of indecipherable ingredients. In the end, I decided to try making my own homemade cleaning products, because I want to be in charge of my health and impact on the earth.

My homemade cleaning products…

We’re also trying to reduce our household waste, and making our own products reduces the amount of plastic packaged products we use. I also wanted to eliminate electrical items, such as a vacuum cleaner, steam cleaner, etc because they cost money to purchase in the first place, cost money to run, invariably break, and ultimately end up in landfill. Additionally, I wanted to avoid disposable items that get thrown in the bin after one use. Things such as toilet wipes, anti bacterial wipes and throwaway dish cloths. 

Mr SN wasn’t entirely sure where my ideas would be leading, but hoped he’d be able to avoid cleaning altogether.

Big companies…

I’d rather not leave it to a huge company to sell me cleaning products, because they couldn’t care less about me or the environment. Let’s face it, those cleaning companies are telling us what we should be buying, because it makes them a lot of money. Full stop.

It’s in their interest to sell us as many products as possible so that they make a lot of money. Consequently, we all end up with a cupboard under the kitchen sink full of every different kind of cleaning solution, for every kind of dirt known to mankind. Well here’s some news, most of them do the same thing. They lift or break down dirt, leaving a clean shiny surface underneath. 

Big cleaning companies con us into buying ten different brightly coloured bottles that contain more or less the same ingredients and do the same thing.

My homemade cleaning products…

What if I told you that I’d be happy to drink some of my cleaning products? Yep, that’s right, some of them are so ‘green’ that I’d happily drizzle them all over my Greek salad.

It’s taken a while to finally get round to bottling and labelling the different cleaning sprays. For a while there were lots of mysterious concoctions throughout our house; Mr SN gave up hope of knowing what we were using anymore. Cleaning the house had become uncertain, so he remedied this by cleaning the car numerous times, even though we were in lockdown and hadn’t been out in it. At least he knew that the bottle labelled ‘car cleaner’ did in fact contain the correct liquid.

My homemade cleaning products…

Yeah, yeah, but is their house ACTUALLY clean?

We might be a couple of hippies living out in the Cretan countryside, but we hate having a dirty home. A clean house is really important to both of us. We have Dora-dog, the two cats, chickens, and we spend half of our time covered in mud from gardening. It would be very easy for our house to quickly decline into a smelly pig sty.

Our lounge in the winter. Now the summer has arrived we don’t have the rug down…

I hate pet hair gathering in the corners of the room or under the bed, treading on crumbs in the kitchen, grubby surfaces and dirty bathrooms. In our old lives as dog walkers, we did our fair share of disgusting house-sitting jobs. It’s left us with a fear of dirty fridges, smelly sofas and stained dish cloths next to the sink. We made a pact to always have lots of animals, but to never let our house get like that.

We don’t have OCD, we’re not over the top, you might catch us on a bad day, but on the whole, everything is clean and tidy, Are there crumbs down the side of the sofa?…Mmmm, there could be, we’re only human.

But what does she ACTUALLY know about cleaning?

I know quite a lot about cleaning. I’ve had various cleaning jobs over the years, from cleaning houses, to offices and restaurants. I know my way around a mop and bucket and don’t get me started on buffing up shower screens.

Last summer I worked part time at a guesthouse. I more or less ran the place, from serving breakfast, washing-up, doing the laundry, ironing the bed sheets and cleaning all the rooms. I spent six months sweeping, mopping, boiling eggs and scrubbing toilets. By the end of the season, I had it off to a fine art, and our rating on booking.com went up to prove it. What my boss only realised half way through, was that I’d started swapping out the chemical cleaning sprays for my homemade ones! He was very worried, but seeing as I’d been doing it without any complaints, he let me carry on.

Working at the guesthouse last season…

But will my house look and smell clean?

Yes, yes and yes! I’ve tried lots of different recipes and ingredients, but what I’m about to tell you really will give you a gleaming house, without the guilt of the harsh chemicals. What’s even better is that it costs next to nothing too.

Our cleaning routine…

I clean the house everyday because we have pets, plus I’d prefer to prevent the house getting really dirty by doing a little bit everyday. There’s nothing worse than putting it off and having a mammoth day of cleaning on your hands. Every morning I sweep the house, clean the floors, do the washing up, wipe down the kitchen surfaces, clean the toilet and sink and shake out the small rugs on the floor. Every few days we dust, clean the shower, clean the windows, plus anything else that is apparent. We don’t use lots of anti bacterial spray, because living in a sterile environment isn’t good for us. We’re made of bacteria, it’s living on us, inside us, in the soil and in the environment around us. We’ve been conditioned to think that all bacteria is bad, but thats not the case.

Since I’ve finally gotten around to labelling the homemade cleaning sprays, Mr SN has really got into cleaning. He now knows what is what, and especially loves the fizzing of the vinegar and bicarbonate of soda; it’s like a primary school science experiment. Little things.

Bicarbonate of soda and vinegar combined…

But I can’t be bothered and I don’t have time…

I know it takes little bit of effort, but once you have the ingredients, it only takes a few minutes to mix them together. If you’re really pressed for time and aren’t quite ready to go the whole hog, how about just making the multi purpose spray that can be used on virtually everything. See the recipe further down.

I’m still learning too…

There are still certain things that I haven’t quite ironed out yet. I’m still using a few sponge scourers. I don’t like them because they’re made of plastic and get thrown away. I’ve tried a few other things, but they don’t work as well. I think I finally have the answer, and I’ll soon be moving over to luffa sponges instead. Luffa is a plant that produces sponge-like fruits. I’m currently trying to grow it from seed so that I can grow my own luffa sponges. 

You shouldn’t feel bad about the changes you haven’t made, instead, commend yourself on the things you have successfully swapped over.

Our homemade cleaning ingredients…

Liquid olive oil soap:

This can be used on anything that needs a good scrub. The kitchen sink, taps, bathroom sink, tiles, shower screen, dirty floors etc. You can read about how we also use liquid olive oil soap in one of my previous posts about doing the laundry. Simply apply it to a scourer/luffa/ scrubbing brush and work into a lather. If you aren’t easily able to source olive oil soap flakes, then you could begin with eco friendly dish soap/ washing-up liquid. Just a few drops will lather up and break down grime and dirt easily.

Vinegar and bicarbonate of soda:

These two are my favourite cleaning combination. Vinegar is an acid and bicarbonate of soda is alkaline. Together, they work wonders on almost everything. They break down dirt and grime and even make a satisfying fizzing noise when combined. They are my first port of call for cleaning a dirty plug, working away at limescale, cleaning the oven, scrubbing the grout in-between tiles, and most importantly, cleaning the toilet. Even when we had a flush toilet, I used vinegar and bicarbonate to clean the toilet bowl. The vinegar is anti bacterial and I can’t imagine germs liking the fizzing action when added to the bicarbonate of soda. Don’t be put off by the vinegar, once it’s watered down and has added essential oils it smells fine. The vinegar is odourless once it’s dried.

(CAUTION: don’t use vinegar on marble or stone, it will mark.)

Lemon:

We use lemon for a few different jobs. Firstly, it’s fantastic at whitening clothes and can be used with bicarbonate of soda to clean, just like the vinegar. It’s an acid, so it’s good at breaking down dirt, especially when combined with bicarbonate of soda. It’s also anti bacterial and smells amazing. We clean our chopping boards with half a lemon and some sea salt. Sprinkle some salt over the chopping board, rub half a lemon all over the board, massaging in the salt. Leave for 15 minutes before rinsing. The lemon and salt neutralise smells and give the chopping board a really good clean.

Picking fresh lemons off the tree…

Alcohol:

Strong spirits (such as vodka) with a high alcohol percentage, are anti bacterial. Think of alcohol based hand sanitisers and gels. Here in Crete they produce a spirit called raki; It’s strong and potent stuff! We use it for spraying down the toilet, and dealing with situations that call for killing germs, such as cleaning up pet sick etc. On a bad day I just spray the alcohol straight into my mouth, cleaning is much more fun when you’re a little sloshed. Only kidding…I’ve never done that.

Eco friendly dish soap/washing-up liquid:

When creating a multi purpose cleaner that cuts through dirt and lathers up a little, we add a little dish soap/washing-up liquid. Unfortunately olive oil soap is not suitable for adding to a lot of liquid. This is because it’s made of fats (olive oil) and doesn’t like to mix with the water…believe me Ive tried! 

Essential oils:

I’ve only recently started adding essential oils to my homemade cleaning products, but I have to say that it really makes them smell amazing. See below for recipes and quantities.

Cloths and other cleaning equipment…

Cleaning cloths:

We have colour coded cloths! I Know, I’m sad, but I love being organised. Each colour signifies a different purpose*** They are all handmade from old clothes, towels and fabric we had laying around. Some are specifically for the toilet, others for dusting, some for washing up etc. They are all reusable and washable and constantly go through the wash. I have so many that I can constantly put them in the washing machine without running out. I particularly hate smelly kitchen cloths, so the ones used for wiping down the kitchen work surfaces are changed every couple of days.

***After five months of my colour coded cloth system, Mr SN STILL has no idea what colour is for which task. I can guarantee he’ll ask me at least twice a week. If our relationship depended on him getting the correct colour all by himself, we wouldn’t last long.

My colour coded cloths that are causing Mr SN so much confusion…

Broom and dustpan and brush:

We use these every day to sweep the floors in the house. We get the majority of the dirt up with the broom, before cleaning the floors. It’s simple, doesn’t use electricity and we managed to find a metal dustpan and a wooden handled broom and brush. Less plastic makes us happy.

Broom nappies:

These are an invention that my sister and I created. I wanted some kind of quick, reusable, washable floor cleaning cloth. We came up with our broom nappies (diapers for you American folks!) which are elasticated and fit over the end of a broom. Then I use my floor spray and wipe the surface clean. It’s so quick and easy and I couldn’t be without them. As with the cloths, I have plenty of them so that I don’t run out.

A ‘broom nappy’

Our homemade cleaning recipes:

Although I do mix up these different sprays for different uses, they’re primarily made of the same ingredients. I like having them in different bottles so that I can add different scents, and so that Mr Sidestepping-normal knows what to use! If this is all new and daunting, then just make the multi purpose spray. It’s easy and effective for lots of different uses.

Glass cleaner:

150ml water, 150ml white vinegar. It’s that easy. Combine in a spray bottle, spray onto windows and buff dry with a clean cloth. We have a special cloth for buffing up glass which makes the glass really shiny. If you have really dirty windows, then clean with olive oil soap or a bucket of hot water with a few drops of dish soap first. Then use this spray to make the glass gleam. It’s also perfect for mirrors, shower screens and any other shiny surface. 

Floor cleaner:

150ml water, 150ml white vinegar, 8-10 drops of essential oils (I use lavender) I use this everyday on the floors with my broom nappy. Because I clean the floors everyday, they are never thick with dirt. If you need something stronger then use the multi purpose cleaner recipe below. If using a mop and bucket, try using hot water, a little dish soap and a glug of white vinegar.

Dusting:

We just use a damp cloth for dusting.

Kitchen counter tops:

150ml water, 150ml white vinegar, 8-10 drops essential oils (I use geranium) I use this everyday to quickly wipe down the counter tops. If they are really dirty then I use the multi purpose spray.

Anti-bacterial spray:

300ml high percentage alcohol (such as vodka) and 8-10 drops of essential oils (optional) Use as a final spray to kill germs. Simply spray on, leave for a minute and wipe dry.

Bathroom sink and shower cleaner:

6 tbsp’s of grated olive oil soap, 500ml boiling water, 12 drops essential oil (I use peppermint). Stir soap flakes until dissolved, leave to cool, add essential oils and then add to a squeeze-ie bottle. This lathers up nicely and breaks down grime on tiles, taps, bath, sink etc. For a bit more cleaning power add some bicarbonate of soda. Rinse off afterwards and buff up with a dry cloth and glass cleaner.

Limescale remover:

combine bicarbonate of soda and vinegar to create a paste. Scrub the limescale and leave for ten minutes. Great for built up limescale on taps, shower screens, tiles etc.

Kitchen sink:

Same as bathroom sink.

Oven cleaner:

Sprinkle bicarbonate of soda in the oven and spray with vinegar. Leave to fizz for ten minutes. Scrub at the dirt and grime; add a little hot water to the solution to soften dried on food. For very stubborn food, leave to soften for longer.

Toilet cleaner:

sprinkle bicarbonate of soda around the rim of the toilet bowl and spray some vinegar on top. Use a toilet brush to scrub the fizzing paste around the rim and the toilet bowl. Leave for twenty minutes. We have a compost toilet, but I still use this combination to clean it. For the toilet seat use a multi purpose cleaner and/or anti bacterial spray. 

Homemade cleaning products…

Multi purpose spray:

150ml water, 150ml white vinegar, 8-10 drops of essential oils (I love geranium), a couple of squirts of dish soap/ washing-up liquid. This can be used for EVERYTHING: floors, kitchen worktops, dusting etc.

What doesn’t work?

So far, the only thing I haven’t found a substitute for is mould and mildew stains. I’m looking into it  and hope to have an answer soon.

Summary…

So that’s how we clean our home using homemade cleaning products. It’s become very normal for us, and I wouldn’t go back to buying the chemical laden products. We love our homemade cleaning products…even if Mr SN hasn’t got a clue what colour cloth does what. Have you considered a green cleaning approach? Do you worry about the harm of chemicals too? Could you be tempted into trying some of the ideas above? Let me know your thoughts. I’m off to make a colour coded key for our cleaning cloths…if he asks me one more time, I swear I’ll…

Never miss a thing! If you’d like to be alerted of new blog posts, subscribe to our newsletter.

22 thoughts on “Homemade cleaning products and the unintended confusion of colour coded cloths

  1. I was thoroughly enjoying your post until I came to the bit about using raki as a cleaning product…….it’s left me heartbroken! Involuntarily exiled from Crete by the Coronavirus I’m salivating at the mere mention of the word raki, even though you do follow that up by suggesting it’s a good idea to spray it down the toilet….NOOOOOOOO, please!!

    Currently, I’d happily knock back even the roughest raki (Makis, Kostas – yes, I’m thinking of you) like it was the finest cognac.

    Thanks for posting, glad to hear you’re both keeping well.

    1. I’m sorry😆 In your honour, when I next spray the toilet, I’ll have a shot at the same time!!!

      Here’s hoping you can return to Crete soon for a customary after dinner raki.
      When you get a ‘good one’ it’s lovely stuff, but some of it’s blooming awful!

  2. This is inspiring.. many thanks for this article. I will try! I enjoy reading your posts very much and admire what you are doing.

  3. Gosh I think you’ll need a good rest in the sunshine after writing all of this – well done! I’m going to keep this for reference for sure.
    I was very fortunate many years ago to find I have very sensitive skin, especially on my hands, they become very dry and itchy with virtually anything, even so called ‘sensitive’ soap. So I learned what I can do, I use emulsifying ointment for showers/hand washing – it’s a bit of a slow routine but at least I know how to wash my hands for at least 20 seconds which is handy these days!
    Also I only use one brand of sensitive washing powder and washing up liquid for absolutely everything! No bleach, no detergent, no fabric conditioner, no air spray, nothing. Plain water for windows, a damp cloth for dusting (as you do). Lots of elbow grease!
    We also have two cats and we have lived this way for twenty years or more, we have a clean house, we’re all very healthy and well.
    Well done for doing all you do, it must take some time and effort and thought, but you must be so proud!
    Maybe just one thing, keep shush to the locals about what you do with their Raki – ha-ha!

    1. I’ll have a cup of tea, in the sunshine on the terrace to recover😁

      Although it must be frustrating, having an issue with sensitive skin sounds like it lead you down a much more natural path.
      There’s a misconception that chemicals = clean. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, especially as you’ve been cleaning like this for years.

      Ha ha, yes, it’s slightly sacrilege to spray raki on the toilet😆

  4. I really enjoy your posts, and this one was really great. Lots of information to get me started. Thank you.

  5. Love this! Definitely going to give these a go! Thank you for the ingredients break down, never even thought about vodka as a cleaner 😂 xxx

    1. Hello😃 You’re welcome. Let me know how you get on. Maybe Dan could be tempted into cleaning the toilet if it involves a splash of vodka?😆 xxx

  6. Re vinegar and bicarbonate of soda, it reminds me of an occasion last year. My wife had gone out with her pals for dinner. This is always a chance for me to nip down the road for haddock and chips. Back home I spread it out, adding a sprinkling of salt and a few splashes of vinegar and popped open a can of beer. To my horror the fish and chips tarted fizzing up – a mass of white bubbles all over the plate. A quick investigation revealed that the white plastic bicarbonate of soda container was suspiciously like the salt canister. And had been placed in the spot where the salt is normally kept. My wife still swears it wasn’t a practical joke and this has now been added to my ever-growing catalogue of Great Culinary Disasters which I’m fearing may some day become a bestseller…

    1. I just read this out loud to Mr SN and we both had a good laugh. I can just imagine your poor fizzing fish ‘n chips 😆

      I think your book of Great Culinary Disasters could really be a hit. Successfully cooked meals are so over rated. There’s a gap in the market with this one😆 If you need a few extra recipes then talk to my husband, he has a few up his sleeve! My particular favourite was mustard and mushroom pasta…it was utterly awful!!!

      Let me know when it’s published😃

  7. Really enjoyed your post , I too use the most of the above as I get asthma so the mere sniff of any chemicals make me wheeze !! Both my girls have eczema so I make my own soap and body butter and swear by olive oil for skin too.

    1. That’s amazing, I love to hear that other people are making beauty products and cleaning products. I completely agree, olive oil is great as a moisturiser. I was just thinking this morning that I’ll try it as a deep moisturising hair mask for my dry ends.

      I think more and more people are turning to chemical free products as they suffer from reactions.

      I’m off to smother my hair in olive oil now😀

  8. Thank you for all these tips – this morning I have tried out the bicarb & vinegar on the floor of my oven & the glass door. Amazing results so I for one won’t be buying any more oven cleaning products!! Love reading your blog & receiving the newsletters – hope things return to normal soon in Crete and the tourist industry all over Greece recovers from the Covid 19 Crisis.

  9. I just love all that you are both doing and writing about, you should make this into a book, such good,funny and entertaining reading, Bravo as they say in Greece!!
    Hope to be there soon to begin another chapter in our lives in Crete!!
    Good luck, stay safe

  10. Thank you for these recipes..I will definitely try some of them. I use white vinegar on lime scale on taps by soaking tissue in it and wrapping it around and then leave it for a while. You mentioned lemon for laundry whites…would you mind sharing what you do as keeping whites white is a no hoper for me sadly! Loving your blog

    1. Hi there,

      Let me know how you get on with the green cleaning.

      I’ve had huge success with using lemons (combined with sunlight) to whiten whites. I’m planning on writing up the method in a blog post in a few weeks time. It’s very simple, and I’ve had great results. If you’s like the recipe before, just let me know, and I’ll email it over.

  11. Have started being more eco-friendly now we live in the country. I have an aunt who cannot have some chemicals in her home due to seriously bad reactions, so makes me feel this is the way to go. Prefer to use lemon juice opposed the vinegar – got so many of them! Going to bookmark this page so I can get cleaning.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *