Picking the Right Ingredients For Home Made Cleaners
A lot of different ingredients turn up in recipes for natural cleaning products. And you’ve got to wonder whether some of them are all that natural or not. “Natural” is a bit of an ambiguous term that isn’t really clarified. It certainly doesn’t mean “organic” or “of vegetable origin”. Not all “natural” cleaners are organic (e.g. baking soda, which is mined) or of vegetable origin (e.g. soap, which often contains animal fats (tallow)).
Some writers have a very loose definition of “natural” when writing recipes for home-made house cleaning products and tend to mean something like “any raw ingredient that you can buy cheaply in your local shop and use to make your own products.”
By “natural”, this writer tends to mean “has the minimal possible effect on the user and the environment throughout the life of the product from extraction/manufacture to breakdown”.
Ingredients that are used for making home-made cleaning products can be divided into Organic and Inorganic, and into Nice (meaning that the product has a low impact on the environment and does not expose you to a barrage of toxins and/or horrible smells when you use it) and Nasty (meaning that the substance is poisonous, noxious or repulsive). And it’s not the case that everything organic is Nice while everything not organic is Nasty. No – you find things in all four possible categories.
All the ingredients listed below have been used in home cleaning products at some stage or another. Use the lists to help you select what’s right for you.
Organic and Nice:
* essential oils
* alcohol (either ethyl alcohol or some strong spirit from your local liquor store)
* olive oil (and any other sort of vegetable oil)
* soap (which also contains some inorganic ingredients)
* potash – make your own by taking the ashes from your fireplace (if you burn wood) and making sure they’re ground finely.
Inorganic and Nice:
* baking soda
* petroleum jelly (aka Vaseline). It’s a petrochemical by-product so is bordering on Nasty, but it is fairly low in toxins when you use it.
* fuller’s earth
Organic and Nasty. Few recipes for cleaning products use these nowadays, but they did in the past. Just have a look at the original Mrs Beeton if you don’t believe me.
* ox gall
* human urine (used as a bleach)
* (possibly) saliva – where did you think the phrase “spit and polish” came from?
Inorganic and Nasty. These ingredients really did turn up in a book on how to make “natural” home cleaning products. If you are switching to natural cleaners in order to reduce the toxins you are exposed to, forget it. If you are making your own cleaners to save money, you may consider these. Your choice. But remember the golden rule for products in this category: NEVER MIX MORE THAN ONE OF THESE TOGETHER.
* Chlorine bleach
* Petrol (yes, really)
* Kerosene (I have to admit it’s first-class for removing tar)