It's springtime, and if you're like me, you've gotten the itch to do some spring cleaning. So I spent a good chunk of my birthday weekend cleaning the house, but instead of reaching for the Kaboom or Tilex or 409, I learned new recipes for homemade cleaners that actually worked! I was able to clean my tubs, kitchen sink, and stove without taking a whole day or two to do it. I confess that I often put off cleaning those things because I'm really sensitive to the chemical smells from the store-bought sprays and cleaners that we usually use, which means that I need to take numerous breaks while I wait for my eyes and nose to stop watering. Ugh. Two of the recipes below call for ammonia, which does smell pretty bad, but it doesn't bother me as much as the factory-made chemical soups that burn your mucous membranes (what do they put in those things?). You can even buy lemon-scented ammonia from the grocery store, home improvement store, or maybe Target.
Anyway, I'm so excited about how effective the cleaners were that I wanted to share my resources. I'm sure I have Pinterest to thank for starting me off on my journey to finding them online, and I'm glad to let you know that these particular projects worked. (Parenthetically, a friend alerted me to a site called Pinstrosity, which lets you know about projects found via Pinterest that either don't work or that require troubleshooting.) What's great is that you probably have the necessary items in your home already! And if you don't, you can easily get them at the store and they're a lot cheaper ounce for ounce than the ready-made factory stuff.
To clean my porcelain tub, I used the "Tub Scrub" recipe from Martha Stewart. Four ingredients: 1) baking soda, 2) dish soap, 3) antibacterial essential oil, and 4) water. I only needed half the recipe to clean one tub. The tea tree oil I used made it smell wonderful. I used a non-scratch nylon scrub brush with the paste. You don't need to wet down the tub before scrubbing, since the paste has enough liquid already to create the necessary friction. It required some elbow grease, but it was satisfying; I could see the dirt melting away. It worked wonderfully on the metal faucet and drain as well, but make sure to completely rinse off the baking soda or it will leave streaks.
For my porcelain kitchen sink, I used Apartment Therapy's recipes. Three ingredients for a simple scrub: 1) baking soda, 2) ammonia, and 3) water. I didn't use a bucket of water, but it was definitely more liquid than a paste. It worked really well to clear up the dinginess, and the sink was squeaky clean and whiter after just one application with a non-scratch nylon sponge. With a toothbrush, I used the mixture to clean the metal drains and strainer as well as the rubber flaps on the garbage disposal. The metal looked almost new after that! (I think it was because of the ammonia.) There were some small rust stains that needed the salt-and-lemon-juice treatment, as described in the Apartment Therapy link, and after that I was done. The sink is only a year and a half old (I blogged about it when we bought it), but I admit that I don't take care of the porcelain finish as well as I should. Doing this treatment made me want to take better care of the sink in the future, because why not when it's so quick and simple? (If you've got a metal sink, use this Apartment Therapy tutorial instead.)
Finally, I used my own recipe on my gas stove, especially on the removable porcelain-covered cast-iron grates. For years, I have hated cleaning stove grates because nothing ever worked, not vinegar, dish soap, or the Magic Eraser. The recipe I used was just a remix of the two recipes above: 1) 1/2 cup baking soda, 2) 1/4 cup ammonia, 3) 1 teaspoon dish soap, and 4) just enough water to make a paste. I removed the grates and scrubbed them in the sink with the paste using a nylon sponge. It didn't make them super clean but it took a lot of the burned-on grease right off. (The ammonia really melts off the grease, and I wish I'd learned to clean with ammonia long before my thirties. I've heard you can put the grates -- one at a time -- in a ziplock back with a little ammonia and leave for a day, and then you wouldn't need to scrub. I might try that method since I don't need to use all the burners of my stove every meal of every day.) I washed them off thoroughly and left them on the dish rack to dry. While they dried, I worked on the stove with the nylon sponge. Again, this required some elbow grease, but it worked well. I made sure to rinse off the paste completely, using several applications of a very wet sponge and then drying off with a clean microfiber towel.
NOTE: When using the recipes with ammonia, I advise using rubber gloves, especially if you'll be in contact with it for more than a few minutes. That smell can linger a bit. And please, don't mix ammonia with bleach or anything containing bleach as the fumes created are highly toxic. If unsure whether something contains bleach or not, err on the side of not using it with ammonia. Just stick to baking soda, dish soap, and essential oils when working with ammonia. They work!
Happy fume-less Spring cleaning!
[EDIT: So I was wrong about Pinterest being my primary resource ... the Martha Stewart "Tub Scrub" recipe was found via BuzzFeed's great list of (mostly) eco-friendly cleaning tricks. Seriously, this list will make your Spring cleaning more interesting. I can't wait to try cleaning my blinds with an old sock.]