How I Simplify Cleaning Products

How to clean with baking soda, vinegar and water

I only buy two and one is free. Baking soda, vinegar, and water.

I first tried baking soda and vinegar when I read about earth-friendly cleaning methods for the 98th time and how Martha Stewart does everything with lemon juice and salt, and I knew I could do better. Plus, I had splattered bleach on more pairs of pants than a frugal mama wants to remember.

For a while I would still use some traditional products, because I am kind-of a clean freak. Then I realized that baking soda and vinegar worked just as well. The turning point was when I asked my daughters, who were then five and seven, to help me clean the house. Gentle cleaning products made more sense than ever, and we’ve never turned back.

(Cleaning the house with my kids is a whole other story, but I will say that it is a perfect example of how I think saving money has made our lives better. Working together as a family has brought us closer and seems to center my children.)

Why I Like Cleaning with the Natural Trio

No mental clutter.

I never have to worry about which product is best for which room. Which brand is on sale, which one is offering a coupon. Whether this soap is eco-friendlier than that. I just buy the largest container of generic baking soda and white vinegar, and done.

How to clean with baking soda

You can use a shaker to sprinkle on the baking soda

All-natural.

It’s good for us and all the plants and animals and the water and the air.

Kid-friendly.

My children learn life skills, responsibility, and good habits by helping us keep the house neat and clean.

Saves money.

Baking soda and vinegar are less-expensive than factory-made cleaning products. For example, my vinegar/water solution costs $0.03 per ounce, whereas Windex is four times more expensive at $0.14 per ounce.

How We Clean with Baking Soda, Vinegar & Water

1.  Surfaces that need a little scrubbing — such as sinks, toilet bowls, countertops, or tubs — get a sprinkle of baking soda. (We used to use a shaker like the one pictured to sprinkle the powder, but then the top got jammed shut, so now we just pour it from the cardboard box.)

ClearSprayBottle

We fill a spray bottle with 1/2 vinegar and 1/2 water

2.  With a spray bottle filled with a one-to-one solution of vinegar and water, we spritz surfaces that need to be wiped down.

3.  Dusting is done with a damp rag (either water or the vinegar solution).

4.  We clean our floors with this steam mop, which cleans with hot water only, and throw the fabric pad in the wash afterwards.

And that’s it. Occasionally I will use a Magic Eraser sponge on walls, and of course, clothes and dishes have their own detergents, but most household jobs can be done with these simple solutions.

I’m curious to hear: how do you simplify cleaning? Let me know in the comments.

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29 comments

  • Mini Clean July 8, 2014, 1:43 am

    This is such a nice blog. Baking soda, vinegar and water are amazing!! Definitely going to share this to my family. I like the simplicity of this article. Helps me a lot about my cleaning methods. Thanks heaps! :)

    Reply
  • Maria October 11, 2013, 4:57 pm

    I am usling soapnuts for washing and dishes, as an allpurpose cleaner I use soapnutliquid with vinegar. It is really easy cleaning :-) /Maria

    Reply
  • Reasonable Toll Manufacturing products at Custom Chemicals International September 26, 2013, 7:22 am

    White vinegar is a good disinfectant and fabric deodoriser. Instead of commercial fabric softeners, I dissolve 2 tsp of white vinegar to laundry water for final rinse. The washed clothes, when dried, leave no artificial (or bad) smell and are soft to the touch.

    Reply
  • tamla September 21, 2013, 12:32 pm

    I also make a homemade citrus cleaner with citrus rinds and vinegar. It works wonders on my stove with a little baking soda!!

    Reply
  • Liz Carmody June 23, 2012, 2:45 pm

    Amy,

    While doing a quick clean-up in the bathrooms this a.m., I was spraying down the surfaces with vinegar (idea from one of your previous postings) and a thought came to me.

    You could add essential oils to the spray bottle and add a bit of fragrance that helps mask the vinegar. Lemon is great as are the other citrus fruits. Tea tree has antiseptic properties as does lavendar. I read somewhere that tea tree oil was used during WWII in Australia to disinfect hospital rooms because it was difficult for them to receive medical supplies via ship.

    I am also using rosemary oil to help wit flea control on my dogs. I put a drop or two each day on their collars. I would not put the oil directly on their skin as essential oils can be strong. The same goes for using essential oils directly on human skin. Lavendar is the only essential oil you can use directly on human skin- good for blemishes, and bug bites. In the future I will experiment with adding various essential oils to a carrier oil (macadamia, almond) and use on my skin for insect repellant. (Previously I mentioned rubbing basil leaves directly on the skin to repel insects. Maybe it was just me but I had a slighty reaction(small itchy patch on arm) so do be careful if you try it on the kids.

    Reply
    • Amy June 23, 2012, 3:00 pm

      Hi Liz,

      Wow, you really know something about everything! The vinegar smell doesn’t bother us — it usually is gone in an hour or so. But all your scented oil ideas are enticing!

      Thank you for sharing these tips,
      Amy

      Reply
  • Jennifer January 26, 2012, 12:37 pm

    Hello Amy,

    One of my favorite things I love to do with vinegar is I pour some into a small bowl and keep it in the kitchen. It soaks up all the smells from cooking that can linger around. I usually keep it out of sight like on top of the fridge.

    I finally got on board with using more natural cleaners after reading this post. I was just kinda of waiting around until I used up all my other stuff, but since the kids are taking on more responsibility ( 7 & almost 10) they clean the bathroom now and even scrub the shower. I decided that I was not going to wait to use up what I had. My main concern were them so I dumped out the glass cleaner and bleach, and made some vinegar/water solution. My goal this year was to be more simple in all areas af my life and this is very simple. I love it. I have to admit I have used bleach to kill all the germs for so long that it feels weird and I am always wondering if the vinegar is doing as good of a job as bleach at killing the bacteria. I guess it just takes getting used to :)

    Reply
    • Amy January 27, 2012, 12:12 pm

      Hi Jennifer,

      What a great tip about using vinegar to soak up kitchen odors. And I’m so glad you are jumping on the baking soda/vinegar bandwagon! And that’s great to know that your kids help you out with the house too. I don’t hear of it often, actually.

      Re killing bacteria. I guess I don’t worry about it so much — I mean, it’s not like we’re talking about surfaces that we eat with or anything. I did a quick internet search and didn’t find anything about the need to sterilize the bathroom. Maybe it’s something the cleaning companies made us think we had to do?

      Thanks for stopping by and telling me about your process,
      Amy

      Reply
  • Jo@simplybeingmum January 25, 2012, 2:06 pm

    Hi Amy – I’m with you on this…the Hubby likes more ‘industrial’ items so it can become a battle of wills. However when I get my way it’s water, vinegar and bicarbonate of soda. What I do to try and neutralise the vinegar smell a little is to add lemon juice. Lemon, as I’m sure you know’ is a natural santiser and deodoriser (sorry British English here no ‘Z’s) – it can be used neat to clean also and is fab for steaming out nasty whiffs in the microwave… Also I’ve heard (but haven’t tried) adding some essential oil like lavender. I use Lavender and tea tree oil in the bath rather than other products. It multi-tasks as the smell from the bath steam fills the home also ! For lovely homely smells pop a cinnamon stick or some pine in the vacuum cleaner – Jo
    Jo@simplybeingmum´s last post ..SuperScrimping – Patching It Up And Polishing It Out

    Reply
    • Jo@simplybeingmum January 25, 2012, 2:07 pm

      Should have checked the comment – the lavender addition is for the general household cleaners you make up with vinegar, not for in the microwave – it reads wrong! Sorry!
      Jo@simplybeingmum´s last post ..SuperScrimping – Patching It Up And Polishing It Out

      Reply
    • Amy January 26, 2012, 1:53 pm

      Hi Jo,

      I like your ideas about mellowing the vinegar with lemon juice. And for using it to steam out the microwave. I wonder if it works to kill mold like bleach will do. Love the idea of the cinnamon stick in the vacuum cleaner. You actually make cleaning sound like fun!

      Thanks for all the tips — and the lavendar part read perfectly, so no worries.

      Amy

      Reply
      • Dawn September 1, 2012, 1:36 pm

        Vinegar does kill mold like bleach. I prefer Top Job Cleaning Vinegar when home made cleaners call for White Vinegar. Love it as a cleaner and in my laundry to help with the stinky smells of my husband and kids. =)

        Reply
        • Amy September 1, 2012, 3:24 pm

          Hi Dawn,

          Thanks for clearing up the vinegar/mold issue! And for the tips on laundry. :-) never heard of Top Job Cleaning Vinegar — will check that out.

          Amy

          Reply
  • Jill January 25, 2012, 9:39 am

    Thank you for posting this! I was looking at ways to start cleaning without such toxic chemicals and also wanting my kids to help out.I really enjoy your blog!!

    Reply
    • Amy January 31, 2012, 12:01 pm

      Hi Jill,

      I’m so glad you found it helpful! And that other people are cleaning with their kids. :-)

      Thank you for leaving a comment, Jill
      Amy

      Reply
  • Lana January 24, 2012, 7:21 am

    Hi Amy;
    I sure enjoy reading your posts, articles, hints and ideas. I love the baking soda, vinegar and water. I am one of the few, maybe, who does not have a dishwasher. Hard, lime, calcium infested well-water proves daunting in cleaning pots, pans, glass dishes, etc. I hate the soapy s.o.s. type pads…it is a texture thing with me. A little baking soda and vinegar have proved to be a lifesaver not only financially, but also in elbow grease! My stovetop cleans up nicely with a sprinkling of baking soda and scrubbing with a sponge fitted with scouring bristles. Tough baked on stains are no match when I add some vinegar and watch the bubbling brew dissolve the goo. Thanks for doing what you do and sharing what you know! Happy 2012!

    Reply
    • Amy January 31, 2012, 12:07 pm

      Hi Lana,

      It’s great to hear from you! I apologize for responding so late. I think somehow some of my comments get buried in non-chronological order and its hard to figure out which ones I’ve responded to or not.

      You are so right about the satisfying fizz of the vinegar mixed with baking soda. I’m so glad to hear it works on tough baked-on stains on the oven. We inherited a restaurant range from 1972, and an appliance guy suggested I clean it up with Easy Off. But that stuff is really toxic! The range literally had decades of baked on grease on it, so I’m not sure what else would have worked, but from now on, I’m doing maintenance with my natural trio. At least I don’t have to worry about killing brain cells.

      p.s. I’m impressed that you live happily with no dishwasher!

      Take care,
      Amy

      Reply
  • Mom January 23, 2012, 10:33 pm

    I am very impressed by your cleaning methods…..and especially that your daughters are learning to help. These skills will serve them well and make them welcome in any home.

    I would like to add one product; one that has been around for ages. Murphy Oil Soap for cleaning wood surfaces (when plain water isn’t enough.)

    Mom

    Reply
    • Amy January 31, 2012, 11:56 am

      Hi Mom,

      Yes, you are right. I should get a better plan for our wood floors, since the steam mop is probably not a great idea. Wood floors have got to be the best dirt-disguisers our there! Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Mainly good. :-)

      Love, Amy

      Reply
  • Tragic Sandwich January 23, 2012, 1:00 pm

    I’m moving in this direction. I’m trying to use up what we already have, but for years I’ve been making my own all-purpose cleaner with water, Dr. Bronner’s, and washing soda.
    Tragic Sandwich´s last post ..Ham and Beans

    Reply
    • Amy January 23, 2012, 9:16 pm

      Cool, thanks for telling us your methods, T.S. So is Dr. Bronner’s a multi-purpose cleaner? And can you tell me more about washing soda? There’s a lot to learn!

      Take care,
      Amy

      Reply
  • Jen @ Jen Spends January 23, 2012, 10:46 am

    I’m not a big fan of chemical cleaning products either. I’m very sensitive to fumes, I don’t want poison around my son, and we have pet birds. I love to find natural ways to clean so I don’t have to worry. I borrowed a book from my mom called “Salt, Lemons, Vinegar and Baking Soda” which is filled with natural cleaning ideas. I haven’t had a chance to really dive in yet, but I’ve used some of the ideas in my kitchen with good results. I love how cheap it is, too!
    Jen @ Jen Spends´s last post ..Getting Organized: #GetButtonedUp Challenge Week 3

    Reply
    • Amy January 23, 2012, 9:17 pm

      Hi Jen,

      The book from your mom sounds great. I bet lemon would work as a bleach substitute, and salt is supposed to be a rougher abrasive than baking soda, I think. Let me know if you learn more!

      Take care,
      Amy

      Reply
  • Daisy January 23, 2012, 6:23 am

    I like to simplify cleaning by doing small tasks. For example, rather than putting “clean the bathroom” on my to do list I’ll just put “clean toilet” or “clean basin”.

    I just do a few small jobs each day. I find this makes it so much easier to stay on top of the housework.

    Reply
    • Amy January 23, 2012, 9:20 pm

      Hi Daisy,

      I like how you manage your time into do-able chunks. And you know yourself well enough to know this system works. Sometimes larger tasks seem overwhelming and get put off.

      For me, it works best to clean on the same day every week. We actually split our cleaning and laundry between Sat and Sun. That way, I can’t weasel out of it, and I know our house will always be reasonably clean.

      I’m impressed that you can do your cleaning a bit each day. It seems so balanced and healthy!

      Amy

      Reply
      • Daisy January 24, 2012, 5:07 pm

        This is what works for my family at the moment. I’m at home with two small children, too small to help out yet. I do as much as I can during the week to free up our weekends, so we can do more fun stuff as a family.

        Reply

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