Gardening is a kind of disease. It infects you, you cannot escape it. When you go visiting, your eyes rove about the
garden; you interrupt the serious cocktail drinking because of an irresistible impulse to get up and pull a weed. ~Lewis Ganni

This blog will try and chronicle the growth, change, inevitable failures, pleasant surprises,
and many of nature's rewards of trying to grow a garden in poor soil, weather extreme ridden New England. I will have a
beautiful garden even if it kills me - and it just might!

March 15, 2011

Spring Cleaning

I used to bask in the smell of a freshly bleached house.  It smelled so CLEAN and clean means healthy.  It wasn't until years later, after I had my son, that I started questioning the chemicals I was pumping into my house. Turns out bleach is one of the most toxic things you can use. Ammonia is the 2nd.  I threw away the Windex, Formula 404, furniture polish and about 50 other overly scented, over priced items.  Now, I spend less money and my cleaning regimen is much more simple.  Who REALLY needs all those products under their sink?  You really only need a handful of staples on hand to naturally and safely clean your house.

The basics: 

I use these things mixed in various form for everything in the house: ordinary white distilled vinegar, castille soap (I use Dr. Bronners), baking soda, washing soda (Borax) and essential oils.

glass / shiny surface cleaner:  mix equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle.  If you want to eliminate streaks and increase drying time you can add some rubbing alcohol (I skip this step).  I use this for windows, stainless steel, ceramic tile..anything to want to sparkle without a residue.  You can adjust the strength by using more or less vinegar.  For some people (my husband), the smell of vinegar takes some getting used to.  If you can stand it, it is actually a great natural deodorizer.  The vinegar smell dissipates after a few minutes becoming undetectable but leaving a fresh smell in the air.

disinfectant:  add a few drops to the above mixture for a natural disinfectant. Tee Tree Oil is a powerful natural anti fungal as well as a disinfectant. Its amazingly useful--worthy of a post of its own. Perhaps I will do that someday ;-)

all purpose cleaner:  I have another spray bottle filled with water, a few drops of natural dishwashing liquid, a squirt of castille soap and some essential oil (my current batch has lemon oil in it).  The dishwashing liquid helps cut grease, and the essential oils make it smell fresh.  This is my go to counter spray - I use it many, many, MANY times a day!  You can increase the strength of this cleaner by adding some Borax, although I don't use that on the counters b/c Borax, while natural, is a bit potent to use around food, IMO. 

deodorizer / air freshener:  I cannot say enough about the powers of vinegar and baking soda to remove odors. They are, by themselves, amazing but even better when mixed together.  

I have a kitty cat who gets very angry when we go on vacation. When he's angry, he pees. If you've ever had the pleasure of smelling cat urine, let me assure you its the strongest, smelliest, hardest to remove smell on the planet. Is just awful.  Anything that can be washed goes into the washing machine gets soaked in about 2 cups of vinegar and 2 cups or so of baking soda (I just make it up--I don't really measure ANY of this stuff) with some warm water.  After a regular wash cycle, the urine smell is GONE.  So gone that even the cat can no longer detect it, which is very important because cats just love to re-pee on surfaces.  If it can't be washed I make a paste and spread it on the area needing odor removal. Let it dry, and vacuum it up.  Amazing!

Pour vinegar down stinky drains to freshen them up. For tough odors sprinkle some baking soda down there with it.

Simmer some vinegar and water on the stovetop after preparing a smelly meal.  It will clean the air.

Insect Spray:  If you've tried organic gardening, you've probably heard the term "insecticidal soap". Its an organic pesticide which is nothing more than fatty acids (made from soap) and water!  A squirt of castille soap mixed with water will kill many insects on contact but is most useful on soft body critters (aphids, mealy bugs, spider mites, whiteflies and small caterpillars).  Many houseplant and garden pests can be controlled with this mixture.  

Castille soap is made from vegetable oils and the oil suffocates the insect, dehydrating him from the outside in.  Because the soap needs to come in contact with the bugs, once it dries the plant becomes safe for beneficial insects like bees and lady bugs.  Although its been claimed to be safe, always use caution when spraying when these beneficial insects are likely to be in the line of fire. Use caution when spraying around flowers in the daytime for example. 

These are only a few ideas of simple, safe homemade products you can make. The Internet is full of endless other suggestions.  Please leave me a comment if you have a favorite homemade remedy you'd like to share!


  1. Where were you when I had my angry peeing kitty?! (Not Smokey) Great tips, lovely blog!