Today’s DIY recipe is simple and effective, yet I hesitated to write this post, or more like photograph this post.
When it comes to food, there are so many fun textures and colors to style and photograph, particularly when it comes to real food. But homemade floor cleaner? There are only so many ways to photograph a mop, bucket, and three simple ingredients. While the photos may not be as glamorous (hello white bucket and mop), I can guarantee you that today’s cleaning “recipe” is a keeper. A recipe that’s worth sharing despite the photography challenge.
At the end of last year, I shared a recipe for homemade floor cleaner, which I use frequently to clean our tile floor. If we take a look further back into the blog archives, I’ve also shared a floor cleaner made with similar ingredients in a make-ahead wipe form. Both recipes share a common ingredient: vinegar.
Vinegar has a reputation for being the “do it all” cleaner, and it’s for a good reason. Vinegar may be used to soften clothes in the washing machine and remove dingy odors. Vinegar may also be used to disinfectant toilet bowls and sinks, clean hard surfaces and windows, and wash floors. I think vinegar lives up to its “do it all” cleaning reputation pretty well.
While vinegar is an amazing cleaner, there are a couple of issues that arise when using vinegar to clean a home:
1. The vinegar scent is quite strong.
Yes, the vinegar scent is nothing compared to smelling bleach or a dirty dog (because there happens to be one sitting under my feet), but it is quite strong. If you’ve ever opened a bottle of vinegar or sprayed down your counter with diluted vinegar, then I’m sure you know the scent I’m talking about. I know some folks choose not to clean with vinegar due to the odor. Vinegar isn’t toxic and its odor is completely safe and usually dissipates after a few minutes, but if it bothers you, cleaning your house with vinegar won’t be enjoyable.
2. Vinegar isn’t safe to use on all surfaces. It really bothers me when I see recipes online that include vinegar and claim to “clean everything,” yet I know from my own research and experience that the cleaner may actually destroy granite or marble (just one example). Vinegar is an amazing natural ingredient, but just because something is natural doesn’t mean it should be haphazardly sprayed on every surface. Vinegar is an acid, which means it may actually damage some fragile surfaces, like marble and granite.
I really don’t mean to shatter anyone’s vinegar bubble today. I believe it’s important to always think about the products we use in our home (or on our bodies, or in our bodies), even if it’s a natural product. I personally love cleaning with vinegar, and I use vinegar quite frequently to wipe down our counters, clean the kids’ toys, disinfect our toilets, and wash our floors, but I know there’s more than one natural way to get a house clean.
Sorry, Vinegar, you might just have some cleaning competition.
If you have a house with hard floors and you can’t use vinegar for cleaning, or you don’t want to use vinegar due to the odor issue, let me introduce you to vinegar’s competition: castile soap.
Castile soap and vinegar don’t get along, and they can’t be mixed to form one cleaner, but they can be used separately and are both amazing ingredients to add to a cleaning toolkit. Just like vinegar, castile soap also has many different uses: washing the dirty dog I referenced earlier, cleaning a human’s body (too), cleaning a hard surface, cleaning clothes via a homemade laundry soap (both dry and liquid soaps), dusting surfaces, and even washing hard floors.
What is this magical substance known as castile soap?
Castile soap is a concentrated vegetable-based soap made of ingredients you can actually pronounce. This soap is gentle on the skin and effective in the fight against dirt, grease, and unwanted germs. Castile soap has a pH around 8.9, and 7 is considered neutral. This mean castile soap doesn’t have the acidic “harshness” of vinegar, making it ideal for more fragile surfaces.
Is castile soap the natural cleaning answer for all surfaces? To be honest, I’m hesitant to say that one ingredient or product will work for every surface (or person), but I will say that I believe castile soap is a good alternative if you don’t want to (or can’t) use vinegar on your hard floors.
I hope this floor cleaner recipe provides you with one more option to clean your home, naturally. For me, it’s wonderful to know that I have many different choices for what I can use to clean my home, using the same ingredients in my natural cleaning toolkit in different ways. Next week, we’re going add this recipe to a helpful list of natural and simple products that may be used to clean an entire home, from the bathroom to the floor to the kitchen.
- 2 gallons hot water
- 2 tablespoons liquid castile soap, or less (where to buy)--or Sal Suds, see note under "Ingredient Notes"
- 5 drops pine or tea tree essential oil, or your preferred essential oil scent
- Add the hot water to a bucket, then the liquid castile soap and essential oil. Gently stir the ingredients together (you don’t want a ton of bubbles).
This solution may be safe for sealed wood floors and other common household surfaces (I use this on our tile) since the pH of castile soap is around 8.9 (a pH of 7 is neutral). Always spot test first (a couple of times) before applying any cleaning product to a full surface! I’ve also learned, from some major trial and error, that’s important to talk to a floor expert about the best way to clean a particular floor (what kind of ingredients/methods to avoid in particular), since there are so many different types of floor surfaces today.
Any castile soap variety will work. I just happen to have unscented castile soap on hand as I was photographing this post. I’ve made this floor cleaner with tea tree, peppermint, lavender, and orange castile soap. I prefer to use 2 tablespoons of castile soap to 2 gallons of hot water. If you feel this ratio is too soapy, then reduce the soap ratio to 1 tablespoon of castile soap to 2 gallons of hot water. If your test spot has a soapy residue, then you know you’ll want to tweak the ratio. If you’re still not happy with castile soap on your floor, then I recommend using Sal Suds, which is a heavy-duty (safe) detergent. You’ll only need about 4 drops of Sal Suds versus 3 tablespoons.
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