I had an email from a reader the other day asking about non-chemical cleaning. She has severe allergies and breaks out in a rash and gets itchy skin when she touches any commercial cleaning product. She's at her wit's end trying to find something she can use to clean her kitchen. Luckily, she recently made some of my olive oil and coconut oil soap and she seems fine with that so she wrote asking if I had hints for cleaning with only this homemade soap.
I use my homemade soap, brushes and cotton dishcloths to clean my kitchen. I do use a small amount of bleach (50 mls/2 ozs) occasionally to clean my brushes, tea balls and sink and I use bicarb or salt to clean stained coffee and tea cups. Bicarb, wet on a dishcloth, will remove tea and coffee stains without using any harmful chemicals. Salt will also work for this - wet, on a cloth. To clean the tea balls, I pour 50 mls/2ozs liquid bleach into a small container and fill with water. I soak the tea balls in this for about an hour, then scrub them with a brush. Just before I tip out the bleach solution into the sink, I scrub the sink and around the taps with a soapy brush, or wet bicarb on a brush, then I rinse it off. When everything is clean and shiny, I put the plug in, cover the bottom of the sink with water, then pour in the bleach solution. It sits there for about 30 minutes, then I take the plug out and let the water run out. This cleans and disinfects the sink and pipes. I am very mindful of the amount of bleach I use and always keep it to a minimum.
The best tools I have for cleaning are my brushes. I have several. The one I love the most is a camel hair round brush which is pictured below on the right. It fits my hand perfectly and it cleans really well. The bristles a softish so it gets into all the nooks and crannies, but firm enough to be efficient. It's an Crabtree and Evelyn body brush that I bought for $16.95 about a year ago.
The brush above in the centre is a German stiff bristle brush. It's invaluable for doing those scrubbing jobs like the kitchen sink and around the sink hole. The camel brush is better around the taps. I bought that German brush in the Blue Mountains when I was staying with Tricia.
The great thing about cleaning brushes is that they will remove most stains and clean effectively without using too much besides water and sometimes homemade soap or bicarb. They will get into areas around taps and plug holes much better than a cloth will.
You have to remember to clean your brushes properly when you've finished using them by cleaning with soap and water, or just rising off with water. Make sure they don't sit in water too long or the wood will split. To disinfect your brushes, just sit them in a weak bleach solution similar to the one above, for 15 minutes, then rinse and let dry. Don't waste this bleach solution. Even when you've used it to soak something in, it's still an effective cleaner. Pour it down a sink to keep the pipes clean or pour it into a half bucket of water and soak your mop in it.
So for my reader who can't use anything too harsh, and for all of you who are trying to cut down on the chemicals in your home, look out for good brushes, use a bit of elbow grease, pure soap or bicarb, and you and your brush will really clean up.