The more natural way of cleaning things...

At my workplace we basically have a specific cleaner or cleaning product for every task you can think of.
From glass over stainless to plastics and desinfectants for lots of different surfaces.
After a quick look into my cleaining cabinet at home I started to wonder if I am doing something wrong as I only have a few cleaning things for my use.
Asking my friends also showed they have a big bunch of cleaning chemicals, plus the bottle of bleach that everyone down here has.

So I though: Your grandma only had a few cleaning products and you learned most of things you need to clean from her.
Considering I grew up healthy I guess she must have done something right....
Let's clean up with the cleaning myths, shall we?

1. What cleaning chemicals do you have?
For quite a few people the list would start something like this: Dishwashing liquid, window, cleaner, bathroom cleaner, soap scum remover, floor cleaner, oven cleaner, several desinfectants....
If that is true for you too than we might be on to something already.

2. What cleaning chemicals do I really need?
This is a good question as everyone is a bit different but I assume a healthy household here.
Of course we need certain things to clean our various surfaces properly but it is far less than waht you have been told by the TV commercials....
These days we like to think if there is a special cleaner for something then of course we have to use it to clean properly.
Unless you have trades people walking through with their wet dogs several times a day and see dust storms at least twice a week you really only need a few things.
So let's get to the basics:

3. Old style cleaning and what you need for it - really the only stuff required to keep all clean and sanitised.
a) Methylated spirit
b) Clear ammonia - cloudy ammonia works too but be aware that the added soap can be a problem that leaves streakes
c) Hydrogen peroxide - pool grade to be cheap in the long run
d) Orange oil - citrus oil works great too if you prefer a different smell
e) Soap - just basic soap, these stinky, slightly yellow and hard bricks - no fancy smelly soap ;)
f) Several cleaning brushes but you should already have those
g) Windows cleaning tools - the basic microfibre cloth and squeegee will do
h) Several microfibre cloths - bigger ones for floors and walls, smaller for windows and the rest
I) Yesterdays newspaper
j) Baking soda

With those few things we have everything to clean whatever comes up and if bought in bulk comes down to a few cents per bottle compared to a few dollars when you buy all the stuff you don't need.
Lets figure out what the stuff does and how to use it:

4. Mixing and what to use it for....
The alcohol is a really good remover for everything greasy and also desinfects the surfaces.
A quick spray and wipe on your bench is all that you need to remove oily residue or the mess from the kids.
Mixed with a bit of soap and water (about 50-50) also removes sticky stuff like jam or syrup.
If we use about 50ml of alcohol, 50ml of clear ammonia and 900ml of water we get one liter of really good window cleaner.
The modern way is to use microfibre for the cleaning and a squeegee to get it dry, the old way just uses a cloth and then the window is "polished" with some old newspaper.
The black ink reacts with the alcohol and form a mild abrasive while the paper soaks up the moisture, the result is a prefectly clean window in under 3 minutes.
Orange oil is not only a powerful degreaser but also lifts old dirt or even glue residue.
Used directly it will get rid of the remains from sticky tape, stickers and everything that other cleaners fails to get off - smoth surface and non soaking of course.
50ml of it with 50ml of ammonia and 100ml of alcohol per bucket makes a good florr cleaner and your house smells nice when done.
Works best if you can use a microfibre cloth or floor wiper to dry the surface with it.
In the kitchen we can find a lot of surfaces that are greasy and we already covered that bit, so lets get to the though stuff.
The kitchen sink can become dull looking although it is not scratched.
This is due to hard water, food residue, soap and other things.
Best is of course to wipe it and dry it after use but who really does this every day?
A pot scrubbing pad with some baking soda on it does the trick here.
Make the pad nly moist and sprinkle the baking soda on it.
Rub over the stainless and if too dry add a few drops of water.
Once done rinse off and enjoy the difference.
For hard to clean or badly turtured sinks you can try a ball of aluminium foil and coke - use it like a polish.
The oven is often our worst nightmare.
The cooktop is not far behind.
But even here we can have a chance to clean without too much hard work or bad chemicals.
Of course the best way is to prevent these spills and boil overs ;)
For the cooktop some hot water and baking soda will soften the baked on stuff.
Simply remove what you can with the hot water and then sprinkle the surface with baking soda.
Cover all with the paper towels and if not wet enough add a bit more hot water so all shets are soaked.
Leave ove night and wipe clean the next day.
The oven is a bit of a problem once the side and back wall are filthy.
If baking soda with a pot scrubber won't do the trick get some of these steel pads with soap in it.
The soap in them is special in terms that you only need a little bit of water to remove almost anything with them - and they won't scrath enamelled surfaces.
On the bottom we often have badly burnt in things that are next to impossible to fully remove.
I suggest to cover the same way as the cooktop but also to add some orange oil.
Just make a thick paste of baking soda and orange oil and wrok it into the soiled surface.
Cover with wet paper towels and leave over night.
Now you don't want to flood your oven, so that means you need to use a sponge or thick cloth that is big enough to wipe off the surfaces you soaked the day before.
As the orange oil really is oil it pays off to use some alcohol in the cleaning water to get rid of the oil and grease a bit easier.
Don't expect to see a clean and shiny surface after one treatment if the oven was badly misused, you might have to repeat the procedure a few times.
If in doubt use the soapy steel pads for last clean and before soaking over night again.
Three to four treatments are usually enough to clean even the worst disaster that can happen in an oven unless you baked it in for months...

5. Desinfecting and mouldy spots....
As said, the methylated spirit is basically just pure alcohol and kill almost anything that might harm you.
But sometimes that just is not enough.
And who really wants to spend an hour or longer to clean some mouldy spots in the shower or try to cover the smell by spraying room freshener?
As a lst resort for everything I use Hydrogen Peroxide.
The supermarket grade is only 3% and usually badly overpriced, so I suggest to get a small canister of pool grade peroxide.
Do yourself a favour and ask them to install a tap on it - you don't want to do it yourself unless you already know how bad pool grade peroxide is!
For your own safety when handling it I strongly recommend wearing long rubber gloves, nitrile is better but please no latex as it could start to burn when getting in contact with the peroxide.
For high grade desinfecting or the removal of mouldy areas I recommend to dilute 1:5, one part of peroxide to 5 parts of water.
Only for the mould removal on tiled, plastic, glass or metal surfaces you can use the peroxide pure from the container - but please add face protection when cleaning!
Some spray bottles work with peroxide some just start leaking badly, if you want try an old bottle of chlorine based cleaner after really flushing everything out.
The peroxide breaks down any organic material it comes into contact with, so not just the mould you want to remove but also your skin or eyes if you allow contact.
On the skin you see white areas after contact and they won't go away until all the oxygen in the skin is gone that was left by the peroxide.
If you act too late it means you might loose some skin flakes.
The sure sign of overlook exposure on your skin is a burning sensation in the area - this only happens when the amount was big enough or your clothes got soaked.
On your surfaces to clean you will notice bubbles forming quite quickly - this mean the peroxide is reacting with something, usually organic material.
Let it bubble...
Once it stops bubbling the surface is either sterile or the peroxide is used up, if it bubbles when adding fresh peroxide onto it then there is still crap left ;)
It really helps to brush off the surface after each treatment as a lot of loose material will be flushed out when rinsing off.
Once it looks and smells clean again it usually means it is clean :)

6. Special case: Wood...
Be it wooden floorboards, furniture or just your chopping board - always try what the manufacturer recommends first!
Untreated wood should never be cleaned with anything wet!
Sealed wood, like floorboards or things with varnish on it to make it water proof can be cleaned the same way as mentioned above - but I would leave out the ammonia as some wood treatments simply won't tolerate it and might go dull instead of returning nice and shiny - spot testing required if you think you have to use ammonia as well!
Orange oil itself makes a great furniture cleaner if the surface is smooth and sealed, but if it is not it means the oil soaks into the wood together with the stuff you want to clean off!
It also takes off several paints and types of varnish if you work it hard enough and give it some time, so avoid this and be quick instead of forgetting to finnish the job ;)
Always try to wet the surface as little as possible and wipe fully dry as soon as possible!

Ok, good start but what is the real benefit?
For me the actual benefit is that I know what I am using and exposing myself to.
Just reading what is in most cleaning products we find at the supermarket makes me want to clean again after using them, just to remove their residues...
I admit it might take some time to get used to mixing and just having a few ingredients for the cleaning but it does work great.
Especially if you or your kids are already sensitive to certain chemicals or just of poor health in general you might see the benefit quite quickly.
Some people really don't like the smell of ammonia but unless you are sensitive to it there is nothing to worry when using the household grade as we always dilute it down massively anyway.
A good way to avoid the worst stink is by mixing it outside with the wind from behind.
I won't say that certain commercial products are bad, harmful or not good enough for the job.
Some are actually worth to have in some cases but I just say it is better to only have a hand full of chemicals that are not too bad instead of an endless list of things were we don't even know what's inside.
For me the best is your surprise when it actually works better than you expected and report your findings here.