With the birth of your first (or second or third or . . .) baby, cleaning becomes a completely different creature. Where once you were wiping dust off of surfaces and calling it good, now you’re worried about what your babe’s little mouth may come in contact with. You want surfaces to be clean, and you want your cleaners to be safe.
Here are some safer, natural homemade cleaners that new parents can make with ingredients they trust. The products will clean effectively and safely, letting you worry more about how to enjoy this fleeting time with your new baby instead of what chemicals he is coming into contact with.
Homemade Disinfecting Wipes
Ready-to-grab cleaning wipes were the hardest thing for me to part with when I became a new mama. They make cleaning so easy! I was happy to discover that I can have the ease of ready-made wipes without the toxic chemicals. These homemade cleaning wipes are safe on all kinds of surfaces that babies might touch or gum – table tops, chairs, and toys included.
Mix together and put in airtight container (a canning jar works well with cotton wipes). Store in a cool, dark area. Shake well before using.
When adding essential oils in recipes that will be used around children, please be aware of safety concerns. Essential oils are extremely concentrated, and caution should be employed when using them around children. You may wish to start researching essential oil usage by reading The safety issue in aromatherapy from the Pharmaceutical Press, and these article from the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy and Learning about Essential Oils.
All-Purpose Vinegar Spray
If you’re new to homemade cleaners and the thought of buying castile soap or essential oils feels daunting, there’s no need to get fancy. Go back to basics with vinegar and water.
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
Simply mix the vinegar and water together, pour into a spray bottle, spray onto surfaces, and wipe with a clean cloth.
Due to its acidic nature and antibacterial effects, white distilled vinegar is used in many homemade cleaning products.
Vegetable and Fruit Wash
Your All-Purpose Spray can do double duty once your babe has started eating fresh fruit and vegetables. Instead of using store-bought vegetable and fruit wash, spray hard-skinned food with your All-Purpose Spray, let it sit for a few seconds, and then gently scrub it clean with fresh water.
For softer vegetables, mix your 1:1 vinegar-and-water solution and allow the food to soak for a minute or two, then rinse them off with fresh water.
Citrus-Fresh Vinegar Spray
You can boost vinegar’s cleaning power (and add a delicious scent to your home) by adding 1/2 cup of lemon juice to the All-Purpose Vinegar Spray. Lemon juice is an acid that kills mold, cuts through grease, and leaves a streak-free shine.
Alternatively, save the rinds from your citrus fruit (lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit, etc.) and cover them with vinegar in a mason jar for a week or two. After they’ve soaked, strain the liquid (so that your spray bottle will not get clogged) and use this citrus-infused vinegar in place of the white vinegar in your All-Purpose Vinegar Spray.
When my two were babies, I skipped buying the commercial baby bathtub and used the kitchen sink for quick baths, or I climbed in with the baby in our regular bathtub. To keep your sink and tub clean and safe for baby skin, use one of these two natural recipes.
Sweet Cinnamon Sink Scrub
This is my favorite sink scrub. It smells wonderful and is perfect for fall and winter, though you can use it anytime.
Mix all ingredients in an airtight container. Sprinkle some of the Sweet Cinnamon Sink Scrub on a wet sink. Use a cloth or soft bristle cleaning brush to scrub the sink (I often add some vinegar when I scrub). Rinse well.
Tub and Tile Scrub
For a sparkling clean bathtub, this scrub is easy to use and more gentle on baby’s skin than commercial cleaners. This scrub is safe for ceramic and porcelain bathtubs, and as long as you scrub gently, it is also safe for stone (remember, baking soda is an abrasive).
3/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup castile soap (I love the unscented baby-mild version from Dr. Bronner’s for my newborns)
1 tablespoon water
Mix all ingredients together until dissolved and a paste has formed. Scoop out a small amount and use it, along with a brush, to scrub those hard-to-clean bathroom surfaces. Store any remaining Tub and Tile Scrub in an airtight container.
Basic Liquid Laundry Soap
Commercial laundry detergents can be expensive, and even the fragrance-free versions tend to have some sort of perfume. You can avoid fragrances and other toxic chemicals by making your own laundry soaps from easy recipes.
2 1/4 cups liquid castile soap
1 tablespoon glycerin
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup white distilled vinegar
10-20 drops essential oils of your choice
Combine all ingredients. Shake well before each use. Add 1/4 – 1/2 cup of solution, depending on how heavily soiled the laundry is, to each load of wash. This recipe should wash up to 13 loads. See Homemade Cleaners: Quick-and-Easy, Toxin-Free Recipes for directions on how to make a bulk recipe.
Quick-and-Easy Dryer Sheets
Commercial dryer sheets allow your clothes to smell fresh and be free from static, but they rely on toxins that can irritate your baby’s skin. Ditch the toxins and use a natural solution to freshen your clothes in the dryer.
4 or 5 drops essential oil of your choice (I like lavender)
Scrap fabric (cotton works well), washcloths, or unmatched socks.
Place drops of essential oil on a scrap piece of cotton fabric and toss in the dryer with wet clothes.
Felted wool dryer balls are another easy-to-make, nontoxic alternative to commercial fabric softeners and dryer sheets. Toss three to five of them into the dryer with your load of laundry, and they will soften clothes without using chemicals. If you scent the balls with a few drops of essential oils, they will lightly scent your clothing. Wool dryer balls also help to lessen static and, according to some reports, lessen drying time, so that you use less electricity or natural gas to dry your laundry.
Purchase wool dryer balls at your local natural foods store, from a work-at-home mom company on Etsy, or make them yourself using directions include in Homemade Cleaners.
Some of the most toxic household chemicals are found in commercial air fresheners. Most air fresheners work not by eliminating odors through cleaning, ventilation, or absorption, but by adding chemicals to the air. Commercial air fresheners work in two ways. Some air fresheners coat a consumer’s nasal passageways with chemicals that interfere with nerve endings, lessening the perception of bad odors. Other air fresheners mask odors with a stronger fragrance, which overpowers a consumer’s perception of offending smells. Moreover, commercial air fresheners often include volatile organic compounds, which are carcinogenic and neurotoxic.
In short, baby or no baby, you’d be wise to ditch all commercial air fresheners and find more natural ways to freshen your home’s air.
Deodorizing discs are great in closed containers, such as diaper pails, trash cans, or cabinets. Replace the discs when they are no longer absorbing odors.
10-20 drops essential oils of your choice
1-2 cups water
2 cups baking soda
Silicone molds or muffin baking cups
Mix essential oils in approximately 1 cup of water. Add the baking soda and mix well. Add more water until you have a thick paste. Transfer the mixture to your silicone molds or muffin baking cups, and allow to dry for 24-48 hours. When discs are completely dry, remove from molds.
For more safe and natural recipes just like these, check out Homemade Cleaners: Quick-and-Easy, Toxin-Free Recipes, a book I co-wrote with Mandy O’Brien.
What was your favorite natural cleaner to use when you had little ones underfoot