Crawly, not creepy: DIY natural floor cleaner

As I wrangled a diaper onto my extremely squirmy 5-month old this morning, I was reminded that crawling is not far off.  With crawling will come licking of hands and feet that have smeared across the floor and, I’m sure, licking of the floor itself.

I’ve heard reports for years that some household cleaners are harmful to human and environmental health. For instance, NYT’s Greenwire describes a possible link between estrogen-mimicking chemicals in cleaning products and sex change in smallmouth and largemouth bass. Phosphates, commonly found in dishwasher soaps and laundry detergents, cause algal blooms that lead to fish kills. ‘Nanoparticles’, minuscule manmade particles small enough to cross biological membranes, are added to a host of household cleaning and cosmetic products. Before we know the effects of these particles on humans and wildlife, they are showing up in our freshwater lakes and streams.

I've been using “green” cleaning agents found at major retail stores. Unfortunately, recent reports suggest that many of these products may not be any better for you or the environment than conventional cleaners. So, for me, its back to the drawing board to find effective, all natural cleaners that don’t leave my house smelling like a pickle. I’m starting at the bottom – literally - with the floor!

First, there are many great blogs out there that cover all natural cleaning in depth - Nature’s Nuture, Adorned from Above, Olivia Cleans Green – to name a few. Of course, there are also many products that you can buy, which make environmentally friendly floor cleaning convenient, like E-cloth mops.

Instead of buying something new, I decided to make my own floor cleaner to use with the Swiffer mop I already own.

First, I made this solution from the Adorned from Above blog:

1 cup vinegar

1/4 cup Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap (If you don't have Dr. Bronner's, I've seen recipes that use only vinegar, water, and essential oils, but I haven't tested them!) 

3 cups water

10 drops tea tree oil

10 drops lemon oil

Some Dr. Bronner’s soap is scented, so you may want to alter your essential oil blend to perfect the smell. Tea tree and lavender oils are nice for cleaning because both have anti-microbial properties. Essential oils are expensive, but they last a while and are good for a number of things. If you buy food grade oils, then you can add a few drops of lemon essence to your water (tastes nice & reportedly good for digestion). I use lavender oil as deodorant and perfume. 

Next, I made my own re-usable Swiffer pad out of an old sock by cutting a slit in the sock, slipping it on the mop head, and tucking the sock’s “neck” down. I mopped, removed the sock & will wash it for later use. 

Natural floor cleaning. Put your homemade cleaner in a squirt bottle, spray, sock-mop, and voila - clean floors!

Natural floor cleaning. Put your homemade cleaner in a squirt bottle, spray, sock-mop, and voila - clean floors!

How did it work? Great!

Here’s the break down:

Smell test: Good – no powerful vinegar smell.

Clean test: Well, they look good - very shiny

Foot test: Clean and not sticky

I’m off to finish cleaning now, but before I go, here’s a natural cleaning-related talking point for your next get together: A ban on dish detergents high in phosphate has led to soap trafficking by so-called “bubble bandits”. Listen to the full story on NPR!