Eco-Friendly Cleaning Part I (or how I was reducing to using vinegar and baking soda to clean)

Posted by at 10:20AM

Every so often I’m going to review an eco-friendly cleaning technique for those of us who live in apartments and do have to clean them occasionally.
But first, how I was literally reduced to an eco-friendly method –
When you get married, inevitably the issue of a just division of chores arises, especially when one of you has a lower tolerance for dirt than the other. In my case, I’m the one who grew up with the belief that the bathroom sink should be routinely wiped down. In a trade-off for laundry (which I despise), vacuuming, and putting the dishes away my job is to clean the bathroom and the kitchen.
The problem – I live in married couples housing, in apartments in which some designer, in a fit of brilliance, decided that the bathrooms didn’t need ventilation. Lack of ventilation in the bathroom, especially when combined with the cheap vinyl shower curtain housing provides, is the perfect growing place for mold.

1 month into the lease I got tired for scrubbing down the shower curtain weekly I chucked the cheap plastic curtain and bought an industrial cloth one which I could throw in the wash (don’t worry I will replace it when I move).
That just left the problem of fighting the pink mold that grows in the shower. I tried everything – scrubbing bubbles, tilex, soft scrub, comet, etc., and nothing worked. The use of commercial cleaning products bothered me, literally. The smell made my chest tighten and I had to air out the bathroom (via the use of two fans, one in the hallway and one against the sliding glass door) and leave every window and door open in order to get enough smell of the cleaning product out of the bathroom as possible so that I wouldn’t feel like I was smothering. But the mold wouldn’t go.
I was left with one option (or so I thought) – bleach. Unfortunately, my husband is allergic to bleach and I was actually too scared to handle it, given that already I could barely breathe when cleaning.
While browsing on the web for ways to remove the mold, I ran into a site recommending vinegar. I used it and it actually worked. Many of the tips for cleaning using baking soda and vinegar that I have tried have worked as well or better than the cleaning products I used.
I decided to go eco-friendly, but using stuff I knew I wasn’t allergic to – baking soda, vinegar, and hydrogen peroxide. I went to walmart got a huge-ass bottle of vinegar, 4 lb. box of baking soda (in laundry aisle, so apparently some people use it in the wash), and a huge bottle of hydrogen peroxide (note don’t mix vinegar and peroxide in a bottle as this makes a toxic acid).
Websites promised that these products would do everything from clean and bleach my clothes to disinfect my cutting board, to kill mold, but can you really trust some anonymous pusher of baking soda?
Anyways, here are my reviews:
Review #1 Using vinegar to clean mold off the shower.
[IMPORTANT: Test this on a small, non-noticeable part of your shower first to make sure that this won’t ruin your grout or bleach your tile]
need – spray bottle of full strength white vinegar, scrub brush, time
(1) Wet down shower. (2) Spray vinegar on tile. (4) Let sit 15-20 minutes. (5) Scrub with brush. (6) Rise off shower.
Pros – got ride of pink mold on shower tiles, mold just came right off.
– hubby not allergic to smell of vinegar.
Cons – just as much scrubbing as any other cleaner.
– your bathroom smells strongly of vinegar so running a fan to air it out before you go in to scrub is a must.
Review #2 using baking soda and vinegar to clean tub:
[again test this on inconspicuous place first]
This was supposed to miraculously get rid of hard water stains and dirt rings without a lot of work, but you still had to scrub.
(1) wet tub (2) place baking soda paste on tub (3) spray with vinegar [note vinegar plus baking soda equals carbon dioxide gas so you may want to ventilate the bathroom if you are using a lot of each] (4) Scrub tub (5) Rinse
Pros – got rid of ring.
Cons – just as much scrubbing as Clorox powder.
Review #3 using vinegar to clean microwave
In microwave safe dish place 2 cups of water and ¼ cup vinegar. Microwave for 3-5 minutes (let boil). Wipe down microwave with damp cloth.
Pros – cleaned microwave, esp. loosened stuff that gets stuck on the top of the microwave.
– Don’t have to wipe down microwave afterwards (to avoid contamination of food I wiped down microwave with water after using 409 or Clorox wet wipe).
-When the vinegar solution cools down, you can dip a rag in it and wipe down the kitchen counter and stove.
Cons – takes longer than a Clorox wet wipe, but the wet wipes don’t do well cleaning the gunk that gets plastered to the top of the microwave.
Review #4 using vinegar in the wash instead of bleach
Using vinegar is supposed to help prevent dye from fading and to provide a good disinfectant for whites. So I threw ¼ cup of vinegar in the wash with my whites and colors (note I only experimented on my clothes not on the hubby’s).
Results: Non of my clothes smelled like vinegar coming out after the first wash. It didn’t bleach my coloreds, but only time will tell if it prevents fading. Also, I like the smell of my whites better when I used vinegar than I did with bleach.
Next up – does baking soda really clean the oven without a lot of scrubbing? What about using vinegar to help you clean the dishes?


10 Responses to “Eco-Friendly Cleaning Part I (or how I was reducing to using vinegar and baking soda to clean)”

  1. Rebecca says:

    I haven’t used baking powder in combination with vinegar for cleaning, though I have used it on its own, especially for cleaning stainless steel sinks (comes up amazingly). I’ve also used it to wash my teeth, though if you do this you should mix it with salt to balance it. Baking soda is also really good for lifting coffee and tea stains out of carpets and rugs. It works best if you put it on the stain straight away, before it dries. Then you just let it absorb the stain, and vacuum it up. But I also put it on an old tea stain before I had to move out of an apartment. I wet it first with water, then poured on a heap of baking soda, let it dry, and vacuumed it up. I had to repeat the process a few times (it was an old stain), but it did help a lot.
    Another tip – if you have cats, an enzyme based washing powder works great for removing the smell of cat urine. Just be careful near electrical outlets as it can corrode the wiring (I managed to do that to a telephone connection when it seeped into the plug).

  2. Keira Stark says:

    I have a great home recipe for removing pet urine odor from carpeting and it also includes baking soda. I really prefer using ingredients such as baking soda, vinegar, etc. rather than the store bought cleaners which have chemicals that usually make it difficult to breathe.

  3. Louis Laframboise says:

    I would appreciate any suggestions as to how to clean a barrel (cut open) that has rancid olive oil on the inside edges.
    Do you know where i can get more in-depth, explanatory information for/of natural, ecological, cleaners? I am essentially interested in understanding the patterns inherent in the cleaning process and of the different cleaning materials available.
    Examples, water-oil: one floats: ashes and sand are abrasive; salt in warm water breaks apart ionically, and attacks or adheres to the appropriate dirt materials; when would i use acidic or basic materials to clean a given thing?
    Hope you understand and thanks for your time.

  4. Angeli says:

    In the photo, I see a clear spray bottle for peroxide. Light degrades peroxide (hence always being sold in the dark brown bottle). When you move peroxide to a clear bottle, it will turn into water. H2O2 will drop an O and turn into H2O.
    In addition, vinegar and peroxide can be mixed, although storing them together can reduce their combined effectiveness. They are an incredible disinfectant when used one after the other.

  5. Savannah Kelley says:

    Hi there! I have used vinegar and baking soda to clean my oven and it’s amazing! You mix together until it forms a paste similar to toothpaste. Coat baked-on-grossness with a glob of the mixture and let sit. I’ve let it sit for 10 minutes up to an hour (because I forgot) and it wipes off perfectly. The only drawback I have noticed is that the mixture will leave a fine dusting of baking soda, which nothing seems to get completely up. However, not to worry – it’s perfectly safe to cook with and it generally disappears after the first use of the oven after treatment.
    Happy Cleaning 😉

  6. Dan says:

    A red or pink pigmented bacteria known as Serratia marcescens is thought to be the cause of the pink “stuff”.
    Serratia bacteria are common inhabitants of our environment and can be found in many places, including
    human and animal feces, dust, soil, and in surface waters. The bacteria will grow in any moist location where
    phosphorous containing materials or fatty substances accumulate. Sources of these substances include soap
    residues in bathing areas, feces in toilets, soap and food residues in pet water dishes. Many times, the pinkish
    film appears during and after new construction or remodeling activities. Others have indicated the pink “stuff”
    occurs during a time of year that their windows are open for the majority of the day.
    These airborne bacteria can come from any number of naturally occurring sources, and the condition can be
    further aggravated if customers remove the chlorine from their water by way of an activated carbon filter.
    Serratia can also grow in tap water in locations such as toilets in guest bathrooms where the water is left
    standing long enough for the chlorine residual disinfectant to dissipate. Serratia will not survive in chlorinated
    drinking water.
    Serratia marsescens is not known to cause any waterborne diseases. Members of the Serratia genus were
    once known as harmless organisms that produced a characteristic red pigment. More recently, Serratia
    marcescens has been found to be pathogenic to some people, having been identified as a cause of urinary tract
    infections, wound infections, and pneumonia in hospital environments.
    Once established, the organism usually cannot be eliminated entirely. However, periodic and thorough cleaning
    of the surfaces where the pink slime occurs, followed by disinfection with chlorine bleach appear to be the best
    way to control it.

  7. Jerome says:

    this is a good idea. instead of using synthetic materials, you thought of using environment friendly ones. others may laugh at this, but then they would be missing the real benefit of this just like missing the point of why they should get a good toothbrush. nice work. keep it up!

  8. Kyle says:

    Great info posted here. I use a dehumidifier for the summer, and an air purifier to keep clean air and continuously remove allergens(I have pretty bad allergies). But the root cause of the problem, was an old area of mold under the stairs in our basement. After we had that removed, the problem was reduced drastically.

    Here’s a pretty short and sweet guide on it:

    Mold Removal Easy

    Hopefully everyone needing to find the info does, as black mold has pretty negative side affects on health (especially long term)



  9. Alice says:

    Fantastic and thoroughly written guide. The problem I have on a fairly regular basis is the occurrence of shower curtain mildew. This stuff seems to form instantaneously in our bathroom. I Prefer to go the route of natural products not only for my family’s safety, but because I am kind of an Eco-freak 😛
    Anyway, I found this guide on shower curtain mildew particularly useful. The part about PREVENTION was what I found to be gold. So far so good!

  10. Mold Cleaning Expert says:

    Using vinegar, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide 35% all work fine on non-porous surfaces like tubs, refrigerators, and shower glass. But they don’t do much for porous surfaces like tile grout, drywall, and carpeting. Also, many people are under the impression they can save a few bucks by cleaning mold themselves with this stuff. Problem is, they don’t know if the mold is active or inactive. In other words, if the mold is sporing or not. If so, they could just clean the visible mold and release millions of spores into the air resulting in potential problems elsewhere at a later time. If the mold is visible, it’s best to contain it so the spores are not released into the air and then remove it.


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