I Tried Cleaning With Bicarb and Vinegar and It Seriously Changed How I Clean Forever


The trip to the grocery store is always roughly the same cost. Except when I need to go to the ‘cleaning’ aisle. Then it doubles. Washing powder. Floor cleaner. Drain cleaner. All super expensive. And they make the house smell. And those chemicals do down the drain, into the ocean damaging our environment.

Now, I’ve been a little bit obsessed with Pinteresting ‘tiny houses’. I think they are super cute, sustainable and affordable. But in order to live in a tiny house, you can’t use the kinds of chemical cleaners I’ve been using because it all goes straight into the environment.

The very real implications of the cleaning products I use impacting the environment come into stark reality when you look at the products you use every day: if I mopped the floor with this, then poured it outside, would it kill the grass outside? Would it kill the animals nearby? It’s not a pretty thought.

It also occurred to that maybe I shouldn’t be using these chemical cleaners now – because these, too, damage the environment.

So I got to thinking: what household products can I switch to a more environmentally friendly version?

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The green alternatives

Well, it turns out that vinegar, bicarb soda, and Castille soap are the keystones for essential green cleaning. But you need to follow the recipe for what you’re trying to do.

Many years ago, my old flatmate tried to use bicarb and vinegar to clean the bath in our old art deco apartment, without much luck. We sprinkled the bicarb on the bath and tried scrubbing, but nothing happened.

So this time when I looked into green cleaning I actually Googled this, it turns out that you need to make a thick paste to scrub the bath, rather than the dainty sprinkling of bicarb we’d used. Life lessons, right?!

So, this time around, I wanted to create a simple multipurpose spray to clean the kitchen.

The science of cleaning

When I created my multipurpose spray, my flatmate walked in on me looked at me incredulously. “Vinegar isn’t a disinfectant!”.

“Yes, it is!” I replied, leaving him silenced enough for me to clean the house with this new method.

(His criticisms were silenced forever when this fact was casually mentioned in a Stuff You Should Know episode – the oracle of all knowledge.)

It turns out that not only is vinegar a great household disinfectant – but it can kill the flu. And salmonella. And e. Coli.

No, it can’t do everything. But for around the house, we don’t need hospital-grade cleaning, and vinegar seems pretty good.

In fact, Professor Collignon in this article states that the real thing we should be using to break down bacteria is scrubbing: “The act of rubbing and scrubbing breaks down a slimy matrix around certain types of bacteria, allowing disinfectants, such as vinegar, to get to work.”

So if we spray on a household cleaner – whether it’s vinegar or something store-bought – we’re not really destroying much bacteria unless we’re scrubbing.

As for chemical cleaners“We over-use chemicals. Instead of using one unit, we use 1000 units, and the benefits are marginal”.

So my takeaway? I’m not in a hospital. I’m not camping. I’m at home. For killing household bacteria, vinegar is fine, especially if I get out the old scrubbing brush.

What is cleaning?

Something being ‘clean’ is not the same as ‘disinfected’. You use something soapy to clean to remove dirt, and then use a disinfectant to kill bacteria.

I suppose store-bought household sprays just kind of do in it all in one – but, I mentioned, they’re really damaging to the environment (and expensive!).

So, based on my research, my plan of attack should be:
1. Scrubbing a surface with soap-based cleaner to clean and break apart the bacteria colony and remove dirt.
2. If I also want to disinfect, spraying with a vinegar-based spray to decimate the bacteria.

Here’s how to make your own…

DIY Multipurpose Cleaner

What you need

For the soap cleaner

For the disinfectant

How To Do It

  1. Mix the ingredients for the soap cleaner together into the sprayer.
  2. Spray the surface you want to clean. Leave it for a few minutes to soak in if needed.
  3. Scrub the surface with a cloth or scrubbing brush.
  4. Wipe clean with a damp cloth.
  5. Done! The surface is clean, with dirt removed and bacteria colonies are broken up.
  6. If you also want to additionally disinfect (like if you’re in a kitchen or bathroom), mix the disinfectant in a sprayer with 50% water and 50% vinegar.
  7. Spray on the surface, leave for a few minutes.
  8. Wipe up with a damp cloth.

The rundown

I found it really fascinating to research green cleaning, and bust a few of my misconceptions about the science behind cleaning.

Not only is DIY bicarb and vinegar cleaning a simple way I can contribute to looking after the planet on a daily basis – but my maths says it costs just 3% of the price compared to chemical cleaners.

Again, little switches add up over time, and this is a simple way to save hundreds on cleaning products that you really don’t need.

Yep, you need to mix up the combo before cleaning. Sometimes you need a spray and sometimes a paste, depending on what you’re doing. But it only takes like 30 seconds more to mix the bicarb, soap and/or vinegar mixes. Totally doable.

But like cooking cheese on toast, once you do it a few times, it’s super easy to remember off the top of your head.

I’m sold. Literally never using chemical cleaners again.

DIY inspo

Add white vinegar, bicarb soda and castille soap to your shopping list. The next time you need to clean the house – give it a go instead of chemical cleaners.

(Castille soap is sometimes harder to find in grocery stores, you may need to go to a health-food store, or order online.)

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