Cleaning my apartment

Let’s see… Pine Sol, Windex, laundry detergent, dish detergent, some sort of stain removed, some degreaser, bleach, a spray bottle of Awesome Orange, toilet cleaner, Scrubbing Bubbles….

Okay Hell with all that. I stock far too much stuff just to get my house clean, this can’t continue. I’m reminded of my parents’ cleaning supply room–four shelves of random chemicals to clean just about anything! I’m not stocking that much crap in this tiny apartment!

Five Basic Cleaners

I actually managed to reduce all my apartment cleaning needs to five basic cleaners, including soap for cleaning me. Unintentionally, everything I got is environmentally-friendly, and for the most part minimally toxic (i.e. large doses will cause problems, small doses might be used as food additives) and biodegradable. Some combinations, however, seem to be a bit harsh on the skin.

  • Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 Bar Soap — Pretty much? Naturally scented oils globbed together as soap. I like the Peppermint bars but these also come in Almond, Lavender, and Rose.
  • Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 Liquid Soap — Same as the bar soap, but in liquid form. I noticed the bar soap had water running off it where it was sitting, and had cleaned some nasty stuff off my tub; besides that, you can use this stuff for shampoo.
  • Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds — Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, some stabilizers, and fir and spruce tree oil for scent. SLS is pretty harsh, but they use stabilizers to counteract that as much as they can; on the bright side, lab rat experiments with SLS have shown that huge doses aren’t terribly toxic, and pretty much cause skin and eye irritation and an upset stomach. It’s great for washing dishes, clothes, and mopping the floor or cleaning the bathroom. You can just use the 18-in-1 Liquid Soap instead.
  • Borox — Removes stains, cleans dishes, cleans the floor, bath tub, carpet, clothes, whatever.
  • Washing Soda — Sodium Carbonate. An aggressive base (like Lye but not as horribly caustic), useful for boosting the efficiency of detergents. Mix with Borax. Constant exposure can be harsh on the skin, so I avoid it for anything I need to immerse my hands in for a long time (i.e. dishes).

That’s it, that’s all I use. With these I can clean my apartment top-to-bottom.

Things I Can Clean

I can clean everything with these things. Myself, my bathroom, my dishes, my clothes, everything. I could wash my car with Sal Suds if I wanted.


Obviously, I can clean myself with the soap. I use Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Bar Soap to clean myself. This stuff actually leaves me feeling clean, too; regular soaps usually have an effect such that I can skip them and feel the same coming out of the shower as if I’d used them.

I don’t usually use Dr. Bronner’s for shampoo, but you can. Peppermint, Almond, and Lavender liquid soaps can clean your hair easily enough, though I wouldn’t expect a spectacular foaming lather like you get from any regular shampoo. Since it’s all plant oils, this stuff should function like a decent conditioner as well.  Results seem to lean towards rubbery-feeling hair that’s unpleasant in the shower (it sticks to your hands and thus pulls, like rubber); Head and Shoulders for me.


For a small load, a tablespoon of half-and-half (by volume) Borax and Washing Soda and a squirt (or like, 2 ounces) of Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap or Sal Suds works as laundry detergent. For a large or heavily soiled load, use twice as much Borax and Washing Soda.

Typically you’d use about a quarter cup (2 ounces) of Sal Suds for this, according to the instructions. Borax and Sodium Carbonate both improve the efficiency of laundry detergent, however, by binding or competing with ions that could interfere with the soap. Because of this, you can use a little less of the liquid soap.

Bathroom and Floor Cleaner

Rather than Pine Sol and whatever bathtub cleaner and Scrubbing Bubbles and bleach and toilet cleaner and whatever else, you can clean your whole bathroom and kitchen with Borax and Washing Soda. A mop and bucket with this mixture will clean your floors. You can add a little bit of liquid soap or Sal Suds to these for extra cleaning power.

Typically I use an ounce (2 tablespoons) in 1-2 gallons of water of 50-50 mix Borax and Washing Soda, and maybe a teaspoon or less of Sal Suds. This has cleared up some nasty crud in my bathtub especially; I’m still working on some stains in the bathroom floor.  Mind you, exposure to the Washing Soda for a long time will start to irritate your hands a lot.


Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds works for dishes. So does a little bit of Borax. For that matter, a mix of the two works great as well, or a mix of Borax and any Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap.  Typically I just squirt some Sal Suds onto a sponge and use that; however, at times I have soaked nasty smelling Gladware containers (hello burned chili) in a sink full of water with an ounce of Borax and a squirt of Sal Suds in it.

Windows, Tables, Chairs

A tablespoon of Borax in a bucket of hot water or a spray bottle of water (yes, more concentrated in a 1 liter spray bottle) works pretty freaking well as a window cleaner.  Borax works in general as an all-purpose counter top cleaner, and can clean your table or whatever else.  Mixing in some washing soda works for a disinfectant– think about what this stuff does to your hands!– and I’ve also used Sal Suds to scrub things off my counter (dried-on goop from whatever), but it’s not strictly necessary.

I would definitely avoid using Sal Suds or liquid soap on a food preparation surface aside from a cutting board you’re washing.  If you can’t rinse it, use Washing Soda to disinfect, then wipe down with a wet rag, then dry.  The off-flavors imparted by soap can make food taste sort of off; wiping a counter down to remove soap residue can be a little difficult.

In any case, I use about 3 different chemicals as an all-purpose cleaner, pretty much varying how much of which I use based on taste and boredom.  It really doesn’t matter, as long as you use some sort of soap for soapy jobs, and stick to Borax for window cleaning.  Washing Soda acts as a stain remover and a sort of aggressive cleaner, while Borax acts as just a surface cleaner.


~ by John Moser on May 7, 2009.

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