Natural alternatives

I've had many people ask me over the years for recipes of some of the natural products I use for household cleaning (not my favorite pastime!) as well as items to use outside. I thought I would list a few here for those interested in more natural alternatives to chemical cleaners, etc.
Most of what is listed here works as well as many commercial products out in the market today, but costs pennies to make and is absolutely safe for children, pets and the environment. I have not used commercial household cleaners for over 20 years.

If anyone out there has natural products that they have made/used successfully, please e-mail me so we can add even more!

I will start with the few things I use ALL the time, all over the house. Get yourself a few spray bottles, some cheese shakers (reused Kraft Parmesan works best for me) and a couple of squirt bottles and you are ready to start!

Club soda - it cleans windows and all glass surfaces incredibly well and doesn't stink! I have found it to work better than brand name cleaners and will cost you about $1.00.
- Use it on many everyday household spills and stains. It will remove fresh bloodstains (detergent can actually set some stains). I also use it to spot clean carpet.

Baking Soda - Where don't I use this...! LOL!
- To take the sting and itch out of insect bites of all kinds, make a paste of baking soda and water and put directly on the bite. By the time it dries and flakes off, the itch is gone!
- Fill a shaker with Baking Soda, add about 20-30 drops of pure essential lemon and/or lime oil (or whatever scent you like), mix with a fork.
I use this to freshen carpets (FYI-fleas don't seem to like citrus scents!), clean counter tops, sinks, toilets, etc.. Follow with a vinegar rinse in your sinks and it will help keep them fresh and pipes clear! Kids love to watch the baking soda/vinegar foam up!
- You'll need a 16oz. squirt, flip top container for this. In a bowl, mix 1 and 2/3 cups baking soda, 1/2 cup of liquid soap (I like Dr. Bronners best), 1/2 cup water, add 2 tbsp vinegar LAST. Stir until lumps are gone. Add a little extra water if you need to thin it down. Pour into container. Keep the cap on or this will dry out. You now have a natural version of Soft Scrub! I scent mine with lemon and lime oils.
- A cup in your laundry will give your soap a boost and soften your clothes!
Here's a tip...someone recommended I try this. When using a regular laundry detergent, run your wash cycle a second time and see how much soap is still in your clothing! You can cut back the recommended amount by half and still get clean clothes. I use Dr. Bronners Sal Suds with vinegar and baking soda and have seen no difference in the results and it's much kinder on my septic system.

Vinegar - The uses for this stuff are too numerous to mention but here are a few that I really like and use all the time.
- Take a squirt bottle, fill it with half vinegar and half water. I scent mine with about 20 drops of pure essential peppermint oil which seems to have the added perk of repelling ants and other crawling bugs. I use this as a floor cleaner and for walls (a must with Spanish Mastiffs!). I put some of this in a spray bottle as well and spray around my doors, windows etc to discourage bugs from coming in.
- Scented vinegars are marvelous! I really like citrus scents and tend to use those most, but essential oils come in many, many scents so there are lots to choose from! They remove odors from pet stains (and will clean them too!), mildew, cooking smells, just about anything! Scent them anyway you like, usually about 15 drops in a 16oz bottle. These make a wonderful rinse for shower walls as it will cut through soap scum. Will also help remove grass stains, pour it in the rinse cycle to freshen laundry....
Vinegar is reputed to have some germ killing properties as well and a mix with Tea Tree Oil will make a good disinfectant.

Furniture Polish - This is the BEST polish I have ever tried!! Fill a squirt bottle 3/4 full with extra virgin olive oil, top off with white distilled vinegar (no more than 1/4!), scent to please with pure essential lemon oil. Shake well before each use. The vinegar cleans the wood and the olive oil nourishes it. This can also be used on leather (or a salad for that matter!).

Weed control - For my lawn, I like to keep it simple, safe and natural. Corn Gluten. This acts as a pre-emergent, when applied in early Spring and again in the Fall, it will actually stop new weed growth from coming up. It will also stop favorable plants so be careful where you apply it! It is also a great source of nitrogen for your lawn. A spreader is used to apply it and you really can't over-do. It is completely safe and you don't have to worry about children, animals or polluting ground water.
The down side is is that you have to be patient, this method takes a couple of years for you to see a big difference, but the less weeds going to seed every year means fewer weeds the year after. I checked labels and found that the Corn Gluten sold at your local feed store (for $5-$10 per 50lb) is pretty much the same as that sold in your garden centers and organic garden catalogs for $50+.

For my flower and vegetable gardens, I lay newspapers about 6-7 sheets thick between rows and around the flowers and put about 2+ inches of mulch on top of the papers. As the paper and mulch breaks down it enriches the soil. I usually have to repeat this every 2 years. I may have to pull a weed here or there around the base of a plant but that's about it.

As for fertilizer, the birds and goats take care of that for me as they range the property! For the areas restricted to the goats, I just haul it in myself.

Pets - My best advice is feed the best food you can afford! It pays off in the long run. Check labels and do some research on the ingredients. Dogs don't digest corn and that is one of the main ingredients in many commercial dog foods. Many dogs have allergies to wheat and soy, 2 more main ingredients...
I often get very funny looks from people when I tell them that I feed my dogs fruits and veggies as well as raw meat. Try it! Your dogs will think they are getting treats!
I do know that when I switched my dogs over to a more natural diet 15 years ago, trips to the vet for skin problems, ear infections and digestive problems pretty much came to a stop.

For any recipes requiring essential oils, I strongly recommend using pure essential oils and not synthetics. The synthetics just don't seem to work as well and they don't smell as nice.
I use Dr. Bronner's natural liquid soaps for any recipes that require soap (not detergent).
If you are interested in more ideas and recipes, I strongly recommend the book "Clean House, Clean Planet" by Karen Logan. It's fabulous!