By Patti Thornburgh
Life in the San Diego Backcountry has many perks, challenges and common factors that seldom exist in the city. One of the most common factors of Backcountry living is the septic system. Whatever liquid goes down the drain will eventually end up in the soil to some degree. It also means whatever cleaning chemicals are used for the sink, tub, shower, toilet and appliances such as the dish washer and washing machine will do the same. To make things worse, some of these cleaning chemicals can kill bacteria that break down waste in the septic system, causing more solid waste to build up. This can turn into septic backups and more frequent septic system pumping, neither of which is a financial plus.
One way to help the septic system and in turn, the environment, is to use “green cleaning” products. There are many products on the market that are environmentally friendly. Many come at a higher price than “normal” cleaning products. It seems in marketing, if it is good for the environment it is bad on the pocketbook. There is a way around paying the higher prices on cleaning products, whether green or harsh chemical ones. Make the products yourself. Many are quite simple and work just as well if not better than the ready-made, store-bought cleaners.
Homemade cleaning products have been important to me for years. It started out having to use alternative ways to clean due to allergies to harsh chemicals. From there it became a way of life as well as a passion to help protect the environment. Everyone has their favorite cleaning products, and I am no exception. Here are a few of my favorite homemade cleaner recipes. I would be honored if you gave them a try! As in ALL products, spot test each on a small area to be sure it will work on the surface.
For soap scum and build-up in sinks, tubs, and showers:
Baking Soda Scrub
Simple baking soda
A small amount of water to spritz with
Sprinkle the baking soda around the inner sides and bottom of the tub or sink. (I advise wearing gloves if you have sensitive or dry skin.) Lightly spritz water on the baking soda, just enough to get it damp. Once that is done, start rubbing the baking soda on the sides and bottom of the tub or sink. As you rub, you should notice the baking soda will pull off the soap scum. It may take some elbow grease on tougher areas, but the results can be well worth it. Once you’ve rubbed the scum off the sides and bottom, push the baking soda residue into the drain. Pour on some vinegar and you have the added benefit of cleaning part of the drain! Rinse well and you’re done. Just a note, for shower walls, you may need dampen your glove and put baking soda on it and scrub the walls that way. This is normally safe on porcelain, fiberglass, plastic, stainless steel and tile, but as with any new product you use, spot test it first.
Sometimes the build-up is pretty bad, especially in older homes and rentals. In these cases, you need a bit of extra boost. Here’s the recipe to try:
Baking Soda Paste Cleaner
1 tsp. liquid soap (regular blue Dawn dish soap works well)
1 cup baking soda
Enough water to form a paste
A few drops of an essential oil if you feel so inclined
Mix together to form a paste. Spread the paste on the area needing cleaned. Let set for about 5 minutes. Spritz with water. Rub area to clean. Rinse.
Disinfecting Spirit Spray
Mix together in a large spray bottle:
2 parts water
1 part hydrogen peroxide
1 part vodka
About 10 drops of an essential oil of your choice.
Shake well. Spray on surface and wipe. For dried-on particles, spray and allow to set a few minutes.
This spray is great for windows, mirrors, glass, countertops, stainless steel, porcelain, and many other surfaces. It not only cleans, it sanitizes. An added benefit, it is safe to use on food preparation surfaces.
For greasy areas, you may want to put three or four drops of dish soap on the grease spot, spray on the spray and let it set for a bit. If you have a Swiffer Wet Jet and want to know how to refill the bottles, this product is great for the refill. To refill the Wet Jet bottle, you will need one of those meat marinade injectors. Mix the solution in a large measuring cup or bowl and use the injector to fill the bottle. Be sure to out the syringe in the center hole of the lid and not in the membrane. It takes a bit of time, but can save money. I use this on tile and laminate flooring and it has always worked great. And as I said before, an added benefit is that it sanitizes!
These are the basics I use for cleaning. There are many good books on the subject of Green Cleaning that can be checked out from your local library, as well as many good blogs and articles on the subject that can be found on line.
P.S. The one thing I have found that will almost always clean those toilet rings found in most backcountry homes is a pumice stone or pumice stick.