Way before bleach and all the other chemical disinfectants, sanitizers, de-greasers, and de-grimers were in our lives, there was vinegar, a natural byproduct of fermentation our ancestors accidentally stumbled upon. We get enough exposure to environmental toxins every day and most of it is completely out of our control. Where we do have control is in the products we use in our homes. Learning how to make a non-toxic cleaning spray with vinegar, citrus peels, and herbs can help lessen our exposure.
Using Vinegar as a Cleaning Agent
Vinegar is a mighty and widely versatile liquid! Its versatility is demonstrated by its many uses in food and beverage, medicine, bath and body, and cleaning and sanitation.
According to the Vinegar Brewer’s Association, the use of vinegar as a cleaning agent might actually date back to ancient Babylonia. When it was discovered that vinegar could be used to help preserve food and prevent spoilage by slowing the growth of bacteria, its use as a cleaning product seems a natural next step.
The high acidity of vinegar (from acetic acid) is so powerful that it can dissolve dirt and grease, and is even strong enough to kill bacteria.
Many commercial cleaning products contain incredibly harmful chemicals that are not only tough on our skin, but can actually do considerable harm just being around them, breathing them in and absorbing them through our skin.
The only downside to choosing vinegar as a non-toxic cleaner is its smell. For some, its strong, sour smell is a big deterrent. And if that’s you, you might be surprised at how well citrus peels and herbs and help disguise it.
Using Botanicals to Clean
The antimicrobial properties of many plants, like rosemary, make them great companions for homemade herbal cleaners. In fact, many of the phytochemicals in plants that give them their antimicrobial powers are the inspiration for many of today’s commercial chemical cleaners.
Why we have to always try to out-do Mother Nature, I’ll never understand.
The benefits of using herb-infused vinegars to clean include:
- They’re non-toxic, unlike many commercial cleaners.
- By using orange peels and perhaps excess herbs, you can actually help to eliminate food waste.
- It’s way cheaper to make your own non-toxic cleaner than it is to purchase one.
- You can pronounce all the ingredients used!
- While many folks find the smell of vinegar off-putting, herbs and orange peels help to disguise it. And you can always add essential oils to help too.
How to Make Non-Toxic Cleaning Spray
Making a non-toxic cleaning spray is the same as making an herb-infused vinegar. Whether it’s for cleaning, drinking, eating, or for use in bath and body products, it’s as simple as combining herbs and vinegar in a glass jar and letting time work its magic. Done. No measuring required.
After waiting for about a month, the herbs and citrus peels are strained from the vinegar and at that point, it’s ready to aid you in all your cleaning endeavors.
To make a non-toxic cleaning spray with your infused vinegar, add equal parts infused vinegar and water to a spray bottle and get to work.
citrus & rosemary vinegar | an all-purpose non-toxic cleaning sprayDifficulty: Easy
This vinegar-based cleaning spray made with herbs and orange peels is not only non-toxic, but it’s also easy to make and incredibly economical. Mix equal parts water and vinegar to use as a general, all-purpose household cleaner. Use it on countertops, floors, bathrooms, and more.
citrus peels of any kind (I used orange and lemon.)
fresh sprigs of rosemary
fresh sprigs of mint (optional)
distilled white vinegar (enough to cover the citrus peels and herbs by about 2″)
- Rough chop the citrus peels and fresh herbs into small pieces.
- To a quart-sized glass jar, add citrus peels and herbs until the jar is ~3/4 full.
- Cover the citrus peels and herbs with the distilled vinegar. You want to try to make sure the herbs and peels are covered by about 2″ of vinegar, but oftentimes the peels will seem to float. Just do your best.
- Seal the jar with an airtight lid.
****If your jar has a metal lid, it’s very important to place a piece of parchment paper between the jar and lid, preventing the vinegar from coming into contact with the metal. Otherwise, the vinegar will eat away at the metal lid, causing it to rust. Not only do you ruin your lid, but you end up with metal in your vinegar.
- Let the jar rest in a place out of direct sunlight for 3-4 weeks. Once a day, or as often as you remember, give the jar a good shake to maximize the infusion.
- After 3-4 weeks, strain the herbs and peels from the vinegar. Nest a fine-mesh strainer into a funnel over another clean class jar. (You can also line the strainer with cheesecloth, muslin, or an old scrap of a clean t-shirt to help strain as much as possible from the vinegar.)
Slowly pour infused vinegar through the strainer. To keep your vinegar from getting too cloudy, do not press or squeeze the vinegar from the peels and herbs. Just let the vinegar run through at its own pace. Compost peels and herbs.
- To make an all-purpose cleaning spray, mix equal parts infused vinegar and water into to a spray bottle.
(Store leftover infused vinegar in a glass jar until you’re ready to use. Remember to use a piece of parchment paper if your jar has a metal lid.)
Do you make your own household cleaners? I’d love to hear what ingredients you use, especially if you love to use the magic of plants!
Here’s to days wish less environmental toxins! Happy cleaning!