Hey, guess what! According to the Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, more than 7 million accidental poisonings occur each year, with more than 75% involving children under age 6! And this is hardly surprising, since the average American household uses about 25 gallons of toxic, hazardous chemical products per year in their home, with a major portion of these found in their household cleaning products.
With our houses loaded up with poisonous cleaning concoctions, it should be no small wonder then that the toxic chemicals in household cleaners are three times more likely to cause cancer than air pollution, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
All of that to say – yes. Yes I am still on my DIY green and clean cleaning solutions kick. Hehehe!
This DIY Natural All-Purpose Citrus and Vinegar Cleaner is inexpensive, non-toxic and biodegradable.. and it works as well – and in some cases better than! – the cancer causing, potentially poisonous commercial household cleaners flooding the market today.
How Vinegar and Citrus Work as a Cleaner
This cleaner is made using both white vinegar (which is generally found distilled) and raw apple cider vinegar, or vinegar “with the mother”, meaning it is a probiotic liquid with a bacteria-rich base that helps to kill and neutralize harmful bacteria – especially useful while cleaning food preparation surfaces!
While apple cider vinegar is made using apple cider as a base, white vinegar is made using distilled grain alcohol. Both have powerful cleaning and disinfecting properties that date back to ancient times.
Some of the earliest records of vinegar’s use are found before 4000 BC, when it was used by the Sumerians for – you guessed it! – a disinfectant! It wasn’t until closer to 2000 BC that vinegar became widely used for its more common pickling and cooking purposes we know it for today.
Vinegar’s success as a cleaner can be charted through some colorful history.. for instance, at the height of the bubonic plague in Europe, vinegar was used as an antibacterial cleanser. One eighteenth century legend states that after the Black Death had already ravaged Europe for centuries, the French released prisoners to help bury the overwhelming numbers of dead. Most of the prisoners succumbed to the disease, but four survived by drinking, bathing in and using cloth masks drenched in vinegar infused with garlic – an ancient drink that has been used since ancient times by the Chinese, and gained popularity in Europe as, “The Four Thieves Vinegar”. (Click here to read my recipe for this tonic!)
But how does it work? Weeeeeell, because vinegar is acid based, molds, grease, and bacteria are just no match for it! It’s the acid in vinegar that kills bacteria and viruses by denaturing and chemically changing the proteins and fats that make up these beasties.
So powerful is vinegar as a cleaner, that when US researchers pitted commercial cleaning products against it they found that vinegar killed a surprisingly wide range of household pathogens. One study showed vinegar kills 99 percent of surface bacteria, 80 percent of germs, and 82 percent of molds on a counter!
Citrus is also known from ancient times for its powerful cleansing properties and was used as a deodorizer, a cleanser and a disinfectant. Similar to vinegar, the natural acids that give lemons their tartness help to clean and sterilize surfaces, while the delicious smelling oil in the skin of oranges (known as d-Limonene) works great as a degreaser, stain remover and freshener. d-Limonene, the major component of the oil extracted from citrus rind is used in countless over the counter cleaning products, and offers some natural oomph to your homemade vinegar cleaning solution! And let’s not forget, citrus is also good as an air freshener and natural source of aromatherapy. After all, citrus essential oils are linked with lowered stress, something we all can benefit from while cleaning house!
How to Make this All Purpose Cleaner
For this all-purpose cleaner, we are essentially just whipping up a batch of infused vinegar. Simply. Easy peasy! (Whatever peasy means…) This really require zero skill, since all infusions take are time!
You Will Need:
4 cups of white vinegar
1 cup of raw apple cider vinegar
2 orange peels
2 lemon peels
2 lime peels
1. Peel your oranges, lemons and limes and place in a clean glass jar.
2. Pour your white vinegar and raw apple cider vinegar over the citrus peels, and gently stir.
3. Place the lid on your glass jar, and wait, wait, wait for at least 2 to 8 weeks, stirring every few days. By day two, it will smell like a yummy lemonade, but refrain from drinking, haha. (Although the cool thing is, it is 100% edible!)
4. Once your citrus infused vinegar cleaner is done, strain the peels out of the jar and transfer the liquid to a clean spray dispenser and use as you would any all-purpose household cleaner!
You can speed up the infusion process by gently warming your vinegar before pouring it over the citrus peels, but be very careful not to bring the vinegar to a boil or you will kill of all of the probiotics! And do not, do not, DO NOT microwave the vinegar as some infusion recipes out there call for – again, it kills off all the good bacteria in the raw vinegar! I much prefer jumping right to the infusing step without warming the vinegar first, it really does work just as well, it just takes your mixture a day or two longer to be “done”.
This vinegar cleaner has an unlimited shelf life and is good for use on everything from windows, to kitchen counters, to disinfecting your garbage disposal to your counters to your refrigerator! Since vinegar and citrus are acids, this solution is also great for breaking up water mineral deposits and dissolving buildups like lime deposits on drains, in sinks, and on shower heads! If you only have one all-purpose cleaner in your home.. this one should be it!