Several years ago we decided to ditch all chemical cleansers in our home. Reasons for this varied from the blatantly selfish (I’m cheap) to the potentially sanctimonious (soapbox talking point: kemicullz iz baaad). I’m a child of the TV generation, so it was hard to give up all of my pretty bottles of yellow and blue, odoriffic cleansers – after all, Mr. Clean and the Pine Sol lady had always been good to me, made me smile, showed me the way to gleamy-dreamy floors and toilets. And here I was, pulling a Ma Fratelli, hiding them away in an obscure corner of the basement. Poor Sloth. Poor Mr. Clean. Poor Pine Sol lady.
As it worked out, I had to lock those cleansers away a few times – and then finally pack them in a box and give them away – to get off them altogether. Every time I felt a longing for some piney cleanliness, I’d grudgingly re-read some article about the alarming reality of chemical body burden or the problem with antibacterial everything being in our homes. Household cleaners alone aren’t the solution to these multifaceted issues (that’s an entry for another day… or, more likely, many entries for many other days), but they were a step I was determined to take. So I’d sigh, turn off the computer, pick up my handy dandy scrubby and a big box of baking soda…
And scrub my bathtub like a madwoman for six hours and not even put a dent in the soap scum.
Me: Okay, seriously, man, what the hell?
Being eco-friendly and all enlightened and stuff was not supposed to be this sweaty. And sucky. And just plain unsuccessful.
I’m weak and will admit that there’s been a couple times over the years that I’ve broken down and come home from the store with a bottle or can of something-I-can’t-pronounce-because-I-didn’t-pay-attention-in-Chemistry-(sorry-Mr. Gaylord). The mystery chemical goo would make everything shiny and pretty and I’d feel like the cheap sellout that I am. (And then I’d bitch about the chemical stink – and those cleansers really do smell awful, once you’ve gotten un-used to them- and whine that my hands were all dry and burning, and wind up huddled on the couch with a big pile of cookies and self-loathing and self-inflicted melodrama.)
But most of my cleaning time in the last few years, I’ve devoted to figuring out the optimal homemade cleanser for any situation. I’ve tried out various combinations of the classic workhorses, baking soda and vinegar. I’ve experimented with sugar, borax, peroxide, and I can’t even remember what else. I tried washing with washcloths, green scrubbies, yellow scrubbies, those insane metal scrubbies, toothbrushes and even, for a while, used dryer sheets. Most cleansers, I worked out pretty quickly (like, within a year or three. It takes most people less time, from what I gather, but I’m a slow learner). Soap scum, however, eluded me.
I am announcing THE ultimate, home-cleaning solution for soap scum. It will get all those soapy hard water dots off of your faucet and knobs. It will get that rusty colored gunk out of your grout without the use of a toothbrush or scouring pad. It will leave a film if you don’t rinse it well, but deal with it, babies, because it’s the definition of awesomeness.
(It has also probably been figured out already by dozens, maybe even hundreds, of people who are smarter and more succinct than me, but I’m having a moment here.)
So, here it is. Take it to your soapy scum and gunk and report back your results. (I laugh now because no one is going to read this but me.)
1 cup* baking soda
2 tbsp. table salt (buy the cheapo stuff for 99 cents at Aldi – don’t use your good sea salt for soap scum, it won’t appreciate it)
2 tbsp. castile soap (I like Dr. Bronner’s hemp… smells yummy!)
Optional: essential oil of your choice (I didn’t put it in because of the yummy-smelling Dr. Bronners, see above)
*all measurements are approximate
Mix baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Add soap (and oil). Mix. The soap will not mix into all of the baking soda/salt – that’s okay. Just mix it in the best you can. Add water in small amounts and mix until you have a thick paste (think mashed potatoes). Use on a washcloth to scrub your bathtub, sink, whatever. Enjoy having a clean bathroom. You’re welcome.