Last summer, when I had a child that took two naps a day, I read Organic Housekeeping by Ellen Sandbeck. It completely changed the way I cleaned house. The book is a bit long. Since reading a book on housekeeping isn't the most exciting thing in the world, I'll cut to the chase for you and share some things I learned...and still use a year later.
Easily the handiest tip I picked up from Ms. Sandbeck was the many uses of...Vinegar (kinda gave it away with the title didn't I). Who knew it had so many uses? If you don't keep a giant, costco size jug of vinegar around you're missing out. It's so cheap, and seriously could clean almost everything (if not everything) in your house, and it doesn't stop there. Here are some uses for vinegar to get you started.That's what I'm talking about.
For cleaning hard surfaces: countertops, toilets, stovetops, walls, refrigerators, floors, etc. When vinegar dries it leaves zero residue, also it dissolves stuck on messes fast and has natural antibacterial properties making it ideal for cleaning and wiping up. Also, since it leaves no residue you don't have to worry about it leaching into you (or your kids, or your food) like you do with chemical cleaners.
Sticker Removal: like it says people, vinegar will remove the stickers your kids decorate the leather couch with. Also good for removing the labels from jars you are recycling to hold the new homemade yogurt you just fermented. Clever.
Fruit and Veggie Wash: If you are somewhat paranoid about your produce being clean, and buy into that expensive veggie wash sold in stores look to vinegar (and hydrogen peroxide) instead. Keep a spray bottle of vinegar and a spray bottle of hydrogen peroxide (must be in separate bottles to remain potent) around for cleaning fruits and vegetables. Obviously don't clean everything because you need to challenge your immune system every now and then to keep it strong. But if your apple fell into raw meat juice or the lettuce is extra dirty spray first with vinegar then hydrogen peroxide. Rinse if you want. Don't be afraid of the hydrogen peroxide, it's completely safe.
Spot Cleaning Carpets: In the book Ellen Sandbeck suggests that vinegar and a rag can be used to clean your wall to wall carpeting (that's some serious elbow grease). It works just as well for spot cleaning. The problem with spots in the carpet is that they keep coming back (this is doubly true for when your husband spills an entire bowl of roasted potatoes on your brand new carpet, am I right ladies?), you clean them and then a few months later they reappear. How do they do that? Basically residue stays behind and new dirt clings to it. Vinegar solves this problem since it leaves no residue. Hooray!
Glass, Mirror, Window Cleaner: If you have previously used cleaners like windex then you will initially need to clean your mirrors and windows with a solution of vinegar, water and dishsoap before using just vinegar to clean them. This is because windex and similar cleaners leave behind a wax like residue that vinegar cannot get rid of. Or so says Ellen Sandbeck. When I started using vinegar to clean windows and things I just lived with some slight streakiness from the waxy stuff and eventually it went away. If you are less lazy than I, use the dishsoap stuff once and live streak free from the get go.
Jet Dry Replacement: I am starting to sound like a broken record, vinegar leaves no residue and therefore your dishes will rinse clean. Pour it into the allotted jet dry spout, and rest easy knowing the vinegar is much easier on the enviroment, and cheaper to boot.
Weed Killer: Peace-loving lover of the earth that I am I'm strongly against Roundup and the like. Use vinegar instead, just as effective, a million times less harmful! I pour it into the cracks of our driveway every now and then when I feel like keeping up with the Joneses. Works like a charm.
Laundry Gunk Banisher: Pouring a half cup of vinegar into the rinse cycle rids your laundry of...you guessed it...residue! Vinegar is indispensible if you use cloth diapers. It keeps the smell down (if you let the diapers soak in the wash before actually washing them, like we do) and rinses away any soapy residue that would irritate a baby bottom.
See how awesome vinegar is? If you aren't already sold on it's many glorious uses you should be. Who doesn't like saving money, helping the planet and ridding their home of unnecessary chemical cleaners? Enjoy, People:)