If homemaking is world building, the tools you use to complete your little domestic tasks become the magic that makes world building happen — like spells and potions. How you use them depends on what you want to get done, but you need to have a well stocked potion cabinet in order to build the world you want.
Start With the Basics: Dish Soap and Hot Water
The truth of the matter is that all you need to clean your home well is dish soap, very very hot water, and some sort of cleaning rag. That’s it! Dish soap and hot water can are the tools to clean the majority of surfaces within your home. And maybe that’s enough for you! Maybe you didn’t know you could clean your bathtub with just soap and hot water and now you’re done learning. You can absolutely stop reading here! Go clean that tub! But with a few other key tools that’ll cost you less than $10 total, you can begin to build a DIY cleaning arsenal that will offer you everything you need to feel like an adept homemaker.
A Quick Note on Natural vs. Chemical and Cleaning Solution Safety
A quick note on some ever present queer questions whenever I bring up my love of cleaning solutions: Are they chemical free? Are they safe? Will my pets die if I clean with them? No, these tools aren’t chemical free, because I’m pretty sure everything has chemicals in it (chemists, back me up). They are as safe as any cleaning solution can be, and if you handle the materials with care, I can almost guarantee your pets’ safety.
While I’m all about natural cleaners — primarily because they’re cheaper and I love a bargain — “natural” doesn’t mean “safe,” and that’s important to highlight. Bleaching absolutely can happen naturally, but even the most natural form of bleach isn’t “safe,” but it absolutely can be used safely, and if stored correctly is not inherently dangerous to have around. I always suggest cleaning in a well insulated environment, not only because of the fumes that any chemicals you might use may produce, but because your home is probably musty as hell! When was the last time you purposefully facilitated a cross-breeze, hmm? As a matter of fact, go love yourself a little and crack open a few windows before you finish reading.
Let’s Talk About Vinegar
If you want to advance a little further from soap and water, vinegar is the first place to start. White vinegar to be exact, but I have absolutely used ACV in a pinch. The best vinegar/cleaning solution recipe I have found is: 1:1 vinegar to water, a squirt of dish soap, and your favorite essential oil. Vinegar is great for every day stuff — wiping down the counters between meals, cleaning up a quick spill. It is also very good for buildup. Soap is a great tool, but soap can, if you aren’t great about rinsing, create a film sometimes. Maybe your floors look a little cloudy after you mopped; throw some vinegar in the mopping water next time. Towels gunked up with hair supplies and lotion and laundry detergent? Add some vinegar to the wash and watch them come out like new.
Vinegar does NOT sanitize, so if you’re immunocompromised and/or need to think about sanitation, vinegar is not that girl! But she will help to get rid of that weird gross smell in your sink and get rid of the spaghetti sauce stains on the wall behind your stove. My favorite use of vinegar is when washing dishes. I like to have two sinks full of water: one with scaldingly hot water and soap, the other with cold water and about ¼ cup of vinegar for the rinse. They dry quicker, my glasses aren’t streaky, and you can really feel when the soap gets off.
Here Comes Rubbing Alcohol
You’ve added vinegar to your under-the-sink collection of cleaning supplies and you’re loving it, but you’re also a little concerned about germs! Sometimes something really absolutely nasty comes into your house, and you want to make sure you’re killing any gross things that might harm you. Here comes rubbing alcohol!! Specifically, Isopropyl Alcohol 91%. The antiseptic can be used as an antibacterial cleansing agent for your cuts and scrapes, and it can also be used on high touch areas like doorknobs and window ledges.
Personally, I choose not to use alcohol where I cook, I use it mostly in the bathroom on the faucet and handles and for a once a week (or more if I’m sick) wipe down of high touch areas. Have you ever cleaned around your doorknob? It’s absolutely disgusting there, pal. Just… absolutely disgusting. Go right now and mix a 1:1 solution of alcohol and water and wipe off your doorknobs. You deserve it.
Alcohol also has two other amazing uses around the house. Nothing cleans windows quite like rubbing alcohol and a recycled newspaper. Add a little dish soap to the 1:1 solution you just made, and spray and wipe down from the top to the bottom of the window. Windows are also unfortunately another thing that get surprisingly dirty, just like the doorknobs, so maybe this weekend do TWO nice things for yourself and take care of them both. Other than windows, as all good glass using stoners know, alcohol is the go to for cleaning out a bong. Rubbing alcohol, kosher salt, time, and maybe pipe cleaners if you’ve got some really stuck on resin. But remember how I said I don’t use alcohol where I cook? The same thing applies for the pieces I smoke out of. If I clean a piece with alcohol, I rinse it out with boiling water and then let it completely dry. Yes, completely, you do not want to risk inhaling rubbing alcohol fumes. Maybe spend the time it’s drying learning how to roll joints?
My Favorite Cleaning Supply: Bleach
The big boss of cleaning supplies is bleach. Is bleach safe? No! Is bleach my favorite cleaning supply? Yes! And none of my cats have been harmed because of my use of it. What can’t you use bleach for! It unclogs pipes, it whitens whites (to an extent), it sanitizes. Bleach is what I use in my toilets and bathrooms, it’s what I use to scrub out the cats’ litter box every 6 weeks, and every single kitchen linen I own has been bleached at least once because I’m constantly just like “eh, can’t hurt!”
You do need to be safe when cleaning with bleach though — just as you need to be safe cleaning with anything! Clearly label anything you have bleach in. Absolutely open the windows and/or turn on some fans when you’re using it. Find something to busy your pets with something more fun than being around you while you clean. Always, always, rinse off a surface you’ve bleached with clean, hot water, especially if you’ll cook on it. Never mix bleach with ammonia or any other cleaner. Always wear gloves.
Put Intention Into Your Cleaning and Build a New World
So you know you want to build a new world, you have all these potions and spells under your sink, and now what? There’s this idea in Jewish rituals of hiddur mitzvah, that we purposefully choose beautiful items to conduct our rituals with in order to elevate them to higher statuses. Sure, you can clean your home with the recycled spray bottle from some old Lysol, or you can make the choice to buy matching, beautiful glass spray bottles. You can use the essential oils you keep on your altar, or the rind of a citrus fruit you ate on a perfect date and add it to your solutions before your weekly day of rest. You can recycle your favorite tattered shirt and use it as a cleaning rag.
Putting intention into your cleaning gives it purpose. You aren’t just cleaning your space, you’re making it more liveable, you’re making a world where you feel like you can breathe deeply and be your whole self. Put some love into it.
Notes for a Queer Homemaker is a new column that will publish on the fourth Friday of every month!