We are all spending time these days doing a little extra cleaning, whether to ourselves, our common spaces or those spaces that get forgotten (Who knew dog hair could find a way into the back of the refrigerator?!) It can be stressful and overwhelming. So, I am here to talk about some great resources and tips to help keep you and your home clean through this pandemic.
Let’s start with the basics, something I am incredibly passionate about: soap. There has been so much stated about handwashing over the past few months, it’s about all we can think about these days. I’m not here to add to the madness, but to give you a little information about the why. When you wash with soap, there are a few things going on. The first job of soap is to actually make water wetter. I know it sounds weird but give it a try: put a drop of water on the counter. Notice it’s shaped like a dome – that’s the surface tension of the water, which holds it together. Now, add a little bit of soap to your water drop. What happened? The soap breaks the surface tension of the water, which allows the water to expand and cover more area, essentially making water “wetter.” Pretty cool, right? The second job of soap is to clean, which is done by the individual soap molecules. A molecule of soap is called a micelle (pictured below, doesn’t the chandelier look like soap molecules?). These molecules have hydrophilic (water-attracting) and hydrophobic (water-repelling) properties. The hydrophilic (water-attracting) part of soap is what breaks the surface tension and makes water wetter. The hydrophobic (water-repelling) part of soap allows the molecules to collect bacteria, viruses, germs, and dirt off of the surface of your skin, or whatever you’re washing. The unwanted material gets stuck in the middle of the molecule when water is repelled, and the water-attracting outside allows the dirt to easily wash off of your hands. For this to fully take place, experts recommend washing for 20 seconds or more so the soap can thoroughly do its job. One bonus to using handcrafted soap is that it will likely still contain natural glycerin, which is a by-product of the soap-making process. Glycerin is a humectant, which means it attracts moisture to your skin. This means it will help decrease problems with dry skin caused by frequent hand washing and hand sanitizer use.
Speaking of hand sanitizer – there is a time and place for this stuff. Hand sanitizer is used to kill germs on contact and uses harsher chemicals to do so, typically alcohol. This is why it can make your hands feel like they belong in the Sahara Desert. Just like with soap, there is a right way and a wrong way to sanitize. According to the CDC, you want to apply enough to cover the surface of your hands and rub them together until your hands are dry – about 20 seconds. They suggest not to dry or rinse off your hands until the sanitizer has fully evaporated. Hand sanitizer doesn’t work very well when your hands are greasy or visibly dirty.
Going back to the dog hair at the back of my fridge (How did it get there again?) let’s talk about how to clean your home. If you’ve braved the outside world and been to a store lately, you probably noticed they were out of basically all cleaning and disinfecting supplies. So – what to do? I’ve put together a list of tips and tricks you can do with everyday household items. Let me be clear: these are to help you clean, not disinfect your house. When you clean, you wash away the germs and dirt when they get trapped in the soap molecule, like when washing your hands. When you disinfect, you kill the germs on contact, like with hand sanitizer.
Soap – I’m back at it. Just like you use a bar of soap to wash your hands, you can use a bar of soap to wash the counters, sinks, stoves or any other surface you want to clean. A little elbow grease and a clean sponge or rag will go a long way. Remember to make sure to spend time scrubbing, the 20 second rule applies to other surfaces, too.
Vinegar – This is a personal favorite of mine – it’s my go-to cleaner. I use this product for all sorts of things around my house – it’s great for pretty much everything. Vinegar cuts the grease, kills mildew, lifts stains and clears up wax build-up on all kinds of surfaces. For an all-purpose cleaner, add 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water in a spray bottle. This makes a great window cleaner, too – just wipe the glass afterward with some old newspapers to remove the streaks. Vinegar (I prefer apple cider vinegar) also makes a great hair conditioner – add a tablespoon in 16 ounces of water to help to bring the pH level of your hair back to normal after shampooing. Finally, if you are using vinegar to get out a carpet stain, go a little stronger with the vinegar, ideally a 1:1 ratio with water will do the trick. If there is grease involved, use baking soda or corn starch to help soak up the grease.
Baking Soda – Another favorite of mine. If you have stains on the stove or build-up on bathroom tiles, baking soda with a little vinegar and water will scrub away the grime like a charm. To clear drain clogs, sprinkle baking soda and then pour vinegar down the drain, close the drain and allow the chemical reaction to push the clog out. Pouring hot water afterward will also help break it up, too. When in a pinch, baking soda can also be used as toothpaste. It can be added to your shampoo or laundry as a hair/laundry softener. Use 2-3 tablespoons for shampoo once a week and a half cup to your laundry.
Hydrogen Peroxide – If you are wanting to disinfect, hydrogen peroxide can be used in a 3-6% solution with water. I use hydrogen peroxide to disinfect my toothbrush every month. Pour enough hydrogen peroxide into a cup to cover the top of your toothbrush. Leave it to soak for around 5 minutes, then rinse with hot water. Be mindful of what your toothbrush is made of – I’ve heard some alternative handles and bristles fall apart when disinfected in this way.
Lemons – A powerful acid, lemon juice is great for cleaning wooden cutting boards that can’t go in the dishwasher, or other surfaces in the kitchen or bathroom. Not only does it smell fresh and clean, but it also slices through grease and kills bacteria at the same time.
I hope you find these tips were helpful as we all try to stay clean and use what we have in our pantry instead of going to the store. Don’t forget to watch our Facebook and Instagram pages for more tips and tricks over the next few weeks. Thanks for reading and stay clean out there!