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Why bother? Why go to the trouble of making your own cleaning products when buying commercial products is so much easier? Making your own natural cleaning products at home has so many advantages, and they include time, money and perhaps even health. Take these four reasons:

--It takes as little as 30 seconds to mix up any number of homemade natural cleaning products.

--Homemade cleaners give you complete control over the ingredients. Conventional cleaning products often contain toxic chemicals, harsh smells, unpleasant residues or allergy-inducing irritants.

KITCHEN SURFACE DEGREASER

2 cups warm water*

2 tablespoons baking soda

2 teaspoons pure Castile soap

20 drops lemon essential oil

Pour all ingredients into a clean, empty 16-ounce spray bottle, and mix well. Spray onto any greasy surface, and then wipe away with a damp microfiber cloth. Polish to shiny clean with a second dry microfiber cloth.

ALL-PURPOSE HEAVY DUTY CLEANER

1 teaspoon Borax

1/2 teaspoon washing soda

1 teaspoon liquid Castile soap

20 drops essential oil (lemon, lavender and/or orange as desired)

2 cups warm water*

Pour all ingredients into a 16-ounce or larger clean spray bottle. Mix well. Use it to clean just about anything around the house.

NATURAL GROUT CLEANER

1/2 cup baking soda

2 tablespoons washing soda

2 tablespoons Borax

3 tablespoons liquid Castile soap

Mix ingredients in a small bowl until incorporated. This will create a very loose paste-like produce. Clean the tile and grout area first with a strong 50-50 mixture of water and white vinegar. Sprinkle or apply this grout cleaner to the grout. Allow it to sit for at least 15 minutes. Scrub with a heavy-duty brush and rinse well. Work on small areas at a time, rather than trying to do then entire area at once.

ALL-PURPOSE NATURAL BATHROOM CLEANER

2 teaspoons Borax

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1 teaspoon washing soda

8 ounces very hot water

1 tablespoon Sal Suds

1 cup warm water

1/4 teaspoons lemon essential oil

1/2 teaspoon orange essential oil

10 drops cinnamon leaf essential oil

1/4 teaspoon close essential oil

Pour washing soda, Borax and hot water into a 16-ounce spray bottle. Shake well to dissolve. Remove the top, and add Sal Suds and essential oil. Add just enough warm water to fill within about 1 inch of the top. Apply the spray top, and gently shake to mix. Spray on all bathroom surfaces including sinks, toilets, tubs, showers, walls and fixtures. Wait for a few minutes before wiping off for disinfection.

A WORD ABOUT ESSENTIAL OILS

I've been learning a lot about essential oils and their benefits around the house. Essential oils provide antibacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties to homemade cleaners. Essential oils, especially cinnamon, clove and lime, have germ-busting qualities when used properly and in the right concentration. This explains why cleaners meant to kill germs, like the All-Purpose Natural Bathroom Cleaner above, require a greater concentration of oils. Concentrations around 1 percent are effective on stronger pathogens commonly found in bathrooms, like E. coli, staphylococcus and salmonella. Essential oils also add a nice scent.

*Distilled water is advisable, especially if your tap water is hard. This assures no minerals or hard-water marks will be left behind.

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