Raid Your Kitchen to Clean Your Bathroom

“Raid” is a bit of an exaggeration…

I recently gave a workshop at the Menlo Park library on fermentation. I love facilitating workshops. The audience is so enthusiastic to learn about zero-waste cooking, fermenting, sourdough baking, produce bag sewing and so on. I thought homemade cleaners might make another great workshop but quickly realized it would last only a few minutes. It would go something like this:

Use baking soda and vinegar.

The consumer products industry has convinced us that we need all sorts of products to clean our homes: kitchen cleaner, surface degreaser, bathroom cleaner, disinfecting bathroom cleaner, tub and tile cleaner, glass cleaner, toilet cleaner, those blue disinfecting toilet disks… Does it really matter if your toilet water contains germs? You don’t drink out of the thing.

We actually need very few items to keep our homes clean and in fact, we have rendered our homes too clean. The use of bleach, antimicrobial cleaners and alcohol-based sanitizers has dramatically reduced the contact with harmless bacteria that we need in order to build up our immune systems. In The Good Gut, microbiota researchers Justin and Erica Sonnenburg offer some cleaning alternatives:

A more microbe-friendly approach to cleaning is to use less-toxic cleaners such as vinegar, castile soap, and lemon juice, which will allow increased exposure to microbes and may lessen the risk of the misfiring of the immune system that is plaguing the Western world (p. 215).

cleaning supplies
T-shirt rags, bulk baking soda and kombucha vinegar

I clean my bathroom with vinegar that I make, baking soda that I buy in bulk and rags that I cut out of old t-shirts. In the bathroom cupboard next to the baking soda and vinegar, I store a jar of these rags, hoping to inspire someone other than myself to clean the following (this tactic may work better in your home…):

  • Toilet. Pour 1/4 cup or so of vinegar into the toilet. Let it sit 5 minutes. Swirl a toilet brush around. Flush.
  • Sink, tub and tile. Make a paste of baking soda and vinegar. Scrub surfaces. Rinse with water.
  • Floor. Spray with vinegar. Wipe with a dry cloth.
  • Mirror. I usually just use a wet rag to wipe this off and a dry one to dry it but diluted vinegar will also do the trick.

Of course, baking soda and vinegar work well in the kitchen also.

Homemade Vinegar—Two Methods

1. Scrap vinegar

For the scrap vinegar fermenting in the pic below, I saved apple scraps in the freezer until I had accumulated enough for a small batch. Basically, you put the fruit scraps in a jar, along with a teaspoon of sugar and cover everything with water. Stir daily to prevent mold from forming. After about 10 days or so, you’ll have mild vinegar. Strain and bottle it. The acidity will increase slowly over time. I occasionally use pears. Pineapples also work but I never buy them because I don’t live in Hawaii. Here’s my post with detailed instructions on making scrap vinegar.

scrap vinegar in progress
Scrap vinegar day 1
2. Mature fermented tea (kombucha)

Make kombucha and let it brew for six weeks or so. The SCOBY will eat all the sugar in the tea, transforming it into very strong vinegar. Here’s my post with detailed instructions on brewing kombucha. The only trick to making kombucha is tracking down a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) to ferment your tea, which leads me to…

Etheldreda
Help me…I am overrun with kombucha SCOBYs

…A SCOBY Giveaway!

I keep track of my kombucha SCOBY’s travels on the map below. Etheldreda, my SCOBY, longs to see other parts of the country. So, if you live in the US and would like to enter a random drawing for a SCOBY, please leave a comment below before Friday, August 27th, midnight Pacific. I’ll send a small piece of Etheldreda to one person. If you’ve won, I’ll let you know and add your city to my map. I’ll also update this blog post with the name of the winner.

23 Comment

  1. Woohoo! The opportunity to win a famous scoby. Count me in. It looks like you have a big gap around Texas that needs to be filled too. 😉

    1. Ooooh, I do need a pin in Texas. I’ll enter you into the drawing Deborah. Thanks 🙂

  2. We have the most sunlight of all capital cities and we are the most isolated capital city on the planet – Perth Western Australia.
    Fancy visiting us?!

    1. I would love to visit 😉

  3. I love this article & your blog! Once again we’ve been led in the wrong direction by commercial interests who want our $$$. We don’t need their multicolored crap chemicals!
    I’d love a piece of Etheldreda–I want to make kombucha/vinegar! Thanks!!

    1. Thank you 🙂 Yup, we’ve been duped. The scare tactics about germs really help them market all this junk. I’ll enter you into the drawing!

  4. I’d like to be entered into the drawing, thank you!

    1. Great! You are officially entered into the drawing 🙂

  5. I’ve been drawn to your blog posts and FB posts! They are great. Keep them coming. I’d love to be entered into the drawing and have a piece of Etheldreda head to Exeter, NH. Currently buying my Kombucha on tap locally, but would love to give some home brew a try! Just need a little confidence and I don’t/can’t waste so send it my way!

  6. I’ve been slowly learning my way around the zero waste concept with the help of your posts. I would love to have a piece of your SCOBY and represent North Carolina. Thank you!

  7. Oh, glad to hear you can use pineapple to make scrap vinegar since I’ve started a few of those plants but can’t grow apples 🙂

  8. Can get bulk cider vinegar, but *love* the idea of scrap or kombucha (on the hunt for a SCOBY) vinegar -hurray for kitchen science! …. thanks for the post 🙂

  9. Ohhhh, since we’re neighbors 😉 I’d love to receive a piece of your SCOBY out here in Toronto, Ontario CANADA 😀 <3

  10. I’d love for Etheldreda to stay with me in Texas!

  11. Indiana isn’t on your map either, so here is an entry from Indiana!

  12. Thanks for the chance. I would love this. I’m in Virginia USA.

  13. I would love a piece of scoby and to put NC on your map! Thank you!

  14. Entry from Seattle! I drink Kombucha every week, but I’ve never made my own. 🙂

  15. Is it too late to enter?? I love kombucha, but I’ve never made it myself!

    1. You entered before the deadline Jess so I’ve entered you. I wasn’t able to do the random drawing this morning but will do it tomorrow. ~ Anne Marie

  16. Tried fermented skincare product yet?
    Love the idea of cleansing products for bathroom cleansing – think it is mostly too good to waste.

  17. I’ve found that vinegar leaves my surfaces sticky and my husband complains about the vinegary smell. Any ideas/alternatives?

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Greta, I would try diluting it and/or wiping the surface with a wet rag after you clean it. I hope that helps. ~ Anne Marie

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