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Spring Cleaning- The 3 bottle system that cleans almost the whole house (with your kids!)

One of my least favorite parts of being a mom is all the cleaning up I have to do.  It is constant!  Three kids, two of them one year olds that feed themselves?  Yes, we have a lot of messes.  I want to make sure our house is a clean, but I like to spend as little time as possible cleaning.  This means I have consolidated my daily cleaning needs into just three cleansers.  Now, these aren’t for deep scrubbing or specific jobs.  These are for the general surface cleaning we need to do every day.  But by having these three bottles handy I am able to keep the house looking good quickly.  I spend more time between deep cleans, because I don’t let them mess build up.  I am also able to do all this for as little money as possible.  Clean and cheap, that’s my goal.  Let’s break down how it works.

The tools:
Squirt bottles- I get mine at the dollar store.  They are always available, so if one gets worn out it is easy to pick up another.  $1 each.
Rags- I use old wash cloths or towels cut into pieces.  I got some hand me down towels from Pat’s grandma, but you can also pick up a couple at your dollar store.  $1 each.
Sponges- I get the simple six pack at the dollar store.  You can microwave them to kill bacteria and make them last longer.
Paper Towels- I know, these aren’t environmentally friendly.  But they are pretty handy.  And if a job is really gross I like to be able to just throw them away.

The tools for my daily cleaning.

The cleansers:
Vinegar solution- One cup white vinegar to one cup water and scale up as you need to. Vinegar at Target is $2.99 for 128 oz.
Bleach solution- Two teaspoons to a gallon of water should make a basic cleanser for almost everything in the house.  Bleach is $2.99 for 121 oz.
Water- free!  This one will come in handy for your children to clean with you.
(These concentrations match what I got from the bottles of vinegar and bleach.  Always be careful when diluting your cleansers and be aware of the surface types you are using them on.  Test in a small patch if you aren’t sure, or google it. I am not responsible for what you put on your surfaces. Store your bleach and vinegar in safe locations, especially the bleach.  It is not safe for kids.)

The Uses:
Bottle 1: Vinegar solution.  This is my first line of defense for just about everything.  It is a great cleaner, it is environmentally friendly, and it is safe for kids and pets.  I keep it on my counter and use it pretty frequently.  It works great in the kitchen and the bathroom.  It can be used on most walls and floors.  Seriously, I haven’t found a place I can’t use it.  I wipe down high chairs, baby toys, counters, everything.  I like keeping this bottle handy while I’m cooking to clean up any messes on the spot without worrying about food contamination. I can clean around the kids safely.  It is safe on my floors and walls.

Bottle 2: Bleach solution.  The bleach solution is for the big guys.  Toilets?  Bleach.  Someone has been sick?  We get the bleach.  I also use it in my shower.  The shower only standing stalls are great, but they don’t dry out easily, making it easy for mold to form.  I use the bleach solution in the sinks and showers every so often to make sure it is really clean.  I also use it on my kitchen sink.  Of course you need to be aware of your surfaces when using bleach, and keep it away from your children and pets.  But it is the cheapest way to make sure a surface is really clean.

Bottle 3: Water.  This bottle goes to my helper.  Ben is at an age where he wants to help with everything.  He can use the vinegar solution without any real concern, but I prefer to err on the side of caution.  Plus giving him his own bottle means I can use the actual cleanser and not have to switch back and forth with him.  It saves some arguing and time.  If you are in to oils you can add some for scent, but water is enough for my son.

Safety and labeling:
An important thing to do when you have your own cleansers is to label.  Any good chemist will tell you need to label your solutions.  With kids in the house and homemade cleaners it is even more important.  I put clear easy to read labels on all my bottles, even the water.  I know what is in my bottles, but I want to make sure anyone who comes in contact with them knows.

Nothing fancy, but clear labels.

The actual cleaning solutions have different color tops from the water.  If the labels fall off I know which bottles have cleaning products in them.  The water bottle also has stickers, making it easier for my helper to identify which is his bottle.  This also makes it a bit more fun for him.  I can tell him to go get his bottle and he knows exactly which one I mean.  The bleach bottle has the frowny face and the big red Xs on them.  I am trying to teach my kids that they need to stay away from the frowny faces.  They can’t read yet so these pictures send the message.  The big red Xs are kind of a universal symbol that something isn’t safe about this bottle.

No doubt which one isn’t for the kids.

The labeling is important if you ever have other people in the house.  It makes it pretty clear what is unsafe for children to have.  I also like to use the across the room test with my items.  I want to be able to tell from across the room if my children have gotten a hold of something and how dangerous it is.  If they get the vinegar I can tell from the lack of stickers and color of the sprayer.  Not great that they have it, but not the end of the world.  It is a much bigger deal if they get the bleach, and I want to be able to see that right away.  Of course I try to keep these supplies tucked away and safe.  But life is busy and I am human, things could get left out.  These labels are not an excuse to not be careful, but an additional level of safety.  Better safe than sorry.

Cleaning with kids: I try to get Ben involved with the daily tasks around the house.  (Ali and Sammy are still too little of course.)  Part of being a family is taking care of our home.  Any time I clean up the kitchen I encourage Ben to help.  He loves to grab his helper bottle and wipe down the table for me.  I try to get him involved with other jobs.  He can use his bottle to help me wipe up spills, clean baseboards, wipe down walls, and clean up the sink in the bathrooms.  Yes, I have to go back and touch it up sometimes.  But the important part is that he is learning to clean up after himself and others.  He is also so proud of himself for being able to help out!

Helper in action!
He’s great at wiping down the table and loves having his own bottle.

Three bottles, two levels of cleaning, one big helper learning to take care of the house.  Again this is surface level cleaning, but I can whip these bottles out and handle just about any day to day mess my kids throw at me.  As a bonus I am teaching my kids to clean too.  Wins!

Kim

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