Before there was Dawn, Swiffer, or Mr. Clean people still managed to keep their homes clean and welcoming. There may be many reasons that you may not want or be able to use commercial cleaning products. You may want to avoid harsh chemicals or petroleum products that are in most cleaning solutions. Maybe a supply disruption makes it hard to get your hands on cleaning supplies, as might happen in a SHTF. You may want to have some extra tips to keep things cleaner without relying on antibacterial soap. Recent studies show they are ineffective and may actually contribute to bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. You may want to be greener to help the environment, or lower your energy use because you’re off-grid. Whatever the reason, these tips will help you clean your home without electricity or store-bought cleaning products.
This list is not going to cover things like making your own cleaning solutions. For many recipes, you’d need to know how to make lye or vinegar or have access to citrus, which only grows in certain areas. I wanted to focus only on tips that you can do without access to anything special. I am assuming you own basic cleaning tools like rags, brooms and scrub brushes. I’m also assuming that you have access to water. Other than that, these are tips that pretty much anyone can use, anywhere.
- Be quick to clean up. The longer you leave things to sit the harder it is to get them clean again. This may seem dead simple, but I don’t think anything of saying, “I’ll get to those dishes in the morning”. When you can’t easily disinfect you want to limit the time bacteria has to grow on surfaces. Mop up spills right away. Be sure you put things like food away as soon as you’re done so you don’t attract insects or animals.
- Use “coveralls”. Whether they’re rugs for the floor, coveralls and aprons for clothes, or doilies and antimacassars for furniture, use easily cleanable cloth covers in places that have high traffic. Anything portable and washable will help keep things cleaner because they’ll gather the dirt and oils of daily life. Did you ever wonder why older folks used to like lacy coverings on the arms and backs of their sofas? It’s because that’s where people’s hands and heads rest most frequently, depositing oil and dirt. Cleaning or replacing a doily is easier than reupholstering a couch, not to mention the cost difference is significant.
- Take off your shoes. Do what you can to avoid tracking dirt into the house in the first place. Take off shoes before coming in the house, or leave them just inside the door. Do the same with outerwear like coats, overalls, and rain jackets.
- Eat only in one spot. Do your food preparation in the kitchen and eat it in the dining room. This keeps food residue like crumbs and spills limited to a small portion of the house. It also keeps cross-contamination to a minimum – your prepared food isn’t sitting next to raw food. Store food staples in pantries, cupboards, and sealed containers.
- Use your broom. Brooms may not be as efficient and complete as a vacuum, but they still get things clean. They’re good for wood, tile, or even carpeting (although they won’t get the smaller dirt, they will help pull up hair, fur, and dust bunnies). Sweeping can even help keep dirt floors clean and smooth. If you have an oily spill, try sprinkling sand or wood shavings over it, then sweeping it up.
- Separate your trash and your garbage. Take “wet” items like food waste out to the compost (avoid putting meat in your compost*) on a daily basis or put them in a sealed bin (we use an old plastic coffee can) until you do take them out. Then have separate recycling bins for glass, metal, and paper. Make sure you rinse all cans and jugs and such before putting them in the bin to cut down on attracting bugs or animals. This cuts down on the amount of trash you have and keeps smells and bugs out of your home until you can dispose of your trash. The compost is also amazing fertilizer for your garden.
- Use the sun. Hang your laundry outside to dry or haul your mattress out to the driveway to sit in the sun for the day. Ultraviolet light from the sun is a great disinfectant! This works for everything from rugs to towels to couch cushions, even dishes!
- Agitation. You can still get clothes and linens fairly clean without using soap if you have enough agitation. Using a plunger of some type will make it easier, but you can use your hands if needed. Thoroughly agitate the fabric to allow the water to get through the fibers and pull out dirt. Wring as much water out as possible before drying in the sun. Another form of agitation is beating larger items like rugs to get dust and dirt out of them.
- Scrubbing. Scrub brushes are handy whether you’re using them wet or dry. They can get into cracks and corners and push out dirt that you can then wipe up. Another way to scrub includes using sand as a grit to get dishes, floors, and other surfaces clean. You can even use sand as body cleanser! Other items to scrub with are oatmeal, salt, sugar, wood ash, straw, gravel, sawdust, or pine needles. You can also get dust or dried mud off clothes with a soft scrub brush.
- Soaking. Soaking stained fabric or pots and pans before washing can help make them easier to clean. It helps if you can get some agitation in (either swishing cloth items or scraping the dish) before soaking to help the water penetrate what you’re trying to clean.
- Separate your cleaning water from your rinse water. Whether you’re mopping the floor or scrubbing dishes, have separate water for cleaning and rinsing. You need clean hot water to sterilize your items and get out any oily residues left after cleaning.
- Boiling. Boiling water kills most bacteria and pathogens you’ll encounter in the home. Bring water to full rolling boil for at least 10 minutes.
There you go – twelve ways to keep your home clean without using cleaning products or electricity. Many of these are techniques were used in ancient times and many of them are still in use today. Some are plain common sense, some you may not have thought of before. Which techniques are new to you? Can you think of any others?
* If you do compost meat make sure you’re hot composting. Also, incorporate plenty of organic matter like leaves, straw, grass, etc.