Make your own disinfecting spray


Curious about how to make an easy disinfecting cleaner?  Here’s how to do it from Healthy Child Healthy World.  Skip buying many different conventional cleaners at $4.99 or so each and instead make them from ingredients you find at home. 

What you’ll need: 

  • 2 cups water (preferably distilled)
  • up to 3 teaspoons liquid castille soap
  • 1 teaspoon tea tree oil
  • spray bottle

Disinfecting Your Home – One Worry, Two Safer Solutions

All of the claims, information, studies, etc., on being green and non-toxic can be overwhelming after awhile.  The conflicting claims are frustrating.  What’s better – organic food trucked in from remote farms or local, but not organic produce?  Should I worry about climate change or pesticide residue when buying lettuce?

So, I’m going to start a new feature.  One worry & 2 solutions.  Basically, Smart Mama’s 2 Simple Solutions to One Worry.  Okay, that name kinda sucks, so perhaps a reader can come up with something fabulous?!

Smart Mama Worry:  I want to disinfect but I don’t want to use chlorine bleach – bad for the environment, bad for me, bad for my kids. 

Smart Mama Simple Solutions

  • A good all purpose disinfectant is to mix 1/2 cup of borax in 1 gallon of hot water.  According to The Nontoxic Home & Office by Debra Lynn Dadd, this disinfectant was tested in a California hospital for one year by a bacteriologist and was found to have met all state germicidal requirements.  You can find Borax with the laundry supplies in most stores. 
  • Try Isopropyl Alcohol.  You might have it in your cabinet already.  It effectively kills germs and bacteria, but is not as effective in the presence of organic matter.  IPA does not persist in the environment due to evaporation.  Alcohol is effective against resistant fungal and bacterial spores.  Of course, use in a well ventilated area and store out of reach of children.

Got bugs? Some safer solutions for insect repellants

Updated June 18, 2008

A Smart Mama reader asked for some less toxic bug sprays.  There’s no doubt that a lazy summer afternoon can be ruined by biting bugs.  So, we almost all turn to insect repellants.  But, you may not want to use a product that contains a pesticide such as DEET.  DEET’s use is controversial.  Major regulatory and medical establishments, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, claim the DEET is safe and effective if used properly. However, studies have found that DEET can slow motor skills and impair central nervous system function, especially if used with permethrin (used on some outdoor clothing to repel insects).  These studies associated adverse health effects from sustained, regular use of DEET-containing repellants (at least once per day, for 5 or more days).  The reported adverse health effects included skin irritation and headaches to seizures, restlessness, rapid loss of consciousness and even death. 

So, what’s a Smart Mama to do?  I tend to prefer trying prevention first (such as screens, long sleeves, planting plants that repel bugs, etc.) first.  If we still are having bug problems, I prefer an insect repellent that uses essential oils instead of using a product containing a synthetic pesticide.   Plants whose essential oils have been reported to have repellent activity include citronella, cedar, verbena, geranium, lavender, pine, cajeput, cinnamon, rosemary, basil, thyme, allspice, garlic, and peppermint.  Calendula ointment is also an excellent insect repellent.  But, there is a downside to using these products.  They tend to give short-lasting protection, usually less than 2 hours.  So, if you are in an area with insects carrying potentially life-threatening diseases, and you need to have long lasting protection, it may make sense to use an insect repellent with DEET or something similar.  Just make sure you follow the instructions.   

But, let’s talk about some of the alternate insect repellents.  Before we do, just a couple of caveats.  First, these all contain essential oils to repel bugs.  So, most of these products work by scent, and need to be applied and re-applied generously, as discussed above.  Second, essential oils can be irritating or cause allergic reactions.  It is always a good idea to patch test before applying all over.  And, of course, if you know  you have a reaction to a particular plant, then stay away from products containing that plant.

Okay, so on to some Smart Mama options:

california baby insect repellentCalifornia Baby’s Natural Bug Blend Bug Repellent Spray uses citronella, lemongrass and cedar essential oils to repel bugs.  A lot of readers have reported enjoying the scent.  Trust me – it does not smell like synthetic citronella.

Burt’s Bees Herbal Insect Repellent relies primarily upon rosemary to repel insects.  Its ingredients are: glycine soja (soybean) oil, ricinus communis (castor) seed oil, rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf oil, cymbopogon schoenanthus (lemongrass) oil, thuja occidentalis (cedar) leaf oil, mentha piperita (peppermint) oil, cymbopogon nardus (citronella) oil, eugenia caryophyllus (clove) flower oil, geranium maculatum (geranium) oil, and tocopherol. 


Ecosmart’s Insect Repellant uses a blend of the following organic plant oils:  rosemary, cinnamon leaf, lemongrass and geraniol.  It comes in a spray bottle.  The other ingredients are isopropyl alcohol, isopropyl myristate and wintergreen oil.  My son really likes this scent – I think it is a little much, but I don’t like wintergreen.  I understand that it is available at Wal-Mart.


A Smart Mama reader pointed out Mexitan’s Skeedattle Anti-Bug Spray.  The ingredients are vanillin, citronella oil, lemongrass oil, peppermint oil, potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate.  The company does not use synthetic fragrances or preservatives, and the products are paraben free.  As an added bonus, you can use the product on pets to repel fleas and ticks.

The Bite Blocker comes in a lotion, a spray and a wipe.  The products are a blend of soybean and coconut oils and are safe for kids.  The company also sells organic clothing treated with its tomato-based insect repellant.  In tests, it has performed as well as DEET-containing products for specified time periods.

Another option is a product containing eucalyptus lemon essential oil.  It is the only plant-based active ingredient for insect repellents so far approved by the CDC.  (The CDC has also approved the synthetic version – known as PMD – I would skip the synthetic version completely).  But, eucalyptus lemon essential oil can be toxic if ingested in high concentrations.  So, only use a product with a low concentration of eucalyptus essential oil.  Plus, these products are not recommended for children under 3 years of age, so I tend to skip them.  However, I like eucalyptus lemon essential oil.  Why? Because silverfish do not.  And I do not like silverfish.  I just put a little on a piece of fabric and stick it at the back of my cabinets.  No more silverfish.  Whoo-hoo!  I get mine from:

Mountain Rose Herbs. A herbs, health and harmony c

But, a Smart Mama knows that prevention is always the best solution.  Some Smart Mama Simple Steps to reduce the need for insect repellents:

  • Stay indoors at dawn and dusk, when the flying insects are most likely to be out and about looking for you.

  • If you live near a woods, spread a 3-foot-wide swath of wood chips between your lawn and the woods to deter ticks.  Ticks aren’t able to navigate the chips.

  • Don’t let mosquitoes breed.  Eliminate standing water in your yard.  And don’t forget to clear clogs from gutters – mosquitoes will breed in a very small amount of water.

  • If you have a birdbath, change the water twice weekly.

  • Don’t forget to change any outdoor water dishes daily.

  • Plant scented geraniums, lemon thyme, marigold, tansy, citrosa plants, sweet basil, and/or sassafras near your home to repel mosquitoes.
  add to kirtsy Stumble It!

Smart Mama Simple Tip: Clean & Deodorize the Garbage Disposal

Here’s a simple, quick, cheap and easy way to clean and deodorize the garbage disposal – use vinegar ice cubes.  Just freeze some vinegar in an ice cube tray, and then put a couple in the garbage disposal. 

Another option is to use some cut up lemon peel or orange rind.  That works too.  But I really like the vinegar ice cubes because they seem to clean the blades a bit better than lemon peel or orange rind.

Pet care – what to do if your dog has been skunked and options for shampoos

Dogs getting washedDid your dog get skunked?  Or is he just stinky?  Worried about what is in your pet’s products?  Not only are pet products unhealthy for your pets, they are also unhealthy for you.  For one example showing a potential link between pooch shampoos and autism, read here.

Not to fear, I have a solution for you.  To de-skunk your pooch, try Omega Zapp from NuHemp.  It is guaranteed to de-skunk man’s best friend, and can remove other stinky odors too.  The best part?  No sulfates, no synthetic fragrances, no synthetic dyes, no cortisone, no steriods, no DEA, and no propylene glycol.

The ingredients are:  Purified Botanical Water (Infused with Certified Organic Alfalfa, Chamomile, Echinacea, Nettle and Red Clover), Foaming Agents (Saponified Coconut Oil), Botanical Tree Essences, Red Cedar Oil, Organic Moisturizer and Emollient (Emulsified Fatty Coconut Oil),
Vegetable Glycerin, Certified Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, Colloidal Oatmeal, Certified Organic Oils: (Olive, Flax Seed, Pumpkin Seed, Sunflower and Hemp Seed).

It may not lather like you are used to, but it works much better than tomatoes to deskunk your pooch.  And is much safer than the other dog shampoos.  You can get it at NuHemp’s online store.

For healthier pet shampoos, you might want to try the following products:  Buddy Wash, Parsley Hollow’s Dog Shampoo and Vermont Soap.  One small caveat – some of the products have essential oils.  Just like a human, a pet may be sensitive to a particular essential oil.

Eggfantastic – Non Toxic Natural Dyes For Easter Eggs

In my quest to be an eco fabuous, glam green goddess of motherhood, I attempted to make natural dyes last night for our Easter eggs.  I had read an article in The Green Guide about making natural dyes, and also had an article pulled out of last year’s Country Home about natural dyes for Easter eggs.  So, I decided to make hard boiled eggs and natural dyes.  With my darling children. 

It started off with the typical questions from my 5 year old, “Mom, why does an Easter bunny leave eggs?  Why isn’t it an Easter chick?”  Trying to skip over answering that one, and my husband mumbling something about Bunnies being better than Chicks, I asked my son to pull out the eggs.  Not the best thing for a 5 year old to do.  “Mom, think I can catch this?”  Splat in the hand, with dripping yolk.  No, not without crushing it.  One egg down.

We put the eggs on to boil.  Another egg-catastrophe as it rolled onto the floor.  We started with the dyes.  My daughter wanted pink.  Okay, 1 cup pickled beet juice and 1 tablespoon vinegar to set the color.  That was easy.  ‘Til my daughter stuck her hands in it to see how pink it was.  And wiped her hands off on her dress.  She also wanted purple.  Okay, 1 cup grape juice and 1 tablespoon vinegar.  Easy.   My son wanted yellow.  Okay.  Orange peel from one orange, boil in 4 cups of water with 2 tablespoons vinegar for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on how dark  you want the color, cool, strain.   We also did red with red onion skins and green with spinach. 

It was fun with my kids pulling out stuff to boil and asking what color it would be.  Impromptu science lesson.  Various pots boiled merrily away, and strange odors wafted.  Kind of a mad scientist, eco fabulous kitchen going.  Got everything cooled, started dipping the eggs in.  You really have to let them sit in the dye for at least 15 minutes to get much color – it would probably be best to leave overnight in the refrigerator if you wanted dark color.  The problem with the waiting, as opposed to the drop in conventional pellets, is that your kids get bored.  Or have to take bathroom breaks.  And you really shouldn’t leave children alone with dye.  Natural or not.  Do you think the daycare will notice my son has slightly green cheeks this morning, or that my daughter has pink and purple hair?

Using herbs to repel mosquitoes

Another quick tip if you are going to be outside and barbecueing.   Throw some sage or rosemary on the grill.  These herbs will repel flying insects, including mosquitoes. 

Mosquitoes also like still air, so using a fan or keeping the air moving will keep them out of your house.

While these tips work, keep in mind that eliminating standing water around your home is the best way to eliminate the problem.  After a female mosquito has your blood for a meal, she will lay her eggs on the surface of still water.  It only takes 1 pint of water to  nurture 500 mosquito larvae. 


Quick Tip to Clean Microwave Without Chemicals

After removing the bowl or cup, wipe down the interior with a damp cloth.  If you have an interior tray, take it out and wipe it down.  The steam from the water will loosen the food particles, and the lemon will add a pleasant fresh smell without any harsh chemicals.