Monthly Clean Home Challenge Recap!

An entire month has come and gone and thanks to the monthly clean home challenge, our house is sparkling more than ever.

I planned, scrubbed, organized, discovered and learned!  I would say it was a very productive month indeed!

So let's take a moment to chat!  Did anyone participate along?  Learn anything new?  Here are a few of the challenge highlights for me:

  • Taking time the first day to make my cleaners, stock all of my supplies in each room and come up with a mental plan was the key to my personal success this month!
  • About a year ago I had shared cleaning recipes and a plan that was working for us at the time.  Over the last year, the busier our lives become and as I discovered simpler cleaning recipes, I let go a bit and allowed my schedule and habits to change.  I evaluated how often I was taking on certain tasks and really weighed out how important each one was to us.  Flexibility is extremely important.
  • There is no need to compare.  OK, we can compare cleaning products and recipes and select what works for us, but it should stop there!  What works for me may not work for you and that is 100% good.  We all have different levels of how clean is good enough and that shouldn't change based on what others do or think.  We all also have different schedules, families and lifestyles; all which play a role in the clean home equation. 
  • The more often I do a chore, the easier it is each month and ultimately the less time it will take to get it done right.  If I take time to frequently and quickly wipe out the inside of our stove {and now apparently under the lid of our stove as well}, then it won't take me two hours the next time the stove needs a really good cleaning.  Ditto to tile and windows. 
  • That said, it is necessary to pick my battles.  Some things just don't need to be done every day, or even every week.  Things I used to do weekly now get done monthly and from what I can tell, our health and happiness have not been impacted negatively because of that. 
  • I love to clean and that is OK.  Not everyone has the cleaning gene, and sometimes I feel bad that I do, but I shouldn't.  I find pleasure in cleaning.  I love to turn on the tunes and it is always rewarding in some way.  When I clean, my home feels happier and I feel more productive.
  • Although I love to clean, I love spending time with my family even more.  We do some of our cleaning together, but this challenge really helped me balance it all.  Although I did a few more tasks than I maybe normally would do, by breaking it into a single daily quick hits and building it into my schedule around other cleaning times, I was still able to find a good balance between the time I spend organizing and cleaning and the time I spend with the ones I heart most.

Now, knowing what I learned, here is a quick summary of how the plan works:

  • Each day we try and do four simple cleaning tasks.  "We" is the key word.  I call these my Daily Four and they consist of wiping down the bathroom, cleaning the kitchen, picking up main living areas and doing a single load of laundry.
  • Each week we add in four more quick tasks which include cleaning the toilets/showers, vacuuming and mopping, cleaning the glass and dusting surfaces and washing our linens.
  • Each day of the week, Monday - Friday, I add in one more 5-20 minute cleaning/organizing task.  At the beginning of the month, I select 20 tasks that I know I want to accomplish.  While many of the tasks will remain the same each month, a few may change based on the season or if there are other maintenance items we need to address.  Keeping the list accessible, each day, based on my time and available time, I pick one of those 20 tasks to accomplish.  I then follow each one up with a celebratory glass of wine.  What?  I earned it!

{click HERE to download your free Monthly Cleaning Planning sheet}

You can find each of the tasks I took on last month below, including recipes to my favorite homemade cleaning supplies!

So, let's chat about cleaning products for a minute!  As I mentioned, when it comes to supplies, be flexible!  I started out zesting lemon and mixing 6 different items for one recipe and finally decided that if I didn't find an alternative solution, I was going to go back to the store bought stuff.

This month I used everything from lemon juice to castile soap to a simple combo of vinegar and water.  They all worked great in different ways and the most frequently asked question I received was what I used and when.  So here is a quick recap for you:

Homemade Laundry Detergent - 1 cup soap flakes, 1 cup washing soda, 1 cup borax.  I use two tablespoons per load and place the powder right into the drum with the clothing vs. through the designated washer dispenser.  I use a hand grater to shred my soap {just pop on an DVR'd show and grate away}, but some readers have mentioned that a food processor also works.  I use Fels Naptha soap, but I have also read that alternatives are Zote and Ivory.

Homemade Fabric Softener - 2 cups of vinegar, 10 drops of essential lavender oil.  I mix them together in an old fabric softener bottle and use in the fabric softener dispenser of my wash with each load {making sure to give the bottle a good shake prior to each load as well}. 

Kitchen and Bathroom Cleaner - Half distilled water, half vinegar.  I typically keep a bottle of this under each sink in our home and this is my "go to" cleaner for a few reasons.  Mainly, because vinegar is a natural disinfectant, but also because it is cheap and I clean my main surfaces a few times per day.  If you can't tolerate the smell of vinegar, you can add essential oils to the equation.  This is not something I personally do because I don't mind the smell {I have just gotten use to it and I find it goes away fairly quickly}.  Also, essential oils are expensive and for as often as I clean and for as much that is need to mask the smell, I just don't take the time and money to add it into every batch of cleaner.  I love that this cleaner leaves stainless steel, mirrors and fixtures all shiny and streak free!

Alternative All-Purpose Cleaner: 1 cup distilled water, 1 tbsp lemon castile soap, 10 drops lemon essential oil.  This stuff smells AMAZING and I always keep a bottle made for my weekly/monthly tasks {wiping down trim and doors and surfaces}.  Castile soap and essential oils both have disinfecting qualities, and it really just smells and cleans well!

Toilet CleanerSprinkle baking soda and spray vinegar.  I have gone back and forth on this one because I love how store purchased toilet bowl cleaner has a nice nozzle that gets up under the lip and it is super quick and easy.  Not to mention my previous recipe didn't seem efficient enough considering storage and making it with essential oils and baking soda.  However, I converted back this month.  To make things easier, I made more shakers out of mason jars for my baking soda and I stashed one under each sink.  Now I just sprinkle the baking soda into the bowl, spray in my bathroom water/vinegar combo and scrub with a toilet brush.  Works well and allows me to use what I already have on hand, which I prefer in the long run.

Wood Polisher - 1/2 cup lemon juice, 1 tsp castile soap, 4 drops essential oil.  Love the smell, love that it lasts a long time {I make a double batch}, love everything about this wood polisher.  I have not personally experienced it going bad and mine lasts awhile before it is gone, however, if you are concerned, just pop it in the fridge in-between uses.

Floor Cleaner - 1 cup vinegar, 1 gallon hot water.  You can also use a combo of castile soap and essential oils as well.  Totally up to you!  I also use a microfiber mop head, which I can toss into the wash and reuse.

Oven Cleaner - 1 cup distilled water, 1 tbsp lemon castile soap, 10 drops lemon essential oil.   I spray the entire surface and allow it to sit for 5-10 minutes.  I then mist again, adding a thin layer of baking soda to the mix.  This creates a bit of a scouring powder, which I use to scrub the oven with an abrasive sponge.  I follow up with vinegar and a microfiber rag to reduce any white film.

Grout Cleaner - 1 cup distilled water, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 3/4 cup hydrogen peroxide.  In a separate bowl, create a paste by mixing baking soda and water.  Start with a clean floor or tiled surface.  Spread the paste into the grout lines with a brush {toothbrush or grout brush} and follow up with a misting of the spray solution over the paste.  Allow it to sit for 45-60 minutes.  Go back and spray a second time, this time scrubbing in the lines of the grout.  Follow up with a quick mop or wipe down and it should be gleaming clean!
Cleaning rags -  I typically use general, inexpensive microfiber rags and keep them stored in our bathrooms and kitchen.  Each space has a designated color and overall, I couldn't be happier with how well they clean and polish.  Each room also has a designated spot to toss the dirty rags until cleaning day.  For as much as I love to clean, this method has definitely reduced the number of paper towels and disinfecting wipes I have purchased over the last year.  As far as washing the rags, call me naive but I always assumed the washing soda/borax soap paired with the vinegar in my wash was a good enough cleaning combo, that I would toss all of the rags into the wash together.  However, washers ultimately do not kill all germs so I have begun washing my dish/kitchen rags separately from everything else to prevent contaminating the areas in which food is prepared and eaten.  Otherwise, the rest of the rags are tossed in and laundered together.  The microfiber rags are not recommended to be washed or dried with heat to prolong their cleaning span.

Distilled water - I typically only clean with distilled water as tap water contains minerals which can inhibit the cleaning solution and impact the effectiveness.  We also have hard water, so by using distilled I am preventing additional build-up within my cleaning bottles.

And for those looking for an updated recipe printable, here you go my friends!

{click here to download your FREE homemade cleaning recipe printable}

Last but not least, just as I had done in each individual post, here are the links to all of my favorite products.  Everything from bins for my freezer and organizers for my mail to spray bottles and cleaning tools.

Looking for something?  Check out my favorite cleaning products below:
A huge THANK YOU again to everyone who showed interest, participated, asked questions, left encouraging comments and sent over emails of gratitude.  You all made this past month so much fun for me and it was such a delight to take on this series with you all!

Many asked if I will continue the series and although I still plan to do the extra task each day, I won't be duplicating the content here {many of my tasks will repeat each month}.  However, if something new happens to get organized or cleaned, I will be sure to share those details as they come.

These are all cleaners/products that work for us and our current home finishes.  It is important to research the cleaners prior to using them on your specific counter and flooring selections.

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