DEEP CLEAN... The House
July 12, 2015 3:44 PM   Subscribe

We live on a farm property, with a well and and a leach field. We need to clean the bathrooms and kitchen to showroom quality, without killing our leach field and destroy our delicate plumbing. Advice?

The landlord/property owner has stated that NO BLEACH may be used while cleaning the house and it's his house/his rules, so other toxic products are out as well.

Our water is also very hard (as you may imagine), giving everything a nice mineral crust, which also has to be dealt with.

Any advice to get things spick and span, with the least amount of work?
posted by alex_skazat to Home & Garden (26 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Vinegar and borax, in various mixtures together, are a really great cleaning combination.
posted by xingcat at 3:45 PM on July 12, 2015 [6 favorites]

Does "no bleach" include bleach wipes?

If you're talking about stuff like Clorox wipes, those don't actually contain bleach.
posted by phunniemee at 3:51 PM on July 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

A paste of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide is astonishingly effective at dissolving oily kitchen grime. Vinegar for the mineral deposits.
posted by contraption at 3:57 PM on July 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

Vinegar may be your friend here.

Magic Erasers?
posted by thomas j wise at 3:59 PM on July 12, 2015

Honestly, elbow grease is your #1 tool, with the exception of...well, degreaser. Use very dilute mix of Dawn and water with good scrub brushes (go to a hardware store, get 3-4 long-handled dish brushes and then pick up a couple of stiff-bristle (natural or synthetic) brushes for washing decks or doing paint prep, as those are better for large swaths of counter, or floor or shower doors etc.

It goes faster than you think, and doing a good scrub once is less work than spraying with mild cleaner and wiping down 5 times.

Wipe up after with vinegar-water and rags, which will clean up any soap and hard water residue.

If the owner says no bleach, honor the spirit of that and don't use peroxide either.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:03 PM on July 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Baking soda, white vinegar, Borax, and Bon Ami are your friends. I use Borax and Bon Ami for lots of purposes. Murphy's Oil Soap should also be fine.
posted by gudrun at 4:14 PM on July 12, 2015

When I lived on a septic/well property, we used a handheld steam cleaner as our #1 deep-cleaning tool. Shoot steam at surface for a few seconds, wipe.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 4:18 PM on July 12, 2015 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for their replies. They're basically what I suspected ;)

rabbitrabbit, for the steam cleaner, did you use distilled water?
posted by alex_skazat at 4:20 PM on July 12, 2015

If you have hard water, then definitely use distilled in a steamer. Otherwise you'll end up with hard water stains. At least, that is what happened to me.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 4:42 PM on July 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Barkeepers friend is good for getting calcium build up off of things like showers & baths. I usually use the Ajax but that has bleach but you might be able to find a bleach free version.

Also don't under estimate the handiness of a good quality microfiber cleaning cloth, with either hot soapy water and/or vinegar in a spray bottle.
posted by wwax at 7:05 PM on July 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

There are citric-acid based cleaners that are also really great at getting hard water crud off of things. Citric acid has a bit more oomph than acetic acid(vinegar)
posted by rockindata at 7:12 PM on July 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Barkeepers friend, lemishine, Krud kutter. Definitely Krud kutter.
posted by slateyness at 7:50 PM on July 12, 2015

Best answer: Crunchy Betty did a Battle of the DIY Homemade Glass Cleaners. Her winning formula was also my winning formula: vinegar, water, alcohol, and cornstarch. My shower door was a disaster and this combo virtually melted the soap scum away. I still had to scrub a bit, but nowhere near the amount of effort I'd previously had to exert. Using it on mirrors was a walk in the park. Since you're a Costco member, they sell those giant jugs of vinegar in a pack of two for some ridiculously cheap amount; I can't remember how much exactly, but vinegar also makes for an effective, non-toxic weed-killer. And hair rinse, among other things. Yay, vinegar!

For the toilets, when you have hard water (or even soft water that's mineral heavy, as I do), there's no getting around the fact that you'll need to attack that ring with a pumice stone and something gritty like baking soda or coarse salt. What I do is flush the toilet to get the insides wet, then when it's done flushing, squirt some Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Hemp Soap full strength around the rim, (also at Costco; they've recently started carrying it and I believe it's $9.xx and change -- more than five dollars cheaper than my local Target and three dollars cheaper than Trader Joe's), liberally shake a bunch of baking soda (also at Costco in a 13.5 lb jumbo size) around it so that it coats the visible sides of the bowl. Let that soak for at least half an hour, then hit it with the pumice stone. Plop some hydrogen peroxide in there if you're in a hurry and can't wait the full half hour.

Tub, shower floor, and bathroom floor all clean up well with the aforementioned DIY spray, so that's a time and money saver. Walls: dilute some Dr. Bronner's with plain water, squirt and wipe down with one clean double duty sponge like this yellow and green one; the blue ones are good too, but not as strong on the hard side when scrubbing, so save those for delicate jobs) and dry with a clean microfiber cloth.

For stubborn rust stains, a non-toxic rust remover is plain old salt and lime juice. No kidding, it works a treat. Just let it soak for two or three hours.

For mold, a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and water is very effective (and even Red Cross endorsed); just don't rinse it off because it will leave an acid base where the mold was and help prevent it from growing back. Don't worry; the vinegar smell dissipates after a while. The best way to prevent mold from starting in the first place is to concentrate on keeping the mold-prone areas of your house clean and dry as much as possible since mold thrives in moist conditions.

After you're all done scrubbing, wipe down countertops, doorknobs, switchplates and anything else that is routinely handled with dirty hands with alcohol to disinfect. All done!

What makes loathsome jobs like this go easier is having the right tools on hand from the beginning: tough sponges, microfiber cloths, paper towels, newspaper, pumice stones, and grout brushes.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 7:59 PM on July 12, 2015 [7 favorites]

A tip for toilets, especially if you have hard water stains to deal with: clean once with water at the normal level, as that's where the hard water stains tend to be the worst (this might be a good time for a vinegar soak), then turn off the water valve and flush twice to empty the tank and get the water level as low as possible. Let the walls of the bowl dry (so it doesn't dilute your cleaner) and then go at it with a green 3M scrubbie, then graduate to a pumice stone if necessary.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:18 PM on July 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'd pick up some microfiber cloths too. They help with the polishing and getting into nooks better than regular cloths. These have amazing reviews and they're on the way to my house. Microfiber is also good for polishing windows and mirrors to remove streaks or smudges.
posted by Crystalinne at 9:25 PM on July 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Use a Steam cleaner.
posted by Mac-Expert at 10:23 PM on July 12, 2015

I have hard water, septic, etc, and a steam cleaner. I don't use distilled water in the steamer and that's never been a problem.

Steam is definitely going to be the "least amount of work" option for hard water cruft you can't use decent chemicals on (though vinegar and citric acid do have their place).
posted by kmennie at 1:11 AM on July 13, 2015

I have had a lot of success removing mineral deposits left by hard water with citric acid (food grade). You can mix it mith baking soda to clean toilet bowls. But I just pour the citric acid poweder intot th ebowl without baking soda, and it really works well even without the baking soda, mineral deposits from hard water are dissolved really easily. I am not sure if or how it would affect the leach field though, as citric acid does change pH levels.
Another advantage is the coarse texture, which produces a mild scrubbing effect but will not scratch surfaces such as glas or ceramics.
Something else that works well if you want a scrubbing effect is salt and (cheap) vinegar.
And yes, do get the microfiber cloths - really works well, even the cheapest kind form the dollar store.
posted by 15L06 at 1:36 AM on July 13, 2015

I am not sure if or how [citric acid] would affect the leach field though

It won't, unless you're dumping like 50 lbs of it.

(And for what it's worth, bleach won't hurt a septic system either, unless you're dumping gallons of it.)
posted by ryanrs at 1:47 AM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

We always had a bottle of CLR around for cleaning shower heads and toilets. (I grew up with a septic field, and have one now).

Otherwise, vinegar, baking soda, and borax are your best options. And a good stiff brush or three.

Once you get the stains out of the tub/toilet/sink, clean them every week. It's easier that way.
posted by jlkr at 7:24 AM on July 13, 2015

Do not use vinegar and peroxide together. Pick one or the other. When combined, they create peracetic acid. Although it is deemed a good disinfectant, it is also toxic to humans.

If you do mess up the leach field, you can buy enzymes to add to it to get it working again.
posted by Michele in California at 9:55 AM on July 13, 2015

Simple Green products are what we used to use to clean at camp. It seems like they might be of use here.
posted by limeonaire at 11:36 AM on July 13, 2015

If this is your move-out clean, you're only required to have the place "broom clean", which is a lower standard than showroom quality. Something to keep in mind.
posted by Coffeemate at 1:13 PM on July 13, 2015

Response by poster: > Since you're a Costco member,

That's creepy ;)

I appreciate everyone's responses. Thanks again!
posted by alex_skazat at 11:41 AM on July 14, 2015

Response by poster: Coffemate,

If this is your move-out clean, you're only required to have the place "broom clean", which is a lower standard than showroom quality. Something to keep in mind.

I agree with you, 100%. Our situation is a bit unique, as the landlord specifically put in the lease the fancy, showroom quality deep-clean the place has to be, which like many things is impossible because: regular wear and tear. Ugh!

As a household, we've discussed this issue, where most people are against having to provide this show room-like cleanliness. I'm very much opposed, as I've only lived here for a few months, rather than an entire calendar year. When I signed the lease, the deep clean was so totally made obvious, regardless of the legality, which I really think is on shaky ground.

In the end, and since some housemates are moving out, we're op'ing to instead do the deep clean, so that (1 people who are leaving get their deposit back without some bad blood and (2 the people who are staying don't have a landlord that are not happy with the current tenants. No one really wins in this situation, except rule-bending landlord, honestly. But I live in an expensive town, and this house: this house is the most affordable place I could possibly find and I dare say it: I love my housemates. So a few extra hours scrubbing, I shall go!

I appreciate again everyone's responses.
posted by alex_skazat at 5:52 PM on July 19, 2015

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