But for everything else, she’s got her home brews. One of her favorite recipes is a deodorizer made with rubbing alcohol, vinegar and essential oils. She enjoys the ritual of gathering ingredients like fresh mint from her garden, tossing them together in a weck jar, and watching the contents discolor on the countertop. She likes the feeling of self-sufficiency, too. Life might be uncertain, but she can clean her stovetop. “In case the apocalypse actually comes, I’ve got my spray bottle,” she said, joking, but maybe not entirely.
It’s no wonder that cleaning the bathroom has elbowed its way into the self-care category. Tidying is no longer a Saturday morning chore, but a clear avenue to personal betterment and spiritual enlightenment. Consider Marie Kondo, who has become a guru of home organizing by showing desperate homeowners, first in her books and then on her popular Netflix show, how a well-folded shirt can turn a chaotic life into a calm one. The elevated household cleaner is a potential next step in the journey to transforming a home into a shrine of self-improvement. Take control of your toilet-bowl cleaner and maybe you can take control of your life, too.
But unlike clever folding methods, cleaning products involve chemistry — not just anything works. Household cleaners are a $6 billion industry in the United States, with products that are produced and tested by scientists who know far more about chemistry than I do. Could a recipe on a Pinterest board really deliver anything on par with what experts working in a lab for a multinational corporation can make?
Some D.I.Y. recipes are questionable. Mix a base with an acid — like vinegar with baking soda — and you get a voluminous chemical reaction that looks exciting, but ultimately leaves you with salt water. Some cleaning agents, like borax, bleach and ammonia are potentially harmful. Combine a chemical like ammonia with bleach and you produce a noxious gas that could do serious damage to your lungs.
“You can’t mix things willy-nilly,” said Ms. Rapinchuk, who sells a line of cleaning products on her website. “You have to be smart about it.”
I do see the merits of escaping the cleaning aisle at Target — I don’t exactly experience joy buying floor cleaner. A few weeks ago, I bought a set of glass spray bottles and made a wood cleaner using vinegar, olive oil and essential oils. I demonstrated my little experiment to my mother, spraying the solution on my dining room table to show her the surprisingly decent results. “So you’re basically cleaning your table with salad dressing,” she said.
True enough. But vinegar is a disinfectant, and oil protects wood. So shouldn’t this recipe do the trick?