Cleaning your house with environmentally friendly household products saves you money, cuts down on clutter, makes your life much less complicated, and cuts down dramatically on chemical exposure. It is the epitome of simple, green, organic, happy living.
I am not going to beat you over the head with statistics about the chemicals involved in household cleansers. I am only going to say that with lead paint on our toys, pollution in our air, traces of prescription drugs in our tapwater and residual pesticides in our clothing and linens, I am not going to use something to “clean” my house that is labelled Warning: Toxic. Keep out of the reach of children.
To me, that says, Poison. Do not keep in house.
Switching over to safer cleaning was easy. It made my life simpler and freed up a whole shelf in my linen closet. I can now delegate a fair portion of the cleaning to my children without fearing that they will sear their lungs or go blind. My husband enjoys the “mad scientist” element of mixing up his own cleansers. And you can customize the fragrances, strengths, and appearance to your liking.
Here’s what we use:
Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. Vegetable-based and biodegradable, it is ultra-concentrated and will last forever.
- Use it straight for: handwashing, clothing, dishes, bathing and shampooing of pets and humans ( remember that a little goes a long way!)
- Add a teaspoon to a spray bottle filled with water for all-purpose cleaning: tabletops, counters, fingerprints on walls, spot treatment on carpets, everyday bathroom cleaning.
- Use the tea tree or eucalyptus varieties for extra antiseptic qualities, or
- Use the fragrance-free baby variety and add 20 drops of your own essential oils for scent.
- In general, the longer you allow this to sit after spraying, the less “elbow grease” required.
- These soaps do not foam up like you may be used to, which saves considerable amounts of time and water during rinsing.
Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds is an all-purpose cleanser that has that familiar scent of pine. It is specifically made for surface cleaning and is probably a better choice if you do not plan to use it as a hand or bath soap.
- This is our floor cleaner, again using one teaspoon in a spray bottle filled with hot water.
20 Mule Team Borax is excellent for heavy-duty bathroom cleaning.
- Just pour some onto a sponge or rag and scrub away. It is non-abrasive and does not cause your hands to become red and swollen, like what I used to use.
- Pour some into toilet bowl and let sit overnight, give a quick swish in the morning.
- You can also add borax to your laundry to boost your detergent’s cleaning and whitening power.
Vinegar and water in a spray bottle:
- works as a general disinfectant (vinegar smell dissipates when dry, or add 20 drops of essential oil for scent and extra antiseptic qualities.)
- is great for cutting through bacon grease residue on your stovetop.
Club soda in a spray bottle:
- Is a great mirror and window cleaner without the horrible fumes.
- keeps stains from setting.
Baking soda is known to soak up odors in the fridge. Also:
- use instead of a Brillo to scrub pots and pans (if it’s really bad, pour baking soda on when pan is still hot and let sit throughout meal or overnight.)
- sprinkle onto carpets and let sit overnight to absorb pet odors, vacuum in morning.
- for kitchen sink drain maintenance, pour in some baking soda, then pour in vinegar for exciting foamy action; follow up with a kettle of boiling water.
Lemon juice quickly gets the onion smell off your hands so you can rub your teary eyes. Or:
- Freeze lemon juice in ice-cube trays and run through your garbage disposal to keep it sharp and smelling fresh. (Lemon peel and regular ice cubes also does the trick.)
- Combine lemon juice and water in a bowl and microwave for a minute; allow to cool; wipe microwave clean.
- One part lemon juice to two parts olive oil can be used as a natural wood cleaner.
- Not a cleaning tip, but good to know: Dip cut apple slices into lemony water to keep them from browning in kids’ lunchboxes.
Houseplants are an easy way help keep your air clean and fresh, and they just make you feel better about yourself.
- I highly recommend an aloe plant in your bedroom, because they release extra oxygen at night, when you’re breathing deeply. After a full year of extreme negligence, ours is still alive, lush and enormous; and you can use the aloe as an emergency lotion or sunburn treatment.
Spray bottles and a bucket to keep everything together can be found at your local dollar store. Dr. Bronner’s and essential oils are available online and can be found at health and organic stores; we get ours from Trader Joe’s.
I cut old towels into rags in lieu of sponges, and wrap one around our old Swiffer for mopping.
Tomorrow I’ll post about how to get your kids to do their share of the cleaning!
“Our house is clean enough to be healthy,
and dirty enough to be happy.”
Organic Housekeeping by Ellen Sandbeck
Clean House, Clean Planet by Karen Logan offers up cost analysis in addition to recipes
How to Grow Fresh Air by B.C. Wolverton classifies 50 houseplants by how effectively they clean your air and by ease of upkeep.
For a comprehensive list of essential oils and their properties, click here.