DIY House Cleaning Solutions: Natural, Green & Eco-Friendly
Common commercial cleaners are loaded with toxic and polluting substances designed to make domestic life easier. The cost of these chemical-based products can be high: long-term health concerns for the family and environmental pollution caused by their manufacture and disposal.
In the US, one in three people suffer from allergies, asthma, sinusitis, or bronchitis. Some cleaning chemicals are allergy and asthma triggers, so treatment for these conditions should include reducing synthetic chemicals in the home environment.
Safe ingredients for homemade substitutions
Here is a list of common, environmentally safe ingredients that you can use alone or in combination for many of household applications. The majority of cleaning projects can be tackled with nothing more than vinegar, baking soda, soap, and water, but other ingredients are useful for specific jobs.
Trusted for over a century, baking soda cleans, deodorizes, softens water, and scours.
Unscented soap in liquid form (along with soap flakes, powders, or bars) is biodegradable and will clean just about anything. Castile soap is one example of an excellent, versatile cleaning ingredient. Avoid using soaps that contain petroleum distillates.
One of the strongest food acids, lemon juice is effective against most household bacteria.
Use white vinegar to cut grease; remove mildew, odors, and some stains; and to prevent or remove wax build-up.
Washing soda or SAL Soda is sodium carbonate decahydrate, a mineral. It cuts grease; removes stains; softens water; and cleans walls, tiles, sinks and tubs. Use with care, since washing soda can irritate mucous membranes. Do not use on aluminum.
Vegetable or olive oil
Use in homemade wood polishes.
Alcohol is an excellent disinfectant. However, some safety concerns with isopropyl alcohol (also known as rubbing alcohol) make other forms of alcohol the more cautious choice. Vodka is a potent odor remover, and other forms of ethanol (grain alcohol) can be used for cleaners and disinfectants.
Use cornstarch to clean windows, polish furniture, and shampoo carpets and rugs.
Citrus solvent cleans paintbrushes, oil and grease, and some stains. But beware: citrus solvent may cause skin, lung or eye irritations for people with multiple chemical sensitivities.
Oxygen-based bleach (usually made from sodium carbonate and/or peroxide) gently removes stains, whitens fabric, and has a number of applications in household stain removal. Many common brands of oxygen bleaches have a number of additional (and less benign) chemicals, so it’s best to look up the brand in the Environmental Working Group’s cleaners database before using.
A common disinfectant for wounds, hydrogen peroxide can also be used for disinfecting in the kitchen or bathroom. Its mild bleaching effect makes hydrogen peroxide an excellent stain remover for fabrics and grout. It may cause skin or respiratory irritation, so handle with care.
Homemade cleaning products
Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda into 1/2 gallon (2 liters) of water. Use for removal of water deposit stains on shower stall panels, bathroom chrome fixtures, windows, bathroom mirrors, etc. Or use a citrus-based natural all-purpose cleaner.
Another alternative is natural fiber cloths, which lift off dirt, grease, and dust without the need for cleaning chemicals because they are formulated to penetrate and trap dirt. There are a number of different brands. A good quality cloth can last for several years.
Commercial air fresheners mask smells and coat nasal passages to diminish the sense of smell. In contract, the formulas below absorb and remove odors for a healthier breath of fresh air.
Baking soda or vinegar with lemon juice in small dishes absorbs odors around the house.
Houseplants help reduce odors in the home. Some are also capable of removing toxins.
Prevent cooking odors by simmering vinegar (1 tablespoon in 1 cup water) on the stove while cooking. To get such smells as fish and onion off utensils and cutting boards, wipe them with vinegar and wash in soapy water.
Keep fresh coffee grounds on the counter.
Grind up a slice of lemon to freshen the garbage disposal.
Simmer water and cinnamon or other spices on stove.
Place bowls of fragrant dried herbs and flowers in room.
Bathroom Mold Deterrent
Mold in bathroom tile grout is a common problem and can be a health concern. Mix one part hydrogen peroxide (3%) with two parts water in a spray bottle and spray on areas with mold. Wait at least one hour before rinsing or using the shower.
Carpet stain remover
Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray directly on stain, let sit for several minutes, and clean with a brush or sponge using warm soapy water. For fresh grease spots, sprinkle cornstarch onto spot and wait 15 – 30 minutes before vacuuming. For a heavy-duty carpet cleaner, mix 1/4 cup each of salt, borax and vinegar. Rub paste into carpet and leave for a few hours. Vacuum.
Lemons are one ingredient to keep in your house cleaning arsenal.
Rub a slice of lemon over a chopping block to reduce bacteria
Toss a halved lemon in your garbage disposal to keep it smelling fresh
Use lemon juice in preparations to clean discolored utensils
Remove scratches on furniture, or buff marble tabletops
Ceramic or glass stovetop cleaner
Day-to-day cleaning can be done with simple soap and water or vinegar spray. To remove stuck-on food, wet the area with hot soapy water and sprinkle with baking soda. Cover with a damp towel and allow to stand for half an hour, then wipe with a clean damp cloth. Use a silicone spatula to help loosen food. Be sure to remove all residue.
Clothing stain remover
Different types of stains respond better to different types of stain removers. Straight vinegar can be used for many food stains, as well as sweat and set-in stains. Just spray the stain thoroughly prior to washing. A 1:1 solution of water and hydrogen peroxide can be used to soak out grass, underarm, and many food stains.
For surfaces other than granite or marble, an all-purpose vinegar solution is a good choice, and undiluted vinegar works for disinfection when necessary. Stick with soap and water for granite and marble, which can get etched by acids like vinegar. Use hydrogen peroxide if you need to disinfect.
Mix 2 teaspoons borax, 4 tablespoons vinegar, and 3 cups hot water. For stronger cleaning power, add 1/4 teaspoon liquid castile soap. Wipe on with dampened cloth or use non-aerosol spray bottle. (This is not an antibacterial formula. The average kitchen or bathroom does not require antibacterial cleaners.) To disinfect kitchen sponges, put them in the dishwasher when running a load.
In the marketplace today there are many safe, non-toxic products that are also effective for home cleaning tasks. However, repurposing or using ingredients that are already in your kitchen in more than way one, is a sure way to cut down cost and also help the earth thrive.
We'd love to hear your natural cleaning solutions in the comments!
Stay, live and *clean* well!