After overhearing a fascinating discussion about making homemade cleaning products during checkout a few months back, we asked co-op member Susan Richardson if she would write an article to share her knowledge and experience as a professional house cleaner. There is so much useful, easy info below with lots of references for further research. We loved the article so much we asked her to create a line of pre-made cleansers for those folks who don’t have the time or inclination to make their own. We’re very excited to begin offering these products to our members. Check them out in our online shop under Soap & Vinegar. – Julie
After cleaning houses for several years with readily available chemical cleansers I sensed I needed a change but didn’t know where or how to begin. I was thankful to meet a
co-op manager in 2009 who only uses green cleaning products. And so my journey to a greener, cleaner future began.
I have tried several non-toxic cleaners since then. Most of them do a sufficient job and have a pleasant scent but may still contain questionable, undisclosed ingredients that may harm our families and the environment. Please visit the Environmental Working Group’s website at ewg.org for ingredient lists, ratings, and toxic properties in many common household cleaners. Some of them are currently marketed as non-toxic.
There are also numerous books available that address the benefits of natural cleaning. The Naturally Clean Home by Karyn Siegel-Maier contains 150 recipes for the kitchen, bath, laundry, garage, auto, pest control, and more. Clean House, Clean Planet by Karen Logan analyzes and compares common chemical products with inexpensive homemade cleaners and contains an abundance of simple recipes. Both books would be an excellent start and helpful resource for any home library.
There are many completely safe alternatives that will disinfect, deodorize, and clean effectively. These items all have multiple uses. Salt, lemon juice, olive oil, club soda, vinegar, liquid castile soap, baking soda, and essential oils combine to make safe, inexpensive cleaners. In an effort to keep things simple I have chosen only a few items from this list to work with on a daily basis.
Vinegar works well on glass, counters, floors, most wood items, and other solid surfaces. Adding essential oils will enhance the disinfecting, deodorizing, and cleaning
power. Use distilled water with oils because chlorine in tap water will deteriorate the oils over time. One simple multi-purpose recipe for use in a spray bottle is 2 cups vinegar, 1 cup water, 8-10 drops each lavender, rosemary, and geranium essential oils. Shake, spray, and wipe away.
Lavender oil adds antibiotic, antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. Rosemary oil is antibacterial. Geranium is used for added fragrance and leaves a smooth, soft finish on surfaces.
Liquid castile soap (diluted according to directions if using concentrate) cleans more stubborn dirt. It is great for washing dishes, in showers, tubs, sinks, or anywhere extra cleaning power is needed. It rinses away much easier than commercial dish soap. Fill a 22 ounce squirt bottle with diluted soap and about 20 drops of your favorite essential oil or combination of oils. Squirt on surface, scrub, rinse, and dry. Do not mix vinegar and soap for cleaning. Vinegar deactivates the soap but is a quick aid for rinsing away the suds.
Use baking soda to make a mildly abrasive cleanser. For a simple powdered scrubber just mix 1 cup baking soda with 3 teaspoons cinnamon and 3 drops cedar or sweet orange
essential oil. A large recycled grated cheese shaker is the perfect container for this recipe. Sprinkle on surface, scrub with a damp scrubbing pad, rinse, and dry. To make a scouring gel mix 2 parts castile soap with 1 part baking soda and essential oils of your choice.
Safe, simple, and inexpensive air fresheners can be made by mixing 8 ounces of water with 6-8 drops of an essential oil or combination of your favorite oils. Some options
include cinnamon, ginger, vanilla, bay; or sage, thyme, cedar, patchouli, frankincense; and lemon, orange, basil, thyme. The possibilities are endless. Pour into any clean spray bottle or plant mister. Spray toward center of room. Also, adding a few drops oil to a clean filter or the
outside of a fresh bag in the vacuum cleaner will deodorize the air as you sweep. Please be aware that essential oils can deteriorate some plastic lids and sprayers. So far, I’ve
found that Mrs. Meyers caps tolerate the oils. Murphys Oil Soap caps do not.
In addition to these simple recipes you may find that a pumice stick, straight razor blades, scratchless scrubbing pads, and a few good scrub brushes in assorted sizes would
Pumice sticks are available through Frontier and at Lowes. At Lowes they are sold as scouring sticks in the cleaning aisle. They work magic on those annoying rings that form in toilet bowls and will not scratch porcelain when wet. Razor blades are a useful non-toxic tool for scraping
dried paint and other debris from mirrors and windows. Remove burnt on spills from pots and pans, ovens, and stove tops with a razor blade. Some manufacturers recommend this method for glass stove top maintenance. Additional scrubbing with a mild abrasive may be required to remove stains. Rinse with vinegar solution and polish.
- Place a bowl of dry ground coffee in an area with persistent odors to absorb the odors. Replace as needed.
- 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol and 1/2 cup water in a spray bottle will disolve most crayon and marker stains. Spray, scrub, and dry.
- 1 cup peroxide in white laundry will brighten and remove most blood stains.
- Coconut oil can be used to season cast iron, polish shoes, wipe down plant leaves, and much more.
For more information and recipes on green cleaning these resources may be helpful.
Vinegar by Vicki Lansky
Baking Soda by Vicki Lansky
DIY-Natural Household Cleaners by Matt and Betsy Jabs
Complete Idiots Guide to Green Cleaning by Mary Findley and