No More Toxic Cleaners

(originally published 6/29/09, updated 9/25/09)

I finally did it. I rid my home of toxic cleaners. I wish I'd done it a lot sooner.

I was worried about using harsh household cleaners around my small children. I also felt like the products were overkill. The fumes were ridiculous and if I didn't wear gloves, my hands were practically raw afterward!

When I was a child, we used products like Comet, Spic and Span and Joy. Not as harsh as some of today's products, but still not quite green. So I stepped back and looked one generation further. Folks used to clean their homes with much simpler ingredients: baking soda, white vinegar, essential oils. So I decided to use these to make my own household cleaners.

The old fashioned ingredients work well (even in my oven!), leave my house and car clean and fresh, aren't toxic, are easy to make and cost next to nothing.

I bought a bunch of empty spray bottles at Lowes, 3 huge "bulk" jugs of white vinegar, a few "bulk" bottles of hydrogen peroxide and a "bulk" bag of baking soda at Costco, and a small bottle of tea tree oil and a bottle of all-natural liquid dish soap and some lemon essential oil at my grocery store.

Here's what I use now...

1. Glass/window cleaner: 20 oz water, 8 oz white vinegar, 20 drops lemon oil. I have found that newspaper cleans glass really well - better than paper towels or cloth.

2. All-purpose cleaner (not for marble, but I use it on granite, my wood kitchen table and my stainless steel appliances with equally good results): 10 oz water, 10 oz white vinegar, 7 drops tea tree oil, 4 drops lemon oil. Shake it, spray it on, then wipe it off.

3. Tile floor cleaner: half warm water, half white vinegar. I clean with the 50/50 mixture, then wipe with plain warm water.

4. Hard wood floor cleaner: a bucket of warm water with three drops of lemon oil and three drops of uncomplicated liquid dish soap. I clean with the mixture, then wipe with plain warm water.

5. Marble cleaner - most folks recommend only wiping with water, but I like to clean things. So I fill a spray bottle with warm water and add a few drops of uncomplicated liquid dish soap. Shake, then spray it on. Marble stains easily so I work quickly, rinse the solution off with a very wet cloth and towel dry to avoid hard water marks.

6. When I need more muscle, I have a spray bottle filled simply with white vinegar. I spray it on and let it sit for a few minutes, then wipe. It will clean the inside of the microwave, oven and refrigerator without a ton of scrubbing. In the shower or commode, I spray vinegar or hydrogen peroxide, then apply baking soda if I need to scrub. Let it sit a few minutes, then rub a bit and rinse with water.

7. Hydrogen peroxide is also good when you need deeper cleaning in the kitchen or bathroom - I keep this in a handy spray bottle, too. To properly disinfect, you need to let it sit for a few minutes while it fizzes, then wipe it off.

8. Wood polish: 1 cup of olive oil plus 1/2 cup of lemon juice - I make it fresh each time -rub it in with one cloth, then buff it off with a fresh one.

As a result of this, I no longer use a ton of disposable disinfectant wipes and disposable floor wipes, so I went to Costco and spent a few bucks on a dozen white bar towels, picked up a mop with machine-washable terry cloth covers at my grocery store, and a two-compartment rolling mop bucket at Lowes. Now I not only save money on my cleaning supplies and feel better about the chemical situation in my home, but I also no longer generate as much waste because it is all machine washable.

Win win win!

Time will tell how well these mixtures work for me, but so far so good. I’ll keep you posted.

Update 9/25/09:
Tired of lugging around buckets of clean and vinegar water, I bought a Shark Steam Pocket Mop.  It cleans and kills germs using only hot steam.  I sweep or vacuum first to remove debris, then use the steam mop to remove stuck-on dirt and spots and disinfect.  I bought a few extra pockets and just toss them in the washing machine when I'm done.  I use it on my tile and hardwood floors.  LOVE it.


bihotita said...

Meg: Great tips!!! And yes, newspaper is WAAAAAY better than cloth or other paper... Love your blog! :)


Veronica Lee said...

Thanks for the follow. I'm now following your lovely blog.

Buckeroomama said...

Great tips. Thanks for sharing (and the follow). Following you right back. :)

Julie said...

All great ideas!!
Have you ever tried the Shaklee Organic Basic H? Best cleaner ever... the bottle is $14 and lasts well over a year... makes gallons and gallons of powerful cleaner... and you technically could drink it, not that anyone would...

Jenny said...

HI Meg! In the hard wood floor cleaner, would Dr. Bronner's work for the dish soap? I already have that in the house. Thanks! I have been wondering what to use on my wood floors!!! I hate using the commercial products.

EcoMeg said...

Hi Jenny - Yes, from what I understand you can use pure castille soap on hard wood floors. 1 1/2 teaspoons in a gallon of warm water seems to be what's recommended.

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