Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cleaning the natural way...

This is a topic I get excited about so I am kind of unsure how to best direct my ideas when it comes to this post. Do I start with the natural products and tell you all of the wonderful things you can do with them? Or do I start with the different places in the home that need cleaning and tell you how to clean them naturally?

In this post I am going to list the most common household cleaning jobs and then I am going to tell you how you can do them with natural cleaners that will not harm your family and will not harm the environment. Not only that, but you will save a ton of money!

Here is a link on the dangers of common household cleansers. Here and here are some links on the dangers of laundry detergent and fabric softener. I have a feeling that this post will be long enough without me trying to list the danger of each thing you are replacing.


Not only is regular laundry detergent and/or fabric softener toxic but it is expensive!

There are many recipes for homemade laundry detergent floating around the Internet. There are also several commercial laundry cleaners on the market (for a pretty price!). I think that the success of them depends on the hardness of your water. I will tell you what works for me. I have well water and I do not know the hardness of it.

I skipped the recipes where you have to cook things and mix things because as well as wanting to be "natural" and "frugal", I want things to be simple.

We use three things: Plain Ivory Soap, Baking Soda and White Vinegar

We put the clothes in the washing machine, take the bar of Ivory soap and a metal cheese grater and grate a few swipes over the clothing. Dump in a scoop of baking soda and fill the fabric softener compartment with the vinegar. The soap is basically the same as the old time Ivory Soap Flakes that your grandmother used to wash with and the vinegar acts as a fabric softener - without leaving a smell.

This works on my husband's smelly work clothes, it works on the baby's smelly cloth diapers...I have never had a problem.

For stains I use a bar of old fashioned castile soap and an old toothbrush. Then I hang the clothes out in the sun (the sun bleaches clothing as well as bleach).


Again, vinegar and baking soda do the job.

For the toilet, I take a large container of water and pour it into the bowl. I'm not sure why, but this forces all of the water in the toilet to go down but it doesn't refill like it would if you simply flushed it. The toilet being empty of water makes it easier to clean. Then I dump in a few scoops of baking soda and a few glugs of vinegar (which makes a neat foaming volcano that my kids loves, lol) and I let it sit. After a while I scrub it with the toilet brush. I take a cleaning cloth and a spray bottle with a mixture of vinegar and water to clean the seat and outside of the toilet. If I have build up that won't come off with baking soda and vinegar, I use a Pumie Stone.

For the mirror, again I use the vinegar and water in the spray bottle. We don't use paper towels in our home so I use a squeegee. You can also use wadded up newspaper rather than paper towel.

Depending on how dirty your sink and tub are you can either use vinegar/water and a cloth, baking soda and vinegar scrub or the Pumie. I have also read that Bar Keepers Friend is pretty Earth friendly.

For the germ-a-phobes out there, you should know that white vinegar kills bacteria, mold, and germs. Heinz company spokesperson, Michael Mullen references numerous studies to show that a straight 5 percent solution of vinegar—such as you can buy in the supermarket—kills 99 percent of bacteria, 82 percent of mold, and 80 percent of germs (viruses).

He noted that Heinz can't claim on their packaging that vinegar is a disinfectant since the company has not registered it as a pesticide with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, it seems to be common knowledge in the industry that vinegar is powerfully antibacterial.


Studies have shown that when you use a newer model, energy efficient dishwasher, it actually takes less water and less energy than washing them by hand. If you have a dishwasher, my friends have had wonderful luck with Bio-Kleen.

My dishwasher went to the dishwasher place in the sky so I hand wash. I either use a Dr. Bronner's liquid soap or Seventh Generation Dish Washing Liquid. The Dr. Bronner's is amazing. You can wash your dishes with it, dilute it and use it as a fruit and vegetable wash, mop your floors with it, bathe with it, wash your hair with it, wash clothes with it...the list is endless. It costs more than other liquid soaps but it is very concentrated so one bottle lasts me almost a year. However I don't do laundry with it, as that would make it disappear a lot faster.The only drawback to the Dr. Bronner's is that it does not suds in the way that most dish soaps do. If you need suds to feel like your dishes are getting clean, better to use the Seventh Generation.

For cleaning the counter top I use vinegar and water. For cleaning the stove top (when it is all gunky and crusty from food), I use baking soda and vinegar. I let it sit and it just wipes off with very little to no scrubbing.

To mop my floors I use a wet dish cloth and a little leg action...or I let my kids slide around on the floor that was wet with a little wet soapy water (they LOVE this!). But I also recommend the Clorox Ready Mop. I don't like the fact that it is made of plastic but it IS convenient. Unlike the Swiffer Wet Jet (which is what I used to use) the Ready Mop doesn't require batteries (we use rechargeable but still, I prefer not to use them at all). The Ready Mop has a refillable bottle and you can use dish cloths for the pads instead of having to buy the ones especially designed to be used with it. The Swiffer Mop has Velcro attachments which makes it hard to use anything other than what they sell to go with it. The Ready Mop has a "catch" system where you stuff the corner of the cloth into the "grips" and it is held on that way. Since the bottle is refillable, you can fill it with the cleaner of your choice...vinegar, Dr. Bronners or I have even heard that Murphy's Oil Soap is pretty "green".

Living room/Bedrooms

We have removed the carpet from every room in the house. We feel that carpet has toxic chemicals on it and that it is impossible to actually keep clean. It can harbor all kinds of mold and allergens.

So to clean the living room and bedrooms, not much is left other than dusting. To dust wood I usually just use a real feather duster. When it needs a good polish I use lemon essential oil mixed with a little carrier oil (which is whatever other oil I have handy). I have ready that Murphy's Oil Soap isn't all that bad when it comes to toxicity, but if I can make my own I prefer to do so as it saves money.

I have also heard that salt and a fresh lemon can do wonders around the house. But I use Real Salt and it could get expensive to use as a cleaner (as could fresh lemons.)

So as you can see, it doesn't have to be complicated or expensive to clean your home the green way, with green and natural cleaning products.


Sasha said...

Wow, thanks for that post. I have been using natural ingredients for cleaning for some time now, but love what you do for laundry. I do have a front loader, but I'm definitely going to experiment with your system to see what I can get to work. The biggest problem with homemade laundry soap is, well, making it to me!

Kelley said...

I found this post very informative and helpful! I've been wanting to get our home chemical-free for some time but felt overwhelmed at the daunting task. This will help me get started! Thanks.

Tan Family said...

Wow...wonderful post, full of useful information! Thank you, so much.

EcoMeg said...

Love this - thanks for sharing! I think I'll try your recipe for laundry cleaning! Best,

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