Think Clean Thoughts

Image from Care2 Healthy Living
We all like to keep a clean house; but have you ever read the back of a cleaning product label? The chemicals riddling the very products we use to make our homes sanitary have a frightening tendency to be extremely bad for us. Perfumes, dyes, and composition seem designed to wreak havoc with the systems of our respiratory, immune, and epidermis.

Here are some great recipes that will save you a bunch of money—and won't damage that temple of a body you've got.

  • 3/4 c. baking soda  
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon (about 1/4 c)  
  • 3 tablespoons salt   
  • 3 tablespoons liquid dishwashing soap  
  • 1/2 cup vinegar  
  • 10 drops essential oil (optional)
Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl to make a paste; use scrub brush or sponge to apply to tub, shower walls, & sinks.  (Be sure to test a small area to make sure paste does not scuff tub surface; if so, eliminate the salt from the mixture!  Rinse well with water and a wet rag, then dry with a clean rag or old towel. (From Living Well, Spending Less)

Bleach is inexpensive, widely used and relatively safe when used in the correct amounts. Excessive bleach exposure, however, may cause irritation in the eyes, mouth, lungs and on skin—especially for asthma and allergy sufferers. Bleach mixed with other household cleaners, such as ammonia, can even result in the release of toxic fumes. Bleach manufacturing also produces dioxin, a chemical that is harmful to the environment. 
  • Vinegar is an effective natural disinfectant, and even kills both salmonella and E. coli, making it a valuable sanitizer in the kitchen.
  • Vinegar, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide work together to give you an effect equal to bleach.
  • 4-cup baking soda and 1⁄2-cup white vinegar with warm water to scrub down tile. Clean glass surfaces by mixing equal amounts vinegar and water in a spray bottle.
  • Skip using hydrogen peroxide on the countertops, and add it to your laundry as a bleach alternative. A cup of hydrogen peroxide will brighten your whites.
  • Or try this recipe for from Grit: 12 cups water, 1/4 cup lemon juice (or grapefruit juice), 1 cup hydrogen peroxide.  Add 2 cups per wash load or put in spray bottle and use as a household cleaner.
  • Sunlight! Ultraviolet radiation of the sun kills pathogens that cause diarrhea.E xposing a bottle of water to sunlight for 6 hours is an economical way to provide developing countries with safe drinking water. Use this to your advantage by taking objects outside on a sunny day for disinfecting. If you've got white laundry with stains, spray with lemon juice or vinegar, then hang in the sun.
  • 3/4 cup olive oil 
  • juice from 1/4  lemon 
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar 
  • 3-4 drops lemon essential oil (optional)
Dampen rag & squeeze out excess water.  Dip damp rag into furniture polish, the wipe on surface of furniture.  Buff off with an old dry towel.  Can also be used to polish stainless steel!
(From Living Well, Spending Less) 

just 10 different products–most of which I already have on hand–can be combined in 10 different ways to make 10 different awesome, green, & super thrifty cleaners.  10x10x10….how cool is that?
There are 10 magic ingredients you can keep on-hand that can be combined in 10 different ways to give you 10 green cleaners. Here they are, courtesy of Living Well, Spending Less:
white vinegar
baking soda
lemons and/or lemon juice
olive oil
Ivory bar soap
liquid dishwashing soap 
washing soda
essential oils (I like lemon, lemongrass, & eucalyptus)

just 10 different products–most of which I already have on hand–can be combined in 10 different ways to make 10 different awesome, green, & super thrifty cleaners.  10x10x10….how cool is that?
just 10 different products–most of which I already have on hand–can be combined in 10 different ways to make 10 different awesome, green, & super thrifty cleaners.  10x10x10….how cool is that?
  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Lemons or lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  • Ivory bar soap
  • Liquid dishwashing soap
  • Washing soda
  • Borax
  • Essential oils like lemongrass, lemon and eucalyptus
  • 1 1/2 cups vinegar 
  • 1 1/2  cups water 
  • 5-10 drops essential oil (optional)
Mix vinegar, water, & essential oil together in spray bottle.  Spray on glass & use squeegee, crumpled newspaper (Tip: use newspapers that are at least 2 weeks old to avoid black fingers!), or a lint-free rag to get a streak-free shine.  Also works well to shine chrome and countertops after you’ve disinfected them. (From Living Well, Spending Less)

  • 1 bar Ivory soap
  • 1 cup borax
  • 1 cup washing powder
Place Ivory soap in a large microwave safe bowl.  Heat in the microwave for 2 minutes, until soap turns to foam.  Quickly stir foam until it becomes small soap chips, then mix well with borax and washing powder.  Allow to cool completely, then store in airtight container.  Use 1-2 tablespoons per load.  (Tip:  This detergent works best in warm or hot water; for cold water washing you may want to first dissolve in 1/4 c. of hot water.)  (From Living Well, Spending Less)

Rooted Blessings has a great mold and mildew spray recipe that wreaks havoc on all things damp and dingy. With a combination of alcohol and anti-fungal essential oils, kick your existing mold problem and keep it from growing back.
  • 1 Cup Distilled Water
  • 1 Cup Vodka
  • 10 drops Tea Tree Essential Oil
  • 10 drops Eucalyptus Essential Oil
  • 10 drops Lavender Essential Oil
Combine all the above ingredients and pour into a spray bottle. Spray this powerful mold and mildew spray directly on your mold or mildew problem. If it is really a bad problem leave on for 30 minutes or more before you wipe clean.

If you're a parent with little kids in your home (or you live at Better Farm), you know the magical prowess of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers.
First, place the 1/2 tsp. of Borax in a shallow bowl.  Pour the hot water on top and mix with a fork, spoon or whisk until dissolved. Then add the 1 tsp. of baking soda and mix until all powder is dissolved and the water is nearly clear in color. If after cleaning you have a white film left on your walls, reduce the Borax and Baking soda to 1/4 each as a little does a lot and reduce the chance of a film on your walls for those few that have had that experience. In addition, wipe your walls after cleaning with a damp rag. 

Simply pour about 1/2 cup of baking soda into a bowl, and add enough liquid detergent to make a texture like frosting. Scoop the mixture onto a sponge, and wash the surface. This is the perfect recipe for cleaning the bathtub because it rinses easily and doesn’t leave grit.
Note: Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable glycerin to the mixture and store in a sealed glass jar, to keep the product moist. Otherwise just make as much as you need at a time. (From Care2 Healthy Living) 

  • 2 tablespoons baking soda 
  • 1/2 cup vinegar 
  • 2 cups warm water
Mix ingredients in spray bottle.  Mixture will foam up; when it stops bubbling, put on cap and spray stainless steel surface, then wipe clean & dry with lint-free rag.  To add extra shine, use furniture polish above. (From Living Well, Spending Less)

  • 1 cup baking soda 
  • 1 cup vinegar 
  • 10 drops essential oil (optional)
Turn off flow valve to toilet & flush 1 or 2 times until water is drained.  Pour in baking soda, then slowly pour in vinegar, being sure to get vinegar to cover as much of the bowl surface as possible, then add essential oil.  The baking soda will react with the vinegar–this is normal!  Use your toilet brush to scrub surface & remove any rings or stains.  Turn water back on and flush.
(From Living Well, Spending Less)

Keep a clean spray bottle filled with straight 5 percent vinegar in your kitchen near your cutting board and in your bathroom and use them for cleaning. Spray the vinegar on our cutting board before going to bed, letting it sit overnight.  The smell of vinegar dissipates within a few hours. Straight vinegar is also great for cleaning the toilet rim. Just spray it on and wipe off. (From Care2 Healthy Living)

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.