Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cleaning Green

A couple of years ago, I picked up Renée Loux’s Easy Green Living and read it cover to cover. It’s an informative and inspiring book, filled with ways to live healthier while helping the earth. One of my favorite sections talks about making your own household cleaners. I decided to give it a try and have been hooked ever since. I haven’t bought a commercial cleaner in more than a year! Though I was already using non-toxic name-brand cleaners, I’ve found making my own rewarding, cheaper, and ultimately easier than I thought it would be.

Why switch to non-toxic cleaners in the first place?
Have you ever looked at the ingredients in a spray bottle of a conventional all-purpose cleaner? The list is scary—and dangerous for both human beings and the environment. Common ingredients can include (all sources for this information are cited in Renée’s book):

Ammonia, a toxic substance that can cause permanent damage to the eyes and can burn the skin.

Chlorine, which severely irritates the eyes, skin, and lungs, and is very harmful to inhale. It may cause permanent damage to the lungs, and children are especially at risk for its adverse effects.

Glycol ether, repeated exposure to which can cause liver and kidney damage.

Naptha, found in all purpose glass and surface cleaners, is a possible carcinogen and can cause skin damage, and is very dangerous to inhale.

Phenols, toxic compounds that irritate the eyes, skin, and lungs, and are toxic in the environment.

Terrifying, right? And that’s not even half of the most common ingredients. In the US, manufacturers are not required to list the ingredients in their cleaning products—so we may not even know all the toxic chemicals that we’re using. It’s bad enough to think of the harm this might be causing myself and my husband—but when I started thinking about the possible danger I’m exposing my kids to, for me, switching to non-toxic cleaners was a no-brainer.

Why make your own cleaners?
I look at making my own cleaners the way I look at making most of what we eat from scratch: I know every single thing that has gone into whatever it is we are ingesting, or cleaning with, in this case. No unpronounceable chemicals; no carcinogens or agents harmful to the earth. Before I switched to non-toxic cleaning products, I was always nervous about my kids being around when I cleaned—now I have no fear of them inhaling or swallowing something that can cause them permanent damage.

Making your own cleaners is exponentially less expensive than buying name brand non-toxic ones. There are some wonderful name brand natural cleaners out there, and they do the job well.  But they are pricey, and if you’re a neat freak like me and clean often, those costs can really add up. I order all my ingredients from Their prices are up to 40% less than other sites I have come across, and some things are as much as 75% less expensive! You can also visit your local natural health store for most of these. I get spray bottles from my local dollar store. You can even use old spray bottles from store-bought cleaners that have run out—just be sure to wash them out thoroughly before mixing your cleaner in them.

Making your own cleaners is also fun! I absolutely love learning about essential oils and their properties, and combining them to create my own scents gives me a chance to get creative. Be sure to keep your oils out of reach of children—ingesting them in large amounts can be harmful. Another note—if you are using a plastic measuring spoon for your essential oils, wash it out with soap immediately after you finish with it, otherwise the oil will corrode the plastic.

Now that you have some good information, why not give making your own household cleaners a try? Here are some of my favorite recipes, taken from Easy Green Living. I’d love to hear from you if you try these, and how you like them.

Lavender-Lemon Disinfecting Spray
Hands down, my favorite. Smells fantastic and I love that it naturally disinfects! You can use this to clean things like kitchen counters and cutting boards—just keep in mind that it won’t necessarily kill all bacteria from raw poultry and meat. Makes about one pint.

¼ cup inexpensive vodka
½ cup 3% hydrogen peroxide (69 cents a bottle at my local drugstore!)
1 cup water
10 drops essential oil of lavender
5 drops essential oil of lemon

Combine all the ingredients in a spray bottle and swirl to mix them. Be sure not to shake the bottle, or the active oxygen in the peroxide will go flat and lose its action. Spray the surface and wipe, or allow to air dry. Keeps indefinitely!

All-Purpose Citrus Spray
I love this recipe because it uses another inexpensive ingredient: white distilled vinegar. I buy the store brand and the cost ends up being pennies per bottle for this cleaner. One note—if the smell of vinegar bothers you, you may want to skip this one, as the scent does linger for a bit. You may be tempted to add more essential oils to mask the smell—but don’t. When it comes to essential oils, a little goes a long way! Makes about one pint.

½ cup white distilled vinegar
1 tablespoon Citra-Solv Cleaner and Degreaser Concentrate (available at or your local natural health store)
½ teaspoon natural liquid dish soap or castile soap
1 ½ cups warm water
½ teaspoon total antiseptic essential oils (your choice as to which ones—get creative!)

Combine all the ingredients in a spray bottle and shake well to mix. Keeps indefinitely!

All-Purpose Deodorizing Basic Soda Spray
This is a great recipe for scouring and scrubbing—and it uses two super-inexpensive ingredients—baking and club soda! Be sure to wipe off after spraying, because the baking soda can leave a residue. Makes about one pint.

½ teaspoon baking soda
½ castile soap
½ teaspoon total rosemary and sweet orange essential oils
1 cup very warm water
1 cup club soda

Combine the baking soda, soap, essential oils, and water in a spray bottle. Screw the top on, shake vigorously to combine the ingredients, and then add the club soda. Swirl to mix it in.

Heavy-Duty Floor Cleaner
I don’t know why, but it seems like commercial floor cleaners are the most expensive of the lot. This is easy, cheap, and smells wonderful! My kids and husband have all commented on how good the house smells after I’ve mopped with this.

2 gallons warm water
½ cup distilled white vinegar
¼ cup Citra-Solv Cleaner and Degreaser Concentrate
2 tablespoons natural liquid dish soap
½ teaspoon essential oil of lavender

Mix all ingredients in a bucket, and mop away!

Basic Soda Fizz Toilet Scrub
OK, the toilet situation can get yucky, and you may be temped to use a conventional toxic cleaner because it just makes the grime go away. Don’t do it! This recipe is easy, quick, and cleans just as well.

1 tablespoon castile or other natural liquid soap
1/3 cup baking soda
1/3 distilled white vinegar
8 drops essential oil of lavender, rosemary, or both

Squirt the soap into the toilet bowl, and then drop the baking soda on top. Pour in the vinegar and essential oils. Let it fizz for 2-3 minutes, then scrub the bowl with a toilet brush, and flush. Enjoy the sparkle!


Good luck and happy green cleaning!


andieclark said... [Reply to comment]

Good thing you are using non-toxic cleaners. You, in your own little way, are doing some environmental services to help our Mother Earth.

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