Friday, November 13, 2009

Tried and True Green Cleaning Recipes

Conventional cleaning products are some of the most toxic items in your home. Not only do they effect the health of you and your family, but they cause environmental damage when we wash them down the drain. There is an increasing number of green cleaners available on the market, but, they can cost up to four times as much as their conventional counterparts.

But, there are alternatives to both of these options that are non-toxic, healthy, eco-friendly, and low cost. You can make them at home with items you probably already have.

Your Green Cleaning Arsenal:

Baking Soda: Sodium Bicarbonate -A natural anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and deodorizer. You have never seen anything that cuts soap scum and leaves a sparkle like this. Bonus: using baking soda regularly to clean will help keep your pipes clear as well.

White Vinegar: This acid is excellent for dissolving mineral deposits and removing gummy substances.

Castile Soap: A mild plant based soap with some super cleaning power. I use Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap, a hemp oil based organic soap.

Borax: Sodium Borate - this is a base stronger then baking soda, but with the same cleaning properties. Use when baking soda just won't cut it. Find it with the laundry detergent in your local grocery store.

Washing Soda: Sodium Carbonate - a stronger base the baking soda and borax. Use to get stubborn stains out of your laundry and to make home made laundry detergent. Find it with the laundry detergent in your local grocery store. (sometimes called soda ash). Wear gloves when handling this product.

Hydrogen Peroxide: This weak acid has strong oxidizing properties and is a powerful bleaching agent.

Lemon Juice: Filled with citric acid, this juice can do more then make your home smell good.

Olive Oil: Penetrates and conditions wood surfaces.

Rubbing Alcohol: Great for cleaning glass surfaces, cds and dvds.

My Favorite All Purpose Cleaner:

My favorite all purpose cleaner recipe comes from Squeeky Green. I actually purchased a bottle of the cleaner at the Downtown Farmer's Market several years ago and have been reusing the bottle and the included recipe to mix up batches ever since. I use this cleaner to clean just about everything.

3 1/2 cups hot water
10 -20 drops essential oil (it came with peppermint and lemon and smells amazing)
2 to 3 oz. castile soap (I use Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap)

Combine ingredients and mix by gently shaking bottle.

I use this cleaner for counter tops, sinks, bathtubs, and cleaning wood, tile and linoleum floors. I have even used it to clean a glass top patio table , clean car interiors, and to scrub out litter boxes.

In The Kitchen:

Sink: - Scrub your sink with baking soda to make it shine.
- Use hydrogen peroxide to remove stubborn stains.

Counter tops:
- Use squeeky green all purpose cleaner for general cleanup.
- To disinfect, put white vinegar in a spray bottle, spray on counters and wipe down. Some people use a mix of 50 percent water and 50 percent vinegar. I just use straight vinegar.
- Use hydrogen peroxide to remove stains. Spray on a little peroxide and let it sit for about 30 minutes. If the stains are still there, repeat.

- Make your own dishwasher detergent using one tablespoon of baking soda and one tablespoon of borax. Add white vinegar as a rinse aid. The vinegar is necessary to prevent the detergent from leaving a film on the dishes.

Stove and Oven:
- Use squeeky green all purpose cleaner for general clean-up.
- Use baking soda to clean the oven. Sprinkle heavily on the bottom of the oven. Using a wet sponge, scrub the oven until clean. Rinse to remove all baking soda and soil.
- Make a paste from baking soda and water to scrub out the oven. For really tough clean-up, use borax in the place of baking soda. Be sure to use gloves when using borax, because it can strip the moisture from your skin.
Floors: -Use 1 cup vinegar to one gallon hot water to mop tile and linolium floors. Baked on Grease: Make a paste from baking soda and water and use to scrub off baked on grease from appliances and cookware.

In the Bathroom:

Sink and Bathtub: I like to sprinkle my tub and sink with baking soda and spray with squeeky green and scrub. Either one will get the job done, but nothing cleans soap scum like baking soda. It will make your porcelain sparkle.

Counter Tops: Use Squeeky Green to for general counter top clean up. To disinfect, spray down the counter top with vinegar and wipe clean. Some people use a mixture of 50 percent vinegar and 50 percent water. I just use straight vinegar.

Mirror: Use white vinegar and spray on the mirror. Use a clean cloth to wipe clean. Some people use some mixture of vinegar and water to clean glass, but I found that it leaves streaks. Using straight vinegar leaves a streak free shine.

Add one cup vinegar to one gallon of hot water. Use to mop floor. It will clean and disinfect at the same time. Toilet: Spray the top, sides, and seat with vinegar and wipe clean. This will clean and disinfect the surfaces. For the bowl, sprinkle some baking soda on the sides of the bowl, then scrub with a toilet brush.

Mineral Buildup: Use straight vinegar to remove mineral buildup. Spray on vinegar and mineral deposits usually wipe clean. For more stubborn mineral deposits, soak in vinegar until the deposits dissolve.

Mold and Mildew: Baking Soda is naturally anti-fungal. Use baking soda to scrub away mold and mildew and prevent it from coming back.


Add several squirts of castile soap in hot water and use to wash away dirt and grime.

Dust and polish wood furniture using a mixture of 50 percent lemon juice and 50 percent olive oil. The lemon juice will clean dirt and grime away while the olive oil with polish and condition the wood. I like to put this mixture in a spray bottle


To deodorize, kill mold spores, and get a better clean: Sprinkle baking soda liberally on the carpet. Allow to stand for about 30 minutes and vacuum.
Note: I discovered this trick when my parents had black mold in their basement. After removing the effected materials, the black mold spores still gave us headaches and made us sick. I looked at the EPA website to find what will kill black mold, and found that baking soda had natural anti-fungal properties that would kill the mold. I sprinkled baking soda on the remaining carpets throughout the basement and let it sit for 30 minutes. I then vacuumed and was amazed. Not only were we no longer getting sick from the mold spores, but the carpets were deodorized and the cleanest we had seen in years. I discovered that the baking soda was also binding to the dirt in the carpet and allowing more of it to be picked up by the vacuum. I also used this trick to get the smell out of the carpets when my cat brought a bird in the house which died under the sofa.
Spots and Stains: Sprinkle borax on the spot and scrub the carpet with a dry scrubbing brush. Let stand 30 minutes and vacuum. Repeat if necessary. If the stain still remains, use a mixture of water and borax then rinse with water.

Wood Flooring:
Sweep with a broom to remove loose dirt. Use several squirts of castile soap in warm water to mop. Rinse with warm water.

Tile and Linoleum:
Sweep with a broom to remove loose dirt. Add one cup vinegar to a gallon of hot water to mop.

In the Laundry Room:

Conventional laundry detergents offer a myriad of environmental and health concerns. To start with, the cleansing soaps are petroleum based (ew!). Not using them can reduce our use of oil. Also, laundry detergents are full of phosphates. They are of concern after use when they enter waterways and prompt water plants and algae to overgrow choking out other aquatic life.

A couple of eco-friendly laundry detergents that we have found that are price competitively with conventional brands are:

Arm & Hammer Essentials Liquid Laundry Detergent - uses baking soda and plant based soaps. Phosphate free.
Kirkland Signature Laundry Detergent - Available at Costco this detergent is made without phosphates, dyes, or bleaches. Uses plant based soaps.

Laundry Enhancer - add 1/2 cup of Borax to your laundry loads for boosted performance

Rust Stains
- use lemon juice to remove rust stains from fabric. Soak the stained areas in lemon juice and allow to sit until the stain disappears. When I tried this, it took about an hour for the stains to be fully removed.

Blood Stains - use hydrogen peroxide to remove fresh blood stains from clothing. Pour hydrogen peroxide on the stained area and let it bubble. When the bubbling stops, wash out the clothing with hand soap and cold water. Repeat if necessary.

1 comment:

  1. I love Squeeky Green SO MUCH! Everyone should own a bottle of it.