My journey to using non-toxic cleaning products has been a long time in the making. When I first got married, I used all the chemical-laden stuff out there to kill every inch of grease and grime, from our laundry to our kitchen to our bathroom sink. Even though I got a serious high every time I cleaned, I felt like my chemical cleaners were doing a great job.
It wasn’t really until I was pregnant with our 3rd that I started to re-think my cleaning methods. Already having 2 boys 3 years old and under, I was doing a LOT of cleaning up, wiping down, and mopping. The fumes were starting to get to me. Then, as the boys got older, I wanted them to be involved in the household chores. But there was NO WAY I wanted them to come in contact with those chemical products we’d been using.
All of these things started adding up and led me on my journey to converting to green cleaning. I started out by purchasing a steam mop for our floors (we have mostly hardwood and ceramic tile) to eliminate the floor cleaner. Then, I bought “safe” green cleaning products and diluted them for the boys to use – however, I did not notice much of a decrease in the odors they would give off. I still often found myself a bit light-headed while using them, especially in the bathroom. So after some research, I discovered the “green”, and “safe” products, aren’t all chemical free – while they may have “naturally occurring” chemicals in them, they’re still chemicals.
Once and for all I had had enough. I went all out on researching “non-toxic green cleaning products” – you know, the kind you make in your own kitchen and could probably eat if they didn’t taste so bleck! As I’m sure you know, there is a LOT of information out there! And there are many more people who are experts, so I just wanted to share with you how we are making the change from chemicals to natural, green cleaning products – starting with 3 ingredients EVERYONE has in their kitchen!
Having 3 boys in the house (including hubby) makes for some rather messy bathrooms. If I could get the boys to clean the toilets, I would be gold! But until that time, when they are a bit older to know how to handle the cleaning up properly (both the throne AND themselves), the lot falls to me. I was pretty sure NOTHING would clean the toilets and make them smell good, until I tried vinegar. Yup, just plain old white vinegar with water in a spray bottle. Don’t believe me? Try it!
Five percent vinegar (the supermarket kind) has been found to kill 99% of bacteria, 82% of mold, and 80% of germs. Vinegar is an acetic acid, which works to kill germs and dissolve mineral deposits and stains. However, it won’t kill or work on EVERYTHING. The key is to clean regularly and thoroughly, to help REDUCE (but not eliminate) the germs hanging around your home. This article has some great information about the science of how vinegar works to clean, and will help you understand how and where you can use vinegar around your home.
If you’ve ever used Old Dutch to scrub down your bathtubs, then you’ll understand why baking soda is such a great alternative for cleaning. Not only does it make a great abrasive scrubbing paste, when mixed with vinegar, the acid and alcali react and suddenly things get clean! Double bonus – it’s GREAT for getting rid of and controlling stink! Baking soda has an amazing ability to neutralize pH levels, which is what makes stuff smell so bad, and does a great job of eliminating odors! Since I’m not a huge scientific nut, I’ll let the pros do the talking – check out this answer here which explains a bit more scientifically how baking soda works to eliminate odors.
Another acid, lemon juice, works really well to eliminate odors and sanitize. Bonus – the lemony fresh scent it leaves behind!
So how do WE use vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice for cleaning? I’m glad you asked!
- Use straight vinegar in the bowl of the toilet, pouring around underneath the rim. Scrub the bowl, flush and done. (For extra difficult stains, add 1/2 cup baking soda and let sit for 30 minutes before scrubbing).
- Use a diluted solution of 1 part water to 1 part vinegar to spray the toilet, counter tops, mirrors, bathtub (for bad soap scum add a baking soda paste) and tile. Spray, wipe, done! It smells only slightly of vinegar, but the BEST part is that I don’t smell gross bathroom odors AT ALL! Make sure you regularly spray the bathtub and shower walls to prevent soap scum from building up.
- Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda down a clogged drain, followed by 1/2 cup of vinegar. Cover and allow to sit for 5 minutes. The reaction will clear up minor clogs. For more major clogs, follow with boiling hot water. (This also works great for deodorizing drains and killing fruit fly larvae that may be lurking in your drains – oh you didn’t want to know that? It’s true! )
- Throw 1/2 – 1 cup of vinegar in with your load in the dishwasher for streak-free dishes every time.
- Spray counter tops with equal parts water and vinegar to clean.
- Cut up a lemon and place in a bowl of water in your microwave.
- Turn on for 3-4 minutes and allow to steam. When finished, wipe down the inside of the microwave. This leaves the microwave clean and smelling great!
- Once in a while use a lemon in the garburator (garbage disposal) to get rid of odors. Throw in some baking soda and vinegar to help cut down the stink even more.
- Rub half a lemon in salt and use it to scrub down your cutting board.
- Use an open box of baking soda in the fridge and sprinkle in the garbage cans to absorb gross, left-over odors.
- We have a ceramic stove top, and nothing cleans it quite like baking soda and vinegar! Sprinkle baking soda over the stains or crusted (ahem, burned ) on food, spritz with vinegar, let sit 5-10 minutes and wipe off.
- For harder, stickier situations, make a scrubbing paste with baking soda and a little water and scrub with a foam scrubbing pad.
- Instead of using fabric softener, add 1/2 cup of baking soda to the rinse cycle. It also works to eliminate odors, and give you whiter whites and brighter brights.
- Sprinkle baking soda on a grease stain immediately and it will help to lift the stain out of the clothes. Some stains will also come out when soaked in vinegar and milk. For more tips check out Vinegar Tips – the list is endless!
- Reduce static cling (and skip those gross dryer sheets – do you REALLY know what’s in them?!) Add 1/2 cup white vinegar to the wash.
So, WHY should you switch to using homemade, non-toxic, REAL GREEN cleaning products? Common disinfectants, just like antibacterial products, can actually contribute to the immunity of drug resistant bacteria, thus helping to create environments that make it easy for “super bugs” to develop. Think about all those chemicals you are pouring down the drain, into the soil and air. I’m not a tree hugger, but I sure don’t like the thought of putting all that junk into the ecosystem. Then there’s the immediate health affects – do you really want to expose your body to harsh chemicals for cleaning when there are so many natural alternatives to be found, right in our own kitchens? (BONUS – it’s cheaper than buying store bought chemicals too!)
If you’re still not convinced, some of my favorite bloggers have done a series on how to switch over to making and using your own green cleaning products. I’m looking forward to switching more of our cleaners over to homemade, and delving into using some natural, essential oils to boost the cleaning and disinfecting properties.
Stephanie Langford (Keeper of the Home) – Non-Toxic Household Cleaners You Can Make At Home
Amy Grant Bayliss (Cajun Joie De Vivre) 17 Days of Natural Cleaning
I’d love to hear what your favorite ways are to make and use natural ingredients in order to give your home that clean shine and smell, without the worry.