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Healthy Homes

DIY for Safe & Healthy Cleaning

Finding "green" cleaning products that are actually free of dangerous toxins and pollutants can be difficult and sometimes more expensive. Luckily, essentially every cleaning product you might need in the household can be replaced with a harmless, natural substance or a mixture of natural substances. Try some (or all) of the green cleaning solutions below for healthy and toxin-free cleaning!

Natural cleaning products are best used with microfiber cloths, dusters, and mops. This useful material picks up microscopic dirt, dust, and grime and reduces the need for harsh cleaners.

natural cleaning ingredients:

* Never use vinegar and baking soda together! This mythical green cleaning combination produces mostly water with a small amount of sodium acetate. Use these versatile ingredients by themselves. Also refrain from mixing vinegar with castile soap or hydrogen peroxide.

** Borax is a controversial ingredient for safety in cleaning products. Proven dangers include harm when ingested in large amounts, and potential skin and eye irritation when in direct contact with the undiluted substance; however, many believe that borax can be used safely in dilute amounts for cleaning products.

cleaning recipes

These recipes use natural ingredients for safe and effective cleaning products. Because they do not contain harmful surfactants, preservatives, and other synthetic additives, they may not appear to create "suds" as conventional cleaning products do. Water-based products should be used relatively quickly and new batches prepared to avoid bacterial contamination.

Although these products are much safer, extended contact can still irritate your skin or eyes! Wear gloves and maintain proper ventilation while cleaning, and avoid spraying cleaning materials around your face.

Any of these recipes can be enhanced with essential oils! Try 5-10 drops of these alone or in combination for scent and cleaning power:

surface cleaners:

all-purpose cleaners

  1. castile soap: 1/4 cup soap in a quart of water, in a spray bottle
  2. vinegar: combine equal parts white vinegar and water, or increase vinegar to 2:1 for tough cleaning jobs
    • add 1/2 juiced lemon to 2 cups of mixture for extra antibacterial and degreasing power; must be refrigerated
  3. baking soda paste: mix 1/2 cup baking soda with a small amount of water or castile soap to create a scrubbing paste; good for tile surfaces
  4. castile soap & washing soda: combine 1/2 tsp washing soda and 1 tsp liquid castile soap in a spray bottle; add 1 tsp witch hazel, rubbing alcohol, or borax; add 2 cups of warm water (distilled or boiled)

scouring powder

  1. baking soda: sprinkle baking soda onto a damp sponge or cloth and use to scrub the surface; rinse with water
  2. salt and washing soda: combine 1 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup salt, and 1/2 cup washing soda; sprinkle on, let sit 5 minutes, then scrub and rinse
  3. heavy-duty scrub (not for granite/marble): dip 1/2 of a lemon in 1/2 cup borax and use to scrub surface, then rinse

window/glass cleaners

  1. castile soap: 1 tbsp soap in a quart of water, in a spray bottle; spray on, squeegee, then follow with pure club soda or equal parts vinegar and water
  2. vinegar and water: the 1:1 all-purpose cleaner above can be used, but may leave streaks the first time when reacting with residue from old cleaners; for the first time, try 1/4 cup white vinegar in 2 cups of water, with 1/2 tsp natural dishwashing liquid
  3. vinegar and cornstarch: combine 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1/4 cup isopropyl alcohol (optional), 1 tbsp cornstarch, and 2 cups water in a spray bottle and shake well; spray on and wipe off with newspaper for best results 
  4. lemon juice polish: mix 1 tbsp lemon juice into 1 quart warm water; spray onto windows and wipe dry

grout & tile cleaner

If the all-purpose cleaners above are not effective on stains, try these.

  1. vinegar: use a damp sponge in full-strength vinegar and scrub with a scouring powder and a brush or sponge
    • for very tough stains, scrub with 1/2 cup baking soda with 2 tbsp washing soda, 2 tbsp borax, and 3 tbsp castile soap
  2. hydrogen peroxide: for mold stains, use a 1:1 mixture of 3% hydrogen peroxide and water; leave for 45 minutes, then wipe with a sponge and rinse well

toilet cleaner

  1. castile soap: predilute soap 1:4 with water and add antibacterial essential oil; empty toilet, squirt bowl thoroughly, scrub with baking soda on a scrub brush; let sit 10 minutes, then flush
    • you can also try mixing 1 cup distilled water and 1/2 cup castile soap, then adding 1/2 cup baking soda; apply the mixture to the sides of the bowl, spray hydrogen peroxide on top (optional), let sit, then scrub and rinse
  2. vinegar: pour 1 cup of white vinegar into the bowl and let sit for 20 minutes to an hour; use a borax scrub for tough stains
  3. scrubs: sprinkle 1/2 cup borax or baking soda around the bowl; let sit, then swish around and scrub. 

hard water stain remover

  1. spray: use the 1:1 all purpose cleaner to clean lights spots and stains
  2. taps and bathroom fixtures: saturate a paper towel or cloth with vinegar and tightly wrap around stained area; for tap openings, fill a plastic bag with vinegar and secure it over the faucet or showerhead, soak for several hours, and scrub with a toothbrush
  3. coffee pots and kettles: soak in a solution of warm water and vinegar before washing; or, add equal parts vinegar and water to the coffee machine and run, then run again with just water
  4. dishwashers and laundry machines: add a cup or two of vinegar into the appliance and run an empty load with hot water
  5. scrub: try salt or epsom salts to scrub stains.

floor cleaner

Vinegar may not be suitable for all floors and surfaces. Be sure to spot test with your natural cleaner before use!

  1. castile soap: 1/2 cup soap in 3 gallons of hot water; use a microfiber mop if possible
  2. vinegar (not for marble/granite): dampen mop with equal parts vinegar and warm water; mop and rinse with pure water
    • for tough stains, pre-treat with 2 tbsp washing soda dissolved in 2 cups of water
  3. wood floor cleaner: combine 1/2 cup vinegar and 1 tsp vegetable oil, add 1 cup water and mix well; apply to floor to clean and shine, wipe well to avoid slippery surface
    • if vinegar is unsuitable for your floor, try combining 1 gallon of water, 3/4 cup olive oil, and 1/2 cup lemon juice

carpet stain remover

  1. vinegar: spray 1:1 all-purpose solution onto stain and let sit 5-10 minutes; add 2 tsp salt (optional); scrub with a soft brush
  2. castile soap: mix 1 tsp soap with one cup of warm water, apply to stain and let sit; scrub with a soft brush
  3. for tough stains: pour salt, baking soda, 1 part borax to 3 parts baking soda, or cornstarch liberally on stain and let sit until absorbed; vacuum residue, then use vinegar or castile soap method

carpet cleaner (steam cleaning)

  1. castile soap: use 1 tbsp castile soap for every quart of hot water in a carpet cleaning machine; follow with two rinses, first water and then a 25% vinegar solution
  2. vinegar: replace the instructed amount of cleaning solution with an equal amount of white vinegar in the machine's tank

dishwashing:

hand dishwashing

  1. castile soap: dilute soap 1:10 with water in a squirt bottle; squirt onto scrub brush and scrub dishes
  2. washing soda & bar soap: add 1/4 cup grated castile bar soap to 1 1/4 cups boiling water, stir until dissolved; stir in 1 tbsp washing soda (can be adjusted to increase or decrease thickness of detergent) and 1/4 cup liquid castile soap; shake before using
  3. Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds*: add 1 quart of water to a squirt bottle and follow with 1/2 cup Sal Suds; or, add 1/2 tsp Sal Suds to a sink of water
    • add 1 tbsp white vinegar for extra grease-cutting
    • add 1 tbsp moisturizing oil (jojoba, sweet almond, coconut, olive) to nourish skin

dishwasher detergent

These detergents are best used with vinegar as a rinse agent; fill up the compartment in the washer or fill a small plastic cup on the top rack.

  1. powder: combine 1 cup borax, 1 cup washing soda, 1/2 cup food-grade citric acid, and 1/2 cup kosher salt; use 1 tbsp per load
    • unsweetened lemonade powder mix can be used in place of citric acid
  2. gel: combine 1 cup liquid castile soap, 1 cup distilled water, 3/4 cup vegetable glycerin, and 1/4 cup sea salt

laundry:

laundry detergent

  1. castile soap: 1/3-1/2 cup soap for a large load; add 1/2 cup vinegar to the rinse cycle (use half these amounts for a high efficiency washer)
  2. borax laundry soap: bring 3 cups of water to a boil and remove from heat; add 1/2 cup borax and 1/2 cup washing soda and stir until dissolved. combine 5 cups room temperature water and 1 cup liquid castile soap, pour in hot borax mixture and stir; use 1/8-1/4 cup for a load of laundry
  3. borax-free powder: add 1 cup washing soda, 1 cup baking soda, and 1 grated bar of castile soap to a large bowl and mix well; use 1-2 tbsp per load

stain remover

These stain removers may not be suitable for all fabrics or dyes. Patch test before using!

  1. castile soap: combine 2 tbsp liquid castile soap and 1/4 cup 3% hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle; shake, spray onto stains and let sit if desired, then rinse and rub; repeat if needed
  2. vinegar: spray 1:1 all-purpose cleaner as pre-laundry treatment for typical stains
    • food, blood, grass, and sweat: apply undiluted vinegar to stain, allow to soak in; rinse, repeat if needed, then launder
    • coffee and tea: soak stained fabric in 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water; hang in the sun to dry, then launder
    • ink: spray with hairspray, then dab up hairspray with vinegar; rinse and launder
  3. hydrogen peroxide: apply to stain undiluted or 1:1 with water for tough organic stains
  4. baking soda: make a paste of 2 parts baking soda to 1 part water and apply to organic stains
    • sprinkle a small amount directly onto grease stains

other laundry solutions

fabric softener: add 2 cups of vinegar to the last rinse cycle to soften clothes, kill odors, protect delicate articles, and reduce static cling

color protector: add 1/2 cup salt or baking soda to the rinse cycle to prevent bleeding and brighten colors

white brightener: add 1/2 cup vinegar, borax, baking soda, lemon juice, or hydrogen peroxide to the wash cycle 

the sun: hang clothes in the sun to brighten whites and colors and to avoid setting stains!