Natural Household Cleaners
I know, I know. You're thinking, "Wait, natural household cleaners?? Do Treehuggers clean? That's not what I signed up for. I was going for Dirt Worshipper." But popular to contrary belief, our toilets are indoors, and we do prefer they not grow things.
There are a myriad of natural household cleaners on the market today. But frankly, as "green" as they proclaim to be, or as well as they work, most are still completely unnecessary, and still potentially toxic. They require excessive energy and resources to manufacture and cost more simply because of their "green" status. #whichpissesmeoff
Most common household cleaners are toxic, contain harmful chemicals linked to everything from cancer to birth defects and are mostly an unnecessary repackaging of the same product in a new bottle, so we'll buy four different kinds, instead of one, to clean the whole house. Also, did you know that household cleaning substances are the third highest exposure reported to Poison Control Centers nationwide in the U.S.; the second highest among young children? #notcoolman
Many cleaners (often containing triclosan or bleach) are also dangerous to inhale and have been proven to create super-bugs: stronger, resistant bacteria that can make us sicker. They can also weaken your immune system by creating a too-sterile environment, which inhibits your body from building immunity to common germs. (In 99% of cases, disinfectants belong in surgical rooms, not our homes.) And seriously, what's the point of buying organic food if you're just gonna wash it with a chemical, or sit it on your kitchen counter covered in chemicals?
"Better keep yourself clean and bright. You are the window through which you must see the world." - George Bernard Shaw
Make Your Own Cleaning Products
Despite what the commercials may say, all your natural household cleaners can be made simply, and naturally with just a few inexpensive products:
- White vinegar inhibits the growth of bacteria by creating an unfriendly, acidic environment. It's preferred over apple cider vinegar since it won't stain, is completely non-toxic and it's easy to use. (Lemon juice is a common alternative to white vinegar.)
- Baking soda acts as a natural abrasive/scouring agent, deodorizer and cleanser and is gentle enough to use on nearly every surface.
- Olive or jojoba oil will polish furniture and oil wood without harmful additives. They are also less likely to go rancid.
- Hydrogen peroxide will help remove stains naturally and easily. Always be sure to check for color-fastness before use.
- Soap nuts are a berry-like fruit harvested from a tree. They contain saponins, which clean anything from clothing to dishes, even hair! Where soap nuts are not available, try grated handmade soaps (often found at a farmer's market or online) or natural, biodegradable dish soap, if necessary.
- Essential oils are a perfect addition to any natural household cleaner, especially those with cleansing and purifying properties, and when you want to add aroma but avoid harmful "perfumes" that increase your toxic load.
How to Make Your Own Cleaners
Using the ingredients listed above you can make all of the following natural household cleaners:
All-Purpose Natural Household Cleaners
In a spray bottle, mix 9 parts water and 1 part white vinegar. You can a few drops of dish soap, as well. Add essential oils if you'd like to minimize the strong smell of the vinegar. Melaleuca oil or lavender can be used as a cleansing, deodorizing, and purifying agent.
Natural Scouring Alternative
Simply sprinkle baking soda over the area to be cleaned or onto a rag and begin scrubbing.
Natural Furniture Polish
Mix 1/4 cup white vinegar, lemon juice, or lemon essential oil with 1 tablespoon of oil. You can use this in a spray bottle or a small amount on a cotton rag.
Natural Oil or Wax for Wood
For wood surfaces that require regular oiling/waxing, switch the ratios to 1/4 cup oil and 1 tablespoon white vinegar, lemon juice, or lemon essential oil. Allow it to soak in for at least 12 hours before wiping off any excess with a dry cloth.
Natural Soap from Soap Nuts
Soap nuts can be added whole to your washing machine or boiled to create a liquid soap nut concentrate: Add two soap nuts per cup of water and boil for approximately 30 minutes, mashing them periodically. Strain, add essential oils and store in a sealed container.
How to Clean Your Home Naturally
Below is an alphabetical list of how to clean anything in your home without using harsh chemicals or commercial products. Before using any cleaning product, natural or not, it's a good idea to test the surface or fabric first.
Use several tablespoons of liquid soap nuts per gallon of water. You can add in several tablespoons of baking soda and a half cup of white vinegar for deodorizing or additional cleansing. Spot treating with soap nuts, baking soda and/or vinegar may be necessary for tough spots.
Spray the surface with the all-purpose natural household cleaner recipe above, and wipe clean. Just be careful with certain surfaces, as vinegar can cause pitting in marble surfaces.
Use liquid or whole soap nuts in your dishwasher by filling the soap dispensers. Add white vinegar to the rinse-aid compartment. Every month or two, run a gallon of white vinegar through an empty dishwasher cycle. (For really bad build-up, dishwasher cleaners of 100% citric acid can be used on occasion.) Baking soda can be added to help soften water, deodorize plastics or assist in cleaning, but only in small amounts (1/8 to 1/4 cup per load) to prevent residue.
Dishwashing by Hand
A teaspoon of liquid soap nuts will suffice for a sink full of dirty dishes. A bit of white vinegar can be added to soften the water.
Use a "snake" (a long cable that goes down the drain to remove debris or buildup) to empty slow drains of buildup or debris. Pour baking soda followed by 100% undiluted white vinegar down the drain. This may be necessary several times as it works through the drain. Lime essential oil may also help remove sludge.
Dusting Electronics and Non-Wood Surfaces
Use the all-purpose natural household cleaner recipe above and spray the rag (never spray electronics directly).
Dusting and Oiling Wood
Apply the natural wood oil recipe above liberally to dry wood. Allow it to soak in for several hours before wiping off any excess. Repeat monthly or as needed.
Flooring - Hard Surfaces
For hardwood, tile, linoleum, or concrete flooring add one cup of vinegar and 2-3 tablespoons liquid soap nuts for every 2 gallons of warm water.
Avoid using them whenever possible by scraping food into a compost bin or trash. For deodorizing, sprinkle with baking soda regularly and send lemon slices down the shredder.
Glass and Mirrors
Use 50% vinegar and 50% water to lightly spray the surface, then wipe clean with a dry cloth.
Place between 2-7 soap nuts in your washing machine (exact number depends on water hardness, temperature of water and the size of the load - experiment for best results). Or use 1-4 to 1-2 cup of liquid soap nuts for one full load of laundry. Use one cup of white vinegar as a fabric softener in the rinse cycle.
Fill a bowl with water and place it in the microwave for 5 minutes on high. The steam from the water will loosen any food particles. Spray with the all-purpose cleaner and wipe down. For deodorizing, mix 1/4 cup of baking soda in a bottle of water, shake well until dissolved, and spray the entire surface allowing it to sit for several minutes before wiping clean.
Pet Kennels, Cages and Beds
Use the all-purpose natural household cleaners recipe for hard surfaces and launder as described above. All these ingredients are safe to use around animals.
Pet Stains, Odors, and Areas
For a dog run use 100% white vinegar, usually a gallon or more depending on the size of the area to be washed, scrub with a push broom or similar and hose the area off. (Vinegar will kill plants and weeds so use it wisely outdoors.) For pet stains, wash the surface as you normally would but double the vinegar to remove any odor and discourage them from using the area again.
Removing Stickers, Crayon, Marker, etc
Both lemon and lime essential oil are known to remove stickers, crayons, and other marks from paint, dry erase boards, wood, glass, etc
Shower and Tub
Use the natural household cleaner recipe above after showers or baths to spray a light mist over the walls and tub and prevent soap scum buildup. Use more of the same solution to clean. If scouring is needed, sprinkle with baking soda.
For general cleaning, use the all-purpose recipe above. For stubborn stains or grime, sprinkle on baking soda and scrub with an old toothbrush. Or spray the vinegar solution over the baking soda to create a fizzing reaction.
Stains on Fabric
Soak the stained area in water (temperature depends on fabric type) with 1 teaspoon of liquid soap nuts. Depending on the fabric, you can also try to gently scrub the area with a baking soda paste.
Stove and Oven
Sprinkle baking soda over charred food and scrub with a wet rag. For stubborn areas, spray the all-purpose natural household cleaner over the baking soda and allow it to sit for several minutes before resuming scouring.
The seat and outside of the toilet can be cleaned with the all-purpose spray recipe. Pour a half cup of baking soda in the toilet bowl, allow it to sit for 20-30 minutes, then spray with the all-purpose vinegar solution above and scrub with a toilet brush. For really dirty toilets, use up to 100% white vinegar. Oregano oil is a great one to add a natural cleaning, too.
Toys and Play Areas
Use the all-purpose natural household cleaners for all toys, desks, tables, etc. None of the ingredients will harm children and the strong odor from the vinegar dissipates quickly.
Walls, Doors, etc
Use the all-purpose natural household cleaner recipe from above for light cleaning. To prep wall for painting, fill a medium-sized bowl of warm or hot water with 1/4 of baking soda and 1 cup of vinegar and scrub with a soft cloth.
What if none of this works?
If you ever encounter something that you feel needs a harsh chemical cleaner, it is important to consider the true necessity. No joke, I will buy things based on their ease of cleaning. (Dry clean only? Fat freaking chance.) If the item and its cleaning agent are truly necessary and you cannot find a natural commercial product for it, be sure to use the harsher product safely: eye goggles, a respiratory mask, and gloves should all be considered. (Think that's extreme? Most conventional cleaning products actually suggest it themselves! Read the labels!)
Also, be sure to use it according to its directions, protect against cross-contamination and dispose of it safely. And always keep it out of reach of children or pets. Because they really are that bad.