Many people with pets or kids have noticed that many of the ingredients in commercial cleaning products are not only harmful to people and animals but can be fatal. So, it’s no surprise that people are looking to remove these harsh chemicals from their homes and replace them with great, green, healthy alternatives. Fortunately, there are some great, green, affordable substitutes that can be used pretty much anywhere in your home and that you likely already have sitting in the pantry. Read on for my 5 favorite, non-toxic ingredients for DIY cleaners and how to use them in your home.
Vinegar is my all-time favorite non-toxic cleaner. It removes odors, stains, and grease and can effectively prevent mildew and mold when applied regularly to shower walls, sinks, and toilet bowls. Vinegar neutralizes pet odors like cat urine and will help keep colors from bleeding from a new pair of jeans or a red shirt if you soak the clothing item in vinegar for 30 minutes before washing or dump a cup or so into the washer with the detergent. To remove corrosion and chemical buildup from showerheads, soak the showerhead in vinegar overnight. Plain white vinegar should be used but if the smell offends you, you can add 10-15 drops of essential oil to your cleaning mixture. My favorite all-purpose cleaner, for bathroom, kitchen, and glass, is simply 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water mixed in a spray bottle. That’s it!
2. Baking Soda
Baking soda has virus-killing abilities and makes for an effective but gentle scrub for bathtubs, toilets, tile, and porcelain or stainless steel sinks. When I run out of Bon Ami, I pour baking soda in the sink, squeeze in half a lemon or pour in about ¼ cup vinegar, and scrub with a sponge or bristle brush. For a great toilet scrub, pour ½ cup baking soda into the toilet bowl and add 10 drops of tea tree essential oil and ¼ cup vinegar. The mixture will fizz while you scrub and cut through mold and grime while the tea tree oil disinfects. Tea tree oil and thyme oil are both great non-toxic disinfectants to be used in place of bleach. That said, just because they’re non-toxic doesn’t mean that you, your kids, or your pets should consume these products!
3. Castile Soap
Castile soaps are made from 100% plant oils so they’re safe and gentle but effective. While traditionally it’s recommended that wood floors be cleaned with pure water, I’ve added a few drops of peppermint or eucalyptus castile soap to a warm bucket of water and mopped our wood floors with the mixture to clean and freshen up the room. Our floors aren’t wax-treated, so please ask a pro if yours are before using anything but water on your wood floors. Castile soaps are great all-purpose cleaners, too. Simply mix a tablespoon to a ¼ cup with warm water for washing down counters, tile, windows, or a sink full of dishes. The term “all-purpose” really applies to castile soap!
Lemon juice kills mold and mildew, shines harder surfaces, cuts grease, and deodorizes. A cut lemon can be scrubbed over the surface of a cutting board to sanitize it. Simply rub a halved lemon over the surface, let sit for 10 minutes, and rinse. Lemon juice can be added to vinegar cleaning mixtures to add a fresh scent and aid in cutting grease. Lemon juice is a great bleach substitute for washing laundry, too; just add lemon juice to the rinse cycle.
5. Essential Oils
Peppermint, tea tree and thyme oils are my favorite for use in home cleaning products. Peppermint oil eliminates offensive odors and is a natural pest deterrent. I have successfully used peppermint oil to eliminate mice in one of our sheds by placing cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil around the entrances to the shed and places where the mice frequented. Tea tree oil eliminates mold and mildew; a few drops can simply be mixed with water and sprayed onto shower walls (don’t rinse it off) and left to kill mildew and mold. Thyme oil is a powerful, natural disinfectant that has been said to kill and prevent botulism, e. Coli, listeria, and salmonella. Add a few drops to your vinegar all-purpose spray or use in the same way as tea tree oil in the formula above.
YOUR TURN: What are your favorite DIY, green home cleaning products?