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A spray bottle is used to wash a window, while a plant is in the foreground.

Look Outside the Cleaning Isle

1. Vinegar inhibits mold and bacteria growth and will cut through grease and soap scum in your kitchen, bathroom, or anywhere else in the house.

Plus, it lasts forever and it’s cheap!

Use distilled white vinegar instead of apple cider to avoid staining surfaces, the smell dissipates as it dries.

  • For a basic all over the house cleaner, mix together equal parts of vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Use on countertops, glass and floors.
  • Clean your floors with a mixture of ½ cup of white distilled vinegar and ½ gallon of warm water. No need to rinse. Just wipe and go.
  • For windows, fill a spray bottle with water and a quarter cup of white vinegar or lemon juice. A great way to recycle your newspapers is to use them in place of paper towels for a streak-free finish.
  • Clean your disposal and drains by pouring 1 cup of white distilled vinegar down the drain. Let it sit and flush.
  • A ½ cup of distilled white vinegar added to the rinse cycle of your washing machine will act as a natural fabric softener and will rinse clothes cleaner, getting out excess soap and detergent.
  • To freshen a toilet bowl, pour two to three cups of white vinegar into the toilet bowl, let sit for a few hours then scrub and flush.

2. A basic liquid soap (non-petroleum based and free of dyes – castile and other plant-based soaps are a great choice) will clean anything.

  • Use a touch of soap and warm water to wash down countertops.
  • Clean wood floors using a large bowl of warm water and a tablespoon of soap with rags.
  • Sprinkle a grimy surface with baking soda and follow up with a soapy sponge

3. Olive oil is great for moisturizing and conditioning.

  • Mix two parts of olive oil with one part of lemon juice for an all-natural furniture polish.
  • To keep brass from tarnishing, rub it with olive oil after cleaning.
  • Rub olive oil onto stainless steel surfaces to remove streaks and prints.

4. Baking Soda is a fantastic scouring agent and an odor neutralizer.

  • Get rid of carpet odor: sprinkle them with baking soda before you vacuum. (See “DIY Carpet Cleaner” for an easy recipe.)
  • Mix a small amount of baking soda with liquid castile soap to get your countertops, sinks, and tubs shiny. For a ‘fresh smell’ try adding a few drops of rosemary, orange, or lavender essential oils.
  • To clean your oven mix together three parts baking soda with one part salt and one part water. Spread the mixture across the oven surface and allow it to sit up to eight hours. Scrape and wipe clean.
  • To clean your toilet, pour 1 part baking soda to 4 parts vinegar into the toilet basin. Let it sit for 15-30 minutes, then scrub and flush.
  • For a clogged drain, pour ½ cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by ½ cup of white vinegar. Allow the mixture to fizz then flush with hot water.
  • Add a ¼ cup of baking soda to the wash cycle of your laundry machine to soften fabrics naturally, eliminating the need for chemical, and often highly fragranced, fabric softeners.

5. Lemon Juice cuts through grease naturally so it works well for kitchen cleaning especially.

  • For a healthful alternative to common aerosol air fresheners, combine ½ quart of hot water with equal parts baking soda and lemon juice (about a teaspoon each).
  • Mix together a mild liquid soap and lemon juice for an excellent dish soap. (Do not to be use on silver.)
  • To brighten whites in the wash, add a small amount of lemon juice to your machine’s rinse cycle.
  • A spray bottle filled with water and a quarter cup of lemon juice will get greasy windows and mirrors clean.
  • Place dried lemon peels into small cloth pouches or tea bags to keep out-of-season clothes fresh and to deter moths and other rodents.

6. Tea-Tree Oil is naturally a fungicide, germicide, antibacterial agent, and antiseptic. It can treat mold and mildew and even freshen the air in your house.

  • To treat household areas with mold and mildew, mix tea tree oil into your white vinegar and water mixture, then spray and wipe.
  • Help shower doors and tile stay cleaner by wiping them with a mixture of tea tree oil and water.
  • To spot-treat your carpets, mix together equal parts of borax, salt, and white vinegar. Apply the paste to the stains and allow to dry, then vacuum up the paste.

Why Use Natural Cleaning Products?

Beware of Product Overload

  • These days we have such an overabundance of products with a different product (with disposable pads and such) necessary for each different job. It’s expensive and an overwhelming waste of materials.
  • Opt for multi-purpose products and, overall, take a “less is more” approach to cleaning. Simple dish soap and vinegar, each mixed with water, could clean almost anything.

Opt for Recycled and Multi-Use Products

  • Look for recycled paper towels, toilet paper, tissues, and napkins. Recycle old t-shirts and socks into cleaning rags.
  • And try reusable sponges, cloths, or a shammy for your everyday cleaning.

Skip the “Fragrance”

  • Though it may only say “fragrance” on the ingredients list of a product, that single word could stand for up to 200 chemical ingredients, leading to a variety of reactions and disorders ranging from dizziness to skin irritation, rash, and other cold-like symptoms.
  • The Institute of Medicine placed “fragrance” in the same category as secondhand smoke when it comes to triggering asthma in adults and kids.
  • Fragrances also contain phthalates, a class of chemicals that have been linked to cancer and reproductive disorders.
  • Instead choose fragrance-free products or those scented with plant extracts and essential oils, like citrus oils, peppermint, eucalyptus, lemon, orange or magnolia.

Steer Clear of Bleach

  • Chlorine bleach, also called sodium hypochlorite, is a highly corrosive agent. It can irritate your skin, your eyes, and your airways. When chlorine is mixed with other cleaners, such as those containing ammonia or acids (as is the case in some toilet bowl cleaners) it creates a lung-damaging gas.
  • But perhaps the most concerning is what happens when chlorine bleached is rinsed down our drains into our waterways where it can create organochlorines, compounds that are suspected carcinogens as well as reproductive and neurological toxins.
  • Choose products with non-chlorine bleach, like those containing percarbonate, which is primarily oxygenated water.

Chemical Overload

  • A study by the New Scientist (1999) found that moms in homes where aerosol sprays and air fresheners were used were 25% more like to suffer from headaches and 19% more likely to suffer from depression.
  • Babies less than six months old in the same environment had 30% more ear infections and 22% higher rates of diarrhea.
  • Toxic chemicals can create toxic results. It’s much better to steer clear of these harsh products and favor natural alternatives instead.

Antibacterial Overload

  • Antibacterial products make up 75% of the cleaning product market. They are the only cleaning agents under regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency because their active ingredients are classified as pesticides.
  • It may be because we rely so heavily on these “pesticides” to keep us clean, that the bacteria around us are getting stronger, and our bodies are getting less and less able to fight them off on their own. Today scientists and studies are pointing to the abundant use of antibacterial products in our homes for the rise in resistant microorganisms. In short, our bodies are finding it difficult to cope with the germs they come into contact with.

How to Safely Dispose of Old Cleaning Products

  • It’s generally ok to pour old products that you no longer want to use down the drain. Just don’t pour anything containing bleach or ammonia together because the mixture creates toxic fumes.
  • Contact your sanitation department for heavier-duty product disposal.
sara snow
Sara Snow

Sara Snow is a mom, TV host, anchor, author, and guru trying to help you live a greener, healthier, more natural life.

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