It’s easy to get overwhelmed by green cleaners.
You see a tip about using vinegar to clean – where do I use it? you wonder.
Your grandma emails you 50 ways to use baking soda in the home – how do I remember these when I need them?
And Pinterest serves up “50 green cleaners” or “101 ways to clean a non-toxic home” and you suddenly have 5,000 changes you need to make THIS WEEK!
My mission here at KS has always been to make the baby steps possible. We focus on what creates the biggest impact on your health and environment while also respecting your crunched time and budget.
So even my list by itself might be #overwhelm, but here is the most important part:
Determine what cleaner you use on the most surfaces or most times per week, or the one you spend the most money on. Pick THAT one. Change it this week. Then figure out another change to make another week.
You can even commit to changing after your current bottle/bag/box runs out if getting rid of something you purchased makes you squeamish. Make a little sticky note and write, “When this runs out, I’m switching to…” so you don’t forget! If you do that, you could probably even make a couple sticky notes right now since they likely won’t run out all at once (built-in baby steps!).
When I started the whole natural living journey, it was just one change at a time, baby step style, and before I knew it I was rightfully being accused of being “crunchy” from head to toe and ceiling to floor.
Now it’s your turn…
Ditch Your Toxic Cleaners!
This was an old “Monday Mission” back when I would challenge readers to make one positive change per week – to choose just ONE cleaner to “green up” that week. But it’s such a helpful list and one that I want to make sure is up to date, so here it is in “helpful list” format!
If you are using mostly conventional cleaners, take the challenge: “Green up” one bottle of something this week. Choose another one for another week. By the end of the year, you’ll realize that you’ve switched up your whole house and you can breathe easier!
If you really get motivated, here’s a natural personal products list too, since what we put ON our skin is as important as what we put IN our bodies!
Ceiling to Floor (Natural Green Cleaners)
Streak-free (and Toxin-free!) Mirrors/Glass
- My favorite method is just plain water and a microfiber cloth – no product needed, and a perfect shine, every time.
- Be sure to wash microfiber cloths withOUT other towels in the same load, and hang them to dry for best absorbency retained.
- Norwex also has some very good mirror cloths that leave fewer fuzzies behind compared to my normal microfiber, which I found in the automotive section of my local big box (or hardware) store, also found on Amazon.
- Grove Collaborative sells eCloths, which are very nice as well! New customers will also receive a special offer, check it out!
- For tougher dirt, vinegar and water in a spray bottle (or in a bucket for outside windows) always does the trick. No more than 1/4 cup vinegar to a quart of water should be needed, usually much less.
- Use old newspapers to wipe clean if no microfiber around.
- Most green cleaning companies offer a glass cleaner, but this is one place I would never buy commercial. It’s too easy to DIY (do it yourself)!
No Chemicals in the Bathtub/Shower
- Spray with straight vinegar as an after-shower spray that you just leave on. The smell dissipates as soon as it’s dry. Some people add a few drops of essential oils for a nicer scent. (You can buy my favs from Plant Therapy.) Especially effective for hard water stains, like on the shower curtain. Let it sit for 10 mins. before scrubbing the curtain, and for faucets, soak a rag in vinegar and wrap around the affected area for a 10-minute soak. *Do not use on tile and grout as it may eat away the grout.
- Scrub with baking soda when you get scum that needs some extra elbow grease. I regularly hit the “ring around the tub” with my Parmesan cheese can filled with baking soda that I keep under the bathroom sink, and it’s good for grout too – use an old toothbrush to scrub each line.
- Commercial green cleaners feel like a nice option to have on hand here – but it’s very hard to find them without questionable ingredients.
- I’ve used Charlie’s Soap All-Purpose Spray (I’m not a fan – here’s why) and Seventh Generation bathroom disinfectant (which unfortunately uses methylisothiazolinone, which is may be “natural” but not so safe).
- Method has a few options offered at Grove, but the tub & tile spray has methylisothiazolinone in it and the all-purpose anti-bacterial spray has some vague ingredients. The orange bottle of all-purpose cleaner looks better though! (also available on Amazon, and other scents are fine too)
Cleaning Toilets without Bleach
- Straight vinegar in a spray bottle does a fine job cleaning the bowl (double duty for one bottle if you use it in your shower). I actually have a peri bottle (many women have one from the postpartum time) of vinegar to squirt under the rim even better.
- Baking soda and lemon juice make a paste for nasty stains.
- I like the 50/50 hydrogen peroxide solution to clean and sanitize the outside. With further research, I figured out that fancy marketers are charging the big bucks for pretty much the same thing! This post has great info on cleaning vs. disinfecting vs. sanitizing (and more).
- Important note: always keep hydrogen peroxide in an opaque bottle (so no clear glass obviously!). I find that a short spray top will fit on top of a normal H2O2 bottle, and I’ve heard that they’re even sold with spray tops now. My advice: You should still cut it with water or you’ll end up bleaching out your clothes.
- I collect the family’s holey socks and use them to wipe the outside of the toilet. Then I can throw them away and not waste paper towel, but not have to juggle the “which towel color cleans the toilets and never the kitchen???” issue.
Non-Toxic Counter Scrubs and Cleaners
- For a quick clean in the bathroom, I wipe down with a microfiber cloth only.
- When I want to disinfect and really clean, I like a 50/50 solution of hydrogen peroxide and water, followed by a good shine with my microfiber. (See above for more notes on that.)
- To scrub nasty stains (like Comet): use straight baking soda, sometimes with a bit of water. I keep some in an old Parmesan cheese container under the kitchen and all bathroom sinks. You can also try oxygen bleach, sold by Biokleen and many other brands (watch for additives). You can likely find some in your basic big box store nowadays, or from Azure Standard.
- I use baking soda on stainless steel and ceramic sinks on a regular basis. Nothing makes them shine like baking soda and just a little elbow grease!
- Try an old toothbrush to really get stains out of grout and around sinks and faucets! (I run ours through the dishwasher first when they’re ready to retire.)
- To sanitize after raw meat or the like in the kitchen, you’ll need two bottles: one with vinegar and one with hydrogen peroxide. Spray separately, one after the other. (More details in my triple threat natural cleaners post.) You don’t need bleach!
- Essential oils offer other options for sanitizing. A few drops lemon, orange or tea tree oil in a bottle of water acts as a disinfectant. I actually like the smell of tea tree oil, but not everyone does. (Directions: Mix 10-20 drops oil in a half cup witch hazel, vodka or vinegar. Allow to sit a few hours. Add water to fill at least a 2-cup bottle, up to a quart (32 oz.)).
- There are natural disinfectants approved by the EPA that are botanical and truly natural, like thymol. I’m impressed!
- You’ll find all-purpose counter cleaners from most commercial green companies, too – but watch those ingredients.
- Drain clogs don’t need harsh chemicals either! Use the reaction between baking soda and vinegar to your advantage. Pour some baking soda in – jam it down there if you have to. Pour a glop of vinegar and CLOSE the drain as fast as possible so the bubbles have to go DOWN and push the clog, not UP. Follow with at least a few cups of boiling water (teakettle, pot – have that ready before you start). This work for partially clogged drains, but if you’re 100% stopped up, I’d recommend a manual removal with one of those plumber “snake” thingys from a hardware store.
Keep that Oven/Stovetop Clean with no Chemicals
- Straight baking soda or salt make the perfect scrub for the stovetop. You’ll be amazed at all it gets out. More details at how to clean a stovetop, naturally.
- If you have a spill inside the oven, the best line of defense is to sprinkle salt on while it’s still hot, then tackle it as soon as you can touch it while it’s still warm.
- Sometimes I need a degreaser, and I’ve grabbed a commercially produced natural orange-based cleaner…although I bet diluted castile soap would also do the trick. Here’s an awesome and super frugal way to make DIY orange power cleaner.
Green Cleaning Dishes – Hand Wash
- Every natural and pseudo-natural cleaning company has a dishsoap that pledges to be better than the average. Here’s how I rate the effectiveness of the ones I’ve tried (links go to the review):
- A baby step is to make sure your dishsoap doesn’t have bleach or triclosan in it.
- Use straight baking soda to scrub gunk off ceramic mugs, slow cookers, etc. and even glass casserole dishes. Use salt to clean out cast iron if it gets food caked on, or to freshen up wooden cutting boards.
- Surviving impossible dishes – two free tools: everyone needs ideas to get to those hard-to-reach places…
Green Cleaning Dishes – Dishwasher
This is one subject I’ve exhausted, and it exhausted me (and my husband)! I tried many, many homemade dishwasher detergent recipes, and unless you love pre-washing your dishes, I wouldn’t recommend ANY of them. (I did list all my readers’ homemade dishwasher detergent recipes a few years later, but I wouldn’t try any more!)
- The first natural success was with Mrs. Meyer’s
- Then we had another failure (and a husband about to throw me and my experiments out of the house!)
- 2010: Finally, I found my favorite natural dishwasher detergent — at the time. Biokleen was the winner but has since been trounced mightily. I also tried Seventh Generation’s products, and the powder was almost as good as Biokleen, while the liquid took two weeks of hubby-grumbling about rejected dishes (still dirty after the cycle) before I just gave it away. The 7th Gen pacs are decent, but still only about a “C+” on the scale.
- 2011: I went back and forth on Biokleen after it stopped working for me in the spring. Readers convinced me my dishwasher just had terrible buildup or that I needed to pour a cup of white vinegar in the bottom of the machine just before running it.
- 2012: We got a new house and a brand new dishwasher – but Biokleen still stunk it up for us! I got up the courage to try a number of other brands and reviewed my favorites HERE. The top contenders include Tropical Traditions house brand which has really stood the test of time, and Ecover’s tablets. I’ve since tried the method brand tabs from Grove and they also get the job done.
More Dishwasher Tips
- Instead of Jet Dry, use straight vinegar in your machine’s rinse agent dispenser. Works wonders on cloudy spots!
- Some baby steps for going green include eco-conscious pre-rinsing and running machines only when full – simply to save resources, which is important along with non-toxicity. See more here.
- When your dishwasher gets gunky, get back to normal with this natural dishwasher cleaning method. I try to clean out this way once a month.
- For powder detergents, use less than what’s called for generally – a Tbs. or 2 will do (from a dishwasher repairman). I experiment to find out how low I can go and still get good results, then mark a scoop with permanent marker. Better on your dishwasher, gentler on your dishes, better for your budget.
Naturally Clean Laundry
- Charlie’s Soap works for a lot of people, many of whom love it for cloth diapers, but it was only acceptable for me. Here’s my review. (But Booooooo to them for their yucky ingredient in the all-purpose spray – who can trust the laundry soap? Not me!!!)
- I’ve also tried Seventh Generation, Mejier brand, and maybe a few other liquid versions, all just fine – but most if not all include that crazy M-word preservative, so it’s not worth it.
- One favorite that I used for years is NaturOli soap nuts. They grow on trees, and I don’t think you can get more natural than that! Here’s my soap nuts review for more info. (I got some Maggie’s brand on accident, and they have two problems: they stick together and can stain clothes if they sit wet against them. I also tried Laundry Tree and just didn’t think they cleaned as well, hands down. NaturOli is better!)
- How to tell if soap nuts still have cleaning power…
- To pretreat stains: I usee Biokleen Bac-Out mixed 1/3 strength with water for years in a spray bottle. It got most stains out before the clothes even hit the washer (scrub them well). Trouble: tomatoes, mud, and mustard.
- Branch Basics diluted 50/50 does even better though, even mustard! Branch Basics’ new formula should be coming out soon!
- To soak laundry – necessary with kids! Any brand oxygen bleach dissolved in tepid water (don’t let bold colors touch whites!). Pour the soak water right into the washing machine for a boost after soaking.
- Grease stains: Evil nemesis. Your best line of defense is your strongest dishsoap, undiluted, directly on the stain with a tiny bit of hot water. Let sit. Wash on warm or hot if the fabric can handle it. Hang to dry in case you failed… You can see all our crazy grease stain tests, from chalk to borax, HERE.
- I like wool dryer balls instead of fabric softener or dryer sheets.
- Stinky towels? Add vinegar to the rinse cycle of your washing machine.
- Selestial Soap is another natural option with no SLS, and Molly’s Suds became my new stand-by after getting tired of chasing soap nuts through the dryer (when I started sharing laundry duties and others in the house just couldn’t remember to look for the little bag).
- I use the powder for hot or warm loads, because it wasn’t dissolving well after we got a new washer that wouldn’t allow water to run in while the lid was open. (I used to swish it around a little while adding the clothes and it did much better! I hate this style of washer but they’re all that way now…)
- I use the liquid All-Sport for any cold loads, which is the majority of the clothing I wash.
- And of course I use the cloth diaper powder for all my cloth diapers!
- Molly’s Suds is also available at Grove! They are offering a FREE bag to new customers, when you spend $20.
Non-Toxic Furniture Polish
- The simplest option is just a microfiber cloth, sometimes with one corner dampened, then polish with the dry part.
- You can use a touch of olive oil for polishing, mixed with lemon juice or lemon essential oil if you love that Pledge smell!
You Really Could Eat off That Floor!
- Vinegar and water (no more than 1/4 cup to a 32 oz. spray bottle) is my weapon of choice, with an old towel for wiping.
- Your mop bucket is another place for warm water and a glug of vinegar.
- No vinegar if you have hardwood floors – vinegar can strip the finish and water really isn’t the best idea either. If you feel the need to disinfect a bit (crawling baby, perhaps?) you can use quick sprays of 5
0/50 hydrogen peroxide and water. Just don’t let hardwood floors stay wet at all or they’ll start to look like my poor floors… 🙁
- Of course pretty much any multi-purpose spray works well for floors; I’ve used Branch Basics along with all my homemade sprays.
- Just use a microfiber cloth on a Swiffer with any spray for simple green cleaning!
Now I’d love to hear from you –
For further reading, try these natural body products and see if you have any to add!
Disclosure: Affiliate links included to Amazon and other companies. See my full disclosure statement here.