Spring cleaning is right around the corner. We are going to put nutrition aside this week to answer an email from our NUT, Beth. She asked me about making our own cleaning products, thus eliminating those toxic ingredients. I like this question because it is relatively easy to do with natural ingredients that you already have & are easy to find.
If you prefer to buy your cleaning products but want them without all the toxic ingredients then EWG is the website for you.
The Environmental Working Group has always been my go-to for information regarding toxic ingredients in anything I use or consume. The labels on cleaning products are very confusing & difficult to decode. EWG has done that for us. Instead of looking through the ingredients list for anything “bad”, it is far better to understand what they are claiming. EWG’s Guide to Heallthy Cleaning: “Decoding the labels: Confused by the labels on cleaning products? EWG helps you sort facts from hype.”
For example: “Active ingredients” in cleaning products are usually antimicrobial pesticides added to kill bacteria, viruses or molds. Avoid them – they’re hazardous chemicals, and you rarely need them to get your house clean.
Another example. We think of essential oils as being a natural, safe product. “Essential oils are plant extracts that emit distinct, often appealing scents. Some contain naturally occurring chemicals that can irritate skin, trigger allergic reactions or cause other toxic effects. Don’t assume that essential oils are safe simply because they come from plants. Approach them with the same safety questions you bring to other ingredients or products. When trying a new product containing an essential oil, always use a small amount at first to see if you have an allergic reaction. Never apply pure essential oils directly to your skin. Avoid using products that are old or that have been exposed to light, because some essential oils react with air and sunlight to produce new and sometimes more hazardous chemicals.”
On this same page is a search box for 2,500 products. You can type in a cleaning product & see how it is rated. Typing in Planet, a company that makes laundry detergent & dish soap you see that it gets a B. It goes on to tell you why it got a B. Dr. Bronner’s products get an A. Purex gets B’s & C’s. Try it out on some of the brands you use.
If you would like a list of products & their grades rather than looking them up one at a time go to this link: EWG’s Guide to Heallthy Cleaning. At the top left is a Green Banner that says EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning. It is a drop down menu. Click on the cleaner you are interested in & you will get a list, with their grades, beginning with the highest rated products.
Most of my cleaning supplies I have made. Some, detergent & dish soap, I buy. When I make them myself, I like simple & fast. White Vinegar, Baking Soda, Borax & salt have been used for cleaning for generations. You can buy them in large containers at drug stores & markets. Here are some of my favorites recipes.
Oven/Pot/Pan cleaner: Make a paste with baking soda & water. Apply it to gunky area liberally. Sprinkle white vinegar onto the paste. It will foam. Allow it to sit for 30 minutes. Wipe & you have a clean oven or pan. You can add salt to the paste & skip the vinegar. Let it sit 30 minutes, then scrub. Works well.
All purpose cleaner: 2-3 tablespoons of white vinegar to 1 quart of water in a spray bottle. I use this to clean counters, floors, stove tops, cupboards, doors & walls. It can also be used on carpet, but test it first in case it bleaches out the color. Here in the Pacific Northwest, mold & mildew is a problem. We now have a dehumidifier which has limited the mold & mildew in the house. That combined with using this spray, I no longer have a problem.
Window cleaner: 2 tablespoons of white vinegar to 1 quart of water in a spray bottle. Bright & shiny windows.
Bathroom tiles: 2 tablespoons of white vinegar to 1 quart of water. Spray onto tiles & shower curtain to get rid of mildew. You can use this to clean the tiles as a preventative measure all year.
Keep your drains clog free: Place 1/4-1/2 cup of baking soda into your drain. Follow this with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of white vinegar. It will foam up. Let it sit for 15 minutes. Then clear the drain with 2-3 cups boiling water. If you do this once a month you won’t get that buildup around the pipes. Great preventative method. I have also used this to unclog drains.
This is my favorite reference for ingredients & recipes. They also have a printable version at this link… A Green Clean: Homemade Cleaners to Detox Your Home from Mother Earth Living, by Kim Erickson
Baking Soda: A truly multitasking cleaner, baking soda is a perfect substitute for cleaning powders that scour sinks and tubs without scratching. It’s also great for wiping down and deodorizing the fridge. Combined with an equal amount of vinegar, baking soda can freshen drains and prevent them from clogging. The overflow hole in our bathroom sink in Encinitas was emitting a horrible odor a few years ago. I used the Baking Soda & Vinegar in the hole then rinsed it. Odor was gone!
Borax: Combining equal amounts of white vinegar and borax will banish mold and mildew from hard surfaces. This natural mineral can also clean your toilet. Pour 1 cup of borax into the toilet bowl and let it sit for a few hours before scrubbing to eliminate stains and odor.
Distilled White Vinegar: This pantry staple cuts grease, eats away lime deposits and destroys odors. Because of its neutralizing properties, white vinegar is also good for washing windows, sanitizing kitchen counters and shining bathroom fixtures. Simply dilute 1 part vinegar in 4 parts water. A natural antibacterial because of its high acid content, vinegar is an effective alternative to caustic cleaners on toilets and floors.
Hydrogen Peroxide: Typically found in the medicine cabinet, this disinfectant can also be used as an effective bleach alternative in the laundry room. Because it’s also a powerful oxidizing agent, it works especially well on food, soil, plant, blood and other organic stains. Just make sure to spot test in a discreet area because, like bleach, hydrogen peroxide may lighten fabrics. For each average-size load of whites, add 8 ounces of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide after you have filled the washer with hot water.
Salt: Perfect for cleaning grungy ovens, this natural abrasive is also great for soaking up fresh carpet stains such as red wine, coffee or ink. Pour salt on the wet stain. Let dry, then vacuum. I always forget to use salt on carpet stains. I have a stain right now that I will try it on 🙂
Vegetable Oil (Castile) Soap: This natural soap is great for floors and all-purpose cleaning when combined with vinegar, borax or even warm water. For an all-purpose cleaner, add 1⁄2 teaspoon of soap to either 2 cups of water or to the “All-Purpose Cleaner and Disinfectant” recipe below. For floors, combine 2 teaspoons of soap with 3 gallons of water. Make sure to rinse well to remove any dulling residue. Dr. Bronners is a castile soap.
Washing Soda: This old-fashioned laundry booster cuts through tough grease on grills, broiler pans and ovens. Because washing soda is a strong alkaline, it’s perfect for tackling dirty linoleum floors. But because it’s caustic and strong enough to strip wax and peel paint, wear gloves when using—and use sparingly. Adding just 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon of washing soda to 32 ounces of hot water will tackle the toughest grease. Washing soda is soda ash. It is not edible. EWG gives it an A. It is very caustic, wear gloves when using. It can be purchased at most grocery & big box stores. Look in the laundry detergent aisle. Arm & Hammer makes one & it gets an A from EWG.
Lemons: Lemon’s citric acid content cuts stubborn grease and makes your home smell fresh. Lemon juice is also a natural bleach, especially when combined with the sun. Freshen cutting boards by rubbing a cut lemon over the surface. This is especially effective for banishing fish odors. Undiluted lemon juice can also be used to dissolve soap scum and hard water deposits. It works on both plastic & wooden cutting boards. If you have been cutting up garlic, add salt to the lemon & scrub the board. You can also use salt & lemon to wash the garlic smell from your hands. As teenagers, my younger brother & I surfed, not very well, but we did try. He had light brown hair & wanted it blond. I poured grapefruit & lemon juice on his head & he laid out in the sun for hours. Presto! Blond sticky hair! 🙂
Homemade Cleaners: You can use your essential oils with these! They not only make them smell fresh, they are also anti-viral & anti-bacterial.
All-purpose cleaner and disinfectant: Just as effective as popular antibacterial cleansers, this formula is perfect for kitchen and bathroom surfaces.
2 cups hot water
¼ cup white vinegar
½ teaspoon washing soda (similar to, but more caustic than, baking soda)
15 drops tea tree essential oil
15 drops lavender essential oil
Combine all ingredients in a reusable spray bottle and shake well. To use, spray on surfaces, especially cutting boards, countertops and toilets. Wipe with a dry cloth.
Lemongrass dust cloths: Whether you’re using microfiber cloths or old cloth diapers, these do-it-yourself dusters offer the convenience of disposable furniture wipes without the guilt of contributing to the landfill. Make several dustcloths at a time.
1 cup water
1 cup white vinegar
¼ teaspoon lemongrass essential oil
Dustcloths or rags
Freshly cut lemon peel
Combine water, vinegar and essential oil in large bowl. Soak dustcloths in the solution for 30 minutes. Squeeze out cloths, leaving them slightly damp. Lay cloths flat and place a couple pieces of lemon peel on each one. Fold each cloth in half or thirds and roll up. Place each cloth in a glass jar along with an extra piece of lemon peel. Cap tightly with a screw lid. To use, unfold cloth and discard peel. Dust as usual. Launder dustcloths when dirty and infuse again with essential oil and lemon peel.
Creamy nonabrasive cleaner: Perfect for acrylic and fiberglass surfaces, this smooth cleanser won’t scratch tubs, stovetops or laminate countertops.
¼ cup borax
Vegetable oil-based liquid soap (also known as castile soap)
½ teaspoon lemon essential oil
In a small bowl, combine borax with just enough liquid soap to create a thick paste. Add essential oil and blend well. To use, scoop a small amount of cleaner onto a damp sponge. Scrub surface and rinse wel
Pre-vacuum carpet freshener: This fragrant odor eliminator will leave your home smelling fresh without posing a danger to pets or children.
1 cup dried lavender flowers
2 cups baking soda
10 drops lavender essential oil
10 drops rose geranium essential oil
Crush lavender flowers and mix with baking soda, breaking up any clumps. Add essential oils and blend well. To use, sprinkle on carpets. Wait 30 minutes, then vacuum as usual. Store leftovers in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Sometimes I just strew dried lavender onto the carpet & leave it there until the next time I vacuum. Smells lovely. I also hang a muslin bag full of dried lavender & dried lemon grass from the door knobs. Wonderful room freshener.
If you enjoy working with essential oils or just like aromatherapy, here is an article about how to use them in natural cleaning.
Natural Cleaning Recipes with Essential Oils “Use these easy natural cleaning recipes for a home that’s free of germs, grime and toxic chemicals.” Here is an example:
Herbal Disinfectant: A super disinfectant formula that’s incredibly easy to make
2 cups hot water
10 drops thyme essential oil: a natural disinfectant.
1/4 cup washing soda
Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle and shake well. Spray on surfaces and wipe clean with a damp cloth or sponge.
Now you are ready for spring cleaning without the worry of toxins. For even more information, explore the links below under Resources.
I would like to end with a recipe for Hand Sanitizer that I found on Live Simply: DIY I keep a bottle in the car & a small spray bottle of it in my backpack.
DIY Hand Sanitizer by Live Simply
- 3 TB aloe vera Get pure aloe vera. Check the labels!
- 2 TB witch hazel or rubbing alcohol, if using alcohol reduce to 1 TB We only use witch hazel in our house. It is a great wound cleaner.
- 1/2 tsp vitamin E oil You can get this in a small bottle or you can open capsules if you have them.
- 16 drops tea tree essential oil
- 8 drops lavender essential oil
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. To use the hand sanitizer store in a small jar or a squeeze tube. I also use these tubes for homemade toothpaste. Note: This recipe will make 2 fl oz (one tube.)
Beth also asked about making her own beauty products. That will be next weeks topic. Until then…Mary 🙂