If your goal is to live greener you should stick with non-toxic cleaners. Risks of conventional cleaners range from health concerns, to home air pollution, to environmental contamination and more. Below are some good DIY green cleaners that will save you money and help keep your home clean while keeping your family safe.
General homemade cleaner ingredients
Following are some of the ingredients I use in homemade cleaners and their benefits:
- Organic tea tree oil – disinfects; naturally antifungal and antiviral; great deodorizer.
- Plain white vinegar – good at dissolving built up grime and cleans glass well.
- Baking soda – deodorizes; scours but is not too abrasive for most surfaces.
- Citrus fruit juice or citrus essential oils – cuts grease; scents homemade cleaners without chemicals; deodorizes and freshens the air.
- Natural soap – general cleaning of all sorts. Whenever I mention natural soap below I’m talking about a plain, all-natural all-purpose vegetable based soap with zero additives. You can find this sort of soap at most natural grocers or co-ops. Two good liquid soaps include Castile Liquid Soaps (unscented) from Oregon Soap Company or Dr. Bronner’s Magic Pure Castile Classic Soaps.
- Borax – is used in many commercial detergents and cleaners but you can buy a straight box of it as well. Insecticide; antifungal; and all around general cleaner. NOTE: Borax is somewhat controversial. Many health organizations believe Borax to be safe (it is a naturally occurring material) however, not everyone thinks it is safe and in fact some studies have found that it can be toxic to humans in high doses. I’m torn because in my opinion there’s not enough evidence either way yet. When I’m torn about something like this I tend to take the safest path. I only use Borax in limited amounts and only for very specific things.
- Fresh & dried herbs and organic essential oils – consult a good herbal book and essential oil book before using herbs or essential oils as allergic reactions are possible.
Homemade all-purpose cleaning recipes
Prevention and hot water: Cleaning often is a good way to cut down on your use of all cleaners. A tidy space needs much less deep cleaning. Hot water and basic natural soap are also perfectly efficient cleaners for many tasks from sinks to tubs to counters. Alone, hot water and soap won’t disinfect but it will clean, kill many germs and remove dust.
Disinfectant all purpose cleaner: Mix 3-5 drops of natural soap, 2 cups water, and 15 drops each of tea tree and lavender essential oil. If you only have one essential oil on hand you can use just lavender or just tea tree – personally I prefer a mix, but each essential oil alone is fine, just up the amount to 30 drops of a single oil. You can spray this on any surface such as cutting boards, counters, toilets, and walls. Do not use this mix on glass though, the amount of oil causes streaking. This mix will disinfect but is so safe you could actually spray it on your skin so long as you don’t have negative reactions to essential oils – you can’t say that about most commercial household cleaners.
Herbal disinfectant: Choose a good handful of your favorite fresh herb or choose two complementary fresh herbs. Good cleaning herbs include lavender, eucalyptus, juniper, sage, thyme, or rosemary. Simmer the leaves and stems for 30 minutes. The amount of water you use for simmering affects the solution. For example, if you use less water you get a stronger solution and better disinfectant properties. I usually start with 2-3 cups of water. Strain, pour liquid into bottle, and use on any surface but glass. If you add a few drops of natural soap or biodegradable dish detergent this cleaner will cut grease as well.
Safe homemade mold cleaners
Mold prevention: Try not to let mold invade your home. Once mold has invaded your home, it’s very hard to get rid of, even if you use chemical methods. You can easily prevent mold – believe me I lived on the cold, foggy, always wet beach in Humboldt, you CAN prevent mold. Clean often with one of the disinfectants above and scrub down places that might develop mold with Borax once in a while. Borax is an excellent mold prevention cleaner and it also disinfects. Use of regular hot water and soap is a good mold prevention technique.
Quick mold and mildew spray: Fill a small reusable spray bottle with two cups of water and three drops of pure tea tree essential oil. Every once in a while spray down your walls with this solution and wipe dry. This mixture fights stains and the natural antiseptic qualities of tea tree oil help fight mold and mildew.
Last resort: Mold is highly toxic to humans. If you’ve got mold and natural cleaners won’t get rid of it, this is one of those times I’d suggest a stronger chemical cleaner which to me is safer than the health affects mold will have on your family. If you must use bleach, only use about 1 1/2 cups worth in one gallon of water. Use a stiff brush to really scrub away mold. Never mix bleach with other cleaners and leave a window open so that you and your family aren’t exposed to bleach fumes. Check out the CDC guide to mold for more mold fighting ideas.
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