Natural, Healthy Cleaning

Now, commercials convince us we must kill 99.9% of all the germs we encounter; that a plate, no matter how clean it looks, is probably crawling with microscopic bacteria; and that it’s no longer good enough to wash our hands with soap and warm water. Now we must disinfect, like we’re all surgeons in training. I admit I used to tote a backbreaking bucket of cleaning solutions throughout the house, until I asked myself if my family was really healthier because of the hours I spent cleaning with expensive products that claimed complete sterilization of my home? Or were they doing more damage than good?

Most households store over sixty hazardous products (such as cleaners, gasoline, and pesticides) that contain hundreds of dangerous chemicals. Right under our kitchen sink are supplies of formaldehyde, methanol, hydrochloric acid, petroleum, and lead. The U.S. Poison Control Center has record of over 1.5 million cases of poison ingestion, many victims being children. And ingestion isn’t the only way we come in contact with chemicals; they are absorbed into our skin and we breathe them in as well.

Most of us have a handle on keeping dangerous products out of little hands, but when I learned how to make my own cleaning products, I decided there was at least one way I could limit my family’s exposure to chemicals and save a little money in the process. 

Back to Basics 

Nothing will ever beat a little soap and hot water, whether it’s washing your hands or cleaning dishes. Don’t bother with all of the hype about antibacterial cleaners. Just teach your children to say their ABCs while they wash their hands (don’t forget the backs!) and they’ll be fine. Encourage proper hygiene after toilet trips and when someone is sick.

Wear rubber gloves when doing the dishes and you can get the temperature of the water hot enough (110°F) to kill any germs that might be lurking around.

Make sure you properly handle meats when cooking. Try using disposable cutting boards, a separate set of utensils, and keep it away from fresh foods. 

The Fantastic Four My cleaning arsenal: vinegar, baking soda, lemons, and salt.

White vinegar. Who would have thought that one liquid could clean everything from windows to toilets, sinks to tile. Keep a spray bottle of a half-n-half water/vinegar mix handy to use on mirrors, windows, and to brighten faucets. It removes mildew, grease, and wax build-up. Put it full strength in the toilet, let sit for twenty minutes and then scrub as usual. Mix in a little baking soda and let it foam on tile and grout.

Or, put with a few drops of tea tree or eucalyptus oil in a bucket of hot water and you have a great floor cleaner. For the oven, mix four tablespoons vinegar, three drops liquid dish soap, and five tablespoons baking soda into a paste. Apply to spills with a sponge. Let sit for forty-five minutes and scrub clean.

Baking soda. Aside from the aforementioned concoctions, replace your kitchen cleanser with this inexpensive cooking ingredient on tubs and sinks.Lemons. Cut a lemon in half and sprinkle coarse salt over your kitchen counter tops. Now use the lemon, cut side down, as your scourer. It will freshen and clean at the same time. Just wipe with a clean, wet cloth when done. Then, place in your microwave for one minute and it will get rid of any odors. Finally, cut the lemon into smaller chunks and send it down your garbage disposal to freshen and degrease. Now that’s multi-tasking. Lemon juice can also be used to cut grease on aluminum and porcelain. It will whiten in the process, too.

Salt. In addition to a scourer, saltwater has an antibacterial effect. It can also be used to remove rust strains and soap scum.

If you’re shaking your head and asking, “Will my house really be clean?” The answer is yes. Vinegar, tea tree oil, and lemon juice have natural antiseptic qualities that ward off most types of germs, fungi, and molds. And why do you think your grandma always told you to gargle with salt water when you had a sore throat? Lysol didn’t invent the process of germ-killing. They just patented it.

And More

Cornstarch deodorizes carpets and rugs. Vegetable oil can be used as a furniture polish. Ketchup cleans copper and cornmeal can soak up grease stains when rubbed on clothing. Of course, if these ideas are too much to stomach, there are a myriad of biodegradable, earth-friendly products to clean every inch of your house. They cost more than traditional cleaners, but even finding one or two that you like could go a long way towards reducing your exposure to harmful chemicals. 

Steam it Up Vapor steam cleaners use high temperatures and low moisture levels to sanitize, deep clean, and deodorize without using household cleaning products. The steam penetrates the pores of material to kill dust mites, viruses, molds, and fungi, and because it does not leave the material drenched, it prevents their growth. 

Substitute Teachers Bleach is not all-powerful. Borax or OxyClean would be a better alternative. Bon Ami is a chlorine-free cleanser and Murphy’s Oil Soap is a biodegradable wood cleaner. There are safer options to the standard fare. Read the labels and you may be surprised what you’re really purchasing.  

Let the Sunshine In 

You’re not just brightening your day, you’re also taking advantage of the sterilizing effect of UV rays. And while you’re at it, open the windows as well. Unless you live next to an oil refinery, a little fresh air does wonders for a stale house.

Time is Your Friend

Instead of scrubbing, let the paste or solution sit for a while. When you’re ready to clean, just make the rounds from room to room, starting with sinks, tubs, showers, and toilets. While your concoctions sit and break down grime, do the mirrors and countertops. By the time you’ve swept the floors, the rest will be ready to wipe clean.

Now, I’m not trying to turn the homemakers of the world into nature-loving hippies, but it looks as if going green can save some green, while still making your house clean enough to be happy and healthy.

Comments and feedback can be sent to