If this post doesn’t inspire you to get green + clean, then I don’t know what will! May I present a collection of green tips from YOU!
Freshen your home naturally. Instead of using store-bought air fresheners (which are made with harsh chemicals to make them last longer), make your own potpourri. Boil cinnamon and cloves, then combine with dried flowers or oranges stuck with rinds. Enclose the mixture in a bottle or drawer and wait for a delicious, “homey” smell.
My MIL taught me how to best clean any glass or mirrored surface… and the best part is that it’s GREEN! …and she would know bc she is the cleaning masta. She mixes 1 part white vinegar to 2 parts water. Yep, that’s it. Most glass cleaners leave streak marks bc of the soap like chemicals they use (which really irritates her HA!). So by using the vinegar/ water mixture you are being a green and saving tons of cash by not buying things like Windex and you get a totally streak free surface. My MIL would want me to add that if you’re planning on cleaning dirty windows (on the outside), you should use warm water.
As far as home cleaners go…I haven’t purchased one in almost a full year. I rid our house of bleach and all toxic cleaners last spring, and have been so happy + pleased since. No more insane headaches and light-headedness from cleaning the house! These super simple at home products work SO WELL. Also, they are extremely cheap!
The most important ingredient is distilled white vinegar. You can make a basic household cleaner with 1/2 water + 1/2 distilled white vinegar. I also add peppermint or orange essential oil for scent. At first, the vinegar is a bit strong, but I got used to it quickly. Adding in about 10-20 drops of oil, helps immensely. I reused old bottles from Method products I used before.
- 1/2 water : 1/2 distilled white vinegar
- ~10-20 drops essential oil, depending on how much you’re making
I posted about these when I first made them, which you can reference here. I was even able to make a super easy glass cleaner!
- 1/4c vinegar
- 1/2t Dr. Bronner’s castile soap
- 2c water
- ~10 drops essential oil [not totally necessary since Dr. Bronners is very pepperminty!]
- Add everything to the bottle and shake to mix.
You have to make sure and wipe the surface until it’s completely dry, but if you do it leaves no streaks!!
Tubs, Countertops, + Sink Cleaner
- ~1T baking soda
- ~1T Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap
- ~6-8 dropped essential oil [optional]
- Add enough soap to make the mixture thick but spreadable with a wet sponge.
- Mix well.
- Spoon some onto a wet sponge or dip sponge into the bowl.
- Spread around counters or sink. You might need to add a little more water to the sponge to help spread.
- Let sit for a minute or two and rinse off.
This works fabulously and is a great alternative to products like Soft Scrub.
DIY Laundry Detergent
- 1c baking soda
- 1c super washing soda
- 1c borax
- 1.5 bars of Dr. Bronners pure-castile soap
- Grate the soap boars with a cheese grater or similar, so it’s all in big flakes.
- Mix with the other ingredients.
- Use 2T per load of laundry
This makes about 4-5c, which equals 32 – 40 loads of laundry.
I do my best to use as many green products as I can for cleaning, but I am a work in progress. Two of my favorite green(er) cleaners are baking soda and vinegar! I use baking soda to clean my stainless-steel kitchen sink and it leaves it sparkly and clean. I follow with a vinegar rinse to make sure everything is clean – especially the drain. I also love adding vinegar to my towels to keep them smelling fresh. We also use baking soda when vacuuming to freshen our carpets, and I keep a box in the fridge, too.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE this all-purpose cleaning solution…I adapted it from a recipe that was in Good Housekeeping a couple years ago. I believe they called it "Green Goddess Cleaning Solution". I never measure so mine turns out slightly different every time, but here’s an approximate recipe:
In a 32oz container, combine:
-1 1/2 cups white vinegar
-1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide
-3 drops tea tree oil
-3 drops lavender oil (or lemon/orange/any other oil that smells good to you)
-1 Tbsp liquid baby soap, or Dr. Bronners soap
Fill the rest of the container with water, and pour into a spray bottle.
I’ve used this on corian countertops, my glass-top stove, the front of my stainless steel appliances, toilets, sinks, bathtubs, tile floors, wood floors, and even mirrors and windows. It cuts grease, and dries without streaking, and I feel much better using this around my kids vs. a chemical and perfume-laden cleaner.
One thing I love to use around the house to clean is BAKING SODA. We have stainless steel pans, and sometimes, the dishes don’t get done every day, causing last nights dinner to become cemented to the pans. Rather than scrubbing them to death, I just sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda inside and a tiny bit of water – enough to make a paste. This can sit for 10 minutes or 10 hours, then just wash them in the sink as normal. Everything comes off so easily!
The second new find we have found for baking soda is to clean the soot off of the brick front of our fireplace. I dumped a box of baking soda in a bucket, add water until it was soupy and then scrubbed the front of the fireplace with a rag until it comes off – which didn’t take long at all! The best part of all of this is that a box of baking soda cost like 50 cents.
Regular white vinegar will clean almost anything. To clean mirrors, simply wipe down the mirror with vinegar and then once again with water. Allow to dry and it will come out spotless.
Pouring boiling water on soap scum will loosen up the crud. Then you can use baking soda paste to scour and more vinegar to get the last bits up.
Clearly, I love vinegar.
Distilled Vinegar! It cuts through grease and is a great deodorizer for the garbage disposal. Another great tip is using it to clean out the coffee maker or removing soap buildup in the dishwasher. To make it smell better use half a lemon or your favorite essential oil.
I use this cleaner in the kitchen (sink, countertops, stove) and the bathroom (tub, shower walls, toilet, sink, tile floor). You may also be able to use it on carpet, walls, and some upholstered surfaces — test a small area first.
A few drops of an essential oil of your choice (optional)
Heat 2 c. water in a glass measuring cup, or other microwave safe container. Add vinegar and Borax, and mix until Borax is thoroughly dissolved (important to prevent Borax from clumping when you add the soap!). Then add the liquid soap and your essential oil, if using. Mix well and pour into a reusable spray bottle.
The project that I have been working on recently is making my own dishwasher detergent. We moved into our first apartment last January and were blessed with a dishwasher that works like a charm. I went out and bought a "eco-friendly" detergent (it certainly was not cheap) and we went through the bottle in about a month running the dishwasher once a day. Recycling a plastic container once a month for eco-friendly detergent seemed to cancel out each of my intentions. Recycling is good, but never buying is better. I set to work to find a dishwasher detergent that I could make at home. I found a recipe, made a few mistakes and would love to share what I learned.
The recipe: (use about 1t each load)
-1/2c Dr Bronner’s Sal’s Suds (fair trade and organic)
-1t lemon juice
-3 drops tea tree oil
-1/2c white vinegar
It is a little bit of an investment to buy the sal’s suds and the tea tree oil, but both will last you for a very long time. One batch of this recipe makes about 1 1/2 cups of detergent. If you are only using 1t each load that is about 72 dishwasher loads with just this one recipe!
Lesson #1- No Substitutions for Sal’s Suds
When I first wanted to make this I had Dr Bronner’s Castille Soap on hand and thought that I would substitute that instead of the Sal’s Suds. It turned into a gross curdled mess. At this point I was using about 1T of detergent. For some reason I continued to use it to wash my dishes for a few days and it really left things feeling greasy. It also left my dishwasher covered in a grime that required a full dishwasher deep clean, something I never want to do again.
Lesson #2- Do no use too much!
Once I got the mixture correct I continued to use 1T of detergent. I usually turn my dishwasher on and walk away, so one day when my husband was home he stopped the dishwasher cause it was sounding funny. Here there was so much soap suds that the spinner arm on the bottom rack was not able to move, we took out some suds and decided to experiment with smaller amounts. We found that using about 1t works just perfectly for our dishwasher, but you might have to add a little more or a little less depending on the size of your machine.
A few days after finally feeling satisfied with my final result I found this blog post entitled "A Word of Caution About Vinegar and Castile Soap" I was so happy to find this to learn the science behind what happened in Lesson #1. I would also recommend looking around the rest of her site- Going Green with a Bronner Mom– for some other good ideas. She does not post very often, but what she does write about is worth it.
I like to make most of my own cleaning solutions because it’s cheaper and easier than buying them all the time. I got most of the recipes from The Green Mop, which is a Green Cleaning service in DC. I bought some spray bottles from Target to hold the solutions. I generally have an all purpose cleaner and tub/tile cleaner made, but sometimes I just use a little diluted vinegar. It smells a bit strong but is super effective.
If I do buy a product I like Method and Seventh Generation brands. And I adore this lavender hydrosol spray from Pelindaba Lavender. It’s kind of expensive, so I use it sparingly and make a bottle last the whole year.
The one thing I couldn’t figure out until about 2 weeks ago was how to dust without using something like Pledge. The answer> seems to be microfiber cloths. The dust clings to them without the use of any product, and they are washable and reusable. I’m looking into a microfiber mop for cleaning hardwood floors, which I think will be a lot better than using a regular mop, which gets kind of yucky.
The three big players (for me) are Bon Ami powder, distilled white vinegar, and Borax. I use the Bon Ami to clean the shower, sinks, and water fixtures, as well as kitchen countertops in places I’ve lived where they were lighter-colored and got stained. It also works on the discoloration you can get in stainless steel pots and pans. I use a mixture of half a bucket or so warm water, 1/2-1 c vinegar, and 1/3-1/2 c Borax to clean toilets and mop floors. The vinegar cuts the dirt, while the Borax softens the water a little bit. Note: according to Bon Ami’s website, they’ve recently changed their formulation. I haven’t tried the new version, but it might be worth Googling responses before trying it out! I hope it’s just as good.
For dish soap, I use Seventh Generation, and I find it’s perfectly able to cut grease. Some other natural brands I tried didn’t seem concentrated enough. I don’t have a dishwasher, so can’t speak to that.
For laundry, I’ve been very happy with Seventh Generation concentrated liquid and with Biokleen All-Temp Citrus powder. I keep Fels Naptha bar soap to rub into stains–very useful (but I also have a Stain Stick for the tough stuff). I tried making my own laundry detergent, following a "tried and true" recipe, from washing soda, Borax, and Fels Naptha, but it did not seem to get my clothes clean, no matter what I did (extra soaking, etc.).
For windows and mirrors, I use Biokleen Ammonia-Free Glass Cleaner. It doesn’t evaporate as quickly as the Windex-type stuff, so expect to rub for longer. But I’ve always been pleased with the results. I also used to use Biokleen’s concentrated all-purpose cleaner that came in a purple container (it was citrus) for general things like mopping floors. I don’t think they make it anymore, and I’ve moved to all vinegar/Borax for that, but I’d guess their new general cleaner is still solid. Their enzyme drain cleaner has always worked for me, too.
Vinegar is good at cutting mold, so you can pour it full strength down drains, etc. However, I lived in a place that had mold issues, and I ended up reverting to bleach–a true sterilizer.
I like to clean a little bit each day, so my mess never gets out of control. It saves me having to deal with one massive day of cleaning, and my house usually always looks presentable for any unexpected visitors.
Some of the tasks that I do daily are: make the bed, manage clutter, sort the mail and throw away junk mail, clean as I cook (which means wiping countertops, cleaning spills while they are fresh, washing the dishes, putting away ingredients), and sweep the kitchen floor (even though my dog usually handles most of that clean-up process for me). Each week, I make sure to clean the toilets, shower, and sinks, dust, and change our bed sheets.
When life gives you lemons! My tip for kitchen sinks:
We use a ton of lemons in my house. Instead of immediately composting the juiced rinds, I use them to clean our stainless steel kitchen sink. I rub a used lemon half all inside the sin basin, then give a quick rinse. For heavy-duty cleaning, I add a little coarse salt. The residual oils and pith from the lemon keep the sink shiny, clean and smelling great!
I have a good dish washing tip:
Hate scrubbing pots and pans to get stuck-on food off? Immediately after cooking, boil a few cups of water in a tea kettle and pour into pot, let it soak during your meal. By the time you are done eating, all the caked on food should rinse right off.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!
Use reusable materials like cotton washrags and choose natural bristle brushes instead of supermarket sponges which only last a few uses. Cut old t-shirts into squares and keep them on hand for dusting.
Shop smarter. I commend those brands that are making an effort to use environmentally friendly ingredients in their products, but as consumers we have to know what to look for. Just because a product is marketing itself as “green” doesn’t always mean it is. Read the packaging on products and look for some key words like nontoxic, biodegradable, chlorine-free, phosphate-free, vegetable oil based, fragrance free and no dyes.
As a mom of three, I know how fast kids grow out of socks. AND, nothing picks up dust like an old sock. So, I feel no guilt at all about turning my kids’ outgrown socks into little dusters. It helps pare down their dresser drawers and helps me clean the house.
- Use reusable rags (or torn old t-shirts) instead of paper towels for cleaning. I use microfiber cloths and they are awesome.
- Use Baking Soda as a scrubbing agent (like Comet). You can put it in a stainless steel Parmesan container to make it easy to dispense.
- 1.5 tsp Castile soap + 3 ts white vinegar + 4 cups water is a great all purpose cleaner
- Clean floors with rags instead of disposable swiffers
Reuse: save old toothbrushes for scrubbing hard to reach spots; worn out t-shirts, socks, and underwear make great cleaning rags.
Don’t be afraid to use a little elbow grease — sometimes green cleaners have fewer of the harsh chemicals (which you really don’t want to be breathing anyway) to do the work for you — that’s okay, extra scrubbing is a great way to get in a little extra physical activity.
Prevention: take your shoes off at the the door to avoid tracking dirt and chemicals into your living space; clean spills and other messes right away to avoid staining or sticking.
Microfiber cloths are great for dusting, no aerosol sprays required!
Don’t waste water — turn off the faucet while scrubbing the sink or shower; run the dishwasher and washing machine with full loads.
I don’t have many tricks that are ‘green’, except for one that I got from my mother: use old t-shirts, flannel sheets and pajamas, etc as rags for things like washing windows, dusting, and picking up pet messes. I had always seen my mom do that, but never had personally until a pair of my flannel pjs ripped. I figured, why not? Just wash first, then cut along the seams and try to keep them in fairly square pieces, the size can vary between a wash cloth and a hand towel. When I clean my whole apartment, I use the bunch I have, usually with an all purpose cleaner (I’m sure I could do greener there), and then wash them all in the same load.
My second ‘trick’ is to almost never use the dryer. Just plan ahead so that you don’t wash all your clothes without anything else to wear the next day. I have a fairly small apartment and I still manage to find space for my two drying racks.
Finally, I save any kind of junk mail or print sheet that is still blank on one side and use them for printing things where it doesn’t matter what the back is like recipes (the backs will face nothing when glued in a scrapbook or put in clear plastic sheets in a binder) or lecture notes or practice exams when I study. This might not be cleaning per se, more organizing.
Living in San Francisco, maximizing our space is a big challenge for me and my boyfriend. Here are a few of my favorite tricks:
- Instead of having a filing cabinet, we have financial binders — typical three-ring binders that you find at an office-supply or variety store. Each category — medical bills/copays, student loan information, credit card accounts, etc. — has its own section in the binder (indicated by a tabbed divider). We typically keep financial documents around for five years or so; the binder is a much more attractive (and space-saving) option than storing the documents in a box, in a drawer, and so on.
- Owing to our scarcity of cabinet space, we only allow ourselves to buy one (or two) varieties of any type of dry good at one time — this includes cereals, crackers, pastas, and snacky foods. While we’d sometimes like to have a wider variety of snacks and cereals, having only one type on hand prevents staleness and motivates us to finish whatever food it is — that way, we can move on to something different!
- As a motivator to do laundry at least once weekly, my boyfriend has exactly one week’s worth of underwear and of pairs of socks. (I, sadly, haven’t made quite the commitment to minimalism — soon, though!)
- Sunday is our cleaning day. I’ll tackle what dishes are dirty and throw in the laundry, while Aaron gets the bathroom and vacuums. We clean the fridge together As commonsense as it sounds, having a set day and general time to do household chores ensures that those tasks actually get done.
Our linen closet is in the bathroom. I have hand and face towels in the highest shelf you see (sheets and bonus towels for beach are out of the photo- above), then our daily towels, then guest towels rolled up. The guest towels are extra large and oh-so-cozy.
I didn’t know where to put my hairdryer so I hung a hook on the left wall of the closet where we had some bonus space. It stays out of the way. We added baskets to use up that small bit of extra space on the right. My hair straightener and curling iron are in the bottom basket, then all other hair tools, then miscellaneous toiletries, and finally in the top basket we have all of my husband’s travel stuff.
In the bottom of the closet is a bucket filled with all of the bathroom cleaning supplies.
Under our sink we have my lotion (too big to fit anywhere else), my makeup, and all of our bonus toiletries for when we run out.
Ahhhhhh. There’s nothing like a neat linen closet!!!