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Eco-Friendly Cleansers: Safe For the Environment, Healthy For Every Body

Welcome to the Earth Day Blog Carnival!
This post is part of the 2012 Earth Day Blog Carnival hosted by Child of the Nature Isle and Monkey Butt Junction. Each participant has shared their practices and insights of earth friendly, environmentally conscious, eco-living. This carnival is our way to share positive information and inspiration that can create healing for our planet. Please read to the end of this post to find a list of links to the other carnival participants. Happy Earth Day!

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It is a commonly accepted fact that a clean home is a healthy home. But how true is that if the products used to do the cleaning contain poisonous, carcinogenic chemicals? Toxic cleaning supplies are used far and wide and can be found in most every household.  Even something as seemingly innocent as window cleanser can be poisonous to both child and environment.

Cleansers such as ammonia and chlorine bleach are sometimes thought of as not as dangerous as other commercial cleansers. However, ammonia is considered a hazardous waste and chlorinated bleach carries many dangers, causing severe skin, nose, throat, and eye irritation and severe chemical burns to broken skin. It is also the most commonly swallowed cleaning product by children. It’s a wonder how these products continue to be so commonplace when there are safe alternatives out there that work just as well, if not better.

Household cleaning products are the 2nd biggest source of poisoning in children under age 6. But even when the chemicals are locked away, out of the reach of little hands, that doesn’t limit the drastic impact these things have on the environment and the user’s health.

A Better Way

Cleaning house doesn’t have to be a toxic experience. And the use of non-toxic cleansers need not be expensive. Here are some simple, affordable items that are effective, yet safe:

Baking Soda: Deodorizes pretty much everything, freshens up cloth (both in and out of the wash), and makes a good scouring powder. Add half a cup to your laundry during the rinse cycle; it makes both the clothes and water softer. I’ve been using it in place of shampoo and am totally impressed. Also, when an item I obtain happens to reek of fabric softener, perfume or cigarettes, I place it in a bag of baking soda for a few days. Sometimes I add a few drops of lavender essential oil to the baking soda for an even more effective deodorizer. If the item is something I prefer to not have covered in baking soda (such as a large bag of embroidery thread that I bought from a yard sale that smelled strong of fabric softener), I poke several small holes in a ziploc bag, fill the bag with baking soda and place it alongside the offensive item in sealed container or bag for a few days. Very effective and 100% safe. Here are 75 more awesome uses for baking soda.

White vinegar: Cleans and disinfects nearly everything (floors, wooden cutting boards, counter tops, diaper pails, etc), deodorizes drains, unclogs showerheads, is an effective rinse aid for the dishwasher, leaves windows and mirrors streak-free, polishes brass, copper and pewter. Add one cup to the final rinse of the wash cycle to freshen up stale clothes and remove detergent build-up. Use to remove chemical residue from fresh produce; add two tablespoons to cold water, soak, then rinse.

You might want to check that your white vinegar is made from grains and not petroleum.

Peroxide: Excellent for removing blood and stains from clothes and carpet. Add some to the wash when laundering cloth pads. And I’ve yet to find anything better for cleaning crap stains off the carpet (such as when littlest one decided it was a fun time to dump out his “potty” almost every. morning. for a whole month. -_- *sigh*)

These 3 simple, inexpensive items are the main things we use to keep our home clean and functioning. A few other items we sometimes supplement with are:

Tea Tree Essential Oil: Is antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral and an antispectic. We add a few drops of this to the water when washing cloth wipes and diapers. Add a few drops to a spray bottle filled with vinegar for an even more effective cleanser. It’s perfect for disinfecting wooden cutting boards and probably just about anything. It also kills mold and mildew.

Other Essential Oils: Peppermint, lemon, orange, lavender…these are just a few of the many oils that are an excellent addition to a cleaning routine. And like Tea Tree Oil, many of them are antibacterial and antifungal. These are great for adding a scent to your homemade cleaning products.

Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE): Some may feel a bit reluctant about giving up chlorine bleach if they’ve yet to find a safe alternative they can trust to disinfect as thoroughly. Grapefruit Seed Extract is a completely natural, biodegradable antimicrobial that is ten to one hundred times more effective than chlorine while still remaining nontoxic to both people and animals. It is also effective in killing yeast; when our youngest had thrush as a newborn, we washed his dirty diapers and clothes in GSE to stop the thrush from spreading.

Homemade Cleanser Recipes

Below are a few recipes (with very slight changes by me) from Karen Logan’s book, Clean House, Clean Planet. If it isn’t obvious, you should never mix commercial cleansers with homemade cleansers. Also, it is not a good idea to  re-use commercial cleanser bottles for your homemade cleansers.

When adding liquid soap to some of these recipes, you may want to be sure the soap you are using does not contain triclosan, an ingredient found in antibacterial soaps.

Merlin’s Magic

Antiseptic Soap Spray

Ingredients: Liquid soap (Dr. Bronner’s works great), water (preferably purified), tea tree oil.

It’s handy to have a 16oz. squirt or spray bottle for this.

How to make: Fill the bottle almost full with water and then add 3 tbsp. of liquid soap – this will prevent the bottle from sudsing up as you fill. Because minerals inhibit the cleaning action of soap, it’s best to use purified or distilled water for this recipe, especially if you have hard water. Add 20-30 drops or more of tea tree oil for antiseptic power. Shake to mix.

How to use: Squirt this on floors, laundry, toys, doorknobs, bathtubs, toilet seats, and more. Can also be used to clean up urine, toilet bowl overflows, vomit, and more. It’s also a great alternative to antibacterial soaps.

Earth Scrub

Tub and Tile Cleaner

A homemade “Soft Scrub” alternative. Good for most everyday tub and tile cleaning.

Ingredients: Baking soda, a high-quality liquid soap (again, I recommend Bronner’s), white distilled vinegar,  and water.

It’s handy to have a 16oz. or 22oz. squeeze container  with a squirt flip-top cap.

How to make: For a 16oz. bottle: Mix 1 2/3 cups baking soda with 1/2 cup of liquid soap in a bowl. Dilute with 1/2 cup of water. Add the 2tbsp. of vinegar last. Stir until the lumps are gone. If you can pour it into the container easily, then you have the right consistency. If it’s too thick, add more water. Keep the cap on, because this mixture will dry out. Shake well before using. For a 22oz. bottle: Mix 2 cups baking soda, 1/2 cup liquid soap, 2/3 cup water, and 2 tbsp. vinegar (add the vinegar last).

How to use: This cleanser is works for pretty much everywhere. It’s good for tubs, sinks, toilet bowls, under the rim of the toilet, bathtub rings, floors, countertops, garbage cans, and any greasy, grimy job. It’s an absolutely soft, mildly abrasive cleaner. Use it with a nylon white-backed sponge to prevent scratching. Rinse well. If you find that you are leaving a baking soda residue (a white dust after it dries), try using a little less scrub next time and/or rinse with a squirt of scented vinegar and water. A vinegar rinse may help to prevent mold and mildew, too. In this cleaner, the baking soda and soap will tend to separate, so make sure to shake well before using. Measure this recipe carefully. Be as exact as you can; otherwise, your squirt will be too thin or thick. Mix the baking soda and soap together with a fork, and add that vinegar last.

Club Clean

Glass Cleaner

Ingredients: Club soda.

You’ll also need an 8oz. or 16oz. spray bottle.

How to make: Fill the bottle with plain club soda.

How to use: Spray and wipe. All glass cleaners work best with lint-free cloth. A soft cotton terry-cloth rag works best. Use for mirrors, windows, glass tables, eye glasses, etc. For the best results, use two lint-free rags: one rag for the first wet-wipe and one for the dry-wipe.

Momma’s Earth Mop

Floor Cleaner

White distilled vinegar, water, and an essential oil for fragrance.

It’s handy to have a 16 oz. squirt bottle for this.

How to make: Fill the bottle with equal amounts of white distilled vinegar and water. Add 15-20 drops of pure peppermint oil. Shake to mix.

How to use: Spray directly onto the floor and wipe clean with a rag or mop. Use it for linoleum and  tile floors in your kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room. It’s good for polyurethane and finished wood floors, too. Vinegar is a natural acid that has quick cleaning power and helps to remove the film that typically accumulates on a kitchen floor. This formula is also handy to have in the bathroom because it will cut a light soap film. Use to eliminate the soap ring in tub or sink, the film on the shower walls, and the build up in the soap dish or shower stall.

For extra cleaning power for smudges and scuff marks, sprinkle on a little baking soda and rub. Baking soda gets those smudges up fast. Sprinkle on the baking soda, rub and then squirt on the vinegar for a fast-action fizz that dissolves dirt quickly.

Dust to Dust

Furniture Polish

Ingredients: Olive oil (preferably the light kind), white distilled vinegar, pure essential lemon oil (or lemon juice), and water.

You’ll also need a 16oz. spray bottle.

How to make: Put 2 tsp. olive oil in the bottle. Add 20 drops or more of pure essential lemon oil. Add 1/4 cup of white distilled vinegar. Fill the rest of the bottle with water (purified is best). Shake well. Be sure to use a pure essential lemon oil, not the chemical synthetics. You can use fresh lemon juice instead of the lemon oil, however, the juice will spoil in the bottle if not refrigerated. If you use up most or all of the cleaner fairly quickly, then fresh lemon juice is a nice substitute for the lemon oil. Use 1-2 tsp. juice in place of the 20 drops of oil Make sure to strain the juice well or the pulp will clog the squirter. If you don’t have a strainer, try using a coffee filter.

How to use: Spray this formula on your rag or directly onto furniture. Wipe it dry immediately. It’s great for the weekly dusting and cleaning of the wood in your house. Use this formula on cabinets, furniture, wood paneling, and picture frames. The olive oil conditions and the vinegar cleans. For wood that is drying out from age or water exposure, add more olive oil to the recipe.

Crocodile Clean

Disinfectant Alternative

Ingredients: White distilled vinegar and tea tree oil.

You’ll need a 16oz. squirt bottle or use this solution straight from the gallon jug of vinegar.

How to make: Add 1/2 tsp. or more (1 dropperful or 50 drops) of tea tree oil to a gallon of vinegar. When measuring the tea tree oil, don’t use plastic measuring spoons. The oil will dissolve them. Use metal teaspoons or estimate 1/4 of a teaspoon by using a regular dinner spoon. Droppers are the best. Fill the squirt bottle with the tea tree oil vinegar if you like, or just use it directly from the jug.

How to use: Use this disinfectant alternative rinse anywhere, on floors, walls, pails, tubs, etc. Let sit for a few minutes, squirt with a little soap and water if needed, pour on some more vinegar, rinse with water, and done!

For a powdered version of this recipe, replace the vinegar with baking soda. A shaker container is handy for this. Add 1/2 teaspoon (one dropperful or 50 drops) of tea tree oil to 1 cup of baking soda. Stir and work out lumps with a fork. Remember, use only metal to measure tea tree oil. For a sweeter smell, scent your baking soda with a mixture of lemon, lavender, and tea tree oil. Both lemon and lavender are supposed to have antiseptic powers as well. This is great for the bottom of diaper pails, or on top of the diapers to help absorb those odors. Use it for tubs, toilets, or any other scrubbing and deodorizing duties.

A Parting Note

Sometimes change can seem or even be overwhelming. The important thing is to do what you are comfortable with. Whether that is one small step at a time, a gigantic overhaul or a happy medium somewhere in-between, every little bit helps. Do your best and don’t worry.

Also, as with anything in life, common sense is a must. These cleansers are safe and non-toxic, but that doesn’t mean they are good for eating. ;)

You may want to label your cleansers so you will know what they are and exactly what ingredients they contain.

Recommended links:

Some Facts About Toxic Cleaning Chemicals

8 Household Cleaning Agents To Avoid

1001 Uses For White Distilled Vinegar

diyNatural

Recommended books:

Clean House, Clean Planet by Karen Logan

Clean and Green by Annie Berthold-Bond

The Naturally Clean Home by Karen Siegel-Maier

The Green Book of Household Hints by Marjorie Harris

References:

Clean House, Clean Planet by Karen Logan, A Guide To Green Housekeeping by Christina Strutt, Grapefruit Seed Extract by Louise Tenney.

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Thank you for stopping by the 2012 Earth Day Blog Carnival! Please relax and take time to read these other great eco-living posts:
Earth Day Blog Carnival - Child of the Nature Isle and Monkey Butt Junction

  • You are a Child of the Earth – Using the Earth as their classroom, Patti from Canadian Unschool teaches her 4 children their spiritual connection to the Earth and she accepts that loving the Earth can get really, really messy.
  • Cutting Out Paper – Jorje of Momma Jorje shares how she went from curiosity and concern to actually cutting out the use of paper towels in her household. She is proud to be “greener” as each Earth Day passes.
  • The World is Brown – Debra Ann Elliot of Words are Timeless believes in keeping the Earth green, but because so many people inhabit the Earth it is turning brown because people aren’t doing their part by reducing, reusing, and recycling.
  • 7 Child And Eco Friendly Activities To Honor The Earth (Plus Some Environmental Books For Kids) – Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares her favorite books that help children become more aware of the importance of respecting and caring for Mother Earth. In addition, she hosts a guest post outlining seven child and eco friendly activities to honor the earth.
  • 5 Ways We Teach Our Children To Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle – Valarie at Momma In Progress shares a few tips for encouraging young children to care for the earth.
  • Little Changes – Big Results – Meegs at A New Day talks about how sometimes it’s the little decisions and changes that can lead us to find big results, and how she’s baby-stepping her way to a more environmentally conscious lifestyle.
  • Inspiring the Next Generation – aNonyMous at Radical Ramblings hopes to inspire her daughter to live a green and sustainable lifestyle, in the same way she was inspired by her high-school science teacher, and talks about the changes her family are making towards this vision.
  • Eco-Friendly Cleansers: Safe For the Environment, Healthy For Every Body – Rebekah at Liberated Family writes about safe and natural alternatives to toxic, household cleaning products..
  • Lightening My Footprint with Cloth Nappies (Diapers) – Christine at African Babies Don’t Cry shares the biggest eco-choice she has made so far, and why she is so passionate about it.
  • Clutter Free for a Cause – At Living Peacefully with Children Mandy’s penchant for decluttering and simple living cuts down on consumerism, taking less of a tole on the Earth.
  • Eco-Parenting: Homemade Bug Spray – Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling shares a homemade bug spray recipe that helps her family to enjoy the natural world while taking precautions against bug bites.
  • Let the Scales Fall From My Eyes…Just Not Too Quickly – Kelly at Becoming Crunchy talks about the discomfort of no longer being able to live in denial over how her choices affect the world around her.
  • Fostering Love of Earth – Justine at The Lone Home Ranger instills a love of nature in her daughters by embarking on their first backyard vegetable garden together.
  • Being in Nature – Carrie at Love Notes Mama knows that just being in nature is more than enough.
  • 5 Ways to Pass Down Environmental Values to Your Children – Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares how easy it can be to instill environmental values in your children.
  • Viva Portlandia – Amy at Anktangle writes about the place she lives and loves in: Portland. She describes the ways this green city makes it easy for her family to take care of our earth, and also the steps she’s taking to further lessen her family’s environmental impact.
  • Conspicuous Conservationism – Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction examines the phenomenon of eco-conscious behavior as a status symbol.
  • Time for Radical Sustainability – Terri at Child of the Nature Isle ponders how she can model a truly sustainable lifestyle for her children and raise them in a way their environmental consciousness is as natural as breathing!

A big thank you to all of the 2012 Earth Day Blog Carnival participants!

10 comments to Eco-Friendly Cleansers: Safe For the Environment, Healthy For Every Body

  • Brilliant! I find even the scent of cleaning products makes me feel so ill. I once told my Grandad that I’d rather smell his poop than the air freshener! I detest air freshener. I’m pretty fanatical about eco-cleaning but sometimes, and I’m ashamed to say, we still buy bleach to clean the bathroom sink. I hate using it and do so sparingly but once it’s in the house my partner takes the opportunity to use it for everything which makes me retch and so I need to just keep it out of the house completely. I’ll try getting some peroxide for the stains and sink! Interested in what you would use as a toilet cleaner – does vinegar work well for this too?

    Thanks for an inspiring post and being part of the Earth Day Blog Carnival.

    • Hi Terri,

      I’m sorry for the delayed reply. I’ve been totally swamped lately.

      I find that a baking soda/peppermint oil mixture left to sit for a little while works really well. I really only use vinegar for disinfecting, not scrubbing. However, I do notice that when I spray vinegar on the counters and leave it to sit for about 10 minutes that even the most caked on stuff will come right off. Hope that helps.

  • I wish EVERYONE realized how totally unnecessary and dangerous all of those toxic cleaning products are – I am so thankful that we finally discovered it! Not only that – but how much money we’ve saved since we started making our own!

    Another natural cleaner I love is Castile soap – both liquid and bar – we use it all over the house. A little Castile soap and baking soda makes the best bathtub scrubber I’ve ever found, hands down.

    Thank you so much for sharing this information – may it be spread far and wide!
    Kelly recently posted..Let the Scales Fall From My Eyes…Just Not Too QuicklyMy Profile

  • This is great… I’m booking marking this to use as a reference!!
    Meegs recently posted..work in progress {Happy Earth Day!}My Profile

  • Wow! What a great post, and so many good ideas. I need to save this page and use it for reference. I’ve started using vinegar for some cleaning rather than kitchen cleaner, toilet cleaner, etc, but these other ideas you’ve given me are great! Fantastic post!
    aNonyMous recently posted..Inspiring the Next GenerationMy Profile

  • Wow, thank you for all of this information! I’ll definitely be pinning this for reference later, as my family still has room to improve in the eco-friendly cleaning products area. Thanks so much for writing this!
    Amy @ Anktangle recently posted..Sunday Surf: Home Ownership & Earth DayMy Profile

  • These are great, thanks so much for sharing. I already use baking soda and vinegar for everything from cleaning to treating mosquito bites, but Im inspired to try your recipes :)
    Christine @ African Babies Don’t Cry recently posted..Lightening My Footprint with Cloth Nappies (Diapers)My Profile

  • Rebekah, I am definitely bookmarking this page and will refer to it often! I just use vinegar and baking soda for all of my household cleaning, but will definitely expand to incorporate your recipes!

  • What a great article! So many people don’t realize how toxic the cleaners are that they are using in their household. I have been trying to switch to all natural cleaners in my household. I already make our own soaps, and make some of our cleaners. The rest I purchase natural cleaners (Citradish, Method products, Citrasud, etc). I love having a house that is not only clean, but has clean air as well!
    Susan Bewley recently posted..Green Cleaner Review: Method Squirt & Mop CleanerMy Profile

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