Greening the Cleaning


My family is more aware than the average American about the real danger chemicals in our environment pose to us. My father died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 52, and in an effort to understand how something like this happens to a person with a healthy lifestyle we discovered just how many chemicals we are exposed to every day through widely used cleaning products and food choices. We learned that seemingly benign items, like a plastic shower curtain liner, poses a health risk, as the heat from the shower releases chemicals within the curtain into the air.

Even with this experience and subsequent knowledge I found myself, now married and with the goal of starting a family, making unhealthy food choices and purchasing household products I knew were harmful, deterred by the high prices of the healthier alternatives. Now to be clear I wasn’t noshing on Twinkies and sniffing bleach, and neither was my husband. We ate a healthy diet with limited processed foods, but by no means was it a “clean” diet and we weren’t very careful about the chemicals we were exposing ourselves to on a daily basis.

For various reasons I stopped working when I became pregnant and made it my full time job to run our house and prepare for baby. With the mindset that I wanted to give our baby the best start possible I made “greening” our house and cleaning our diet my top priority. The real challenge became doing this on one income and without increasing the food and household budgets.

I have an acquaintance who had claimed to clean her entire house with just vinegar, so I started my Google search there. “Cleaning with vinegar”. This miracle substance, when used by itself or mixed with baking soda and some essential oils, promised to clean your entire house. I found hundreds of links to blogs, websites and Pinterest boards with vinegar cleaning recipes claiming to be the best. I randomly chose a few and headed out to the local health food store for some essential oils and to Bjs for a few jugs of vinegar and boxes of baking soda (if some is good, clearly more must be better). I spent $15 on what, if it actually worked, would be able to keep my entire house clean for 3 months (assuming one good cleaning a week). The first project was the bathrooms.

My kitchen became a laboratory of sorts, combining vinegar with tea tree oil, drops of dish soap and baking soda to create various bathroom cleaners. I tested the shower cleaner first. I sprayed a mixture of some hot water, vinegar and a small amount of dish soap, all the while skeptical that this concoction would come even close to getting soap scum off the shower walls like those magical Scrubbing Bubbles could. The smell of the vinegar was overwhelming, and I feared Jer would come home to a still dirty and now nauseating bathroom. A half hour later I ventured back up and wiped the walls down with a microfiber cloth (paper towels were out given the “green” and frugal mission). To my amazement my shower was cleaner and shined brighter than it ever had before, with no residual vinegar smell. I was hooked. Tea tree oil, vinegar and baking soda bubbled in the toilet bowl, cleaning and disinfecting away as I scrubbed the sink and counter with a paste of baking soda, water, and drop of dish soap. I finished by mopping the floor with a cup of vinegar in a gallon of warm water, and admired my “green” and budget friendly cleaning. I ventured to other parts of the house with the same great results. Not only was our house becoming chemical free, but we were also saving money on cleaning supplies, which we were then able to transfer over to the food budget. (I’ll cover how we cleaned our diet in part 2!)

Over the next few months I tweaked certain concoctions, found more recipes, and came up with a few of my own. I’ll be honest, I kept some convenient yet chemical laden cleaning products in the basement in case of emergency. What sort of emergency would constitute the use of such products? The dog peeing all over the bathroom floor because he’s less than pleased with the idea of a bath, while at the same time the baby is crying in the Jumperoo that she is usually thrilled to be in for an hour at a time. Dragging a gallon of water and vinegar up to the bathroom seemed like a terrible idea, swiffer to the rescue. That being said, it was the first time in over a year that I succumbed to the chemicals, I’m OK with those stats!

A few essential oils and some basic ingredients and you are om your way to "green" cleaning!

A few essential oils and some basic ingredients and you are om your way to “green” cleaning!

So here are my tried and true favorites for you to try in your home. Some of them do call for additions, like Lemishine in the dish washer soap. You can replace this with any citric acid, including lemon kool aid, and the Fels Naptha in the laundry detergent can be replaced with any soap, including Dr. Bronner’s if you like. I’ve researched the Borax, Borax is NOT the same as Boric acid. This being said, I don’t recommend consuming it, but why would you….

Dish Washer Soap

I C Borax

1 C Washing Soda

½ C Kosher Salt

1 C Lemishine

Add a bundle of rice in cheesecloth and shake repeatedly as this will clump in the first 24 hrs. (If you have a Brown Sugar Bear, toss it in, they work the best for reducing clumps!)

Dish Soap

2 C Castille Soap

½ C Water

½ tsp Lemon Oil

Floors (Both Tile and Wood)

1 C White Vinegar

1 Gallon Warm Water

Add lemon oil for tile floor if desired

Glass Cleaner

¼ C Rubbing Alcohol

½ C White Vinegar

1 Tbsp Cornstarch

2 C Warm Water


½ C Baking Soda

½ C White Vinegar

10 Drops Tea Tree Oil

Place baking soda in bowl, add Tea Tree oil, and then vinegar. Let bubble, scrub bowl and let sit for 10 minutes before scrubbing again and flushing.

Tub, Sink and Outside of Toilet Cleaner

1 C Baking Soda

1 tsp Liquid Soap

15 Drops Tea Tree Oil

Place all ingredients in bowl, form paste, drop onto surfaces and scrub (come back after rinsing, about an hour or so, and look for leftover baking soda residue)

All Purpose Counter Cleaner

2 tsp Borax

1 tsp Washing Soda

½ C White Vinegar

½ tsp Dish detergent

2 C Hot water

Place ingredients, in this order, in spray bottle, mix and use

Oven Cleaner

5 Tbsp Baking Soda

5 Drops Dish Soap

4 Tbsp Vinegar

Mix into paste, adding more baking soda if needed. Wipe onto oven surfaces, leave for 15 minutes, then scrub with half a lemon and rinse.

Laundry Detergent

1 C Borax

1 C Washing Soda

1 Bar Grated Fels Naptha Soap

Place in container and mix. 1 Tbsp per regular load, 2 Tbsp for a large/super load

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