The DIY Approach to Green Cleaning
Whether you love or dread housework – there’s no denying the satisfaction of a spic & span home. But is it really that clean? It’s worth taking a second look, as many of the conventional cleaning products we use contain ingredients that can potentially mess with your health.
Important COVID-19 Note: The household ingredients and DIY cleaner recipes listed below are not effective against the spread of COVID-19. These natural alternatives are used to clean surfaces from dirt and some bacteria before using disinfectants. These cleaners do not replace the use of Health Canada approved disinfectant products that are effective in killing the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Refer to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s website for more information.
Ammonia, phthalates and triclosan are just a few of the culprits found in products ranging from laundry detergents to glass cleaners. These ingredients can become airborne and inhaled and linger on just-cleaned surfaces where they can be absorbed by human tissues, exposing us and our families to their unhealthy side effects. Fortunately, there are alternatives, with many companies offering more formulas that won’t compromise health and the environment – but you can start the shift to greener cleaners by taking a look in your cupboards!
Vinegar, baking soda, coarse salt and olive oil all have exceptional antiseptic abilities and when combined in the right amounts, make excellent natural cleaning products. These familiar household staples can be used for housecleaning jobs on their own or combined in simple DIY formulas that can easily be whipped up at home. Some simple green cleaning superstars include:
- Salt. Yes – regular table salt can be used to deodorize, absorb stains and act as an abrasive. Coarse salt works wonderfully in cleaning cast iron cookware and scrubbing stubborn burnt pots.
- Vinegar is not only super effective – it’s inexpensive! Distilled white vinegar can be used to make glass sparkle, act as a fabric softener and thoroughly clean surfaces – even in high traffic areas like the kitchen and bathroom!
- Olive Oil can be sparingly applied in shining up stainless steel or wood furniture.
- Baking Soda has gentle abrasive qualities that can lift stains out of surfaces from countertops to toilet bowls. It is also a phenomenal deodorizer and a small bowl kept in the back of the fridge will absorb undesirable odours. Sprinkled on carpets and upholstered furniture, it can freshen textiles and be easily vacuumed off.
You can also purchase some foundational and versatile natural products to add to your green cleaning supply at your local health food store:
- Castile Soap has many uses around the home, both for natural cleaning and personal care. This plant-based soap made in a style that originated in the Castile region of Spain and has been used for centuries as an all-purpose natural soap of choice.
- Essential oils are a terrific addition to your DIY toolkit. They are great alternatives to artificially scented products, and you can customize your own blends. Certain oils, like tea tree, have antibacterial benefits, and others, like lavender can have a calming effect. But be sure to do your research or consult with an expert to ensure the oils you use don’t have any contraindications to members of the household – including the furry ones!
Because of their safety – you can experiment and find the combinations that work for your home. Be mindful to check that these ingredients are compatible with what you’re cleaning, as certain surfaces like granite, marble or wood may need special treatment.
Another bonus of the DIY approach? Less packaging! Using mason jars to store your recipes or reusing old bottles reduces plastic consumption and disposal – something else to feel great about. Also look for opportunities to bulk shop for ingredients with your own containers, or for stores that offer bulk refillable cleaning supplies.
You can find these ingredients, and many more at your local CHFA member retailer. Once you try these natural alternatives to clean your home, you will be hooked on them.
Looking for a little guidance in DIY-ing your way to a truly clean, healthy home? Try these easy-to-follow recipes for alternative household cleaners that will effectively clean any surface:
Natural All-Purpose Cleaner
- 250 ml (1 cup) warm water
- 250 ml (1 cup) distilled white vinegar
- 25 drops of essential oil (optional)
Pour the ingredients into a pot or spray bottle. Shake gently to mix. Use on counters and other surfaces.
Note: For tough jobs, increase the vinegar-to-water ratio to 2:1.
Natural laundry detergent
- 2 liters of hot water
- 90 ml (6 tablespoons) of baking soda
- 90 ml (6 tablespoons) of Castile soap
- 30 ml (2 tablespoons) coarse salt
Dissolve dry ingredients in hot water. Add the soap and stir. (Reuse an old laundry soap container). Use 125 mL (1/2 cup) per full load.
Natural Furniture Polish
- 500 ml (2 cups) warm water
- 30 ml (2 tablespoons) of olive oil
- 30 ml (2 tablespoons) white vinegar (or lemon juice)
Mix the ingredients in a spray bottle. Shake before use. Spray it on the furniture and wipe with a damp sponge or cloth.
Natural Cleaner for Windows and Mirrors
- 250 ml (1 cup) of water
- 250 ml (1 cup) white vinegar
Pour the ingredients into a pot or spray bottle. Shake gently to mix. Spray it on glass or mirrors for a squeaky clean surface. Reuse old newspapers to wipe clean and avoid streaks.
Natural Cleaner for Stainless Steel
- 15 ml (1 tablespoon) olive oil
- 15 ml (1 tablespoon) white vinegar
Drizzle olive oil on one side of a cloth. Rub it all over the oven, kettle, refrigerator or other stainless steel appliances. On the other side of the cloth, pour a few drops of white vinegar. Rub over the same areas and let dry.
- “EWG’S Top tips for healthy cleaning”. https://static.ewg.org/ewg-tip-sheets/EWG-CleanersTips.pdf
- Searching for A List Of Ingredients In Our Home Cleaning Products
- “Household cleaners packaging”. https://myzerowaste.com/articles/household/household-cleaners-packaging/
- “Homemade and Natural Cleaning Products” https://www.thespruce.com/homemade-and-natural-cleaning-products-1900456
- “EWG’S Guide To Triclosan” https://static.ewg.org/ewg-tip-sheets/EWG-TriclosanGuide.pdf
- “Castile Soap: A Miracle Product for Both Cleaning and Beauty?” https://www.healthline.com/health/castile-soap
- “A Guide to Essential Oil Safety” https://theherbalacademy.com/a-guide-to-essential-oil-safety/