Eco-friendly tips for home cleaning

Instead of reaching for those commercial cleaners in the grocery store aisle, opt for natural cleaners that work just as effectively without leaving any harmful films, odors or residues behind. Many commercial cleaners have the potential to affect your family’s health, including the pets.

Most commercial cleansers use petroleum-based products that emit gases called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Depending on the individual, the VOCs can have side effects that range from mild respiratory irritation to neurological problems or cancers. Any cleaning product that uses a perfume has VOCs.

Floor cleaners, especially, increase the exposure of small children and pets to potentially harmful residues. Natural cleaners, on the other hand, contain no VOCs and some are edible. There are plenty to choose from that provide the disinfection, degreasing, and general cleaning that commercial cleaners do without any harmful side effects.

Vinegar is one of the most effective and safe natural cleaners to use in your home for cleaning virtually any hard surface. It neutralizes soap residue and won’t streak surfaces. Its strong smell disappears once it dries. You can use it to sanitize bathrooms, kitty litter boxes, clean glass and mirrors, as well as kitchen and bathroom countertops. You can use it right out of the bottle or dilute it with water, depending on the degree of cleaning you need.

Reach for lemons if you want a powerful cleaner with the smells of fresh and clean. By itself or combined with baking soda, there are few stains or grease buildups a lemon won’t tackle. Use for stovetops or even microwaves (guide here) to sanitize and leave a refreshing scent behind. Instead of throwing a juiced lemon away, send it down the garbage disposal to sanitize it. Rub a cut lemon on a food stain and place the article in the sun to remove it.

Baking soda is a natural cleaner that has an abrasive effect. Combine baking soda with vinegar to keep sink and bathtub drains clear. Add half a cup of baking soda to the garbage disposal, add vinegar, and let it disinfect and freshen the interior. Mix baking soda with water to scrub greasy areas in the kitchen. This mixture is also a safe and nontoxic way to clean an oven. Generously coat the floor and walls of the oven and let it do its work overnight, and wipe the loose grease and residue away with a damp cloth.
Washing soda is available in the cleaning products’ aisle and used as a laundry booster and a general purpose cleaner. It will remove stains from fabrics, including carpeting and upholstery. You can make your own washing soda by heating baking soda to 400 degrees F until it becomes grainy, like powdered laundry detergents. Once transformed, washing soda can’t be ingested.

Borax is a naturally occurring mineral that is a common ingredient in many cleaning products. It’s generally recognized as safe (GRAS) as a cleaner, but cautions abound when using the product around plants, children and pets. It’s a natural insecticide and will harm the soil. If you use borax to create your own detergents for the laundry or dishwasher, make sure it drains into the sewer and not on the ground, since it will kill any plants nearby. Like washing soda, borax boosts the cleaning power of many detergents.

Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is a powerful disinfectant and a good alternative to chlorine bleach. Peroxide has no odor and leaves no residues behind. You can use it in the laundry to kill germs, clean sinks with it, or add half a cup to a gallon of hot water to scrub the floors. Wipe the counters and cutting boards with peroxide to kill any lingering bacteria or viruses.

Coconut Soaps
Choose soap products that have a coconut oil base for your laundry and general purpose cleaning, especially the unscented products. These products are effective cleaners and if so noted on the containers, safe to use as gray water for irrigation.

Vodka and Rubbing Alcohol
Neither of these leaves a lingering odor behind and both kill a wide range of bacteria and viruses. Both come in different strengths and if you need more disinfection, choose the product with the higher alcohol content. While vodka is safe to drink within reason, rubbing alcohol is a poison. Neither should be kept within the reach of children.

Using natural products for home cleaning keeps you, your family, and your home healthier. Besides costing a fraction of commercially prepared products, natural cleaners eliminate a significant source of environmental toxins in your home.