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Green and Chemical-Free Cleaning

**This post is part of the Get Real series. Please remember that this is meant as a learning community. We know that many of you are passionate about what you do and we want you to express that, just please do so in a way that will be an encouragement and aid to others making a transition. We want this to be a “safe space” for participants to learn. For that reason, we reserve the right to delete any comments that are not handled in this manner.

Over the past few years I’ve transitioned to a whole foods, clean eating (and now Paleo) diet. I’m thinner, I’m healthier, and I feel better overall. Thank goodness for the specialty menus on Once a Month Mom!

The drastic change in my eating habits didn’t fully occur to me until a few months ago when I was wiping down my refrigerator to store a new batch of CSA veggies. With the exception of lunch meat and coconut milk coffee cream, every single item in my fridge was from an organic, local farm that doesn’t produce food for mass, commercial consumption.

That day a light bulb went off. I knew first hand how the change in eating habits had benefited my health. And I knew then and there that there was still one area of toxicity that I was allowing into my body – chemicals from household cleaning products.

Dangers of Cleaning Product Chemicals

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes that many cleaning products include chemicals which may have short and long term adverse health effects. “Eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, nausea; damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system” are a few. Some are also “suspected or known to cause cancer.”

You may find that some commercial cleaners are difficult to replace because they work…and they work well. They do the job with minimal effort on our part. But, when it comes to the potential harmful effects they can cause on the health of our families, taking baby steps towards a green and chemical-free home will be worth it.

5 Products to Help You Transition to Chemical-Free Cleaning

One of the easiest ways to reduce exposure to these chemicals is to make your own natural cleaning productsIn case you have the impression that making your own cleaning products take too much time, let me assure you that the following 5 products will help you clean 80% of your home without extra effort. In fact, it may even be easier.

The 5 Essentials:

  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Pan scraper
  • Hard bristle brush

Baking soda and vinegar can clean just about anything. In fact, I’ve been compiling a list of 1001 uses for baking sodaVinegar is a natural disinfectant so it can be used as an all-purpose cleaner. Just pour vinegar in a clean, empty spray bottle and use it to clean everything from countertops to cutting boards. Add a sprinkle of baking soda to vinegar and watch it work its magic when cleaning areas like your oven and garbage disposal.

A microfiber cleaning cloth is another rockstar when it comes to cleaning.  The incredible capacity to hold liquid makes it ideal for wiping up spills. The microfiber also attracts dust like no other. It works wonders when dusting anything from your furniture to your blinds to your ceiling fans to your baseboards.

Using a pan scraper will cut cleaning time in half. It’s tough enough to get any dried up gunk off your floor, counter, or dishes, but it won’t scratch the surface. Scrapers are less than $2 each and are well worth stocking up to stash in every room.

A hard bristle brush will be your best friend when it comes to cleaning areas ignored too long. If you can’t get the soap scum off your shower floor, the brush should do the trick. If you need help cleaning the mud off the garage steps, this tool can help.

This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, but these 5 essentials will get you started on your chemical-free journey.

Chemical-Free Cleaning Means More Frequent Cleaning

I’ve found that green cleaning does require more frequent cleaning. Since there aren’t harsh chemicals to do the work for you, you have to instill good cleaning habits into your routine. It may seem like more work initially, but you’ll actually spend less time cleaning overall since it won’t take as long to do the job.

Just like the process of changing eating habits, learning to clean without chemicals will take time. But it will be worth the effort!

October Week 3 Action Item:

Each week we will try to give you some simple action steps to put this journey into practice. It is important that you start this journey by understanding yourself, your goals and perhaps your obstacles.
  1. Stock up (or make) on the 5 products mentioned above.
  2. Put aside your usual cleaning products for one week and use vinegar and/or baking soda for as much of your cleaning routine as possible.
  3. Let us know how it goes in the comment section!

October Get Real:

Please take a moment to thank our guest authors by clicking over to their sites and/or liking them on Facebook and/or Twitter.

Sponsor:  Once A Month Mom

Guest Author: Christine from i Dream of Clean and Spring Cleaning 365.


12 Responses to “Green and Chemical-Free Cleaning”

  1. Holly Q says:

    I’ve been making many of my own cleaners for years. My favorite is homemade laundry soap. It costs about $2.00 to make 10 gallons of HE liquid soap. It does a better job than any commercial laundry soap, safe to use on babies skin, and you can scent it with any kind of essential oil. It literally takes 5 minutes to make.
    1 cup washing soda
    1 cup Borax
    1 bar of soap (I like Fels Naptha or Dr. Bronners).
    Grate the soap (or put it through the food processor) and add to hot/simmering water and stir until dissolved. Turn off heat, add the washing soda and Borax and mix until dissolved.
    Pour the mix equally into two- clean, five gallon paint buckets and top off with hot water. After 24 hours, you can add a few drops of essential oil (or not) Mixture will thicken so you need to give it a stir.
    Takes about 1/2 cup per large load.

    • Stephanie says:

      Maybe a silly question: I know I’ve seen Borax and Fels Naptha in the stores . . . but what exactly is washing soda? I assume it’s completely different than baking soda. Any certain brands I should look for? Where would I find it?

      • Jessica says:

        Arm and Hammer is the only brand of it I’ve seen. It is in a large orange box and usually right next to the Borax.


      • Judy says:

        Washing soda is nothing more than baking soda that has been heated to 400 degrees for 2 hours…buy baking soda and save yourself the money!! I use mine for laundry detergent, and use wool balls for fabric softener and my laundry is very soft and sweet smelling!!

    • Holly, the one natural product I’ve been hesitant to try is laundry detergent. Your recipe looks simple enough that I just might give it a try! Thank you for the instructions!

    • Jessica says:

      Recipes vary – I tend to use 2-3 tablespoons for a normal load; 4 tablespoons for a heavy-duty load, of the above recipe.

      The only difference is that we also make our own soap ;) You have to use lye to make soap (the lye chemically reacts with the oil or fat used and the two become soap – so don’t let anyone tell you that you can make soap without lye – you can MODIFY soap without because the lye was already used!). Dr. Bronner’s soap is very basic which makes it better than Fels Naptha. You just need an oil (usually olive oil if you want castille soap), lye and water to make a very basic soap. For laundry soap a combo of olive oil and coconut oil does GREAT.

    • Pamela Scott says:

      About how much water would you dissolve the soap in before mixing it with the washing soda and borax?

  2. Jean F says:

    With allergies and respiratory / asthma flare-ups occurring in our family, I’ve begun “cleaning” more and more with baking soda & vinegar, and I LOVE IT! The porcelain tub, and ceramic tiles in our bathroom actually SHINE now! And the daily & weekly clean up is so much simpler. Since I do enjoy the “fresh clean smell” of a clean room, I just spritz with some essential oils, and the aroma lasts even longer!

  3. cathy says:

    We made the switch to cleaning primarily with baking soda and vinegar about a year ago. There’s no going back now! SO much easier on my lungs! I like to add essential oils to my cleaning products – like peppermint to my all-purpose 50/50 vinegar water cleaner. It cuts the vinegar smell a bit and has disinfecting power of its own. Citrus oils are also great for cleaning and also smell so good.

  4. Ah, yes! Essential oils do add a fresh, clean smell.

  5. Jessica says:

    One issue that has coming up more and more – the cleaning items we use (baking soda, vinegar, borax, etc) are still *chemicals*. And some of those other “chemicals” (in the toxic cleaning solutions) can still be “all-natural” and still be dangerous for you – in the sense that crude oil is a chemical, yet is all-natural. Lye is an all-natural chemical and is dangerous but is used to make soap….

    So I don’t know the answer, but I am looking for ways to be more careful with my language in this regard – in terms of “all-natural” and “chemicals”. Ideas???? I think “non-toxic” is appropriate most of the time. ??

  6. Good point Jessica. There’s a website I recently found out about that ranks chemicals based on toxicity. Just enter the name of any chemical and it brings up a hazard ranking to human health. http://scorecard.goodguide.com/chemical-profiles/ At the very least, it could help us determine which “chemicals” we should avoid completely.

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