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I have only really started using “old-fashioned” (as my grandma called them), “homemade” (as the hubby calls them), “green” or “environmentally friendly” (as the eco-friendly types are starting to call them) cleaners within the past 2 1/2 years.  After my stillbirth, convinced I had done “something” wrong, I went thru a frenzy of re-evaluation of every little aspect of my life, and have since been trying to live a more “natural”, “organic”, “simple” and “frugal” life (nice buzzwods, eh? …note the key word “try”), which was always something I was interested in, but not enough to do a whole lot about (and not really in a position to anyhow).

But, the media says, anti-septic must mean clean…because germs are dirty and bad…

Germs, in fact, are not “bad”. Some are, it is true…and too many of even good germs can be bad as well… But in fact germs themselves are largely benign, and in many cases are essential–not just to the proper working of many bodily systems (most famously the digestive), but also to the over-all strength of our immune systems. And all those cleaners? Turns out they many of them are bad…the chemicals they release have been linked in numerous studies to increased incidents of asthma and allergies. Infact, even according to the EPA, indoor spaces are generally many times more polluted that the outdoor air and can play an incredible role in influencing health (for good or ill) as we spend some 90% of our time indoors (and we wonder why our society is so thick around the middle?).

Interestingly, my allergies, sinus problems and asthma have lessened over the years–with the exception of the seasonal ragweed and mold explosions here in Virginia, they are almost non-existant…and my daughter (thus far) has shown no signs of allergies, asthma, brochitis, ear aches (and she wasn’t even breastfed), etc–infact, with the exception of a tummy bug that I brought home from the hospital where I work, and a cold she got at day care, she hasn’t been sick yet. Additionally, my home is just as clean and smells just as good (if not better) than the next…and except for the occasional house guest that asks me “What brand is that? It smells good” while I am cleaning up the kitchen after a party, no one really notices that we don’t use commercial household cleaners.

I have never really calculated how much money I have saved…but I know that it is enough to make a difference.  I am sure other people on the web have–I think I read somewhere a homemade laundry detergent costs about 3-4 cents a load compared to 10-20 cents for a commercial one…  I can easily buy most of the things I use to clean cheaply and in bulk, and use them in far less quantity than conventional cleaners.

One of the easiest ways to reduce Brand Name consumerism, save money, safeguard the health of your family, and even feel a little bit green (in a good way) is to change how you clean, and what you clean with.  It is a simple list…and everything on it is cheap(er) than conventional cleaners…and they last longer too.

One-Stop, Multi-Purpose Cleaning Ingredient List:

  • Baking Soda
  • Borax
  • Washing Soda
  • Vinegar
  • Lemon Juice or Lemons
  • Liquid soap (I use Dr. Bonner’s Liquid Castile Soap)
  • Essential oils (optional…I prefer citrus oils, lavender and tea tree for cleaning due to their mildly antiseptic properties)
  • peroxide and rubbing alcohol (optional…but useful for a few things, and something that most people already have in the home)



For laundry, I use a combination 1:1:1 ratio of baking soda, borax and washing soda…1/3 c for a small load, 1/2 for a medium load, and 2/3 for a large load.  For DIRTY clothes (like diapers), I soak them in borax and water first.  For whites, I add a capful or two of peroxide once the washer has started filling up. 

Instead of traditional drier sheets, buy a container of liquid softener (if you feel you *have* to have it), and put it in a spray bottle with water, spray a washcloth or rag, and toss it in the drier with your clothes…

Better yet, if you have the space, dry them outside.

I have heard of people that use baking soda alone to clean their clothes (about a cup for a large load, 1/2 for a small one), using Dr. Bonners, and I have even found several recipies for making liquid detergents on the net–one of which my grandmother knew of and had used…but to me, this is the most successful and simple recipe I have encountered and tried.  Vinegar can also be a good laundry additive in the rinse cycle–expecially for cloth diapers…just add about a 2/3 cup per load.


Dishes in the dishwasher

I am not perfect…I like convienence, I use the dishwasher.

This is a bit more tricky than finding an alternative for your laundry…people tend to be more picky about what they eat their food off of (unless you are my 15 month old, who eats cheerios wherever she finds them)…not to mention the various water types and dishwasher effciencies to factor in as variables.  We don’t own fancy china, or gold plated steak knives…

Most mixes I have seen used as dishwasher detergents include some combination of baking soda, borax and/or washing soda…some include salt, another I saw included cornstarch (supposedly makes you glass work sparkle), and some include the use of vinegar in the spot where you put the jet-dry.

From the reviews, advice, trial and error and remarks of others, it seemed that this was something I would have to play with…  and this is one of the instances where I got lucky on one of the first tries…

For me, for the water and dishwasher type here in our apartment in Virginia, our “winner” is a 1-2 tablespoons of a 1:1 ratio of baking soda and borax (be very sure that your dishwasher has a good rinse cycle if you are going to use borax…while a naturally occuring substance, it can be toxic if ingested, particularly by small children–also make sure you don’t leave it out where little ones can stick it in curious mouths!  Another option if this concerns you, is to just use baking soda or washing soda (or both) to cut your detergent, and to only use about 1/3-1/2 of the “recommended” amount).  

The advantage of my recipe is that it is entirely useable as a laundry detergent (hoo-rah for dual purpose!).  The 1:1:1 ratio I use for laundry got them clean, but left a streaky film on some of them, leaving out the washing soda worked like a charm for the water we have here (when we move, I might have to tinker again with the recipe).  Since I prefer the addition of washing soda for my laundry detergent, I have taken to adding a wee bit of that separately into my laundry.


All-purpose cleaning Spray

I’m fairly sure I have posted this here…but I love it, so I will post it again!

1 tablespoon liquid  soap (I use Dr. Bonner’s lavender)
1/2 c lemon juice
5 drops tea tree oil
10 drops lavender oil

then fill with water and clean!!

this is a recipe I play with alot…I think the current incarnation in the bottle also has about 5 drops of grapefruit oil in it…

Lavender, lemon, and tea tree are all good disinfectants, which makes this perfect for the kitchen and bathroom where germs have a tendency to go CRAZY, and bad germs can often show up and lurk about.

It has the added benefit of smelling good and being non-toxic.


Scrubbing Power, cleaning you garbage disposal, sinks and toilets

This is where my two friends come in…baking soda and vinegar (also what the hubby and  I use instead of shampoo–but that is a whole ‘nother topic for another day!)

We keep baking soda in an re-used glade carpet deodorzer sprinkle can–I actually bought a few of them at the dollar store, just for the container, as I had searched high and low for something similar, but couldn’t find anything that didn’t cost an arm and a leg.  Not wanting to waste it, we used it…and had noxiously smelly carpets for about a month (NEVER AGAIN!).  In a spray bottle, we keep apple cider vinegar (ACV)–but whie vinegar works also–and water (about 1 part ACV-3-4 parts water)…

For sinks, ovens, and icky gross places with stuck on gunk, Just sprinkle the baking soda and scrub the gunky spots, then spray down with ACV mix, let it foam a bit, and give it another good scrub and wipe down.  The vinegar smell dissapated quickly for those that don’t like it…

You can do the same for the toilet–about a cup of baking soda, swish around, pour in enough ACV (use the jug, rather than your spray bottle!) that it foams for a bit, give it a scrub and flush.  If it is extra gross, add a 1/2 cup or so of borax and let it soak for a while before flushing and cleaning.

For drains and garbage disposals, sprinkle in some baking soda and flush down with ACV and HOT water.  If your garbage disposal is smelly, slice up a lemon (save the juice!) and send the rest of it down the disposal.



There are dozens of homemade window cleaners out there…but here is the one I prefer:

The simplest and (IMO) most effective (particulaly for windows that get gunky, like the bathroom, and the balcony doors that Sophie likes to put her grubby hands on) is vinegar, liquid soap and water.  A teaspoon of vinegar per cup of warm water and a WEEEEEEEE little squirt of soap works great…even better, you can use 1/2 and 1/2 rubbing alcohol and water instead of just water.  I don’t mind streaks too much, but if you use crumpled up newspaper to dry your windows with, you can get a streak free shine!



To deodorize, sprinkle some baking soda, leave overnight if possible, and vaccum up the next day. 

Another option is to spray the carpet with borax dissolved in warm water an hour or so prior to steam cleaning–we have one of those cheapo mini-“steamers”, just add a couple capfuls of peroxide and dissolve some washing soda in the water and “steam” away!