8 Essential Ingredients for Homemade Green Cleaning
Homemade green cleaners are eco-friendly, effective, and inexpensive to make. Green cleaners use plant based, environmentally friendly products that are biodegradable. By going green you bypass all those harmful chemicals like chlorine, ammonia, phosphates, solvents, and synthetic dyes that are commonly found in commercial cleaners. Going green is better for your health as well as the health and well-being of our children, pets, and the planet. To get started cleaning the green way, all you need are a few basics you can find at your local grocery store or online.
These ingredients are all tried and true cleaning multi taskers:
1) White Distilled Vinegar
Vinegar is a very versatile and effective ingredient for cleaning. Use as a grease cutter, stain remover, deodorizer, fabric softener, glass cleaner, germ killer and more. If you are just getting started in the switch to green cleaning, start with vinegar, it is non-toxic, cheap, and a highly capable all purpose cleaner.
How does vinegar clean? White distiiled viinegar is about 5% acetic acid. This acidic nature kills germs, bacteria and molds. The acid in vinegar also absorbs odors and neutralizes soap scum.
How to use it:
- All Purpose Surface Spray Cleaner - Vinegar is often used with a spray bottle of 1/2 water and 1/2 vinegar as an all-purpose surface cleaner. Add a fresh scent by adding 10 - 20 drops of essential oil of lemon or lavender. FYI: Vinegar does have an odor. It WILL go away as the vinegar evaporates and dries completely.
This simple and cheap solution is used to clean surfaces all around the home such as walls, floors, cabinets, shelves, toilets, sinks, showers, refrigerators, glass and more. Vinegar is not recommend for marble as it's acidic nature may damage marble's porous surfaces. Vinegar's household cleaning and deodorizing uses are numerous and it is an important ingredient in many, many green cleaning recipes.
What does the research say? In a laboratory study comparing commercially available household kitchen and bathroom cleaning products to lemon juice, ammonia, vinegar, baking soda and borax, researchers found that "commercial cleaners and vinegar gave the most effective microbial reduction..."
Olson, W. (1994). Hard Surface Cleaning Performance of Six Alternative Household Cleaners under Laboratory Conditions
Journal of Enviromental Health - Jan / Feb 1994
2) Baking Soda
Next to vinegar, baking soda is perhaps the most useful and versatile household green cleaning ingredient. Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is a naturally occurring material.
How does baking soda clean?- Baking soda is a white, crystalline, mildly abrasive powder. It is slightly alkaline. This alkalinity works to absorb odors by neutralizing acids and acidic scents making baking soda an effective all purpose deodorizer. Some things just need to be wiped clean. Other things need to be scrubbed. Baking soda's gritty texture makes it excellent for scrubbing chores. Works great on toilets, stoves, sinks and counters.
How to use it:
- Scouring Powder - Simply sprinkle a bit of baking soda on the surface to be cleaned. Scour gently with a sponge, then rinse . Baking soda rinses easily and completely without leaving gritty granules behind.
- Home Made Antibacterial Soft Scrub - In a small bowl or reusable container, mix 1/2 cup baking soda with 2 or 3 tablespoons of liquid castile soap with fork until blended smooth. Add 10 to 15 drops of antibacterial essential oil of lemon, orange or tea tree. Spread some of the soft scrub paste on the sponge and scrub your bathtub, shower, sink or counter surfaces. Rinse the surface when done.
3) Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is a natural mild bleaching agent that is good for removing stains. It is also a mild disinfectant good for killing bacteria and fungi.
Hydrogen Peroxide is available in different concentrations. The 3% concentration is the one most commonly used in households for cleaning and disinfecting purposes.
How to use it:
- Mildew and Germ Killer - Fill a spray bottle with 2/3 Hydrogen Peroxide and 1/3 Water. Spray on areas where mildew accumulates and let soak for 30 minutes. Rinse clean.
- Stain Remover - Buy a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and add a spray nozzle to it. Like this:
Whenever you get a stain or spot on the carpet, spray some hydrogen peroxide on it. Wait 5 - 10 minutes, then blot it up with warm water and bit of liquid dish detergent. Get to your stains quickly, if you let the stain get old, the peroxide may just lighten the stain rather than remove it. Bloodstains are like this. If you get to them while they are fresh, you may get them out completely. If they are allowed to set, they may be permanent.
What does the research say? Finding factual studies using hydrogen peroxide for cleaning and disinfecting for household purposes is tough. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved hydrogen peroxide "for controlling microbial pests on crops growing indoors and outdoors." The EPA also stated that it "prevents and controls bacteria and fungi that cause serious plant diseases." Additionally, a study done by the Department of Paedodontics, Medical University of Lublin in Poland found "hydrogen peroxide caused a significant decrease both in the number of total fungi and individual fungal species" in cleaning dental waterline equipment.
4) Castile Liquid Soap
Castile liquid soaps are made from renewable and biodegradable natural ingredients, using vegetable oil instead of animal fats or petroleum products. Castile liquid soaps are true multipurpose cleaners suitable for use in your kitchen, bathroom, shower, and laundry room.
How to use it:
A few drops of castile liquid soap mixed in with a spray bottle of water makes an excellent, mild all purpose house cleaner. Add a few drops of essential lemon or tea tree oil for a fresh scent. This makes a great alternative cleaner if you don't like the smell of vinegar cleaners.
- Eco Dishwashing Liquid - Make your own natural dishwashing liquid soap by using 1/2 cup of water with 2 cups of liquid castile soap and 1/2 Tbls. of essential lemon oil. Add to a squirt bottle or an old cleaned out liquid dishwashing bottle.
- All Purpose Spray Disinfectant - To make a great all purpose disinfectant for the kitchen or bathroom without using bleach, use 2 cups of water, 3 Tbls. of Castile liquid soap, and 30 drops of essential tea trea oil to a spray bottle and shake to mix well.
5) Olive oil
Olive oil is extracted from the whole olives from olive trees. Throughout history, olive oil has been used for heating, medicinal use and food use. It is currently used as one of the best all-around oils for food preparation and making salads. It also is terrific for making home made furniture polish.
How to use it:
- Furniture Polish Spray - To make your own furniture polish spray, you just need 4 simple ingredients. 2 teaspoons of olive oil (nothing fancy, lowest cost, light olive oil is fine), 1/4 cup of white distilled vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon of lemon essential oil and 1 1/2 cups of water.
- Add these ingredients into a 16oz. spray bottle and shake gently to mix well. Label the bottle. Spray the furniture directly and wipe clean and dry with a soft, clean cloth.
- Furniture Polish for Stained and Oiled Wood - To clean and lubricate your stained or oiled wood furniture, make a solution of 1/2 vinegar and 1/2 olive oil. Mix the two in a squirt bottle or a small bowl. Apply with a soft, clean cloth and rub gently into wood finish. The vinegar will pull out dirt and grime, the olive oil will lubricate and give the wood a nice appearance. Wipe excess polish with a dry cloth.
Store your furniture polish in a cool dark place.
6) Lemon Juice
The citric acid from lemon juice is a very good grease cutter and natural germ killer. Ideally, recipes for lemon juice would use real juice fresh squeezed from lemons, but bottled lemon juice is a suitable substitute.
How to use it:
- Cutting Board Cleaner - Cutting boards can be a major source of germs. Juices from meats can flow into the cracks and crevices of a well used cutting board and harbor millions of bacteria that can make you sick. Wash with hot, soapy water then rinse. To disinfect and sanitize, rub a slice of lemon over the cutting board surface, squeezing the lemon juice into the board. Let the citric acid soak into the the board for a few minutes, then rinse and air dry the board. Alternately, wash the board with lemon juice straight from the bottle.
7) Club Soda
Club Soda is water with carbonation and sodium salt added. The carbonation comes from dissolving pressurized carbon dioxide in water.
How to use it:
- Glass Cleaner - To clean glass, simply pour club soda into a spray bottle and spray it on the glass. Wipe clean and dry with a clean cloth. The small amounts of mineral salt in club soda help to soften the water for cleaner windows.
- Stain Remover - There is really no scientific reason that club soda has any special stain removing properties. But people have been using for decades for that purpose. Airline stewardesses offer it up for spills on clothing, wine drinkers use it for red wind carpet spills and mom's everywhere swear by it. If there is a secret to Club Soda it is this: Blot, don't rub the stain. Pour a little Club Soda on the stain, let it soak and blot dry. Keep doing that until the stain is gone.
8) Essential Oils
Essential oils are liquids derived from plants and seeds. These natural oils protect plants from insects, diseases and the environment. They are the essense of plant's ability to to live, grow and adapt. A plant's essential oils also determine the plant's scent. Be sure to buy only natural, not synthetic essential oils.
How to use it:
Buy a few different scents to have a variety on hand for recipes. Suggestions are lemon oil, tea tea oil, eucalyptus, and lavender oil. Most recipes call for 10 or more drops. These are just guidelines and you'll sometimes add more or less to suit. Many of the oils, such as tea tree oil, have natural disinfectant qualities and can actually aid in the cleaning process.
- Air Freshener Spray Mist - Fill a small 8oz spray bottle with water. Add 1Tsp of essential lemon oil. Spritz the area with a fine mist. Be sure to shake the bottle well to mix the oil and water before using.
- Antibacterial Household Spray Cleaner - Add 1 tsp of castile liquid soap to 8 oz spray bottle and fill nearly full with water. Add 1Tsp. of Eucalyptus essential oil. Shake to mix. Spray onto surfaces and wipe dry with clean dry cloth.
Using Eco Friendly Cleaners:
Most of these natural cleaners are effective for mild to moderate cleaning duties. They are not the caustic, abrasive, toxic cleaners that will magically strip every surface they touch of all germs, grease, and stains that heavy duty commercial solvents, bleaches and cleaners will eat through. These eco friendly cleaners will however handle most typical household cleaning jobs effectively, inexpensively and safely.