Tackling spring-cleaning this month? Us too. But there's no sense in doing it if you're going to create a big mess for the planet (and your body) in the process. Cleaning up your act isn't as straightforward as running to the pharmacy and picking out a bottle covered in claims of eco-friendliness and biodegradability, however. When it comes to home cleaning products a lot of eco claims are unverified and—worse—unverifiable, with rare exceptions like Seventh Generation.
Instead of wondering what kinds of toxic chemicals you're flushing down the toilet or dumping down the drain every time you decide your apartment's gotten a little grungy, stock up on a few things listed below, and keep these easy recipes handy. You'll probably notice you already have a lot of these ingredients in your house, and the ones you don't are way cheaper than any pre-made, environmentally unsound cleaner you can buy at the store.
What you'll need: White vinegar (kills most mold, bacteria, and germs); baking soda (deodorizes, scours surfaces, and is a natural cleaning agent); lemon juice (it has antibacterial and antiseptic qualities, is a natural bleach, and it controls odors); olive oil (polishes); salt (scours, cleans, and deodorizes); tea tree oil (kills germs); hydrogen peroxide (kills bacteria and mold); pure castile soap, such as Dr. Bronner’s (cleanses); empty spray bottles and reusable rags; essential oils you like the smell of.
All-purpose cleaner. Equal parts vinegar and water. The vinegar smell dissipates as soon as it dries, but if it bothers you add a few drops of lemon juice. Put into a spray bottle and use for almost all of your cleaning.
Windows and mirror cleaner. Pour a quarter of a cup of vinegar in a spray bottle, and fill the rest with with warm water. A bit of Eucalyptus oil rubbed on the mirrors will prevent them from fogging up.
Floor soap. Fill a bucket with warm or hot water, add a quarter of a cup of vinegar and a dash of castile soap. Dunk your rag in the bucket, ring out, and wipe down the floors.
Carpet deodorizer. For general cleaning on light colored rugs, sprinkle baking soda before you vacuum. For stains, mix equal parts borax or baking soda, salt, and white vinegar. Apply the paste to the stain and let dry, then vacuum.
Tubs, countertops, and sink scrub. Mix baking soda with a bit of castile soap. You can add an essential oil for fragrance if you’d like. Scrub and rinse.
Oven cleaner. Combone three parts baking soda, one part salt, and one part water. Spread the mixture across the oven surface and let sit for eight hours. Scrape and wipe clean.
Natural drain cleaner. Take a half a cup of baking soda and pour it down the drain, followed by half a cup of vinegar. Let it fizz, then flush with hot water.
Wood cleaner. Mix two parts olive oil with one part lemon juice. Rub the mixture into the furniture with a soft cloth and wipe away excess.
Moldy grout remover. Mix a half a cup of hydrogen peroxide with one cup of water. Spray it on the moldy area, let it sit for 1 hour, and rinse.
Shower spray. Fill a spray bottle with water and five to 10 drops of tea tree oil. Keep this in your shower. Shake up and spray after each shower. This will keep mold and mildew at bay. Replace it biweekly.
Toilet. Mix a quarter of a cup of baking soda with one cup of vinegar. Pour the liquid into the basin and let sit for a few minutes. Scrub and flush.
Stainless steel polish. Rub a little olive oil on the surface to remove streaks and prints.
Marble, granite, or stone countertop cleaner. These materials require a different cleanser because the acidity of vinegar can etch the surface. Instead, substitute rubbing alcohol or vodka for vinegar in your all-purpose cleaner.
Air freshener. Simmer a pot of water with cinnamon sticks and cloves or and a few drops of an essential oil you like on the stove.