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Walk the cleaning aisle of any major grocery store and you’ll find a chemical cocktail to remedy every conceivable household mess.  

Got a clog? Dump a bottle of solvent down the drain. Baked-on oven scum? There’s an aerosol for that. Funky smelling sports gear? “Freshen” it up with a misty veil of fresh linen fragrance.

It all begs the question: what’s in this stuff, anyway? Which chemicals are we flushing into our water systems? And what fumes are we ingesting into our bodies while doing so?

According to a study by the Environmental Working Group that examined 2,000 popular household cleaning products, just seven per cent adequately disclosed their contents. What’s more, 53 per cent contained ingredients known to be harmful to the lungs.

Not so long ago, before multi-national personal care corporations colonized grocery stores, a very simple list of simple, even food-grade, ingredients did the trick for most household messes – safely and effectively.

Here are 35 eco-friendly home cleaning hacks you wish you knew sooner.

  

Table of Contents

3 DIY All-Purpose Cleaners to Keep on Hand

bathroom

Remarkably, most household messes can be resolved using three do-it-yourself cleaners:

A Castile soap, all-purpose cleaner

Combine 1.5 litres (6 cups) water with 60 ml (1/4 cup) liquid Castile soap. Optional: Add 10-12 drops of essential oils (lemon, thyme or lavender are good options) for scent. Store in a glass spray bottle, label with the date and keep in a cool place. This blend will last for about six months. 

What is Castile soap? Castile soap is considered natural because it is an oil-based soap that comes in liquid or bar form. It can be made of coconut, hemp, sunflower seed, jojoba and olive, but take special care to avoid ones made from palm oil unless you can be sure it was sustainably harvested. 
  

An all-purpose baking soda scouring paste

Mix 420 ml (1-2/3 cups) baking soda with 60 ml (1/4 cup) liquid castile soap and 60 ml (1/4 cup) water. Apply the paste where needed and allow it to set for 15 minutes before wiping clean. 

Why is baking soda such a good household cleaner? Baking soda, aka sodium bicarbonate, causes dirt and grease to dissolve in water, making it an effective mildly abrasive cleaner for stain removal and tough grime. It also neutralizes acids and bases, meaning it eliminates odors, rather than just covering them up.   
  

Vinegar and water

Blending vinegar and water means never needing a commercial glass cleaner again. It also serves a good general disinfectant especially when lemon is added. 

To make, simply combine equal parts white vingear with water. (Ex: 250 ml: 250 ml.) 

Why is vinegar effective? Vinegar is a by-product of plant fermentation and contains 5 to 10% acetic acid which is an effective solution for breaking down grease and mold while hindering the growth of some bacteria.

Caution:

  • Never mix vinegar with bleach (it produces a toxic chlorine gas).
  • While not dangerous, don’t add a natural soap to vinegar; it will which render the soap ineffective.
  • Do not use vinegar on natural stone (like marble or granite countertops), waxed wood or cast iron.
  • Use vinegar sparingly on tile with exposed grout; prolonged exposure can degrade it.

Tips: To create a stronger cleaning concentration, reduce the volume of water, purchase a vinegar with higher acidity (7-12% acetic acid) and let the mixture sit for 15 minutes before scrubbing.

Blogger who mastered this eco-friendly cleaning hack
If you find the aroma of vinegar to be pungent, check out Chris from Joybilee Farm's recipe for homemade lemon vinegar cleaner or navigate to Tori Avey's website for a concentrated natural homemade citrus all purpose cleanser
   

Avoid this common cleaning with vinegar mistake 

Surf the internet for natural cleaning remedies and you'll find many people recommending that Castile soap be mixed with vinegar or vinegar be blended with baking soda. While not dangerous, these two combinations will render the active ingredients in soap or baking soda less effective than when used alone. 

   

Eco-Friendly Hacks for Kitchen Clean-Ups

Kitchen

35. Cleaner counters and cupboards

For daily messes, use a Castile soap-based, all-purpose cleaner to wipe cupboards and counter tops clean. To remove stains, apply a baking soda scouring paste. Wait 15 minutes and wipe away. 
  

34. Clean stainless-steel appliances

Wipe dishwasher, fridge, range hoods and exterior microwave surfaces with a cloth and undiluted white vinegar for a streak-free finish. 

33. Clean a greasy range hood

Fight stubborn oil splatters with oil. (Yep, you heard that right.)  Use an absorbent cloth and a natural vegetable oil to tackle grease. Dry, and then give it a once-over with the Castile soap-based, all-purpose cleaner or undiluted vinegar if the hood is stainless-steel.

32. Disinfect or remove food stains from a wood cutting board or butcher block

cutting boardRyan Christodoulou

To disinfect a wood work surface, slice and wipe it with a lemon. For deep-set stains, apply a lemon juice soak treatment for 10 minutes. Rinse and air-dry.

Tip: To preserve the longevity of your wood cutting board and utensils, never put them in the dishwasher.

Blogger who mastered this eco-friendly cleaning hack
Katja from Savory Lotus adds apple cider vinegar to her method. Swipe her recipe here: How to sanitize your wooden cutting boards naturally
  

31. Clean the kitchen sink

kitchen sink

The kitchen sink is ground zero for bacteria build-up. If you haven’t already, ditch the traditional kitchen sponge, which has been revealed to be one of the most germ-concentrated places of a home.

For stainless steel sinks – Use an absorbent cloth to wipe down all surfaces with baking soda. Rinse the sink and then dry with a cloth.

Porcelain or enamel cast iron sinks – Sprinkle a liberal amount of baking soda or washing soda onto a dry sink and then use a damp, non-abrasive pad to wipe clean.

Bloggers who mastered this eco-friendly cleaning hack
Feel like you might need some extra cleaning power? Enter hydrogen peroxide. Kimberly from Get Green Be Well shows us How to Naturally Kill Germs in a Kitchen Sink while Kim from Yellow Brick Home explains How to clean a white enamel sink (safely and naturally).
    

30. Sanitize a surface

counter

Combine 10 ml (2 teaspoons) of Borax (see Is Borax safe? note below), 60 ml (4 tablespoons) vinegar and 750 ml (3 cups) hot water in a spray bottle. Note: this is not an antibaterial formula; most kitchens and bathrooms do not require antibacterial cleaners. Spray and wipe clean, rinsing with water. 

Blogger who mastered this eco-friendly cleaning hack
Alternatively, use a Castile soap or do as Kimberly from Get Green Be Well does, using vinegar and hydrogen peroxide in two separate steps. (Remember: never mix the two in one container.)
  

29. Fix garburator funk

Deodorize a garburator by tossing some citrus peels into a running unit.
  

28. Clean the microwave

Slice a lemon in half and squeeze the juice into a microwave-safe bowl or measuring cup. Add 125 ml (1/2 cup) of water and microwave for 3 to 5 minutes (depending on the strength of the appliance) until the water comes to a boil. Keep the door closed for another 5 minutes; the steam will loosen caked-on debris. Wipe with a microfibre or absorbent cloth.

Bloggers who mastered this eco-friendly cleaning hack
See how Erika from Living Well Mom speed cleans her microwave, the natural way: The Quick & Easy, All-Natural Way to Clean Your Microwave. Or, check out Petro's before and after pictures using the lemon-steam method: Brilliant Natural Ways to Clean Microwave Ovens
  

27. Clean a glass-top or ceramic stove

Wiping down a stove top with water and a gentle natural soap (like Castile soap) should work fine for day-to-day cooking, but for tougher messes, sprinkle with baking soda and cover with a damp dish towel. Wait 30 minutes then wipe away.  

Blogger who mastered this eco-friendly cleaning hack
See how Kimber from The Pinning Mama cleans her gas range: 3 Ingredient Miracle Stove Top Cleaner
   

26. Tackle baked-on oven messes (the natural way)

Commercial oven cleaning solutions are some of the most toxic consumer cleaning products on the grocery store shelf. Making the switch to a natural product will not be without effort, but you will breathe easier. Lessen the amount of elbow grease needed by leveraging time and moisture.

First, use a natural sponge or spray bottle to wet all of the oven’s surfaces. Then, apply a thick paste of baking soda (175ml; 3/4 cup), salt (60 ml; 1/4 cup) and water (60 ml; 1/4 cup) water to the interior surfaces. Let the mixture set overnight. Scrape the paste away with a spatula and wipe with a cloth. Spot clean any remaining caked-on debris with a steel wool pad. Rinse. 

Blogger who mastered this eco-friendly cleaning hack:
See Kait from Hello Nest break down how she cleans the oven, step by step: DIY Natural Oven Cleaner - Avoid Toxic Fumes.
   

25. Raid – and refresh – your refrigerator

fridge

Empty the fridge of its ingredients, checking expiration dates and removing drawers and shelves. Use the Castile soap-based, all-purpose cleaner to wipe away any messes. Refer to the “greasy range hood” section above for oil-based spills.

To remove food stains and rust residue, add water to baking soda to create a thick paste. Spot apply to stains and let it sit for 10 minutes before wiping away.

If the exterior of your fridge is stainless steel, use undiluted vinegar for a streak-free finish.

To deodorize residual fridge funk, store an open box of baking soda in the refrigerator, changing it every few months as needed.

Tip: To cut down on odors, consider how you’re storing fragrant items like sliced onions, soft cheesees or cooked leftovers. Use containers with seal-tight lids and avoid plastic containers which absorb odors.

Bloggers who mastered this eco-friendly cleaning hack:
Militza from Little Green Dot shows us how she blends a thick scouring scrub in her post Recipe: Natural Fridge CleanersTo dive deep into cleaning the coils (which can improve the efficiency of the unit), navigate to Kait from A Clean Bee's article: How to Deep Clean Your Fridge
   

24. Deodorize a garbage can

Fill the bin with warm water and baking soda; soak overnight. Empty and dry.

Tip: Raw protein and seafood packaging will quickly stink up a garbage bin. Rather than disposing of such items in your kitchen bin, immediately bring them to your building’s dumpster or trash them in the garage.
  

23. Floors that sparkle

Once sweeping or vacuuming away large debris and dust, combine the following solutions and mop away.

For vinyl and linoleum: Mix 250 ml (1 cup) of white vinegar and 2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) olive oil in 4 litres (one gallon) of warm water. Since linoleum is more susceptible to moisture, apply the solution sparingly. (No need to worry about vinyl which is a non-porous synthetic.)

For wood flooring: Mix 60 ml (1/4 cup) white vinegar with two litres (half a gallon) of warm water. Spot-test a small area before to ensure no adverse effect. Only a mildly damp mop is necessary for routine cleaning. To hand-polish a wood surface, mix equal parts vegetable oil with vinegar; rub well.

For stone tiles: Blend 250 ml (1 cup) white vinegar in 4 litres (one gallon) of water. After mopping, rinse with clear water.  

Bloggers who mastered this eco-friendly cleaning hack
5 Earth-Friendly Ways to Clean Your Hardwood Floors by Miko at The Budget Mom
How to Clean Hardwood Floors Without Vinegar by Becky at Clean Mama
  

22. Cleanse a kettle

Bring 500 ml (2 cups) of water and 60 ml (1/4 cup) white vinegar to a boil. Once cool, wipe the kettle with a cloth and rinse well with water.

Blogger who mastered this eco-friendly cleaning hack
Watch as Lynne from New Mummy Blog gets it done in her post How to descale the kettle with vinegar  
  

21. Prepare fruit and vegetables

carrots

Using a large bowl or your sink, combine a litre of water (4 cups) with 330 ml (1-1/3 cups) white vinegar and 15 ml (1 tbsp) of salt. (If you need to double the volume, simply maintain the same ratio.) Soak thin skin produce like blueberries and leafy greens for 5 minutes; leave hardier produce like apples, squash and broccoli for 10 minutes. Rinse thoroughly.

Blogger who mastered this eco-friendly cleaning hack
Here's how Tiffany from Don't Waste the Crumbs ensures her fruits and veggies are pesticide-free before consuming: 9 Ways to Wash Produce Naturally. 
  

Is Borax safe? 

Borax, aka sodium borate, is a naturally occurring alkaline mineral salt and has historically been used as a popular cleaning agent. However, just because something is naturally occurring, doesn’t mean it is necessarily harmless. Read Wellness Mama’s deep dive here. The long and the short of it? Borax is not a food-grade ingredient, and undiluted, it can irritate the skin. 

   

Eco-Friendly Cleaning Hacks for Sparkling Bathrooms

clean bathroom

20. Clean a toilet bowl

Spray the bowl with the Castile soap-based, all-purpose cleaner described above. Let it sit for a few minutes, if you feel necessary, before cleaning with a brush. For a deeper clean, sprinkle with baking or washing soda before using a scrub brush to work away build-up; flush to rinse.
  

19. Spotless showers

For routine cleaning of shower stall panels, chrome fixtures and water deposits, the Castile soap-based, all-purpose cleaner should do the trick.

For glass shower panels or doors, simply mix equal parts white vinegar and water. (Do not add essential oils as they will leave streaks.)

To banish deep-set grime, mix an all-purpose scour: 420 ml (1-2/3 cups) baking soda 60 ml (1/4 cup) liquid Castile soap and 60 ml (1/4 cup) water. Apply the paste where needed and allow it to set for 15 minutes before wiping clean. 

Tip: Keep a handheld squeegee in your shower. Wicking away water that would otherwise linger reduces soap scum buildup and water marks. It also means that when the time comes to deep clean your shower, it’ll require less elbow grease. 

Bloggers who mastered this eco-friendly cleaning hack
See how Becky from Clean Mama tackles showers instead with vodka: Lavender + Lemon Bathroom Disinfecting Spray. Then watch how YouTuber Rachel Talbott makes "fizzy bombs" and a DIY toilet deodorizer: DIY Natural Bathroom Cleaning Tips.
  

18. For bathtub and tile

tub

For routine tub cleaning, dampen a cloth or natural sponge with baking soda and water; wipe each surface and rinse clean with water.

For a deeper clean, first spray and wipe surfaces with the Castile soap-based, all-purpose cleaner.

To treat stains and water rings, wet baking soda or washing soda into a paste. Apply and let sit for 10 minutes before wiping away.

Blogger who mastered this eco-friendly cleaning hack
Swipe Kathryn from Going Zero Waste's DIY Tub Scrub or Bren's Non-Toxic No Scrub Shower Cleaner
    

17. Bathroom mold and mildew deterrent

Mix one-part hydrogen peroxide (3% solution) with two-parts water. Spray the affected area and leave it for 60 minutes before rinsing. A gentle scrub with a non-abrasive sponge may be required.
   

16. Banish limescale

Halve a lemon and squeeze the juice onto areas of limescale. Let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes before wiping clean with a damp cloth.
  

15. Mirror cleaning solution

Combine 125 ml (1/2 cup) white vinegar and 125 ml (1/2 cup) water into a spray bottle. (Don’t forget to label if storing the excess for later.) To use, spray the mirror and clean with a reusable cloth.  

Bloggers who mastered this eco-friendly cleaning hack
Crunchy Betty tests three different mirror cleaning methods: Battle of the Homemade Glass Cleaners while Kristin from Live Simply reveals her recipe for How to Make Homemade Glass and Mirror Cleaner
  

14. Clear a clogged drain

sink empty drain

For routine drain clearing, mix 125 ml (1/2 cup) salt with 4 litres (one gallon) of water in a pot; heat but not to a boil. Pour down the drain.

To create a stronger concentration for a clog in metal pipes, pour 125 ml (1/2 cup) baking soda down the drain, and then 125 ml (1/2 cup). Leave it for 15 minutes so the two-ingredient chemical reaction can break down fatty acids. Then, slowly pour boiling water down the drain to wash away the clog. Caution: Do not attempt this method if you have already tried a commercial drain cleaning product; combining vinegar with various chemical compounds can produce toxic fumes.

If you feel the clog demands more than the remedies above, consider an eco-friendly commercial product like Citra Solv which uses natural enzymes to break down troublesome clogs.

Tip 1: Use a simple plumbing snake to manually provoke the clog.

Tip 2: The best strategy for free-flowing drains is a preventative approach. The most notorious culprit is of course, hair, which can bind with grease and soap scum to form a clog. One simple fix is using a silicone drain cover or Tub Shroom hair catcher.

   

Eco-Friendly Laundry Tips

laundry

13. Deodorize a musty washing machine

How is it that an appliance that requires soap during every use can develop a funk? A few reasons, as it turns out.

First, people tend to use more detergent than needed. Residual soap scum builds up in the drum – which attracts dirt particles – and over time, creates a mildew odor. Second, if you’re using a front-loading washer (which requires less water than a top-loading model) there’s less water volume to wash away the excess detergent.

To deodorize your washing machine, mix 60 ml (1/4 cup) baking soda with 60 ml (1/4 cup) water. Stir the solution until smooth and pour into the detergent drawer. Next, pour 500 ml (2 cups) of white vinegar into the drum. Run an empty load on a high heat cycle.

Tip: As a preventative effort, try to keep the drum as dry as possible. Don’t let a wet load of laundry sit for hours/overnight and leave the door ajar or open while not in use.
  

12. Choose an eco-friendly laundry detergent  

tru earth

First and foremost, the laundry detergent you use should be as sensitive on your skin as it is on the environment. Tru Earth Eco-Strips are ultra-concentrated, hypoallergenic, biodegradable cleaning power packed into a tiny, pre-measured strip of liquidless laundry detergent that you just toss in the wash. Plus, they come in a plastic-free compostable cardboard sleeve.

Bloggers who mastered this eco-friendly cleaning hack
Watch a brutally honest review by Kristen from the Strolling Through Life YouTube channel or read what Jonathan had to say about Tru Earth Eco-Strips on Reviewed.com
  

11. Wool dyer balls 

dyer balls

If you don’t have the ability to air dry your laundry, the addition of a few wool dryer balls can improve the efficiency of your dryer while reducing static cling – all while lowering your energy bill. How do they work? The wool balls help improve air flow in the dryer while absorbing moisture. Plus, linens and towels don’t get as twisted mid-cycle. Use three or four for drying smaller loads and five to six for larger ones. 

Tip: When shopping for dryer balls, look for those made with organic wool and those sized larger than a tennis ball. 

Blogger who mastered this eco-friendly cleaning hack
For more chemical-free alternatives to conventional dryer sheets, check out this post from Good Girl Gone Green: 7 Alternatives to Conventional Dryer Sheets.
   

Eco-Friendly General Home Cleaning Hacks

living room

10. Spotless, streak-free windows

Combine 125 ml (1/2 cup) white vinegar and 125 ml (1/2 cup) water into a spray bottle. (Don’t forget to label if you’re saving the excess.) To clean, spray the window and wipe with newspaper. Don’t have newspaper on hand? A squeegee, cellulose sponge or cloth (cotton, hemp or bamboo) will work, too.

Note: Microfibre clothes are extremely effective for streak-free windows and mirrors, but they are perhaps not as environmentally friendly as you think. Watch: The Story of Microfibers.

Tip: Clean windows on a cloudy day or when the window is cool to the touch. Cleaning on a sunny day is apt to leave streaks.
   

9. Fix pet bed funk

First, check the bed for a tag containing laundering instructions.

To deodorize, sprinkle with baking soda and let it sit for two hours before vacuuming.

For daily scent defense, dilute 5 ml (1 tsp) of baking soda into a 250 ml (1 cup) of warm water in a spray bottle. Add 2-4 drops of tea tree oil (a natural disinfectant) and mist the bed daily.

Blogger who mastered this eco-friendly cleaning hack
Check out Kim from Get Well Be Well's recipe for a DIY Natural Odor Eliminator Spray which includes suggested blends of essential oils.
   

8. Deodorize a litter box

Many litter boxes are made of plastic, and plastic easily absorbs smells. To deodorize a litter box, use the same strategy as cleaning a garbage bin: fill with warm water and baking soda, soaking for a few hours before emptying and drying. Before refilling with litter, sprinkle a layer of baking soda on the bottom of the box. No need to worry if this is safe; baking soda is non-toxic to humans and pets.
    

7. Cleanse a sweaty yoga mat

Yoga Mat

Use your handy Castile soap-based, all-purpose cleaner to wipe down a well-loved yoga mat. Air dry.

Blogger who mastered this eco-friendly cleaning hack
Davida from The Healthy Maven takes her cleanser a step further. Check out her recipe which calls for witch hazel and essential oils: DIY Yoga Mat Spray.
  

6. Buff out a wall scuff

Between furniture bumps and artistic toddlers, a home’s painted interior walls can take a beating. To remove spots and marks, gently rub baking soda onto the spot with a damp sponge. Wipe and rinse to finish. For tougher jobs, substitute baking soda for washing soda.
  

5. Sofas & upholstery

yoga mat

The most important course of action is treating spills with haste.

First, inspect the sofa for a label which will indicate the appropriate cleaning method. The most common are “W,” meaning you can use water, and “S,” which means solvents only (i.e. dry clean only).

For upholstery that is water tolerant, first blot the stain with a dry cloth. (Avoid rubbing!)

Side note: If you’ve spilled an oil-based substance, sprinkle cornstarch and wait for it to absorb the moisture; 30 minutes later, vacuum it up. 

Next, blot the stain with a damp cloth; again, avoid rubbing. Apply a small amount of soap or water and vinegar. Blot with a barely wet sponge. Rinse the soap from the sponge and use water to blot again, as required.

Finally, blot the wet spot with clean, dry towels.

Tip: For seriously tough spills (think: tomato-based foods, black ink or wine), you might want to consider a green spot cleaner.
   

4. Mix a carpet stain remover

Combine equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle; apply directly to dilute the stain, leaving it for 5 minutes. Mix a small bowl of warm soapy water and then spot clean with a scrub brush.

Side note: If the stain is oil-based, sprinkle the spot with cornstarch. Wait 20 to 30 minutes before vacuuming.

Should the stain demand a tougher treatment, you might consider mixing 60 ml (1/4 cup) salt with Borax* and vinegar to form a paste. Let the paste sit for two hours. Remove and wipe clean with a damp cloth.  
  

3. Deodorize carpet

Sprinkle baking soda onto an already vacuum-cleaned carpet and let sit for two hours. Vacuum away the powder. Optional: Finish by spraying with a homemade linen spray.
  

2. Blend a homemade linen spray

lavender

We hope odor eliminating aerosol sprays will soon become a thing of the past. (Laden funky textiles with a blanket of chemicals? Yuck.)

Linen sprays are simple to make, delicious smelling and even boast microbial properties.

What you’ll need: Vodka (seriously!), organic lavender essential oil, water, a spray bottle. Optional: Funnel. Alos, you can use witch hazel as a vodka substitute.

Blend 30 drops of lavender essential oil with 90 ml (3 ounces) of vodka. Shake well before adding 250 ml (1 cup) of water.

Why is alcohol necessary? The essential oil will not distribute into the water alone but will when diluted by the alcohol.

Tip: Use linen sprays to freshen towels, robes, pillowcases, upholstery, carpets, pillowcases, drapes and more.

Alternate scents/oils: Lemon, fir, cypress, chamomile, peppermint.

Bloggers who mastered this eco-friendly cleaning hack
Peruse Stephanie from Hello Nest's DIY Lavender Linen Spray Recipe or Elsie from A Beautiful Mess' DIY Natural Room Freshener.
  

1. DIY moth deterrents

Mothballs, which are used to control moths, silverfish and fibre pests, are commonly made with naphthalene and paradichlorobenzene – both of which are toxic to pets and humans. Luckily, making a moth-repelling sachet is easy to do.

Simply use a cheesecloth square to wrap aromatic cedar chips, which can be purchased at a craft or hardware store. Dried lemon peel can also be an effective natural deterrent. Assemble in a cheesecloth and hang in a closet or toss into a drawer.

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Eco-Friendly Cleaning Ingredient Shopping List

   

Using Essential Oils: How to Get Started

essential oil

Adding essential oils to a Castile soap-based, all-purpose cleaner not only adds a lovely aroma (some people are averse to the smell of diluted vinegar), but some oils have antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal qualities. (Think: lemon, orange, tea tree, lavender, eucalyptus and lemongrass.) However, undiluted essential oils can be a skin irritant (with the exception of lavender and tea tree) and contraindications exist.

Review Escents Aromatherapy’s Introduction to Essential Oils guideline and always use according to the packaged instructions. For a crash course on blending essential oils, Stephanie from Good Girl Goes Green breaks down recommended base, middle and top notes in her post How to Blend Essential Oils

   

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