A clean, decluttered home provides a much-needed sanctuary from the daily grind. It’s hard to fully decompress if your home is dirty or untidy, and the average American worker spends nearly one hour on housework daily in an attempt to keep a clean house. But there’s a misconception that in order to truly clean your home, you’ve got to don rubber gloves and spray harsh chemicals to do it.
In fact, one of the primary reasons for cleaning your home regularly is to clear out the many toxic chemicals that have accumulated in your household dust. Flame-retardant chemicals and phthalates are among them (along with thousands of species of bacteria and fungi).
However, if you clean your home with commercial sprays, wipes, scrubs and polishes, you’re putting toxins into your home environment instead of removing them. The same goes for most laundry detergents, dryer sheets and air fresheners. Even those strong-smelling lemon and pine scents — the ones many people believe are the epitome of a clean home — are created by toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
You needn’t expose yourself or your family to these toxins any longer, as it’s simple to clean your home with nontoxic cleaners. You can even recreate the same “clean” scents you love using essential oils, and your home will smell much better for it while offering you therapeutic benefits at the same time. As an added bonus, by creating your own nontoxic cleaners, you’ll probably save money too, compared to buying commercial cleaning products.
Five Essentials for Your Natural Cleaning Arsenal
Are you ready to ditch your toxic cleaners in favor of a safe, naturally clean home? Go ahead and purge your cabinets of your old cleaning supplies to make room for these natural cleaning essentials. You might find that you have some of them in your kitchen cabinets already:
In preparation for the Statue of Liberty’s 100th anniversary in 1986, 99 years’ worth of coal tar had to be removed from its inner copper walls, without causing damage. Baking soda — more than 100 tons — was the cleaner of choice, so there’s a good chance it can remove dirt and grime around your home too.
Use as a safe non-scratch scrub for metals and porcelain. To clean your oven, sprinkle a cup or more of baking soda over the bottom of the oven, then cover the baking soda with enough water to make a thick paste. Let the mixture set overnight. The next morning, the grease will be easy to wipe up because the grime will have loosened. When you have cleaned up the worst of the mess, dab a bit of liquid detergent or soap on a sponge and wash the remaining residue from the oven. To unclog a drain, pour one-half cup to 1 cup of baking soda down the drain, then slowly pour one-half cup to 1 cup of vinegar in after it. Cover the drain and let it set for 15 minutes. If it bubbles like a volcano, it means it’s working as planned. Flush with a gallon of boiling water. Deodorize dry carpets by sprinkling liberally with baking soda. Wait at least 15 minutes, then vacuum.
Distilled white vinegar has been found to be useful for disinfection against Escherichia coli (E. coli), provided it’s used in a freshly prepared solution of at least 50 percent vinegar.9 For disinfecting, one study found that spraying vinegar, then spraying hydrogen peroxide, was effective for killing a variety of bacteria, including E. coli, listeria and salmonella.10 You can also combine vinegar and water for an excellent window cleaner, or spray it onto a dusting of baking soda to clean your sinks, tubs and tile floors.
Vinegar and water makes a great all-purpose countertop cleaner as well, but for stone counters, use rubbing alcohol or vodka with water instead, as the acidity may harm certain surfaces like marble and granite. For heavier duty cleaning, like mildew on your bathroom grout, spray vinegar straight onto the area, let set for 30 minutes, then scrub with a sponge and warm water.
Lemons, both the juice and peels, can be used throughout your home for cleaning and deodorizing.
Consider the following uses:
Garbage disposal: Freeze lemon slices and vinegar in ice cube trays.
Refrigerator: Soak a sponge in lemon juice and let it set in your fridge for a few hours; it works better than baking soda to remove odors.
Room freshener: Simmer a pot of water and add lemon peels, cloves and cinnamon sticks.
Humidifier: Add lemon juice to the water in your humidifier, then let the machine run for deodorizing.
Breath: Drinking lemon water helps freshen your breath (rinse your mouth with plain water afterward since lemon juice may erode your teeth).
Trash cans: A few lemon peels added to your garbage can will help with odors.
Fireplace: Dried citrus peels can act as kindling in your fireplace, adding a wonderful smell and acting as a flame starter. Simply let the peels set out for a few days before using.
Hands: Add lemon juice while washing your hands with soap to help remove stubborn odors like garlic.
Cat box: Place lemon slices in a bowl near your cat box to help freshen the air.
Cutting boards: Sprinkle coarse salt on your cutting board then rub with a cut lemon to freshen and remove grease. This trick also works for wooden salad bowls and rolling pins.
Furniture polish: Combine lemon oil, lemon juice, and olive or jojoba oil to make a homemade furniture polish. Simply buff with a cloth.
Windows: Lemon juice cuts through grease and grime on windows and glass. Try combining it with cornstarch, vinegar and water for a phenomenal window cleaner.
Coffee maker: Run a cycle with plain water, then add a mixture of lemon juice and water to the water tank. Let it set then run the cycle through.
Hardwood floors: Combine lemon and vinegar to make a grime-fighting nontoxic floor cleaner.
All-purpose cleaner: Combine water, baking soda, vinegar, lemon and lemon essential oil for a wonderful kitchen or bathroom cleaner.
Castile soap is natural, biodegradable and chemical-free, plus incredibly versatile (as are most natural cleaning supplies). You can use it for personal care, laundry and cleaning around your home. For instance, mixing baking soda with a small amount of liquid castile soap makes an excellent paste for cleaning your tub and shower.
For a homemade antibacterial solution, mix 2 cups of water with 3 tablespoons of castile soap and 20 to 30 drops of tea tree oil. Spray onto the surface (such as toilet seat and sink), then wipe off. You can even make a homemade dishwasher detergent by mixing equal parts of liquid castile soap and water.
Antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal compounds in coconut oil have been shown to inactivate microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast and fungi. Around the home, coconut oil is particularly useful for cleaning, sanitizing and conditioning wood items, such as cutting boards and furniture, but you can also use it for lubricating squeaky hinges and sticky mechanisms instead of WD-40.
It also works well for moisturizing and softening leather goods in lieu of leather conditioners and for removing chewing gum from virtually any area, including carpets and hair.
Homemade Natural Laundry Detergent
6 cups washing soda
3 bars coconut oil soap (4.5 to 5 ounces each)
Lemon essential oil (optional)
Cut soap into small chunks. Add to a food processor along with the washing soda. Blend until you have a fine powder. You may want to lay a dish towel over the top of your food processor to prevent a fine mist of powder from floating into the air. Also, let it settle a bit before opening the container or the powder will float onto your kitchen counter! Pour into a clean container (keep the essential oil next to the jar and add five drops with each load)