At our house, we use few conventional cleaning agents. We started making the shift about two years ago for several reasons, including 1) we are concerned about the environment; 2) I am frugal and conventional cleaning products are expensive; 3) I’m very sensitive to smells.
I don’t know that I have any revolutionary ideas about cleaning products, but here’s my round-up:
All-Purpose Cleaning: I use vinegar and water as a replacement for Windex, Formula 409, Fantastik etc.
Scrubbing: Baking soda (just shaken out of the box and onto the surface I’m cleaning) replaces Comet, Scrubbing Bubbles, Ajax, Soft Scrub, etc.
Carpet: I use rubbing alcohol as a spot remover and baking soda as a deodorizer, the former may be left on to dry but latter must be vacuumed up.
Grout: First I try spraying on hydrogen peroxide to remove mildew stains. If it doesn’t work, I admit that I use bleach. This is neither good for the environment nor our health, but technically it is a natural cleaner. Chlorine is an element, atomic number 17.
Laundry Pre-Treatment: Phosphate-free dish soap works well for most spots. (Note: Many of the conventional dish soaps contain no phosphates now. The bottle under my sink now is original scent Dawn. You don’t always have to pay for the more expensive “green” cleaners; some of the old stand-bys are getting on board.) For blood stains, I use hydrogen peroxide.
Dusting: I mostly just use a damp rag/microfiber cloth. If something really needs polishing, I’ll use olive oil shaken up with a few drops of lemon juice.
Air Freshening: Usually I just open the windows, but for stronger odors or rooms without a window (my bathroom, for instance) I’ll light a match and kind of wave it around until it burns out. If you have musty rooms from being shut up (like basements or attics) laying pieces of charcoal around helps to absorb all the odors.
Microwave: Heat up a bowl of water with half a lemon in it for one minute. Remove the bowl and scrub.
Garbage Disposal: I either dump a bunch of baking soda down the drain and then pour a whole kettle of boiling water after it, or I run citrus peels through the disposal.
Floors: I use a bucket of hot water.
That’s it. My cleaning products consist mostly of hot water, vinegar, baking soda, dish soap, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and lemon. However, I think the all time best cleaning product is elbow grease. Most things can be cleaned with nothing more than hot water and scrubbing. Nothing is more frugal or more environmentally friendly than elbow grease either. That being said, the right tools make cleaning with all that elbow grease easier.
My favorite tools are my Beastie Boys CD, all-surface sponges (the scrubbing side won’t scratch non-stick pans, tiles, or the enamel on your bathtub), Chore Boy stainless steel scrubbers, rags, stiff bristle brushes (for carpet and bathtub), old toothbrushes, Magic Erasers (my newest love especially when I'm cleaning the stovetop), a broom, and my Eureka SmartVac. (Seriously, it’s a better vacuum than a Dyson and costs only a fraction of the price.) I didn’t include a mop because I prefer to clean the floors by hand. I think it takes the same amount of time and does a better job, but we do own a mop because my husband prefers it.
To learn more about natural cleaning, check out the carnival going on at Passionate Homemaking or Katie’s green cleaning tips.