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Home Ec: DIY Green Cleaning Recipes & Tips

Everything you need to get a great, green, healthy clean with simple ingredients & recipes

You can tackle nearly every cleaning need in the house with four basic ingredients: baking soda, white vinegar, salt, and either borax or your favourite oxygen-based (non chlorine) cleaner for the really tough stuff.  I also recommend a gentle soap (like Dr. Bronner’s) and a few of your favourite essential oils (tea tree being a great one with antibacterial and antiseptic properties and lavender being particularly gentle and pleasant-smelling).

More about green cleaning ingredients

  • White distilled vinegar can disinfect, deodorize, and dissolve tarnish and gummy substances. It can be used for everything from softening cotton diapers to cleaning your hardwood floors.
  • Lemon juice can cut through grease, lighten stains, and polish metal.
  • Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) can eliminate odors and be used as a cleaner. It is good on the sink, tub, oven, and countertop. Sprinkle it on the carpet and vacuum to remove odors. Clean drains by pouring 1?2 cub baking soda down the drain followed by 1 cup vinegar, wait 15 minutes and then pour hot water down.
  • Washing soda (sodium carbonate) can be found at just about any hardware store and is more alkaline than baking soda and can be used instead of harsh chemicals for extra-stubborn stains or greasy ovens.
  • Borax (sodium tetraborate) can be used to kill mold. (Borax is toxic when swallowed, so exercise caution.) Combine it with equal parts vinegar to make a mildew and mold-zapping paste. You can also pour 1 cup of borax into the toilet and leave overnight for extra-strength cleaning.
  • Oxygen-based whiteners (hydrogen peroxide and sodium percarbonate or perborate) are chlorine-free bleaches that are great for removing stains on clothes or hard surfaces and are much safer than bleach (still handle with caution and don’t ingest). For really resistant stains, rub the powder version into the cloth or surface and then add boiling water and let it sit. This has worked time and again on my daughter’s favorite dresses and on the weird, grime-y stains that plague my countertops and porcelain sinks.)
  • Essential oils e.g. tea tree oil or lavender can be used to mask smells or even kill germs in a load of laundry. Use sparingly (2 or 3 drops) and never ingest. Remember, almost anything with “fragrance or parfum” listed as an ingredient contains phthalates or other chemicals harmful to human health.

Simple Green Cleaning Recipes

Carly Fauth’s All Purpose Spray Cleaner
Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle.  Shake it up and you’re ready to clean.  The only surface I wouldn’t use it on is marble. (Carly Fauth is a Green Mama contributor with great recipes and tips.)

To make this a disinfectant spray….

Warm white vinegar to 55°C (130°F) and put immediately in a spray bottle. If using immediately, it need only sit a minute, or if using later let it sit for 10 minutes before wiping. (NOTE: Do not use vinegar on marble surfaces.)

Sink, bathtub, stovetop, and oven scrub and all-purpose paste. Mix a paste of baking soda, a squirt of castile or dish soap, and a squeeze of lemon. Try for the consistency of frosting. Apply to surface and scrub with a sponge or brush. Keeps well in a small jar.

Burnt pot cleaner and oven degreaser and drain cleaner. Mix equal parts vinegar and baking soda. It will fuzz like crazy! Follow this with hot water if using on a surface. When using in an oven, hea, put the mixture in a pan and heat the oven to a low temperature. In a pot, cook on the stove. In a drain, sprinkle the baking soda in and follow by vinegar and then hot water. It’s magic and nontoxic! (Don’t combine with bleach. Yuck!)

All Purpose Cleaning Soap. Mix a really gentle castile soap, like Dr. Bronner’s, with warm water. Use a clean sponge, rags, or a brush, and scrub! One cup of soap in 3.8 litres (1 gallon) of water is a good concentration for walls, floors, and counters. One part castile soap to one part water in a foaming pump is perfect for washing hands.

Carly Fauth’s Favourite Glass/Window Cleaner. Combine 1/3 cup vinegar, 1 tsp of your favorite liquid soap and 2 cups of water in to a spray bottle.  Shake and you’re ready to clean!

Rug Deodorizer.
Sprinkle baking soda on the carpet or rug.  Vacuum after 30-40 minutes.

Scouring Powder. Mix 1 part baking soda, 1 part salt, and 1 part borax powder in a jar: close the lid and shake. Lightly wet surface and sprinkle or use with a moist sponge or brush. Scrub and rinse.

Mirror, glass, and shiny silver faucet cleaner. Mix 2 teaspoonfuls of white vinegar with 1 litre (1 quart) water in a spray bottle. Use old newspapers to wipe the surface, as they won’t streak the glass or leave lint.

Stain remover (for clothing or porcelain). Sprinkle an oxygen-based powder (like OxiClean) on the stain, pour boiling water over it. Let sit for 10 minutes, then simply scrub the stain away. It works miracles!

Wall stain remover (This one’s great for when your child creates a Picasso in your hallway.) Simply mix Dr. Bronner’s or a similar mild soap with a lot of baking soda on a wet sponge and scrub like crazy.

Air freshener. You want to get rid of odours, not mask them. Leave little bowls of baking soda in the bathroom, clothes closet, and other offending areas. A number
of essential oils have antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties — and they smell good! Good ones to try in your cleaning recipes include: tea tree, lavender, lemon, grapefruit, eucalyptus, peppermint, and rosemary. Fill a spray bottle with water and a few drops of essential oil and spray in stinky places like the bathroom, near the diaper pail, or in the closet where the hockey gear lives.

Rug deodorizer. Sprinkle baking soda on the carpet or rug. Let it sit for 30 minutes, then vacuum up.


By The Green Mama, Manda Aufochs Gillespie. Photo courtesy of Vanessa Filley of Moira & Obbie.