Cleaning brings a sense of renewal and revitalization (sprinkled with a healthy doze of self-torture and discipline). Through this handout, you will find recipes and tips on how to use the most basic ingredients which can be easily found in most corner stores, drugstores and supermarkets - all of which are perfectly harmless yet surprisingly effective for getting the job done; plus some wonderfully smelling essential oils to add fun to the process!
To be perfectly frank, even though I love a clean home - cleaning is not my favourite thing to do. The strong smells of ammonia, bleach and all the other toxic chemicals found in most bottle of house cleaning products smell more than unpleasant - they pierce the nostrils like sticking to sharp knitting-needles up your nose, and in no time I will develop the nastiest headache. Not exactly a motivator for getting those chores done, is it?
In my search for better, safer and more environmentally-friendly solutions, I found numerous sources online for using basic fragrant and cleansing essential oils and other pure ingredients. The recipes available out there are so exhaustive it's amazing we are still buying house cleaning products... But not really surprising. DIY is a lifestyle change, not just changing your purchasing choices. Some might find it intimidating to go search for a recipe before they go about doing their laundry and dishes. The truth is, that if you make the commitment, the initial investment in all the supplies and a good handful of “recipes” - it really is quite easy and requires only a little bit of “practice” (during which your house will get clean) - and the process as well as results are far more satisfying, knowing you’re using sustainable methods to keep your nest orderly and fresh.
I hope this workshop and handout will inspire you to re-think your house cleaning habits and enjoy your home chores even more: Effective housecleaning is possible without the harsh chemicals – and what’s more, it can also be fragrantly enjoyable!
House Cleaned from Top To Bottom – chemicals-free!
Great smelling home = less headache. Mmm..
State-of-the-art Reusable Cleaning Cloths, such as micro-fiber, Skoy, etc.
Scrubbing brushes (including toilet scrubber)
Stainless Steel Scrubber
Gloves (if desired – most of the cleaning we will do here is non-toxic and non-irritating to the skin).
Castile Soap (bar and liquid)
Fresh (or old…) Lemons
Essential Oils (see more details below)
Let’s talk a little bit more about these basic ingredients and how they can help you clean the home without the extra chemical footprint on Mother Earth and our water supply:
Baking Soda (Sodium Bicarbonate): Deodorizer (refrigerators, carpets, upholstery, and more); gentle scrubbing/abrasive agent, dissolves grease and dirt in water, laundry cleaning booster (remove unwanted odours and remove dirt and grease).
RECIPE: Soda Paste All-Purpose Cleaner: Mix 1 part water with 3 parts baking soda to create a paste consistency for cleaning surfaces such as sinks, bath tubs, stoves, etc. This can be customized with different essential oils to boost its effect (i.e.: anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, cut through grease, etc.).
Salt: Abrasive cleaner, helps to remove old food from pots and pans etc. Use in combination with baking soda.
Distilled Vinegar: Acidic, breaks down limestone, combats fungus and mold, fabric softener, stain remover.
Castile Soap: Olive-oil and vegetable oil based soap, available both as a bar and a liquid soap. This pure, old-fashioned, tried and true soap is a much more powerful cleaner than many of the high-impact chemicals used for stain removal (for instance). The olive oil soaps produced by the Druze women in the Galilee is an unassuming, extremely rusting-looking (no fancy molds and there may even be some olive pieces in there) chunk of soap removes anything from tar, grease and old blood stains and soiled diapers, to any every day handwashing laundry as well as cosmetics (that's for another post though). As far as household cleaning and care purposes goes: Castile soap is mild yet powerful all-purpose cleaner. In different concentrations it can be used for cleaning nearly anything - dishes, windows, floors, cars, upholstery... Also can be used in combination with other ingredients to create your own cleaning product (it has foaming, cleansing and surfactant qualities).
Borax (Boric acid): Borax is a mineral that acts as a water softener, laundry brightener/bleach, stain remover, surfactant, insect repellent.
Hydrogen Peroxide: Disinfectant, blood-stain remover.
Vegetable Glycerin: Surfactant, humectant (attracts moisture), can be used in creating your own cleaning products to carry other cleaning agents such as abrasive cleaners (salt, soda) and disinfecting and/or degreasing essential oils.
Pink Solution: Non-toxic, bio-degradable, vegetable and enzyme based multi-purpose cleaner that cleans almost anything you can imagine except for leather, wood and rust stains. Works like magic, very concentrated and therefore economic. They are local too (based in North Vancouver).
Lemons (fresh, or old): Acidic, natural bleach/brightener, cleans and shines oxidized copper, both lemon oil and juice cut through grease and grime.
Soap Nuts: Soap Nuts are a berry shell that naturally contains soap.
Window cleaning:The best and most old fashioned way to clean windows requires only water, vinegar and newspapers. If you have a reusable sprinkling container – all the better.
RECIPE: Window Cleaner
Mix 50/50 of distilled white vinegar and tap water, fill a reusable spray bottle and spray on the windows. Rub the windows till they are squieaky clean with newspapers that bear only old news...
Your view of the outside world will never be clearer. I admit that white vinegar smells rather pungent to say the least - so you might want to add a drop or two of citrus oils to temper it a bit. And either way - keep the windows open to bring fresh air after you're done. That alone is a good practice, year around, so that the home keeps getting a good circulation of air.
Lavender & Soap Nuts for Laundry:
Lavender’s scientific name (Lavandula officinalis) comes from the word Lavera (to wash) and points to one of its most important functions since medieval times. To freshen up your laundry after washing, place a few drops of lavender or geranium (or both) on a little gauze or cloth - or one of the new felted wool balls - instead of the polycyclic-musk-laden
scented dryer sheets. Your laundry will smell clean and beautiful but not overpoweringly so - and what’s more, it will be truly clean, without all these unnecessary toxins and strong fragrance that lingers forever.
Soap Nuts: Soap Nuts are a berry shell that naturally contains soap. They grow on the Sapindus mukorossi (Soap Berry) tree in the Himalayas.
The natural soap found in these berries is called saponin. Saponin is a natural cleaner that works as a surfactant, breaking the surface tension of the water to penetrate the fibers of your clothing, lifting stains from the fabric, and leaving dirt suspended in the water that is rinsed away.
Soap Nuts are gentle on both clothes and skin, making them ideal for those with sensitive skin, eczema, allergies and psoriasis. Because they are so mild, they are perfect for baby clothes and even cloth diapers. Unlike commercial soaps, that have artificial foaming agents, soap nuts do not produce lots of bubbles or foam. While commercial detergents and soaps have marketed heavily around that visual, foam simply is not an indicator of cleaning power.
Eco Nuts Soap Nuts:
are wild-harvested, they are gathered from trees without any kind of chemicals, fertilizers, or pesticides. Saponin actually tastes bad to insects so no pesticides are needed, and the trees naturally love poor uncultivated soil. They are organically grown and certified USDA Organic by Oregon Tilth. To bring you the very best product, the soap nuts are both de-seeded and sterilized.
How to Use Soap Nuts:
1. Place 4-5 Eco Nuts in the reusable wash bag provided and tie it closed.
2. Put it in with your laundry and wash as normal, per manufacturer instructions.
3. Remove the bag at the end of the wash and set aside to dry or do another load.
4. Re-use up to 10 times* until they start to disintegrate and then they can be composted in your garden or simply add new Eco Nuts to the bag.
Very Heavy Soils:
Pre soak 4-5 soap nuts in the sack in hot water for a few minutes and add the “tea” with the sack and put fewer clothes in the machine to provide the most agitation.
Wash whites by themselves, and add a cup of lemon juice or 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar for their bleaching effect.
Soak 2 soap nuts in bag provided in hot water and add the “tea” to your cool water basin.
Like regular laundry detergent, soap nuts will not remove very greasy stains. Pre treat grease stains with a stain remover prior to washing.
Nothing like aromatic oils to make the kitchen smell delicious and clean. These oils are both antiseptic and good-smelling. Use them to clean the kitchen floors too and it will even make you smile!
RECIPE: Stove & Oven Cleaner:
1 Tbs water
3 Tbs baking soda
30 drops orange essential oil
RECIPE: Countertop Cleanser:
1 (4 cups) Liter tap water
2 Tbs white vinegar 2 Tbs concentrated Liquid castile soap
2 Tbs Hydrogen Peroxide
20 drops Lime
5 drops Basil
Lemon for Dishwashing:
Lemon’s popular use in dishwashing detergents is not an arbitrary decision: both lemon oil and juice help with breaking down limestone and for brightening copper dishes. To clean copper dishes, simply rub it with an-already-squeezed lemon wedge (or half) and a teaspoon of sand. The sand will help rub out the oxidized particles from the copper; and the lemon acids will help to bring back shine to what’s left from your copperware.
Soak your dishes in a bowl of simple castile soap and a few drops of lemon oil to help breakdown grease and make your dishwashing experience fragrant and energetic.
Oranges to get out of sticky situations:
Use pure orange oil for rubbing off the remainders of adhesive labels and even to remove stubborn chewing gum. You must try to scrub off the sticky stuff “mechanically” first (i.e.: with a knife, etc.) as the orange oil dissolves it very thoroughly; so if there’s too much stickiness left all it’ll do is spread a thin coat of adhesive or gum all over the object… Otherwise, it’s extremely effective!
A great product for degreasing ovens, removing stickers and gums, etc. and many other uses is CitraSolv.
Tea Tree Oil for Bathroom Cleanliness:
Tea tree’s medicinal scent might be an acquired taste, but it’s worth it: this oil singlehandedly combats bacteria, virus and fungi! This makes it an ideal boost for cleaning anywhere where moist and warm conditions prevail, such as the bathroom. You can also use tea tree oil to prevent and treat mildew and mold in other areas.
Prepare this solution and wash, scrub or spray it on the affected area. Wait for 30-60minutes and then scrub and rinse with water:
RECIPE: Mold/mildew treatment:
1 Liter Distilled White Vinegar
1 Tbs Tea Tree Oil
No doubt, one of the dirtiest spots in the home requires some attention… Of course we’re talking about the toilet bowl. In addition to the baking soda and Castile soap mixture, you may want to disinfect the area with the clean-smelling oils that have anti-microbial, anti-viral
and anti-fungal properties such as these oils – either alone or in combination. Thankfully, they are also extremely affordable.
RECIPE: Toilet Bowl Cleaner:
1/2 cup Baking Soda
1/2 cup Liquid Castile Soap
10 drops each Tea Tree essential oil, Eucalyptus and Pine
30 drops Lime essential oil
1 Tbs Vegetable glycerin (this will help preserve the mixture for a while longer than just a one-time use)
* You may use a similar formula with a different scent to clean the bathtub, sink and shower (i.e.: 10 drops each lemongrass, lemon and orange).
Floor Cleaner (for ceramic tiles, hardwood or laminate floors ):
1/4 cup borax
Bucket full of warm tap water
1/4 cup white vinegar
5 drops Lime oil
5 drops Pine oil
5 drops Lemongrass oil
5 drops Lemon oil - In a large bucket, dissolve the borax in some of the warm water. Add the vinegar and essential oils, and top up the bucket till it’s full.
- Soak a mopping cloth in the mixture, and mop the floor. This can be also used to wash walls, doors, etc.
Now your home is all clean, for real! It might be a little more work, but it’s so much more rewarding knowing that your home is truly clean, smelling great and so much fun to be in!
Let the fresh air come in and enjoy a cup of tea while marveling at what you’ve achieved here: a clean abode without contributing to the pollution of our water supply and messing up with the hormonal balance of wild-life habitats... You can kick back and relax with a good book, invite friends for tea to show off and pass on these recipes to them, and pat yourself on the back for making our home planet just slightly cleaner too...
Additional Resources & Suppliers:
For more Natural Healthy Home Cleaning Tips, visit:
Giving Gifts & Company (4570 Main Street) sells sustainable and eco-friendly products such as reusable cloths, soap nuts, wool dryer balls, and now also Ayala Moriel's RealClean scents for your housekeeping needs, in 4 scents: Laundry Day (for dryer balls), Crisp Linen (for laundry and/or wool dryer balls), RealClean Kitsch (for kitchen & degreasing) and RealClean Bath (for bathroom and to combat mold/mildew).
The Soap Dispensary (3623 Main Street) and Homesteader's Emporium (649 East Hastings Street) in Vancouver both provide workshops as well as many eco-friendly unscented basics for body and house cleaning. Maybe you have one at your own town? If not - perhaps there's a business idea for you!
Mother Earth Living
Dr Bronners Magic All One Castile Soaps
Eco Nuts Soap Nuts
Ayala Moriel's RealClean Line