The Solution Is Clean And Green

by Katy on September 4, 2008 · 11 comments



Looking for low cost ways to incorporate green living in your home?

Then homemade cleaning products are right up your alley.

Although I must say that I rarely use any cleaning products.

A: I don’t exactly keep the tidiest house. (It turns out housekeeping is super boring!)

B: I mostly clean with water. I mop with it, I wipe down the bathroom sink and mirror with it, and when the toilet needs attention I use the brush without any cleanser. 

If you still want recipes that won’t make you feeling like a yearly check-up with the Oncologist is in order, Women’s Voices For The Earth has all the wonderful recipes you’re looking for:

All-Purpose Cleaner
suggested uses: hard surfaces like countertops and kitchen floors, windows and mirrors

2 cups white distilled vinegar
2 cups water
20-30 or more drops of essential oil (optional)

Tip: Warming in microwave until barely hot will boost cleaning power for tough jobs. Only microwave in a glass container.

Creamy Soft Scrub
suggested uses: Use this creamy soft scrub on kitchen counters, stoves, bathroom sinks, etc.

2 cups baking soda
½ cup liquid castile soap* 
4 teaspoons vegetable glycerin (acts as a preservative) 
5 drops antibacterial essential oil such as lavender, tea tree, rosemary or any scent you prefer (optional)

Mix together and store in a sealed glass jar, shelf life of 2 years.

Tips: For exceptionally tough jobs spray with vinegar first—full strength or diluted, scented—let sit and follow with scrub.

Dry soft scrubs can be made with baking soda or salt (or combination of both) with 10-15 drops essential oil to scent

Furniture Polish
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white distilled vinegar
20-30 drops lemon essential oil

Shake well before using
(2 teaspoons lemon juice may be substituted for lemon oil but then must be stored in refrigerator)

Dip a clean, dry cloth into the polish and rub wood in the direction of the grain.  Use a soft brush to work the polish into corners or tight places.

Tips: To remove water spots rub well with toothpaste.  To remove scratches use 1 part lemon juice and 1 part oil, rub with soft cloth.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Option 1

Sprinkle toilet bowl with baking soda, drizzle with vinegar, let soak for at least 30 minutes and scrub with toilet brush.

Option 2

Put ¼ cup borax in toilet bowl and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Swish with a toilet brush and then scrub. A few drops of pine oil can be added for increased disinfecting. (Note: some people are allergic to pine oil.)

Tip: Let ingredients soak for a while to make for easy scrubbing, especially on persistent stains like toilet bowl rings

Drain Opener

½ cup baking soda
½ cup vinegar

Pour baking soda down the drain and follow with vinegar. Cover and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Flush with boiling water.

Tip: Prevent your shower form clogging by using a drain trap to catch hairs.

Laundry Detergent

1 cup soap flakes
1/2 cup washing soda
1/2 cup Borax

Soap flakes can be made by grating your favorite pure vegetable soap with a cheese grater.  Mix ingredients together and store in a glass container.  Use 1 tablespoon per load (2 for heavily soiled laundry), wash in warm or cold water.

This standard recipe can be adjusted for soft water by using 1 cup soap flakes, 1/4 cup washing soda and 1/2 cup borax.  For hard water, use 1 cup soap flakes, 1 cup washing soda, and 1 cup borax.

Note: Borax should not be ingested.

Tips: Add 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar to rinse as a fabric softener.  For a whitener, use hydrogen peroxide rather than bleach. Soak your dingy white clothes for 30 minutes in the washer with 1/2 cup 20% peroxide. Launder as usual.

An important note. Make sure to get everything labeled once you’re done!

Happy Cleaning! (If that’s actually possible.)

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Melissa September 4, 2008 at 5:10 am

Great post! It almost makes me want to clean my house … almost.


thenonconsumeradvocate September 4, 2008 at 7:49 am

I’m waiting for a comment on why the bucket seems to be filled with the dregs of convenience store coffee.

I’m going to have a word with the Non-Consumer Advocate graphics department.

Naughty, naughty.



Emily September 4, 2008 at 6:56 pm

What is Borax and why is it considered “green”?


thenonconsumeradvocate September 4, 2008 at 8:04 pm

Good questions Emily,

Wikipedia states:

“Borax (from Persian burah), also known as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate, is an important boron compound, a mineral, and a salt of boric acid. It is usually a white powder consisting of soft colorless crystals that dissolve easily in water.
Borax has a wide variety of uses. It is a component of many detergents, cosmetics, and enamel glazes. It is also used to make buffer solutions in biochemistry, as a fire retardant, as an anti-fungal compound for fiberglass, as an insecticide, as a flux in metallurgy, and as a precursor for other boron compounds.
The term borax is used for a number of closely related minerals or chemical compounds that differ in their crystal water content, but usually refers to the decahydrate. Commercially sold borax is usually partially dehydrated.”

Colin Beavan, (No Impact Man) addresses the Borax issue as well:

Borax is indeed slightly toxic but it is also kind to the environment and is recommended for use by the Sierra Club and others with much better credentials than me. The Sierra Club has a great cleaning tip sheet, by the way, at

As for whether the products I use are manufactured in bio-friendly ways, Dr Bronners is organic and fair trade. That’s a start. I use 20 Mule Team Borax, Arm and Hammer Baking Soda and Best Yet distilled white vinegar. My research hasn’t yet extended to their production–ecological or not–and I’d love to hear if anyone else knows.
All the best,
Colin aka No Impact Man”

Posted by: Colin Beavan aka No Impact Man | April 05, 2007 at 07:17 AM

Anyone else want to weigh in on the borax issue?

-Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate

P.S. I made my own laundry detergent from a grated bar of Fels Naptha soap and washing soda. I didn’t use borax, although it was simply because I didn’t have any. Seems to be working just fine.


Mrs Green September 5, 2008 at 12:23 am

I make my own cleaning products too. I’m not much of a housekeeper and agree that hot water will deal with most things.

However, you Can make cleaning fun with essential oils. Honestly, a drop of lemon and lavender into your soft scrubber makes a product that lifts the spirits everytime you use it. 😉


Caroline September 5, 2008 at 4:06 am

I’m totally with Mrs Green, essential oils are awesome for cleaning. If the job needs more than just water, eucalyptus oil is the only other ingredient necessary as it outperforms any and all chemical cleaners.


Wendy September 5, 2008 at 4:13 am

For laundry, I have been using a Soap Nuts. Soap Nuts are all natural, and can be composted ( .)There are many venders that sell them, but I buy mine from Maggie’s Pure Land ( ). For the bathroom and mold I use Apple Cider Vinegar. The cleaning “recipes” are great, especially the furniture polish. Thanks for covering this topic!


CanadianKate September 5, 2008 at 5:10 am

While I acknowledge that frequent brushing of the toilet without cleanser works well, and vinegar works better when you want to deeper clean, I found that psychologically I need suds.

So I’m using up an old, old, bottle of bubble bath scavenged from an estate sale garbage pile. That gives me the suds (and some scent), isn’t toxic to my septic system and is now serving some purpose before being turned back into the ground. When I want to use something anti-bacterial, I spray the toilet with some old, old, mouth wash from the same garbage pile.

BTW: for bathtub tiles, nothing beats a squeegee and old towel. We put new tiles in 14 years ago and I’ve never ‘cleaned’ them since but they shine and there’s no mildew. We simply wipe them down with the squeegee and then the towel after each shower.

I haven’t ‘cleaned’ my tub in 3 years because my back wouldn’t allow me to lean over it. Now I keep a scrubby sponge (coarse scrubbing material on one side, sponge on the other) in the bathtub, put some liquid bodywash on it, squat while in the shower, and scrub down the tub. I do this weekly. It takes only a minute (and that’s an extra minute of the hot water soothing my back).


BohoBelle September 9, 2008 at 10:42 pm

My Mum used to be a primary school teacher and always had her class making cleaning products for christmas gifts at the end of term. Her most popular was a simple vinegar and water mix in a glass bottle with sprigs of rosemary in it, prepared 2 weeks before Christmas it has time to infuse. Just thinking of the lovely fresh smell brings back memories 🙂


katrina September 17, 2008 at 9:36 am

I am assuming with you using water for all that you are using the microfiber cloths designed years ago to be used with water only instead of chemicals & used for years by the huge janitorial cleaning companies as OSHA passed laws re workers health problems being exposed to chemicals; (see; don aslet’s line); these are fabulous! they will still be going strong when you would have used paper towels 700,000 times! use not only for cleaning but anywhere & everywhere paper towels would be used; the least expensive place I have found them is at Costco they are in auto section 36 for $14! the MOP is excellent & if you have a swiffer or clorox mop stop using the chemicals; & spending $ for “pads”; instead fit the microfibers over the top & use with water; I add a small amount of vinegar to disinfect as I run around bare foot a lot! the odor disappears almost instantly taking along any unwelcome odors with it! The added bonus of the microfiber mop is that it can easily get under cabinet edges, and also the mop head detachs just like velcro & is easily washed; makes it super easy to wash walls, ceilings, etc esp with the telescopic handle!


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