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Alternative Cleaners

Try These Instead of Harsher Household Chemicals, your pets will love you for it!

Toxins in Common Household Cleaners
Counters and Cutting Boards
Natural Cleaning Supplies
Cleaning Bathrooms
Alternatives for Harsh Cleaners Chart

I like a clean house, but don't really like to clean -- probably pretty typical. I started moving away from modern cleaners after being exposed to harsh, toxic, dangerous chemicals in an office day-in-and-day-out which then compromised my immune systems tolerance of the chemicals we use to "clean" our homes.

As you might imagine, some of the most convenient products are the worst for you. Take a peek into your own cleaning supply cabinet and see if any of your supplies have these toxic ingredient: petroleum distillates, mineral spirits, formaldehyde. 

We are becoming more aware of ingredients in our food and that of our companions, but most of us haven't been looking at the ingredients in cleaners we use in our living areas. There are some products that have closely guarded, secret ingredients so other companies won't be able to make knock offs. There is no defined standard for some of the advertising gimmicks that tempt us to purchase the so-called safer products, two that I see a lot are: non-toxic and biodegradable.

As a big perk, using safe natural cleaners is healthier and less expensive, not to mention safer, than using store bought products.

Toxins in Common Household Cleaners
Commonly Found In
Glass Cleaners
Lung and skin irritant. See sodium hypochlorite for dangers in mixing chemicals.
Preservative in many household cleaners and air freshener
Probable carcinogen. Even really low levels can cause watery or burning eyes, stuffy/burning nose and throat, nausea, couching and wheezing, rashes, hives and allergic reactions.
Hydrochloric acid or sodium acid sulfate
Toilet bowl cleaners
Can burn skin, may cause vomiting, diarrhea and stomach burns if swallowed. May cause blindness of splashed in eyes.
Perchloroethylene or trichloroethane
Dry cleaning spot removers and carpet cleaners
Eye, skin and lung irritant. If ingested can cause liver and kidney damage. Probable carcinogen and can accumulate in fatty tissues.
Phenol and cresol
Corrosive. May cause diarrhea, fainting, dizziness and kidney and liver damage.
Sodium hypochlorite
Chlorine bleach
Lung and eye irritant. If mixed with ammonia or acid based cleaners, including vinegar, it releases toxic chloramines gas. Short term exposure to the gas may cause mild asthmatic symptoms or more serious respiratory problems.

Natural Cleaning Supplies

White Vinegar: Used in many formulations. Great for cleaning and disinfecting.

Baking Soda: So many applications. Get the HUGE box and save some money.

Washing Soda: Can be found in the natural section or near laundry supplies in most groceries.

Borax: Boost the strength of cleaning solutions.

Salt: Great for adding an abrasive quality to your cleaners. Kosher or sea salt is best.

Mild Soap: Comes in both flakes and liquids. Vegetable based soap made from coconut or olive oil is known as castile soap and can be found at most health food stores and some groceries.  Comes in scented and unscented. You will want unscented if you plan to add your own essential oils. This is NOT detergent! Many products today are detergents made from petroleum distillates which are both toxic and non-renewable.

Essential Oils: These are not fragrance or perfume oils but the volatile oils of plants. Note: If you have cats or small dog breeds check with your Veterinarian on safe use. Cats and small dogs are especially sensitive to essential oils. Essential oils may also interfere with homeopathic medicines. When in doubt, don't use them until you have consulted an expert. .

Containers: Spray bottles and storage containers come in a variety of sizes and styles and in both glass and plastic. You can usually find them in supermarkets, discount retailers, health food stores and container stores at very reasonable prices.

Cleaning Floors

The healthiest option is to have no carpet, but many homes have wall-to-wall carpet or gigantic area rugs that collect all the junk from the world. With carpet, you want to clean it with the least impact on yourself and you pets.
Carpet. To freshen the carpet you can make a simple mixture of equal parts baking soda and borax. Sprinkle on the carpet, then vacuum up. You can add several drops of your favorite essential oil to the powder mix. If you are concerned about fleas, Lemon grass and citronella oils are good choices.

Carpet Shampoo: This recipe will do a 10x13 room.
Rosemary-Lavender Carpet Shampoo (From The Naturally Clean Home by Karen Siegel-Maier)
2 Cups Baking Soda
1/2 Cup Soap Flakes (You can substitute Borax)
20 Drops Lavender Essential Oil
8 Drops Rosemary Essential Oil
1/2 Cup Vinegar
2 Cups Warm Water
Loosen dirt by vacuuming or sweeping the carpet. Combine baking soda, soap flakes and essential oils in a large glass or stainless bowl making sure to break up the clumps. Sprinkle mixture on the carpet. In a bucket, mix the vinegar and warm water. Dip a clean sponge mop into the bucket, squeezing out the excess liquid. Go over the carpet with the sponge mop working in sections. Wait one hour and vacuum.
Wood Floors: The best cleaner is a mixture of equal parts warm water and white vinegar. Combine in a spray bottle, spritz a small section and dry mop. You can add 15-20 drops of your favorite essential oil to 3 Cups of this mixture. (Peppermint will kill germs and keep mice away for those of you in older homes or homes with attached garages.)

Vinyl or Tile Floors: Mix one gallon of hot water and 2-3 Tablespoons of a liquid Castile soap. To this mix you can either add lemon (great for kitchens) or pine essential oil. Use 10-20 drops of essential oils and if you feel creative, mix the oils. Dip your mop into the mixture, squeeze out the excess water and mop in small section. The best part of this mix is there is no rinsing needed and the residue won't hurt your dog (or spouse) if they happen to lick the floor when you are finished.
Cleaning Counters and Cutting Boards
Clean counters and cutting boards are important to the overall health of all the members of our households.
Counters: Cleaning counters is easy, all you need is hot water, white vinegar, borax and the essential oil(s) of your preference. (Lavender and lemon essential oils are antibacterial, anti fungal, anti viral and antibiotic.) For each cup of hot water use one tablespoon of vinegar and a light teaspoon of Borax. Add about 10-12 drops of essential oil. The oils are potent, so use sparingly.

Wood Cutting Boards and Butcher Blocks: Mix a couple of teaspoons of salt (Sea Salt and Kosher Salt are grittier.) and a like amount of fresh lemon juice and vigorously rub into the wood. Gloves will help protect your hands. Let this sit on the wood for 10-20 minutes, then rinse with hot water while scrubbing. Allow the wood to dry thoroughly.

Cleaning Bathrooms
Although we try to keep bathroom doors shut and toilet seats down, our dogs have on occasion enjoyed the sip of water out of the toilet. When I saw what was in toilet bowl cleaners, I thought even an occasional sip could not be good for long term health for the dogs. You can make your own germ proof toilet bowl cleaner by combining the following in a spray bottle. 1 Cup water; three Tablespoons of liquid Castile soap; 20 drops melaleuca (tea tree) oil; 7-10 drops eucalyptus oil.

Laundry soap and fabric deodorizers and softeners are easy to make and can be enhanced to smell quite nice when essential oils are added to the mix.
Soap: Mix equal parts washing soda, baking soda and real soap flakes. (You can grate pure Castile soap.)  For tops loading washers use 1/2 Cup per load. For front loading washers use 1/4 Cup.

Deodorizer and Softener: Use 1/4 Cup white vinegar scented with a few drops of your favorite essential oil.

Whitener: One part hydrogen peroxide to 8 parts water. Soak item for 5-30 minutes. Rinse and wash if needed.

Alternatives to Harsh Cleaners

Instead Of:
All Purpose Cleaner
  • Mix 4 tablespoons baking soda in 1 quart warm water, or use plain baking soda with a wet sponge.
Ammonia Based Cleaners
  • Vinegar, salt and water for surface cleaning.
  • Baking soda and water for the bathroom.
Abrasive Cleaners
  • Rub area with one-half lemon dipped in borax or baking soda, then rinse.
Coffee Pot (Glass) Cleaner
  • Place crushed ice, salt and sliced lemons in pot and swirl till clean.
Copper Cleaner
(Also, brass and pewter)
  • Paste of lemon juice, salt and flour.
  • Equal parts sale and vinegar. Thicken with flour.
Disinfectant Cleaner
  • Mix 1/2 cup Borax in 1 gallon hot water.
Drain Cleaners
  • Plunger. 
  • Flush with boiling water. 
  • 1/4 Cup baking soda and 1/4 Cup Vinegar. Let sit for 20 minutes then follow up with hot water to flush the drain.
Dusting Cloth
  • Re-use an unscented dryer sheet instead of buying more packaged goods like Swiffer or Pledge cloths.
Carpet Cleaner
  • Sprinkle baking soda or corn starch on the carpet. Let sit for 20 minuets then vacuum.
Floor or Furniture Polish
  • 1 part lemon juice to 2 parts olive or vegetable oil.
  • Mix 1/4 cup vinegar with 3/4 cup oil (olive, vegetable, lemon).
Floor Cleaner
  • Mix 1 cup vinegar with 2 gallons water.
Glass Cleaner (Windows too)
  • White vinegar and water.
  • Rubbing alcohol and water.
  • Mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 1 quart warm water.
Ironing Clothes
  • To get crisp results when ironing clothes, combine 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch in one pint of water. Pour into a spray bottle, shake and spray clothes before ironing.
Mildew Remover
  • Lemon juice and salt. or
  • White vinegar and salt.
Oil Stains
  • White chalk rubbed into stain before laundering.
Oven Cleaner
  • Baking Soda and vinegar.
Pest Control
  • To keep bugs out of wheat products like flour, pasta, rice and pancake mix, put 2-3 Bay Leaves in the containers.
  • Rather than pesticides, you might foil roaches by placing bay leaves around cracks in the room and leaving out dishes of equal parts baking soda and powdered sugar. 
  • For other pests, a soapy water spray can be an insecticide.
  • A shallow pan filled with stale beer will kill snails and slugs.
Shower Cleaner
  • 1 cup vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon liquid dishwashing soap, and 1/4 cup dishwasher rinse agent. (Use Daily)
Telephone Cleaner
  • Rubbing Alcohol.
Toilet Cleaners
  • Baking soda and a toilet brush.
  • Drop a denture tablet in the bowl and let sit.
Stainless Steel Polish
  • Baking soda or mineral oil for shining.
  • Vinegar to remove spots.
  • 2 Tablespoons Cream of Tartar with 1 quart hot water. (Works on aluminum too.)
Stain Remover.
  • Vinegar.
Tub and Tile Cleaners
  • Mix 1/4 Cup baking soda with 1/2 Cup white vinegar.
Woodwork Cleaner
  • Use cold tea for cleaning any type of wood.
Woodwork Water Stain Removal
  • To remove water stains on wood furniture, dab white toothpaste onto the stain. Allow paste to dry and then gently buff with a soft cloth.


Mix 1/2 cup borax (a natural mineral that kills mold and bacteria) with 1 gallon hot water.
Add a few sprigs of fresh thyme.
Steep for 10 minutes, strain and cool.
Store in a recycled plastic spray bottle.
½ cup each bay and peppermint leaves
1 ½ teaspoons each citrus peels
garlic powder
diatomaceous earth
cayenne pepper
What you do:
Grind the ingredients into a powder in a blender or with a mortar and pestle. Dust along baseboards, the back of counters, and other areas of infestation. Do not rinse.
All-Purpose Pennyroyal and Eucalyptus Spray (Insecticide)
1 teaspoon each essential oils of pennyroyal and eucalyptus
2 cups of water
What you need:

Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle. Shake to blend. Spray along baseboards, the backs of counters, and other areas of infestation.
Don't rinse.
Here are some additional tips that I have come across and you may find helpful.

Flies and Bees
Spray them with hairspray and they will take a quick dive.
Sealed envelope
Put in the freezer for a few hours, then slide a knife under the flap. The envelope can then be resealed. 
Empty Toilet Paper Rolls
Store appliance cords. It keeps them neat and you can write on the roll what appliance it belongs to.
Icy Door Steps in Freezing Temperatures
Dawn Dishwashing liquid can help reduce the ice on your steps. Mix 1-teaspoon of Dawn dishwashing liquid, 1-Tablespoon of rubbing alcohol and 1/2-gallon of warm/hot water and pour over walkways. For more things to use the original blue Dawn for check out this site: Original Blue Dawn . . . It’s Not Just for Dishes AnymoreOne Good Thing by Jillee | One Good Thing by Jillee 
Crayon marks on walls
A damp rag, dipped in baking soda. Comes off with little effort (elbow grease that is)
Permanent Marker on Appliances and Countertops
Permanent marker on appliances/counter tops like a store receipt BLUE? Rubbing alcohol on paper towel.
SOS Pads
Make your SOS pads last longer by cutting each pad in half. Added bonus, scissors get sharpened in the process.
Opening Jars
Opening brand new jars can be a feat in itself. Well, I have found away to make it the easiest thing to do. Instead of banging a jar of jam, pickles, etc., with a knife until it loosens up, I simply reach into the drawer and pull out the handy nutcracker. It adjusts to the size of the jar and I simply give it a good twist and off pops the lid!
Blood Stains on Clothing
Just pour a little hydrogen peroxide on a cloth and proceed to wipe off every drop of blood. Works every time!
Washing Windows
Use vertical strokes when washing the outside of  windows and horizontal for the inside of windows. This way you can tell which side has the streaks. Straight vinegar will get outside windows really clean. Don't wash windows on a sunny day. They will dry too quickly and will probably streak. Use newspaper to dry the glass and you'll have less steaking.
Candles will last a lot longer if placed in the freezer for at least 3 hours prior to burning.
Cleaning Pots and Pans
To easily remove burnt on food from your skillet, simply add a drop or two of dish soap and enough water to cover bottom of pan, and bring to a boil on stove top.
Plastic Ware
Spray your Tupperware, Gladware et cetera with non-stick cooking spray before pouring in tomato based sauces and there won't be any stains.
Cake Mixes
When a cake recipe calls for flouring the baking pan, use a bit of the dry cake mix instead and there won't be any white mess on the outside of the cake.
Wrap celery in aluminum foil when putting in the refrigerator and it will keep for weeks.
Corn on the Cob
When boiling corn on the cob, add a pinch of sugar to help bring out the corn's natural sweetness.
Take a lime, cut it in half and rub it on your forehead. The throbbing will go away.
Wine Leftovers
Don't throw out all that leftover wine: Freeze into ice cubes for future use in casseroles and sauces.
Mosquito Bites
To get rid of itch from mosquito bites, try applying soap on the area and you will experience instant relief.
Ants, ants, ants everywhere ... get your chalk out and draw a line on the floor or wherever ants tend to march. They won't cross the chalk line.
Bathroom Mirror
Spray on a little foaming shaving lotion and wipe across the mirror. Keep wiping until the residue is gone. Your mirror should stay steam free for up to a month.
When you get a splinter, reach for the scotch tape before resorting to tweezers or a needle. Simply put the scotch tape over the splinter, then pull it off. Scotch tape
Alka Seltzer
  • Clean Toilets by dropping two tablets in the bowl. Wait 20 minutes, brush and flush. The citric acid and effervescent action clean the porcelain.
  • Clean Vases by filling with water and drop in two tablets.
  • Polish Jewelry by dropping two tablets into a glass of water and immerse jewelry for two minutes.
  • Thermos Bottles. Fill with water and drop in four tablets, let soak for one hour (longer if needed.)
  • Unclogging Drains, drop three tablets down the drain followed by a cup of white vinegar. Wait a few minutes, then run hot water.

Remember to study about the ingredients you use and the effects that may occur.

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