Many of the top household cleaners you find on the shelf at the grocery store claim to be “natural” or “green,” but knowing which products do less harm to our planet while still efficiently cleaning our spaces can be challenging. Clever marketing can make any product seem safe to use, but the reality is much of what you use to clean your countertops, floors, and toilets can wind up infecting our waterways and polluting our soil.
DIY-ing your own cleaners using safe ingredients like regular white vinegar and baking soda is going to be one of the cleanest and most environmentally-friendly ways to get the job done.
Here’s how to swap your cleaning products for non-toxic versions that are safe and effective.
For the bathroom:
Among the active ingredients in most toilet bowl cleaners are hydrochloric acid and chlorine bleach. Hydrochloric acid is corrosive and extremely toxic to pets, children, and whoever is handling it (ie: you). Chlorine bleach is highly caustic and can burn, corrode, or destroy living tissue. While both ingredients certainly get the job done, they’re harmful to every living creature in your home, and you can imagine what flushing those chemicals down the drain does to our planet.
You can make your toilet bowl cleaner by combining baking soda, distilled white vinegar and some tea tree essential oil (for scent). For heavier cleaning power, combine the white vinegar with borax and add lemon and lavender oils for an extra kick.
In the laundry room:
Making your own non-toxic laundry detergent is simple enough, and you can find dozens of recipes online including this tried and true DIY formula. But what about whitening your whites? Or brightening your brights? No, you don’t need to reach for the bleach just yet. Some simple household products will do the trick without impacting the earth.
Baking soda whitens, freshens, and softens fabrics. Simply add 1/2 cup of baking soda along with your regular laundry detergent when washing clothes. For spot stains, make a paste of baking soda and water and apply directly to the fabric.
You can alternatively use hydrogen peroxide as a mild bleaching agent that’s far less harmful to the environment. It can be used to remove stains, and when exposed to light, hydrogen peroxide eventually breaks down to water and oxygen and becomes a biodegradable oxygen-based bleach. All you have to do is add one cup of hydrogen peroxide to each washer load of laundry to safely whiten your whites or brighten your colored loads. Hydrogen peroxide should be placed in the automatic bleach dispenser of the washer or added as the washer is filling with water, so it is dispersed evenly before clothes are added. Do not pour hydrogen peroxide directly on dry colored fabrics because it can cause spotting by removing color.
For a general anti-bacterial cleaner you can use anywhere:
Combine witch hazel and essential oils (tea tree or thyme) to a spray bottle, shake well, spray, and let air-dry. Water, white vinegar, lavender essential oil will also get the job done!