Taking the Toxins Out of 2012 Challenge: Cleaning Products

Hi friends.  It’s Week 2 of my challenge to rid my house of toxins in the easiest and least expensive way.  If you’re just tuning in to my attempts to simultaneously battle chemicals and the lazies, check out how I started the challenge and Week 1 – Cooking Surfaces.

This week I took on nasty cleaning products, of which I own lots.  (Don’t go tuning out guy readers – everyone loves a man who cleans.)

You probably already knew that many cleaning products have toxic ingredients, but maybe like me, you thought those headache-inducing fumes were just a necessary byproduct of getting things super clean.  Or maybe  you too were seduced by commercials of people spraying grime, walking away, and coming back to a spotless bathroom.

I really dreaded this week’s challenge because I thought I’d end up having to buy all kinds of expensive green cleaning products and then they wouldn’t work very well, so I’d abandon them anyway.

Well, guess what!  It turns out that 1) safe cleaning is cheap, 2) safe cleaning is pretty darn easy, and 3) you probably already have all the stuff in your house.  Who knew?!

It took me about five seconds of Googling to realize that you only really need water, vinegar, baking soda, lemon, and vegetable oil to clean just about anything in your house.  Somewhere my grandmothers are sighing that I didn’t already know this.  (My mom is probably sighing too and wishing she made me do more chores when I was a kid.)

But all those do-it-yourself cleaning recipes were intimidating and seemed like too much to remember.   The point of this challenge is to find solutions I’ll actually stick with.  So after reading all about non-toxic cleaning, I’ve broken it down to this super easy guide.

Action Plan:

Here’s a list of all you need to cut down on the vast majority of your cleaning chemicals.

1) All-purpose (including glass) cleaner:

You have two choices here, either make a super easy all-purpose vinegar spray or buying a green all-purpose spray.

Vinegar Spray: Vinegar is an awesome disinfectant.  All you need to do is mix one part vinegar to one part water and you’re good to go.  I tested it out on the kitchen garbage can, which O likes to use as a jungle gym, and it worked great.  Smell dissipates as soon as it dries.

(Note: Some recipes added a 1/2 tsp. of liquid dish soap.  For soap scum, some recipes added a tsp. of borax.  Some used less vinegar.  You can experiment.)

Green All-Purpose Spray: If you aren’t into mixing things yourself, I like Seventh Generation All-Purpose Cleaner, which you can use in the kitchen or bathroom.

Also, you can use this on granite countertops, something you can’t do with the vinegar spray.

2) Grease cutter:

I always used a hard-core cleaning spray for grease on my stovetop, but I read that baking soda works just as well.   Yup, totally does the trick.  And when I used a microfiber cleaning rags, it took no more scrubbing than when I used my normal grease-cutting spray and a paper towel.

Baking soda does leave a residue, so just give it a quick sponge with water and dish soap (I use Clorox Green Works Dish Liquid).

3) Soap scum/mildew/stuck-on stuff cleaner

I hate cleaning bathtubs, so I always used hardcore stuff like Ajax and Softscrub.  But now I have a cute little baby tush that hangs out in the tub, so I definitely want something natural.  Like I said above, you can make it yourself (here’s one recipe), but I wanted something Ajax-like.

A read a lot of reviews and this stuff is beloved:

It’s all plant-based and has been around since 1886.  I found it at Target yesterday, so I haven’t gotten a chance to try it out yet.  But you can also find it on Amazon.  (I’ll fess up if it lets me down.)

4) Floor cleaner:

For floors, you can go back to those around-your-house ingredients I mentioned before.  However, you do have to use different things for different floors, and reading about all the rules for various floor surfaces made me feel lazy and bored.  If you do want to make your own stuff, this site has the best advice I found.

But honestly, I know I won’t do that.  So for the kitchen and bathroom tile, I’ll stick with natural dish soap and water.  And for the wood floors, I like Method Wood Floor Squirt & Mop.

And there you have it.  Make these small changes and you will significantly cut down on your use of nasty cleaning products.

There are still a couple things I didn’t have it in me to tackle, like wood furniture polish (which I try to use very sparingly) and drain cleaner (also try to use sparingly, but I have long hair, so clogged drains are just a fact of life).  But I think I’ve made a major dent in my chemical use.  Yay me.

So if you want to quickly cut down on your toxic cleaning products, all you need is this stuff, which can be bought for about $20 (plus something for wood floors if you have them):

Done and done.


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2 responses to “Taking the Toxins Out of 2012 Challenge: Cleaning Products

  1. We LOVE Bon Ami in our house :) We use it on the entire bathroom, kitchen sink, pots & pans (anything stainless steel, really) and the stove top. It’s cheap and it works wonders. Just needs to be followed by water/wipe like the baking soda. I also wonder if you could use a mineral oil for the wood polish? We use it on our wood cutting boards, so I know it’s safe.

    • Nice! I am a big fan of all-purpose products. And good thought on the mineral oil – I’ll check it out. Btw, who would have thought after living in filth in college (you know what apartment I’m referring to), I’d be trading cleaning tips on the internet?

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