Saturday, May 30, 2009

Green Cleaning

Over the past year I've become a lot more conscious of the cleaners I use around the house, partly because of how expensive some of them can be but more importantly because I want to be environmentally friendly. I had never really stopped to think about it- not only do the products we use affect the air quality in our homes, but they wash down the drain and into our water, affecting the delicate ecosystems.

I've been using home made laundry and dishwasher detergent for some time now. When I switched, I was willing to sacrifice a bit of effectiveness for being more cost-conscious and environmentally friendly. I was completely shocked when I found that the cleaners I made were actually more effective than the store bought ones. How could this be?

I've always been a bit of a nut about having sparkling clean sinks in the bathroom and a clean shower. In the past I'd spray with mildew remover, soap scum remover and then finish off with glass cleaner to give a nice shine to the tiles (horrible for someone with an underlying lung disease!) These days I'm using a simple cleaner that works just as well, without the awful fumes and for a fraction of the price. Plus, I can feel good about the fact that the ingredients are biodegradable and not harmful to the planet.

I thought I'd post the recipes for some green cleaners here, in part so I don't have to search for them each time I need a new batch, and in case anyone else is interested. Here they are:

Laundry Detergent
1 cup borax (found in laundry aisle)
1 cup washing soda (also in laundry aisle)
1 bar fels naptha soap, grated (either in laundry or soap aisle- i had to ask for it)

After grating the bar of soap, process in blender or food processor with borax and washing soda to create a fine powder. Use 1/4 cup for front loading machines, 1/2-3/4 cup for top loaders, depending upon size and level of dirt. I've never used powdered detergent, always preferring liquids, but this is a great cleaner, it dissolves well and my white things are whiter than ever. I've also been able to stop using fabric softener, but for those who have hard water 1/4 cup vinegar can be used with a drop of lavender essential oil. (And, no, your clothes won't smell like vinegar at all)

Dishwasher Detergent
1 cup borax
1 cup washing soda
optional - a few drops of lemon essential oil
Combine and use 1/4 cup per load.

All Purpose Disinfectant
1 tsp borax
2 tbsp white vinegar
2 cups hot water
1/4 tsp lavender essential oil
2 drops tea tree oil
Mix above ingredients until dissolved and put into spray bottle.

Soft Scrub Type Cleanser
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup dish washing detergent (I used Dr Bronner's Peppermint Castile Liquid Soap)
1/8-1/4 cup vinegar
Combine ingredients, amount of baking soda may be adjusted to achieve desired consistency. I love the liquid castile soap, it smells very clean and pepperminty.

Multi-Purpose Cleaner
I use diluted Dr Bronner's liquid soap for cleaning hardwood floors, sinks and the toilets. It's about $9 for a large bottle at Trader Joe's and that will last me over a year. I haven't yet tried washing dishes in the sink with it but think it would be effective at that as well.

Insect Repellant
Citronella Essential Oil
Cedarwood Essential Oil
Eucalyptus Essential Oil
Lemongrass Essential Oil
2 Tbsp Sweet Almond Oil
2 tsp Castor Oil
2 tsp Beeswax

Melt the oils together with the beeswax, add essential oils (I experimented, using a few drops of each). To be honest I haven't tested this yet, but can't wait to give it to my brother and see how it stands up to the black flies of back-woods Maine!

I'm always interested in new recipes, so feel free to leave them in the comments section- thanks!

1 comment:

CowTown said...


I had no idea you could make your own and they'd work well. I also hadn't thought about the ingredients going down the drain and effecting our water and ecosystem.

Nice post.