Twenty years ago when I started cleaning the green way most of my friends thought I was crazy. My grandmother, however, understood. She still used bicarb soda to clean her sink and freshen the fridge – it was normal for her an when I started researching safe ways to clean just before I became pregnant with my first child – at the same time I became vegetarian – she encouraged me. Basically I wanted a safe and clean environment to bring a baby into. My husband had terrible asthma as a child, so I wanted to limit chemicals that may have contributed to that – and yes I also researched breastfeeding, another great asthma preventative it turned out. My grandmother also understood why I wanted to breastfeed, which my mother didn’t, but that’s another story.
Just before I was pregnant with my third child in 1999 we moved into our dream eco-house- built of stone and timber off our block, with a grey water system, composting toilet and rainwater tanks. I had to use natural cleaning products, as chemical were incompatible with the composting and grey=water systems. I joined Enjo, the first company who used micro fibre clothes and water for cleaning, and bought all there products for myself with the commissions I earned over one year. Twelve years later I still have the mop/broom which I use every day, as well as many of the cloths. I still made up my own vinegar cleaner back then too, with a nice scent, as cleaning with just water was hard thing to get into, especially for visiting mothers.
It turns out that green cleaning is now trendy, as well as being vintage! And as a bonus, it is much cheaper, and the ingredients or products take up less room than a standard range of cleaners. My favourite cleaner is Bicarb soda – I even use it for my teeth when I am feeling very brave – but here is the complete list of products. I also use a beeswax polish for wooden furniture –the kids know I love it and bought some for me in a market in Mansfield, Victoria – it has lavender in it and is lovely! If I don't have any I use olive oil with a squeeze of lemon juice.
INGREDIENTS FOR HOMEMADE CLEANERS
- White vinegar
- Bicarb soda
- Lemon juice
- Washing soda crystals
- Borax (look near draino in the supermarket, or the pest aisle at the hardware store).
- Pure laundry soap (sunlight or homebrand ) or lux flakes, or homemade soap
- Tea tree oil (I also use lavender oil too as I love the smell)
- Eucalyptus oil
- Oil of cloves
- Ammonia - an old fashioned if not straight green cleaning aid
- Liquid bleach – not entirely green, but you need it now and then, especially if you have small boys or live with humidity and mould like I do.
I buy big bottles of bleach, ammonia and vinegar, and put them into smaller spray bottles – labelled carefully – and I have a refillable plastic container for the bicarb with holes at the top so I can sprinkle it. I have three cleaning kits, kitchen, bathroom and laundry. The bathroom one I also use for the bedrooms if I need to.
Vinegar – mixed with half water and about a tablespoon of eucalyptus oil in a spray bottle – great for the sink (it removes soap traces), cupboards, glass, stainless steel fridge, dishwasher, stove top and oven front and toilet (in and out). Everything really. Use newspaper with this spary for really shiny mirrors and windows.
Bicarb soda – to scrub the kitchen sink and pots, bath, shower recess. Sprinkle in the toilet if its really dirty, and mix with a little tea tree oil and water to make a stronger bathroom cleaner. Sprinkle on your hair in the shower instead of shampoo, or on the carpet before you vacuum. Put some on your toothbrush to brush your teeth. And leave a small container in the fridge to get rid of odours.
Lemon Juice - A naturally occurring mild acid, great addition to cleansing pastes, can remove lime scale from taps and sinks – and smells delicious! It can help to neutralise the smell of vinegar. Once you have juiced your lemon, fill one half with bicarb soda and pop it into the back of one of your fridge shelves to make it smell fresh and citrusy.
Soap – to wash dishes, either in a soap saver or made into liquid soap, and hands. Make into laundry liquid or powder for clothes and the dishwasher.
Washing soda – (sodium carbonate) is a natural mineral that can cut through grease and softens hard water – it goes into laundry liquid. You can also use them as a general washing up liquid if you have sensitive skin. It is also good for removing stubborn grease marks off oven tops and removing mould and scum from baths and showers.
Borax – (sodium borate) is also a naturally occurring mineral. You can buy it at the hardware store as an ant killer. It removes stains and boosts the cleaning power of soap so is good in laundry liquid. It’s also in some tooth whiteners – but I wouldn’t eat it. It is not a totally green cleaner, it can build up toxicity in the soil, so use sparingly. Go here for a good pro and con look at borax.Borax substitutes are also available.
Tea tree oil – is a great disinfectant and mould inhibitor. It also smells great and helps keep bugs away.
Eucalyptus oil - I mix it with vinegar as mentioned, but straight it is great for removing sticky labels and with water is a great air fresher or ironing aid for mens shirts.
Oil of cloves - in a spray bottle with water – the most amazing thing to get rid of smells on furniture, carpet, in the car etc and once you have cleaned off mould with a bleach solution, it prevents more mould forming
Lavender oil – mix with water in a spray bottle and use as room freshener and for the ironing
Bleach – mixed in a spray bottle with water – great for mould and all the really gross things you deal with with kids and pets
Ammonia – it is great for inside the oven. Put two cups of water in a baking dish with ¼ cup ammonia, put it in the oven and let it heat up for 5 minutes, then leave overnight. In the morning scour with a paste of bicarb soda and water. Mix with water for a really clean floor (about a capful per bucket of water). WARNING – don’t open the lid and sniff the bottle – you could pass out. Seriously. Also, NEVER mix ammonia with bleach.
Now I just need hubby to whip me up a caddy like this.