This post was originally written several years ago on an older blog that is no longer up. I think it’s still a good introduction to green cleaning and I wanted to share with you!
Green is a very politically correct word these days. I, on the other hand, tend not to worry too much about being PC. For years I actually avoided the subject of “green” anything because I didn’t want to be associated with extremists who chain themselves to tree trunks. So, how does someone who doesn’t want to be labeled as “green” end up writing a blog post about green cleaning? On a trip, my husband Michael and I found a little bookstore with an intriguing little book called Clean: The Humble Art of Zen Cleansing by Michael DeJong. I flipped through and ended up buying the book because it claimed that you can clean almost anything with five common household products. It talked about being safe for children and pets (having a rather adventurous cat, I was interested [we now have an even more adventurous toddler, making it even more important]) and being much more economical. That, I admit, was the selling point for me. I love a good bargain, and I am always looking for a way to stretch my money. Making my own cleaners and saving money sounded great. To make a long story slightly shorter, I tried many of the cleaners and loved them. I will talk about the benefits of using green cleaning in a moment, but I can say that the way I clean my home is changed, and I love it. I highly recommend the book to anyone wanting to improve their cleaning routine at home.
Before we go any further let’s define what exactly we mean by Green Cleaning. Wikipedia defines green cleaning as “using cleaning methods and products with environmentally-friendly ingredients to preserve human health and environmental quality.” And environmentally friendly as “goods and services, laws, guidelines and policies claimed to inflict minimal or no harm on the environment.” Every cleaning suggestion I give you on this blog will fit this definition (unless specified). The five main ingredients in Clean (baking soda, borax, lemon, salt, white vinegar) are all naturally occurring and renewable or from a natural product; four of them are even edible (borax is not- it is a mineral and should not be ingested)!
Now that you know a little of my journey and we have a common definition, let’s return to our question. Why clean green? The benefits of green cleaning include (but are not limited to):
• Economy. Simply put, it is cheaper to purchase the five simple ingredients than to buy counter cleaner, bathroom cleaner, furniture polish*, toilet bowl cleaner, dishwashing detergent, glass cleaner, spot remover, deodorizers, fabric softener, floor cleaner, fruit cleaner, stain remover, silver polish, laundry detergent*, bug spray, oven cleaner, rust remover, wallpaper cleaner/remover, weed remover, and more. (*These cleaners require one or more additional ingredients.)
• De-clutter your supply cabinet. [At the time of the original writing,] I share[d] an apartment with my husband and cat (If you asked Italics, he would tell you he graciously shares his space with us) [That’s still true!]. [We actually use even less space for cleaning supplies now.] If you’ve ever lived in an apartment, you know there’s not a lot of room. Now, we have plenty of space for the three of us, but I don’t want my entire kitchen taken up by cleaning products. A friend who has not switched to green cleaning (yet 🙂 ) has given me permission to show you her cleaning supply area along with mine. Which would you prefer? [Update: she now has way fewer cleaners, and most of them are natural/green; yay!]
• Protect the Environment. There are many reasons to protect the environment. One reason that I recycle and clean with green products is because I am a Christian. In the book of Genesis, God tells the first man and woman to “Fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Genesis 1:28, NIV. God placed humans on the earth to subdue and care for it. I try to care for the earth because I believe it to be my God-given responsibility.
• Health reasons. Cleaning with green products can also protect your health and the health of your family, pets, and guests. Many cleaning products sold in stores carry harmful chemicals. By using natural products, you know your home has only non-toxic, non-harmful ingredients. You know exactly what the cleaners contain. It is safer especially for people with ADD, Autism, and Asthma; who are allergic to heavy scents; and for babies, children, and pets who like to lick or chew on surfaces (our cat licks the floor a lot… I’m not sure why).
• Gentle on surfaces. By using natural ingredients instead of chemicals, you are also protecting the surfaces of your home.
• They work. I was skeptical trying many of the recipes in the book, but the furniture polish creates a shine that lasts for over a week, the dishes still come out clean, and I will never go back to pre-made glass cleaners. This one is completely streak-free, which is rare even among name-brands.
So, with all these benefits, why not clean green? Remember my friend with all the cleaning supplies? She brought up a couple of reasons why she does not clean green.
- Smell. “I love the way my home smells with the cleaners I use.” I can relate most to this reason, because I also love a good smelling home. I was worried when I started green cleaning that using products like vinegar in my home would give it an uninviting smell. I was pleasantly surprised to find that while there are slight smells as you mix the cleaners, cleaning with them is virtually odorless. This is great for people who are allergic to strong smells, but what if you want a nice, inviting smell in your home? You can try:
- A diffuser/candle in your home in your favorite scent can make a home feel warm and inviting. You can even change the candle or diffuser seasonally or whenever you feel like a new scent. I use a diffuser in my living room because my cat likes flames a bit too much. I would also recommend a diffuser if you have small children.
- Adding essential oils to your oil-based cleaners could make the cleaner itself smell nice. Some oils (like orange, rosemary, and lemon) will actually help clean and disinfect.
- A room spray after you clean can also leave a nice scent, but be careful of chemicals. You don’t want to clean green and then fill the air with chemicals. You can make a room spray with water and essential oils in any scent you like.
- If the smell of lemon makes you think of clean, slice a lemon and put it in a pot of water. Bring to a boil and let it sit (without a lid) for as long as you like to give your home a refreshing, clean fragrance.
- Worried about Bacteria. The places bacteria matters the most are in the kitchen and bathroom. An automatic dishwasher reaches temperatures hot enough to kill bacteria. For hard surfaces, mix equal parts borax and hot water to make a disinfectant; ¼ cup of borax in 2 cups of water acts like hydrogen peroxide and can be used as a bleach substitute.
- Time. It does take time to make your own cleaners, but not much. I make all my own cleaners in about half an hour once or twice a month. If even that seems too cumbersome, there are plenty of pre-made green alternative cleaners in stores. Just be careful: just because it has an old-fashioned looking label doesn’t mean it is green or healthy. [Now it take me even less time: 90% of the time I just use vinegar water in a spray bottle to clean almost everything.]
What is your favorite reason to clean green? If you have an obstacle to green cleaning I didn’t mention, what is it? Please feel free to comment or ask questions below. Thanks for reading and have a very clean day!
P.S. Want to know what’s in our cleaning arsenal now? Just a few items:
1. spray bottle with vinegar water (10% vinegar)- for any surface besides wood (for that I use a damp cloth or a duster)
2. small container each of baking soda & vinegar- for cleaning the toilet (put in a little of each and scrub)
3. dish wand with ½ & ½ vinegar and dish soap- for the shower; seriously it’s amazing. Thanks to Misty from Simply Convivial for the idea.
4. static duster- this saves so much time over using a rag, and if you dust weekly it doesn’t build up
5. dust buster (handheld mini vacuum)- we use this almost every night to vacuum up crumbs that Man Cub deposits on the floor… and chairs… and occasionally the cat (just kidding) we don’t vacuum the cat- though Man Cub does decorate him from time to time.
6. Vacuum cleaner, broom, dustpan and Reveal Ready Mop (it’s a swiffer-type mop that you can fill with your own fluid- I use vinegar water)