“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors...we borrow it from our children.”
-Native American Proverb
April 22 is Earth Day...the day we honor and celebrate our beautiful planet! I love Earth Day because this living, breathing, incredible home is the one thing all of us--regardless of race, culture, religion, political ideology, sexual orientation, nationality, or even species--share. This enduring world sustains us, and during the month of April, there are always endless opportunities to return the favor by nurturing nature, conserving and replenishing our natural resources, and cleaning up after ourselves.
And speaking of cleaning up after ourselves, one of the easiest ways we can show Planet Earth some love all year long is to reduce our dependence on harsh chemicals when cleaning our homes. In the early days of the Coronavirus pandemic, there was a heavy emphasis on sanitizing and disinfecting every surface, as fomite transmission was thought to be one way the virus was spread. Scientists have since learned that transmission of the virus through contaminated surfaces is relatively rare. Still, many of us are continuing to overuse chemicals because it makes us feel better. A more effective way to protect ourselves is by improving ventilation, wearing a mask when out in public, social distancing and frequent hand-washing. Definitely once you are vaccinated against SARS-CoV2, you might want to cut back a bit on the harsh disinfectants that can also harm your health and the environment.
“Green cleaning” our homes is also more convenient and easier on your wallet. With just a few versatile ingredients--most of which you probably already have on hand--you can mix up your own non-toxic cleaning solutions anytime you need them.
Compare the cost of a single batch of the commonly-used, chemical-laden cleaners below to the simple, everyday ingredients needed to make multiple batches of the environmentally-friendly versions:
Tilex - $3.99
Windex - $3.19
Comet - $.99
Fantastik - $4.99
Murphy's Oil Soap - $3.49
Windex Electronics Wipes - $2.99
Tide Liquid Laundry Detergent - $8.79
Shout Stain Remover - $2.97
Clorox Automatic Toilet Bowl Tablets - $4.99
Clorox Wipes - $4.99
Total Cost - $54.54
White Vinegar - $1.99
Water - FREE
Rubbing Alcohol - $.99
Dawn Dish washing Liquid - $2.50
Salt - $.89
Citric Acid - $2.97
Castile Soap with Tea Tree Oil - $6.69
Washing Soda - $3.97
Lemon Essential Oil - $6.99
Total cost - $32.97
Savings - $21.57 (That’s a 40% savings on just the first batch, plus you’ll have enough ingredients leftover to make additional batches for free!)
Cutting back on the chemicals in the cleaning solutions you use is just one way green cleaning helps the environment and saves you money. Consider the benefits of recycling as you clean. For example, instead of buying a new spray bottle of commercial glass cleaner or a jug of laundry detergent every month, refill your own spray bottle and jug with the homemade versions to reduce the amount of plastic your family consumes. Keep all those disposable disinfecting wipes out of the landfill by replacing them with reusable cleaning cloths. Recycle old newspapers for cleaning your windows. Heck, you can even put that old mateless sock to good use over and over again on your Swiffer in place of buying the disposable sweeper cloths. When your t shirts, towels, cloth napkins, and dish towels become worn and ratty, downgrade them to cleaning rags. I save the worst-looking ones that are truly nearing the end of their usefulness for washing the car or in place of paper towels for cleaning up the yuckiest messes before finally pitching them.
My family has been green cleaning for several years now and my house feels, looks and smells as fresh and germ-free as ever. I never have to worry about running out of cleaning supplies, and have saved a bundle of money! The best part is that the solutions we use are safe enough for my kids to help with the cleaning chores without the worry of exposing them to dangerous harsh chemicals. Now that’s a win!
Below are some of my favorite green cleaning "recipes". For best results, store them in glass containers whenever possible (especially if the recipe contains borax, which can weaken plastic over time and create leaks). Some ingredients may be harmful if ingested. Keep solutions away from pets and always supervise small children when using.
Hydrogen Peroxide (the king of green cleaners!)
You don't even need to mix up a solution for this one! This little miracle cleaner has anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-mold, anti-fungal and anti-mildew properties and is non-toxic and environmentally-friendly. Use it to:
3/4 c. vinegar
1/2 c. rubbing alcohol
1/2 c. water
5-6 drops Castile Soap w/essential oil
This is great for cleaning kitchens and bathrooms. May not be suitable for all surfaces. Mix all ingredients together in a spray bottle.
1 cup Dawn
1 cup white vinegar
Spray over soap scum-coated surfaces and allow to sit for about 20 minutes. Scrub and rinse clean. (This stuff can be difficult to breathe...be sure to turn on your exhaust fan and/or open a window when using.)
Glass & Chrome Cleaner
1 c. vinegar
1 c. water
Spray onto newspaper or slightly crumpled coffee filters and wipe onto windows, mirrors and chrome in a circular motion.
1 c. baking soda
1/2 c. salt
1/2 c. borax
Works well on kitchen and bathroom sinks and toilets. Sprinkle generously before scrubbing with a brush. Note: this is an abrasive substance and may scratch some surfaces. Do not use on wood.
3/4 c. baking soda
1/4 c. castile soap
1 T. vinegar
1 T. Borax
1 T. water
3-5 drops tea tree oil
Store paste in a small glass jar with tight-fitting lid. Dip clean dish brush into paste and scour porcelain or stainless steel sinks. Rinse clean.
Quick Counter Cleanup Rags
3 c. hot water
2 T. castile soap
1 T. borax
1 cup vinegar
8-12 folded rags
I keep a jar of these at the ready to wipe up everyday spills and crumbs from my kitchen counter and table. Layer half of the rags in a large glass mason jar with tight-fitting lid. Combine other ingredients in a large glass measuring cup or pitcher and pour half over the folded rags in the jar. Layer the remaining rags on top and pour remaining liquid over top, making sure all the rags are saturated. Keep closed and use within two weeks.
Laundry Stain Remover
2/3 cup Dawn
2/3 cup ammonia*
6 T. baking soda
2 cups warm water
*NEVER COMBINE AMMONIA WITH PRODUCTS THAT CONTAIN BLEACH!
Spray onto stain and gently rub (not too hard, or you may cause discoloration) before laundering as usual.
3 T. Dawn or Castile Soap
3 T. Borax
3 T. Washing Soda
4 cups warm water
Combine all ingredients in glass container. Shake before using. 1/4 cup per large load.
Electronics Screen Cleaner
1 part distilled water*
1 part distilled white vinegar
Lightly spray cleaner onto a microfiber cloth and gently rub screen to clean. Do not spray directly on device.
*Use only distilled water!
Wood Floor Cleaner
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon olive oil
Combine ingredients into spray bottle. Spray onto wood floor and wipe clean with a dry cloth. Use no more than once/month. Use a simple solution of vinegar and water for weekly cleaning in between.
1/4 cup citric acid
1 cup baking soda
15 drops lemon essential oil
Combine all ingredients in large bowl and press into ice cube tray. Allow to dry completely overnight. Remove from tray and store in a large glass jar with tight-fitting lid. To use, drop tablet in toilet and let sit for 5-10 minutes; then scrub with toilet brush and flush. Clean back, base and seat of toilet with All-Purpose Cleaner.
With a few simple ingredients and the right attitude, even spring cleaning can be easy peasy!
Got an earth-friendly cleaning tip to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Valerie Sheridan is a professional organizer, wife, mother of two, and Founder/Owner of EasyPeasy Living.