How to Clean Your Whole House Without Nasty Chemicals

As I revel in these special days of newborn love and cuddles, I have a few guest posts lined up to share with you. This first one is from Kelly @ Imperfect Homemaking. Please welcome her and her fabulous natural cleaning knowledge!

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When I got married six and a half years ago, I honestly didn’t care what was in my cleaning products.   We lived in an old apartment full of character and cobwebs, and I considered bleach my new best friend.  When I began having children I began to think twice about the products in our home.  Surely the things we breathe and come into contact with on a daily basis would affect our health, right?  I bought things with words like “organic” and “natural” and “pure” on the labels, but I was fairly certain I was being sold a lie (and, at least some of the time, I was).

And then my son was born sensitive to just about anything unnatural and we began switching full force to safe, non-toxic everything.  I am so glad we did.

My new rule of thumb is that my cleaning products shouldn’t be more dangerous than the problem I am trying to solve.  So I may use bleach to kill mold, but I won’t use it to make my white’s whiter.  Here is how I clean my whole house without nasty chemicals.

All Purpose cleaner:   Most things can be cleaned with a bucket full of warm water with either a squirt of a good, safe, non-toxic dish soap or a splash of vinegar.  Either of these solutions are great for cleaning cabinets and walls, the inside of your refrigerator, and nearly any hard household surface that just needs a gentle cleaning.

Windows: I clean windows with a spray bottle full of vinegar diluted half and half with water.

Mini Blinds: Clean vinyl mini-blinds with a natural dish soap and some vinegar.  I’ve shared before how exactly I do this on my own blog.  You can read that here.

Floors:  I mop my tile and laminate floors by adding a big splash of vinegar and a few drops of a favourite essential oil to a bucket of warm water.  The vinegar smell will disappear as your floors dry.  I promise your house won’t smell vinegary when you’re done!

Wood:  Sealed wood can be polished with a soft cloth with a tiny bit of vinegar and olive oil on it.

Mattresses and upholstered furniture:  To freshen your mattress or sofa, put some baking soda into a cheese shaker (or a mason jar with holes nailed into the lid) and add a few drops of a favourite essential oil (lavender will encourage good sleep, tea tree oil will deter bugs!) and sprinkle the mixture onto your mattress or sofa and leave it for an hour or so before vacuuming the solution up.

Sinks:  I have an article on my own blog about how I clean and shine my sink naturally using vinegar, baking soda, and olive oil.  You can read that here.  If you have a dishwasher, I also have step by step directions on how to clean that.

Drains:    To remove smells from stinky drains, sprinkle some baking soda down a stinky drain and follow with a couple cups of warm vinegar (you can kill two birds with one stone by doing this with the hot vinegar created by cleaning your microwave or kettle as detailed below)

Microwave: Put 1 cup of vinegar in a glass microwaveable bowl and microwave it on high until it’s boiling and has covered the walls of the microwave in vinegary condensation (this takes about 5 minutes in mine).  Let sit 3 minutes. Carefully remove the bowl of vinegar.  With a cloth or paper towel, wipe the surfaces clean.  This is so easy and it works really really well.

Kettle: To descale your kettle, put enough vinegar in it to cover the lime scale and mineral deposits.   Boil the vinegar in the kettle, and then rinse the kettle well.

Heavy Duty Cleaner for cooked on stove top gunk and any other hard to clean messes:  Mix some baking soda in a small bowl with enough hydrogen peroxide to make a paste.  Use a scrubby sponge to scrub the mess away.  If you have sensitive skin you may want to wear rubber gloves.  Try this on rust stains, soap scum and dirty grout lines.

Oven:  Oven cleaner was the last cleaner I eliminated and the one I was most uncomfortable using in my home.  I kept trying homemade solutions, discovering they didn’t work, and then going out and buying the can of spray on oven cleaner that works wonders but left me nervous to let my children breathe the air in our home!

The best natural oven cleaner I’ve found is Shaklee’s Scour Off. It works noticeably better than any of the homemade solutions I’ve tried.  If you’d prefer a homemade cleaner, the Heavy Duty Cleaner listed above works pretty well with a generous dose of elbow grease.

Toilets:  What I liked about commercial toilet cleaners was the special bottle design that allowed me to get the cleaner right up under the rim of the bowl!  You can accomplish this by putting straight vinegar in a regular spray bottle with the nozzle set to stream instead of mist.  Squirt the vinegar right up under the rim where you need it and then scrub the bowl with a toilet brush as usual and flush.

Disinfectant:  Tea tree oil, sometimes called melaleuca oil, has antibacterial qualities.   I place some in a spray bottle filled with water when I feel the need to disinfect something.  It also deters head lice, so I actually spray my children’s hair with this same solution when we leave for church on Sunday mornings!

Keep in mind that tea tree oil is toxic when swallowed. While I consider it reasonably safe to use around the house, you do want to keep it away from curious little hands!  I suppose that goes for all home cleaning supplies, natural or not!

I love knowing that the products that come through the door to our home are safe and friendly and that the air we breathe is clean.

Happy Cleaning!

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Kelly lives in rural Ontario Canada with her husband, their six kids, and a small brood of far-too-friendly backyard chickens.  She blogs about cooking, cleaning and crafting at www.imperfecthomemaking.com.

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Comments

  1. says

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  2. says

    Wow! This is a very creative way of using affordable materials that can be found in your own houses for cleaning. I Have read a lot of blogs saying that vinegar is really a good cleaning agent. Sounds really effective to many.

  3. CreativeMomOf3 says

    I only buy my essential oils from mountainroseherbs.com. They’re a great company and they’re not too pricey either. I love their essential oils and their other products. Whatever you do don’t buy your essential oils from somewhere like Wal-Mart, they’re probably not organic and not very good quality either. I’ve found some oils there but they’re not essential and they weren’t organic and they weren’t meant for cleaning and/or making homemade beauty products or salves and such. I make all my own salves, cleaning products, laundry detergent, lotions and beauty products and I only use Mountain Rose Herbs products. They specifically tell you that their products are organic and what they’re best used for and they even send you recipes for cleaning products and things like that. They also sell teas and organic olive and coconut oils as well as other oils that you can cook with and spices, etc. I make my own cayenne slave for pain with organic olive oil and cayenne spice from them and it works wonders. If you want more information on them though just to their website and read the info. They tell you what each product is what it’s good for as far as pain, headaches, etc and they do the same things with their teas. The catalogs that they send out are also sent on recycled/recyclable paper. It’s a great company that pays their workers well, treats them well and is honest about their products.

  4. Jennifer says

    I’m curious if tea tree oil is toxic if swallowed is it safe to add to my cleaning products? Most of the all purpose sprays that say add an essential oil list tea tree oil as an option. Or lemon oil. Sometimes both. The all purpose kitchen cleaner I just made has 10-15 drops of each in it.

    • Kay says

      I don’t think tea tree oil is toxic. I have swallowed it before, though it is stout it is harmless. It is also great for ear infections. Take a little dosage cup and put a few drops of tea tree oil,and a few drops of olive oil. Drop in ear and use a cotton ball.I used this remedy for my kids ear infections many times.
      Insread of nasty antibiotics.

  5. mark says

    thanks for posting this, everytime i clean i cant stand that chemically smell that i smell after im done knowing that its not good to inhale that, but all these “green” “organic” products is just marketing they either dont work or not all that “Green”

  6. Theresa says

    Great list…I have been using a similar mixture for glass cleaner and all purpose cleaner…they work great! For the toilet I sprinkle baking soda liberally then add vinegar and it makes a nice cleansing foam for the brush. The only thing I have not tackled is the tub and kitchen sink (both white)…I still resort to a scrub with bleach : ( (6 people using the same shower every day!) Also, I am trying to find a way to naturally unclog drains if you know of any. Such a blessing to find you through Pinterest : )

    • Mary P says

      I get a rag wet and add a little dish soap, then I just sprinkle baking soda as needed and scrub the tub like that. The baking soda does all the work! Grime comes right off! I used to use Comet (powdered bleach), but had to put a lot of elbow grease into it. Not anymore!

    • Maira Sias says

      For the shower and sinks I use a 2:1 ratio of vinegar and blue Dawn dish soap. I use the directions above to the clean the microwave then I take that same vinegar (no use in wasting it) still warm and pour it into a spray bottle. Add 1/2 cup of blue Dawn dish soap (other dish soaps don’t work as well) to the spray bottle. Shake gently to mix the solution and spray directly on to your shower, tub, shower doors, and sink. Let it sit for an hour then wipe down with a damp towel, rag, sponge, or scrubber. You shouldn’t have to scrub at all just wipe away the gunk then rinse everything down with water.

      For clogged drains (which I haven’t had in a very long time) I use 1/2 cup of baking soda and pour it down the drain with a funnel -you want to get as much down there as possible. Then pour 1/2 cup of warm vinegar down the drain and block the drain so the foam doesn’t come back out. After 10 minutes pour a gallon of boiling water down the drain and that should work. If it doesn’t fully work I would wait a few days, try using a drain snake (or a wire coat hanger with a hook on the end) to get any hair or clogs out then repeat with the baking soda, vinegar and hot water. This works for sinks, tubs and toilets. If you’re doing it to your toilet make sure you empty the toilet bowl of any water first.

      Hope that helps

      • Sandra says

        I use the baking soda & vinegar then wait and pour the boiling water and I can confirm that it works great. for the sink and tub I pour some baking soda in a corner then add a little dish soap. mix with my finger til it’s the right consistency and tada! I have soft scrub. it works great and I am making just enough each time I clean.

    • tammy says

      the most natural(unnatural) way i know to unclog drains is to use coke a cola. poured right down the drain. it will eat a hole through just about anything. good idea to use it before you go to bed so it can sit in the clog and work and gets a good rinsing in the morning when all the showering starts. or when ever you have a down time in the shower. hope this helps!!

    • Arlynn says

      FlyLady has a great Drain Unclogger that uses just air. You can get it on her site. I love all of these tips. I use baking soda on my white sinks and to mop my floors and tables, cabinets, etc… It has been the easiest cleaning product I ever found. I dump a heaping tablespoon of baking soda into a shallow sinkful of hot water every night, use the water to wash all the kitchen down and mop my floor. Amazing and gets rid of hard water mineral deposits too.

    • Carol says

      To unclog drains:
      What I do is boil several gallons of water, pour 1 gallon down the drain, then “pour” baking soda down the drain. when the next water is boiled, slowly pour it down, taking the baking soda with it, then follow with white vinegar. Be careful, the water/mix may splash up, then after a few minutes, slowly pour another gallon of boiling water down.
      I have used this many times, and it usually works.

  7. says

    White vinegar is also great for cleaning up pet accidents. The vinegar counteracts the ammonia in the urine.

    Also, I once rehabilitated a very expensive espresso machine someone gave me because they thought it was broken. I ran a half and half vinegar/water mixture through it like I do with my coffee pot and tea kettle. After a few seconds it started puffing steam then running hot water with chunks of hard water deposits in it then clear water.

  8. Leah says

    You may want to check out Dr. Anne Steinemann’s work: she has proven that essential oils are NOT safe, but also can contain a lot of toxic elements. Just google her and essential oils.

    • kelly@imperfecthomemaking says

      Hi Leah! Everything I’ve read on the topic seems to suggest that even things scented with essential oils can have toxic chemicals in them, but not that the oils themselves are toxic.

        • says

          There are some essential oils that are pure, and some not so much… I don’t know as much about it, but I DO know that there is a definite difference in quality. One supplier I’ve heard is trustworthy is mountainroseherbs.com… but I’m sure there would be pure brands available near you as well.

  9. cindyrellae says

    I have one of those new-type washing machines that requires you to “clean washing machine” periodically. I assume it is for built-up pet hair and/or lint or fuzz. Of course, it recommends using the brand name “Affresh” product. Clorox came out with a similar product at half the cost, but now I cannot find either product in the stores any more. Do you have a solution for cleaning a new-type washing machine other that trying Drano? I think that would damage my machine. The purpose, I believe is to dissolve the particles that are clogging it up. Any suggestions would greatly help me out. Maybe baking soda and vinegar, since that fizzles when combined?Thank you! :D

    • kelly@imperfecthomemaking says

      Hi Cindyrellae! I use vinegar and baking soda in my washing machine a couple times a year and it works great!

      • cindyrellae says

        Thank you very much. I appreciate your timely response and advice. Could I ask you how much of each I should use, and should I put the baking soda in the barrel and the vinegar in the soap dispenser??? Thanks-Cindy

        • kelly@imperfecthomemaking says

          I don’t have a front loader. If you do you should try googling it, I know I’ve seen bloggers with front loading machines cover this topic :)

          • cindyrellae says

            Mine is a top loader as well. I have never liked front loaders, ‘cos you can’t add that last “Oh, I forgot this ” item! LOL! Thank you for all your advice, Kelly. I will figure out the where-to-put-it thing, but could you tell me how much BS and Vin. to use? Last question, I promise. :D

  10. Deborah Davies says

    Great ideas! I’m a newbie on this site & look forward to future tips & time saving ideas! Thank You!

  11. Chelisue says

    I’m gonna try what you did with the microwave!!!! Same kind of stuff. Maybe it will work. Have ya done that. How did it work?

    • says

      this method works really well .if there is a lot of hard baked on stuff I will give the sides a quick splatter of the mixure just using my fingers and flicking it on the sides. I also use a glass measuring cup though so it is a bit easier to get the hot mixture out of the microwave.

  12. Gma Judy says

    For me these idea’s are great because with the excpetion of spraying the vinegar, it wont bother my lungs. I was diagnosed with COPD a yr ago. Which explains y every time I went to clean my own bathroom it left me very breathless. I was thinking that the cleaning products were just getting worse in the making of them. Never dawned on me it was..well, ME. lol
    Thanks for sharing this with us.

  13. Marci says

    Some great ideas!  Thanks :).  I’ve been trying to integrate more natural cleaning methods too – for years, everytime I’d clean the bathrooms, I’d be stuffy for days afterwards…and I still had no clue that it’s because the stuff in the cleaners were bad for me!  So lots of these ideas will be really helpful to me as I try to have a clean home without being stuffy all the time :)

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