Here are three checklists of everyday, inexpensive products and tools that can help you to clean your home naturally. You probably already have many of these things in your pantry, but weeding these supplies out and setting aside a specific stash "for cleaning only" may help you feel better prepared should a whim or necessity to clean abruptly strike. Consider storing them together in an easy to carry bucket, storage bin, basket, or oversized market tote if you need to bring supplies from floor-to-floor.
Bare Necessities: Don't even think of cleaning without these.
- Broom & Dustpan
- Measuring Cup
- Measuring Spoons
- Baking Soda
- White Vinegar
- Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds
- Nice Cloths: Something with good scrubby loops. Terry cloth is great, so old towels or wash cloths will do. Or you can take it to the next level with a variety of microfiber cloths-- dusting, glass, stove top, general purpose-- like those from E-cloth
- Ratty, but clean, Cloths: Soft, faded old t-shirts or socks.
- Cheap Vodka: 80 proof/ 40% alcohol. Get whatever your local hobo likes.
- Instructions/ Non-toxic Cleaning Solution Recipes: See below for links.
The Life (and Time) Savers: Make cleaning short, sweet, and powerful with these additional things.
- Microfiber Mop: The saleswoman at Green Depot says E-Cloth's is her favorite. It cleans with just water!
- Club Soda
- Old Toothbrush
- Borax Laundry Booster (at your own risk)
- Washing Soda (Can't find it in the store? Make your own!)
- Dish liquid detergent (handwashing)
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- Rubbing alcohol
- Spray bottles tightly closing jars, and permanent marker: Mix up extra homemade cleaners, label the jar/ sprayer, and save for later.
Gravy: At some point, one or all of these things will come in handy. But if your budget is tight, you can totally do without these.
- Essential Oils and Dropper: Add your favorite aromatherapy scent or extra disinfecting power.
- Table Salt
- Scouring Pad
- Cheap-o Vegetable Oil
- Seventh Generation Naturally Disinfecting Wipes
- Rubber Gloves (Always wear when cleaning with washing soda or borax, as both can irritate skin.)
I found tons of recipes for non-toxic D.I.Y. cleaning products all over the internet and far my favorite article is Real Simple's 66 All-Natural Cleaning Solutions. It is pared down and organized in a really fantastic, approachable way and it includes measurements, which is super helpful. Care2 has a similar article called How to Make a Non-Toxic Cleaning Kit. Here's an article with tips on incorporating essential oils into your cleaning ritual, and here is another that features a list of herbs organized by properties (eg. antiviral, antibacteral).
The BEST resource is Green Housekeeping by Ellen Sandbeck. If it wasn't so thick, it'd sleep with it under my pillow. It's the most thorough and down-to-earth book I've read about not only non-toxic cleaning, but also about living an organic lifestyle.
In the end, you'll find pretty much all of the tried and true non-toxic solutions are similar. So as long as something doesn't sound too weird it should work. I recommend trying out a few recipes/techniques on different parts of the same surface and see what works best if you're truly curious.
Olivia Lane is a Blogger, Green Living Educator, and Health Coach trained at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She's also author of Baking Soda & Bliss: The Healthy & Happy Guide to Green Cleaning.