Favorite Cleaners to use
Some days, it seems to me like there are so many toxic things out there in the world that I can’t possibly make a difference, like emptying the ocean with a teaspoon.
The best antidote I know for that kind of toxic overwhelm is to fight back in my own house, one little green step at a time! I have worked hard to make every piece of my personal little world — my home — less full of chemicals and toxins.
I’m not the best housekeeper. One thing I am good at, though, after 17 years with a child with autism, is reading labels and choosing things I feel good about. Everything on this list works pretty well. It has to, because, like I said, I’m not all that good at house cleaning!
So many of us are getting extremely sensitive to environmental toxins of all kinds, that I think it’s more important than ever to work on making sure our own homes are as healthy for our bodies as possible.
Seventh Generation free & clear – Free of all perfumes and dyes, no petrochemicals or bleach, and seems to work great. Ingredients: coconut-based surfactants, glycerin, non-animal derived enzymes, borax, sodium gluconate, salt, less than .05% preservative, water. I get it at my healthfood store, or at some supermarkets.
Hand Dishwashing Soap
Seventh Generation Free & Clear Natural Dish Liquid – Free of perfumes and dyes, vegetable-based rather than petroleum based, so it’s nice to the environment. I like it just great for hand dishwashing. I get this at my healthfood store.
Machine Dishwashing Soap
Ecover dishwashing tablets – I have used these for years now, and wouldn’t switch. They’re these large “tablets”, each in its own little package. You just unwrap one and put it in the silverware tray or soap container, and voila, that’s it. They’re phosphate and chlorine free, and seem to do a great job on my dishes. I’m not a bigtime dish rinser who washes that dishes before putting them in, and it gets my dishes and even plastic cups nice and clean. I do not use a rinse aid, and they seem to work fine for me. I tried a bunch of natural other automatic dishwashing soaps, and liked these best by far!
I use Seventh Generation free and clear. It’s the one I keep coming back to. Works great on lots of surfaces, linoleum floors, too, and doesn’t have any weird scents or anything.
Bon Ami – Mom was right, this Comet-alternative is much less toxic and works great. Available at grocery stores. Also works to scrub stuff off of pyrex pans and stainless steel pots, and even, used gently, removes mineral deposits from pots and dishes.
This is one of the very few places in my house that I will actually use a little bleach (see note on bleach, below) I buy bleach tablets at the grocery store, and drop them in the back of each toilet. This is the best way I’ve found to make sure we keep the toilets clean enough, long term, even the ones in the kids’ rooms, which don’t always get attention. I watch to see when they are gone and replace them every few months. I don’t feel great about dumping bleach into the water supply, but in my house, with kids, I think these are the best solution for us.
For toilet cleaning, we use Seventh Generation Toilet cleaner. It works fine for regular cleaning, not as heavy duty as a lot of toilet cleaners, but with the bleach tabs we don’t need heavy duty.
If I see mineral deposits or discoloration, I use a pumice stone to get rid of them. This is old fashioned and low-tech, but completely non-toxic, and it works if you’re patient. You have to be kind of gentle in scraping off the rings, as you can damage the porcelain if you scrape too hard. It takes a little while, so keep working on it, even if it seems like they’re not coming off, they will. Pumice stones can be found at the hardware store and in some grocery or drugstore cleaning product departments.
Sticky and Greasy Messes
Citrasolv – This is a citrus concentrate, that works great when used straight, for removing gummy/sticky stuff. A tiny amount goes a long way. Don’t let young kids use this, it’s pretty strong.
We mostly have laminate floors, so we do a fair amount of mopping. I use a Swiffer for everyday light mopping, which I like a lot, but I hate having to use that “chemical” cleaner that Swiffer uses. Here are two things I discovered.
1. You can “hack” your swiffer, and use your own cleaner in the bottle. Cut a hole in it, and hotglue the top of a bottle into it – I actually cut off and recycled the top of a BrainChild vitamin bottle and it worked great! I found directions for doing this on the internet.
2. You can also just use the swiffer with a fresh dry pad, and carry a spray bottle of whichever type of floor cleaner you want in the other hand, spray it on the floor, and use the swiffer to mop it up. I’m doing that more these days, because I have one cleaner for laminate and another for linoleum.
3. My favorite new discovery: reusable swiffer pads! I bought these on amazon, and I LOVE them! You just throw them in the washer when they get dirty. I always felt awful about using the disposable kind, and these work great.
Linoleum: I “swiff” my linoleum with the Seventh Generation cleaner listed above. Works fine.
Laminate: I “swiff” my laminate floors with Earth Friendly Products brand Floor Kleener. It comes in a spray bottle. It seems to make laminate floors less streaky and dull than if you use a regular spray cleaner. Laminates are a more like a linoleum floor than a wood floor, though, so definitely don’t use cleaners made for hardwood floors on them.
I do use a regular mop once in awhile, to do a proper cleaning on the kitchen floor. Right now I use Bi-o-kleen in my mop water. It works pretty well.
Allergen Note: To help keep allergens and dust down in your house, make sure to put good filters in your furnace. Forced air heat can add a lot of dust. Put fresh filters both in the main furnace intake (large) and the floor grates (small) once a year, when you start using the furnace in Fall.
I have a carpet shampooer, but I don’t like the ingredients in the soap you’re supposed to use in them. Most of the time, I have the carpets cleaned rather than doing it myself.
Instead, I use…
Stanley Steemer – These guys come to your house and clean your carpets, using a hot-water extraction method. They use a soap very similar to laundry detergent, and extract dirt with hot water, and strong suction equipment, so it’s pretty nontoxic, and the carpet is fairly dry when they’re done. I actually own a carpet cleaning machine, but use Stanley Steemer instead because they get the floor cleaner and dryer than I can, and because their equipment is so much better, they end up using much less soap to clean it than my home machine does. I think that the fact that the carpet is pretty dry quickly helps to keep mold from growing in it, which I also like a lot. It does cost some money, but I think it is better overall than doing it myself and dealing with toxic cleaners and mold.
Orange-guard – This is a nontoxic, citrus-based insect killer. Kills ants quite well when you spray it, but not all that effective if they come by later. I use it liberally when I first see ants, especially where they’re coming into the house, and a few times a day until they’re gone. A combination of this stuff and boric acid usually gets rid of them pretty quick. Don’t let little kids touch this – it’s not poisonous, but it could hurt their eyes.
Boric Acid – This is a very inexpensive powder. Ants eat it and it dries out their lungs (ick), but it’s not inert to humans. Don’t use it on food-prep surfaces, but sprinkle on window sills, and where you think Ants are coming in and it will help. It’s a little messy – you can wipe it up after the ants are gone. It’s getting harder to find, as it’s one of those “old-time” drugstore items. You might have to buy it online if you don’t have an old-fashioned drugstore around.
This sounds strange, but the one other use I know of for Boric acid is as an eyewash for conjunctivitis – bad for ants, but good for our eyes! Very effective and safe. Google it, and you’ll see recipes for using it this way.
Cinnamon – I don’t use this, as it can be really messy, but a childcare center I used to work with swears by spreading liberal amounts of cinnamon where ants like to come into the building, to make them stay away – I guess they don’t like the smell of it. You can buy big cheap containers of cinnamon at Costco.
I still will sometimes use one or two pesticide ant stakes along the foundation of the house outside, as little as absolutely needed, as a last resort if I just can’t get the ants to stay away. Don’t use these in an area where little kids might get them.
A note about Bleach and Chlorine:
Just FYI, chlorine is a HUGE blocker to sulfation and detoxification function in the body. Sulfation (along with methylation) is critical for the production of glutathione and for the body to be able to detoxify itself. These are the things that are messed up so often in our kids. So it would benefit us greatly to keep our children as far from chlorine as possible.
Please do what you can to avoid using much bleach around your house for cleaning. I personally have not found any good alternatives for bleaching really stained white clothes or for toilets (bleach tablets) or for the very occasional health-hazard-level germridden task, like cleaning a house when you move, and things like that. For almost everything else, see what you can do to make other products work for you if possible. Oxygen bleach is much better, if you can make it work for you. I have tried oxygen bleach for the things chlorine bleach is good at, and so far I am not impressed, so I do not use it.
Oh, and definitely stick the kids in an epsom salts bath and/or rinse them in the shower then put on epsom salts cream they get back from the swimming pool! This helps their bodies deal with the chlorine.