Natural Cleaning: Why and what you need to get started

natural cleaning: Why and what you need to get startedI started making my own cleaning supplies almost a year ago. I wanted a safer product- one that wasn’t messing with my internal organs when I breathed them. A product that I could hand my kids to help me clean and not worry about the repercussions of them ingesting it, inhaling it, or making a lethal combination by combining a few. My dog has the disgusting habit of drinking from the toilet when she can get away with it, so I need to be sure that she isn’t ingesting poison either.

Some sciencey background: Dr. Weil’s webpage does a good job succinctly explaining why some common household cleaner ingredients are harmful to our health. For an in-depth government resource, check out the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services extensive information on product and ingredient safety. Possible risks of common cleaning products were listed as having known carcinogens, respiratory irritation, and causing blindness; to name a few. All in a day’s work around the house- geez! Even without knowing the science behind it, you see the “keep out of children’s reach” labels, a long list of chemicals you can’t pronounce in the ingredient list, and your nose knows that the overpowering smell these products emit can’t be doing good things for your health.

Needless to say, I have done my research on natural and/or safe cleaning ingredients. I have experimented. I have failed and I have succeeded with various combinations. My toilets stay fresh for just as long as they did with traditional cleaner, my windows are a lot less streaky, and there have been no extra incidence of illness in my house because of these less toxic cleaners used to wash the countertops. An added bonus has been a cost and time savings. Most of my items cost a lot less than their unsafe counterparts in the stores. Once you have your ingredient supply stocked there is no time wasted running to the store for toilet bowl cleaner. Everything you need is on-hand and most recipes takes mere minutes to create. The best bonus- my kids clean their bathroom now. Why didn’t I think of this sooner!?

Now that I am completely satisfied with the combinations that I have been working with over the last few months, I would love to start sharing them with you. And so, Make-it Monday is born. I will start with the various cleaning supplies I make and use, but we’ll see what this morphs into. Yes, you could just search the gazillion ideas about this on Pinterest, but why when I’ve already done the trial and error part for you?

This post is going to focus on the ingredients I use to give you a little background on what they are good for and why. These are the supplies you will want to have on hand to begin this little adventure of making our cleaning safer!

Supply containers

Each recipe will specify what kind of container is needed. I use essential oils in a lot of recipes. These can corrode plastic at full strength, but I believe they are diluted enough that short-term storage in plastic is ok. For example, I mix a big batch of toilet bowl cleaner and store it in a large glass bottle. But I use a plastic squeeze bottle to keep a smaller amount that I use on a weekly basis. I have to refill it about every two weeks, so the mixture never sits for too long in it. I mix my all-purpose cleaner on a bi-weekly basis as well, so the mixture never sits in the plastic for long. This is what I have been doing and it works for me. My small sample of research says I’m right in this line of thinking. You do what you’re comfortable with. Do NOT reuse plastic bottles that previously contained hazardous cleaning ingredients. Plastic spray bottles are inexpensive and can be found at the dollar store, target, or amazon. I use these for toilet bowl cleaner.

Baking soda

Baking soda is one of the most effective cleaning ingredients available. When used as a homemade cleaner, baking soda neutralizes odors and scrubs away stains due to its abrasive properties. It is inexpensive and can be found in the baking aisle or here.

Castile soap

Castile soap is a concentrated vegetable-based soap with easy to recognize ingredients. This can be used to wash dishes, shampoo, clean floors, and many other things. A little goes a long way. For a how-to and dilution ratio help, this list from the Dr. Bronner website will help. It comes in many different scents and unscented. The last time I checked, Costco carried a 40 ounce bottle of the peppermint scent for about $10. That’s a great deal. If you are looking for other scents or sizes, look here.


Plain white vinegar is an inexpensive all-purpose cleaner, brightener, herbicide and more. Despite it’s pungent smell it can clean windows and kill weeds with the best of them.

IMPORTANT: Mixing vinegar w soda and castile

Taken from Lisa Bronner’s Blog on why not to mix vinegar with castile soap (or baking soda)….In great part it’s due to the fact that vinegar is an acid and the castile soap is a base. They will directly react with each other and cancel each other out. So, instead of getting the best of both (the scum cutting ability of the vinegar and the dirt transporting ability of the soap), you’ll be getting the worst of something entirely new. The vinegar “unsaponifies” the soap, by which I mean that the vinegar takes the soap and reduces it back out to its original oils. So you end up with an oily, curdled, whitish mess. And this would be all over whatever it was you were trying to clean – your laundry or counters or dishes or whatever. Read the rest here.

Hydrogen Peroxide

A natural and safe alternative to bleach, and inexpensive too! Brightens whites and kills bacteria. This is found in the pharmacy section of the store. Check the dollar store for the best deal.

Essential oil

Many essential oils are known for their natural cleaning power. I use lemon or other citrus blends. Peppermint, lavender, and tea tree oil are also popular choices. Need a supply? I have been using DoTERRA and have been very happy with my results.

Distilled water

Be sure the water you are using is distilled to ensure impurities are removed. Using distilled water means fewer opportunities for bacteria and metals to ruin your products through contamination and auto-oxidation.

Well heck, if you’re still with me after all that- congrats! You won’t regret this. It’s a small investment for a huge return. If you’re itching to try something now, here is an awesome combo for cleaning grout. I’ll see you next Monday with the first recipe!

Happy Cleaning!

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