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Alternative Cleaning Solutions

All Purpose Cleaner Disinfectants and Floors
Kitchen Products Bathroom Products
Laundry Products General Household
The Basic Ingredients Polish

We all want clean and healthy home. However, it's too easy to pop down to the store and buy cleaners that seem to miraculously wipe away grime and stains... but at what cost? The dollar value certainly doesn't take into account the total energy costs of making the product, or cleaning up the environmental and health damage that results from using it. Many of the chemicals in household cleaners and pesticides are not adequately tested, regulated or controlled. An estimated 2 to 5 million exposures to household poisons occur every year, and a significant number of them involve household cleaners.

Alternative cleaning solutions are safe, inexpensive cleaners based on time honoured traditional recipes and simple ingredients. There are many ingredients in your own kitchen or bathroom cupboard that could easily be substituted for cleaners. They include: baking soda, water, vinegar, soap, borax, lemon juice, salt, a spray pump bottle, and good old "elbow grease". Add a little extra time to that mix and you have effective and environmentally friendly cleaning solutions for all situations! Store mixtures in spray bottles and label them. Start with a few recipes and discover the alternatives that work best for you. Remember, some of the alternatives work more slowly and require more scrubbing than their toxic cousins, but the environment will be better off.

Those miracle cleansers lining supermarket shelves may offer a quick solution, but taking the time to clean the old fashioned way is an opportunity to reflect. I often dream up ways to avoid the stains, reduce the build up of grime, better designs, easier ways to do the job while I'm working. Or I may be dreaming up the plot for my next novel. It's a great meditative opportunity, and the exercise is what kept our ancestors healthy! Our hurried lifestyle, our need to rush from achieving one goal to the next, is costing the planet too much. Do yourself and the planet a favour - take a little extra time to do those chores that connect us to our humanity.

The following recipes are in metric measurement. See below for a chart to convert to imperial measurements

All Purpose Cleaners
1. 125 mL ammonia; 125 mL white vinegar; 50 mL baking soda; 2 litres of water
2. 30 mL borax; 1 mL soap flakes; 1 litre of water; Store in a spray bottle
3. 45 mL washing soda; 1 litre of hot water
4. Mix 1 2/3 cups baking soda with 1/2 cup of liquid soap in a bowl. Using liquid soaps is best because liquid detergents make this scrub too time consuming to rinse off. Dilute with 1/2 cup water. Add 2 tbsp. vinegar. Stir with a fork until the lumps are gone. Be as exact as you can, otherwise, your squirt will be too thin or thick. Keep in squeeze container with a recycled squirt flip-top cap. Keep the cap on, because this mixture will dry out. Shake well before using.

Disinfectant and Floors
Disinfectant : 125 mL borax; 4 1/2 litres of water; Bring water to a boil and mix with borax in a wash pail. Allow mixture to cool slightly before using.
Linoleum Floor Cleaner #1: 250 mL white vinegar; 9 litres water - Mop with a mixture of 1/2 cup vinegar in a bucket of warm water. The vinegar odor will go away shortly after the floor dries.
Linoleum Floor Cleaner #2
75 mL washing soda; 125 mL ammonia in; 4 litres of warm water.

Kitchen Products
Dish Washing Detergent
Useful Tips:
Cut down on the amount of oils you use in cooking - this will improve your health and dishwashing experiences!
One pot meals cut down on washing up and save money.
1. Use equal parts of washing soda and borax. Increase the amount of washing soda if your water is hard. Do not use on an aluminum or teflon-coated surface. Teflon will darken in colour.
2. Use soap flakes.
3. Combine 1 part borax with 1 part washing soda. This is fine for all utensils except aluminum items with teflon coating. Teflon may darken.
4. Use a cake of pure soap in a wire basket, or make lather by rubbing soap between your hands. If the water in your area is hard, add a little washing soda to the wash water, or a spoonful of vinegar to the rinse water.
5. Pour boiling water over soap scraps & leave to dissolve, adding sufficient soap to one to make the water feel slippery, & 3/4 cup of vinegar or strained lemon juice to the rinsing water.
Oven Cleaner
Prevent messes by using a baking sheet to catch spills and overflows.
1. If spills occur, scrub area immediately after oven has cooled with a paste-like mixture of baking soda and water.
2. Mix 30 mL liquid dish soap and 15 mL of borax in a 1 litre spray bottle. Spray soiled area. Wait 1 hour and scrub with steel wool.
3. Use 250 mL of ammonia with 750 mL of water. Place 250 mL of ammonia in a pan on the top shelf and a pan of boiling water on the bottom shelf in preheated 100C (215 F) oven. Turn off oven and leave over night. Before opening oven to clean, be sure to provide plenty of ventilation. Don't use on self cleaning ovens.
Scouring Powder
1. Sprinkle baking soda or borax on surface and scour with damp cloth. Rinse.
2. Shake salt on surface to be cleaned and scour with cloth dipped in lemon juice. Wipe clean with water-dampened cloth.
Pots and Pans
Use salt as an abrasive on a sponge or scourer for cleaning pots and pans.
1. Use soap with a plastic scourer.
2. Use lemon juice on porcelain and laminate, leave juice on stain overnight, then wipe off
Remove by pouring hot water on stains and covering with dry bicarb.
Microwave Cleaner
30 mL baking soda or lemon juice; 250 mL of water; Place the mixture in a four-cup microwave-safe bowl. Allow the mixture to boil for five minutes or until steam condenses on the sides of the oven. Wipe down the walls and the door with a clean cloth.
Coffee Maker Cleaner
Run white vinegar through the coffee maker, followed by one or two rinses with fresh water. You can save the vinegar and use it a couple more times when the coffee maker needs cleaning again.
Kettles, Irons, Shower heads, etc. Buildup Removal
Soak the affected areas in a solution of vinegar and water. Let sit 30 minutes, then remove and rinse with water.
Deodorise with bicarb - just put an open packet in the fridge after cleaning.

Bathroom Cleaners & Products
Tub, Tile or Toilet Cleaner
50 mL soap flakes or powder; 10 mL borax; 375 mL boiling water; 50 mL chalk line powder (whiting)
Dissolve soap flakes and borax in boiling water. Allow the mixture to cool. Add the chalk line powder and pour in a sealed plastic or glass container.
Surface Cleaner
To clean surfaces, use baking soda or borax with scrub brush or damp rag. Rub and rinse with water.
Drain Cleaner
Open clogged drains with metal snake or plunger.
2. For slow drains, pour 125 mL of baking soda followed by 125 mL vinegar down the drain pipe and cover with stopper. Let stand for 1/2 hour then rinse. Repeat if necessary.
3. To keep drains clear, pour a litre of boiling water into the drains twice a week.
Hard Water Stains and Mould
For hard water stains, mix lemon juice and borax into a paste. Apply. Let set for two hours and scrub off.
For mould, spray tiles with undiluted vinegar. Wait half an hour and scrub with brush and water.
Toilet Bowl Cleaner
Sprinkle baking soda inside the bowl as you would any scouring powder. Squeeze a couple of drops of soap in also. Scrub with a toilet bowl brush and finish outside surfaces with a rag sprinkled with baking soda.
Hair conditioner
Lemon juice can also be used as a hair conditioner and hair lightener. Add juice to rinse water.

Laundry Room Products
Bleach Alternatives
1. Use one part hydrogen peroxide to five parts water. Soak garments in the solution, then rinse.
2. Add 125 mL of borax to full wash load. Borax is less damaging to fabric than bleach so clothes will last longer.
3. Use lemon juice on laundry and on kitchen surfaces.
Detergent Substitute
80 mL washing soda; 375 mL soap powder; 125 mL vinegar; Add washing soda to water as machine is filling. After it has dissolved, add clothes and soap powder. If water is hard, add 50 mL baking soda or 50 mL vinegar to the first rinse (when switching to this method, do your first wash in washing soda and warm water to remove detergent residues and to prevent yellowing of whites).
Spray Starch
Mix 15 mL cornstarch with 150 mL water.
Using a pump spray bottle, spray on clothes when ironing.
Static Cling Prevention
1. Toss a small wet towel into the dryer a few minutes before end of the cycle.
2. Spray a fine mist of water on the underside of clothes you are wearing.
Fabric Softener
Add 125-250 mL vinegar in the rinse cycle if you wash with soap or 125 mL baking soda in wash cycle.
Spot and Stain Removers
Immediately soak spot/stain in cool water and sponge away. Use cold water because hot water can set the stain.
1. Rub with cloth dipped in borax or apply a paste of cornstarch and water. Let dry and brush off.
2. Cover affected area with baking soda or cornstarch. Leave for one hour and brush off carefully.
Oil Stain
Before laundering, rub white chalk into oil stain.
Ink (ballpoint)
Sponge with rubbing alcohol or hair spray. Rub with soap, rinse and wash.
Fruit and Red Wine
Soak in club soda or sprinkle stain with an absorbent powder such as salt, baking soda or cornstarch. Wait until the powder becomes sticky, carefully remove and add more powder. Repeat until most of the stain is gone. Apply a final dusting. Wait two hours, brush away and wash with a mild detergent solution. Rinse quickly, rub dry and air well.
1. Soak with lemon juice. Rub with salt. Dry in direct sunlight and wash.
2. Vinegar can help remove rust on nuts and bolts and other mineral deposits such as calcium deposits
Chocolate and Coffee
1. Soak in cold water. Rub with mild soap and borax solution.
2. Blot chocolate with a cloth. Sponge first with club soda and then warm water. Dry thoroughly.
Rub with glycerin. Let stand one hour and wash.
Soiled Nappies
Presoak in 45g bicarb dissolved in warm water, wash in hot soapy water and then dry them in the sun.
Immediately pour salt or hot water on the stain and then soak in milk before you wash.

Silver Polish
lemon juice; 15 mL salt; Rub surface with mixture of lemon juice and salt and polish with a soft cloth.
Furniture and Floor Polish
1. 5 mL lemon oil in about half litre of mineral oil
2. Light soapy water and a soft cloth
3. Rub toothpaste on wood to remove water stains.
4. For gleaming wood furniture, use 15 mL melted carnauba wax mixed with 500 mL mineral oil or dissolve 5 mL lemon oil in 500 mL mineral oil.
Chrome Polish
1. Use apple cider vinegar.
2. Polish with a soft cloth and rubbing alcohol.
3. A little ammonia and hot water.
4. Dry baking soda and a dry cloth.
Wood Polish
Olive oil: Use one part white distilled vinegar and three parts olive oil. Add a little natural lemon oil (not the synthetic kind) and you've got a great polish!
Waxed Wood Polish
125 mL paraffin wax; 50 mL vinegar; Gently melt paraffin wax in a double boiler and add vinegar. Soak a clean cloth in the mixture for half an hour. Wring the cloth out and use as a polishing cloth when dry.

General Household Products
Moth Repellent
Place lavender flowers in cloth bag and store with clothing.
Glass and Mirror Cleaner
30 mL vinegar in 1 litre of water
2. 1 part vinegar with 5 parts water in spray bottle.
3 Spray on and rub with a lint-free rag, or sheets of newspaper. For outdoor windows use a sponge and wash with warm water with a few drops of liquid liquid soap in it. Rinse well and squeegee dry.
Air Freshener
1. Boil cinnamon and cloves in water
2. Place 30-60 mL of baking soda in small bowls around the house.
3. Sprinkle borax on carpets as a natural deodoriser.
Rug and Upholstery Cleaner
1. Sprinkle dry cornstarch on rug and vacuum.
2. For spills, rub promptly with mixture of vinegar and water. Sponge with clean water and pat dry.
3. Clean stains immediately with cold club soda.
4. Sprinkle cornstarch on rug. Wait half an hour and vacuum.
5. Pour salt on red wine spills. Vacuum when dry.
6. Sprinkle cornstarch or cornmeal on rug and vacuum. Use club soda to remove stains.
Window and Mirror Cleaner
Vinegar, water; Put 1/4 cup vinegar in the spray bottle and fill to top with water. Spray on surface. Rub with a diaper, other lint-free rag, or sheets of newspaper. For outdoor windows use a sponge and wash with warm water with a few drops of liquid liquid soap in it. Rinse well and squeegee dry
Drain Cleaner
Baking soda, vinegar, boiling water; This recipe will free minor clogs and help to prevent future clogs. Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain first, then 1/2 cup vinegar. Let it fizz for a few minutes. Then pour down a teakettle full of boiling water. Repeat if needed. If the clog is stubborn, use a plunger. If very stubborn, use a mechanical snake.
Copper Cleaner
Vinegar, salt, water, vegetable oil (optional): Mix equal parts vinegar and salt (a tablespoon of each should do) and apply to surface with a rag. Be sure to rinse thoroughly with water afterwards, otherwise it will corrode. Apply a little vegetable oil with a cloth and rub for a shiny appearance (Don't use this cleaner on lacquered finishes).
Brass Cleaner
Cut a lemon in half, sprinkle it with salt and rub the lemon on the metal. Buff with a cloth.
To Remove Scratches
Use toothpaste on a soft cloth and rub gently to diminish scratches in glass and hard plastics.
Toothpaste lifts crayon marks off the floor.



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Our ever-changing view!
Moonset ~ Roll Cloud ~ Sunset

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Conversion Table

5 ml = 1 Teaspoon
250 mL = 8 fluid ounces or 1 cup
15 ml = 1 Tablespoon
500 mL = 16 fluid ounces or 2 cups
50 ml = 2 fluid ounces or 1/4 cup
1 litre = 1 quart or 4 cups
1 litre = 1 quart or 4 cups
4.5 litres = 1 gallon


The Basic Ingredients

Baking Soda
Chemists call this white powder sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3). Your grandmother might have mixed it with water, called it a "bicarb," and drank it to cure heart burn. That should tell you something about how safe it is. In cleaning, baking soda does a lot of different things. As a powder, it acts as a mild abrasive to help scratch off hardened dirt without scratching whatever it is you're trying to clean. Baking soda also dissolves in water without leaving a gritty film like other scouring powders do. And because it dissolves in water, baking soda gives you other benefits. A baking-powder solution possesses a disinfecting quality because it kills some bacteria and fungus. It's not as strong as some other cleaners, but it's a lot safer. A baking-powder solution will also help cut grease, so it works well in cleaning recipes that involve other basic ingredients.

Chemists might call vinegar a dilute solution of acetic acid (CH3COOH). When table wine turns "bad," it chemically changes into vinegar. You probably won't drink it as a beverage, but you might mix it with a little olive oil to put on your salad. Vinegar is a mild acid that cuts grease and disinfects by killing many types of bacteria, yeast, and molds.

Most people confuse soap and detergent. Actually, soap is a kind of detergent that is simple and made from natural products like vegetable oils and animal fats. The detergent that we buy from a store is really a synthetic detergent that has been manufactured from a variety of mineral products like coal tar and petroleum. Soap is gentle and is wonderful in cleaning under the right conditions. Generally, chemists originally developed synthetic detergents as an alternative to soap when the water used for cleaning is hard (contains magnesium or calcium) or acid is present. If the water in your area is hard, add a little washing soda to the wash water, or a spoonful of vinegar to the rinse water

Really Hot Water and Elbow Grease
There's no getting around this one. Using non-toxic alternatives to standard household cleaners sometimes means that you will have to scrub harder or longer. But we can make that a little easier by using really hot water . And I mean really hot. You'll definitely need to wear gloves and use scrubbing brushes, etc. The health benefits of not using nasty chemicals far outweigh the need to spend a few more minutes on a cleaning chore. Also, many of the recipes work just as well as the more-hazardous chemicals you've been using all this time.

Lemon Juice
It's the acids in citrus fruits that provide the cleaning power and pleasant smell. It's definitely non-toxic and is good for your hands as you clean.

Keep cooking salt for cleaning as it's cheaper than iodised salt. Make sure you keep it in an airtight container so it doesn't clump. Some salts contain silicon dioxide (fine sand) to improve pouring flow - don't buy these for cleaning as it will scratch surfaces.

Known as the ultimate cleaner, borax has been widely used throughout time and only in the latter half of the 20th Century has it gone out of vogue. Borax is sold in a compact box, slotted between all the big boxes of laundry detergent at your supermarket. It's a naturally occurring mineral made of sodium, boron, oxygen and water. Borax can be sprinkled on carpet as a natural deodorizer; mix one part borax to four parts water and you have a bleach substitute; blend with twice as much hot water and you have a disinfectant; mix with water and some dish washing liquid and - voila! - tub and tile cleaner. Borax is said to be harmless to plumbing and septic tanks.


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Copyright © Beverley Paine 2002-14. Article from this website may be downloaded, reproduced, and distributed without permission as long as each copy includes this entire notice along with citation information (i.e., name of the periodical in which it originally appeared, date of publication, and author's name). Permission must be obtained from the author in order to reprint this article in a published work or to offer it for sale in any form. Please visit Bungala Ridge Permaculture Gardens for more original content by Beverley Paine.