The Green Blog
Green Clean

Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Commercial Cleaning Products:
o Are less polluting to manufacture;
o Are less likely, in some cases, to cause injury if accidentally ingested;
o Don't cause indoor air pollution in your home;
o Are generally less expensive than commercial products;
o Can reduce waste from packaging;
o Are simple and effective and have been used for generations;
o Can help you save space in your cupboards and closets;
o Are less likely to harm the environment during and after use.

Think you need to buy special products for your household cleaning chores to be green?  Think again.  Many ingredients are as close as your kitchen cupboard, and you'll save money, too, by using these environmentally-friendly and easy-to-find products.

Green Clean Shopping List:
o Vinegar
o Baking soda
o Com starch
o Salt
o Borax: (toxic if ingested)
o Lemon juice
o Olive oil
o Mild liquid soap (not detergent)
o Reusable steel wool (not commercial cleaning pads that contain toxic cleaners)
o Non-chlorine (no sodium hypochlorite) scouring power (e.g., Bon Ami)
o Tea tree oil (essential oil available at health food stores and natural markets)

Recipes and Tips
All purpose cleaner
Mix 2 Tbsp baking soda with 1 pint warm water in a spray bottle. Add a squeeze of lemon juice or a splash of vinegar to cut grease.

Surface cleaner
Find a combination that works for you, and always keep some ready in a spray bottle. You'll find that weak acids like vinegar and lemon juice are good at cutting grease.
- Mix: 1 quart hot water, 1 tsp vegetable oil-based soap or vegetable oil-based detergent, 1 tsp borax, and 2 Tbsp vinegar. Note: vinegar is used here as mild acid to cut grease; borax is used as a water softener, especially good in areas with hard water, to prevent soapy deposits.
- OR mix 1/2 cup vinegar in 1 quart of warm water.
- OR, dissolve baking soda in hot water for a general cleaner.
(Source: U.S. EPA)
For a soft scrubbing paste, mix some baking soda with enough liquid soap to make a paste. Make only what you need as it dries up quickly.
(Source: Children's Health Environmental Coalition)

No-streak glass/window cleaner
Mix ¼ cup white vinegar and 1 quart warm water. OR, ¼ cup white vinegar, 1 Tbsp cornstarch and I quart warm water.
Apply with a spray bottle or sponge. Wipe with crumpled newspaper instead of paper towels for lint-free results.
(Source: U.S. EPA)

Oven cleaner
Use one of the following methods:
I. Mix 1 part vinegar to about 4 parts water. Put into a spray bottle. Spray onto cool oven surface.  Scrub the oven clean. Use baking soda or a citrus-based cleaner on stubborn spots.
2. Mix together in a spray bottle 2 Tbsp liquid soap (not detergent), 2 tsp. borax and warm water to fill the bottle.  Make sure the salts are completely dissolved to avoid clogging the squirting mechanism. Spray on mixture. holding the bottle very close to the oven surface. Leave the solution on for 20 minutes. then scrub with steel wool and a non-chlorine scouring powder.
3. OR, use a non- chlorine scouring powder, like Bon Ami
4. OR, use a baking soda salt and water paste,
(Source: U.S. EPA)

Floor or furniture polish
Choose one of the following methods:
I. Use 1 part lemon to 2 parts olive oil and apply a thin coat. Rub in well with a soft cloth.
2. Mix 3 parts olive oil and 1 part vinegar.

Carpet deodorizer
Sprinkle carpet liberally with baking soda. Wait 15 minutes longer. then vacuum. For musty rugs that have been stored, leave the baking soda on overnight.

Metal Polishing (Source: U.S. EPA)
Brass: Mix 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 cup white vinegar with enough flour to make a paste, Apply thickly. Let sit for 15 minutes - 1/2: hour, then rinse thoroughly with water to avoid corrosion.

Copper: Polish with a paste of lemon juice and salt.

Silver: Boil silver 3 minutes in a quart of water containing: l tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt and a piece of aluminum foil
OR rub silver with a baking soda/water paste and a soft cloth: rinse and polish dry.
OR rub with toothpaste (NOT the gel type-must be a paste). Use a toothbrush to clean raised surfaces. Be careful not to scratch surfaces.

Chrome: Wipe with vinegar, rinse with water, then dry.  (Good for removing hard water deposits.)
OR shine chrome fixtures with baby oil and a soft cloth (Good for removing soap scum off faucets.)

Stainless steel: Clean and polish with a baking soda/water paste or a cleanser like Bon Ami.

Paper towels and rags
Crumpled newspaper is a great substitute for paper towels for cleaning windows. If you do use paper towels for cleaning, choose unbleached paper towels with high post-consumer recycled content. Reusable cloth rags are also a good choice.

Disposal of commercial cleaning products
Get rid of toxic household products stored under your kitchen sink and in your basement-but don't pour them down the drain or throw them in the trash, Remember that many household products are considered hazardous waste. Contact your local environmental agency or public works department to find out about hazardous waste disposal in your area. You can read about local disposal rules at

Tea Tree Oil
A few drops of tea tree oil mixed with water is a powerful disinfectant and kills as much or more bacteria as chlorine bleach.

Commercial Citrus-Based Cleaners
Citrus-based cleaners are extremely effective and can reduce the need for packaging when purchased in a concentrate. The price for the concentrate will seem high-about $8 for a 16 oz. bottle-but each bottle makes eight gallons of cleaner, and the product is ultimately much cheaper than other cleaners.

Citra-Solv and  Seventh Generation are two brands of citrus-based cleaners, Citrus-based cleaners can help cut down on packaging. but not as much as bulk cleaners sold in some health food stores. With bulk cleaners. you can refill the same container hundreds of times. An article on the Web site of Bui-Pac, Inc., a manufacturer of bulk cleaner, points out that most of the environmental impact associated with cleaners comes from the packaging.