Category Archives: Cleaning Products

Cleaning With Dawn and Vinegar

Cleaning With Dawn and Vinegar

When it comes to cleaning bathtubs and showers, Dawn and vinegar are a favorite of mine. I first saw it on Pinterest some time ago, and finally got around to trying it. Wonderful stuff and really easy to make. Dawn, vinegar, a spray bottle and a scrubber is all you need. Oh, and some time.

Some people heat their vinegar, but I get good results with it cool. That’s nice, as I don’t usually go through the entire amount made in one shot. I mean come on now, who does? If you need an extra boost in your cleaning, heat the vinegar in the microwave first, but don’t get it dangerously hot. You have to pour the stuff into a bottle after all.

I use about two thirds vinegar, one third Dawn. Most recipes say half and half, but I think that’s way too much Dawn. You could probably get away with a quarter Dawn if you wanted.

Pouring the vinegar into the spray bottle is much easier with a funnel. You don’t have to use a funnel if your hands are that steady, but mine aren’t. I use the funnel.

Prepare yourself for some uncomfortable breathing. This stuff works wonders, but the spray makes breathing somewhat miserable. Your eyes will probably sting too. Once you’ve sprayed everything down, leave it alone for an hour or two. You’ll be glad to get away from it.

Come back when you’re ready to scrub with a sponge. The air will be much clearer, and this step isn’t nearly so annoying as spraying the stuff. It’s just all the bits that are in the air as you spray that cause the earlier trouble.

Most of the dirt should practically slide off. I still have trouble with hard water spots on the shower glass, but the dirt goes with little effort. It’s wonderful, and to me worth the few minutes discomfort earlier on. Would the heated vinegar version do better? Possibly.

Can you do this with plain vinegar, to be more eco friendly? Sort of. Vinegar cleans pretty well, but you will have to scrub more. I love cleaning with plain vinegar, but scrubbing anything while on my hands and knees is much better minimized. The Dawn seems to help keep the vinegar in place to do its work, plus its own contribution to cleaning.

8 Ways to Make Cleaning Your Kitchen Less Toxic

The kitchen is a great place to work on being more eco friendly and less toxic, and it goes beyond buy local and/or organic produce for your family. How you clean your kitchen matters too.  These cleaning products are easy to make and use, and of course you can use them beyond the kitchen when appropriate as well.

1. Vinegar

My favorite! I use diluted vinegar for all kinds of cleaning. There’s a reason why I buy it at Costco and not the grocery store. Besides, Costco’s price is better by about $1.50 for the gallon and a half size than what my grocery store charges.

Mix water and vinegar about 2:1 in a spray bottle and use for general cleaning purposes. You can add a few drops of tea tree oil or lavender essential oil to get rid of the vinegar smell. Another alternative is to place orange peels in a jar, then fill with vinegar and wait two weeks. Filter it into your spray bottle and dilute with water, and you have a great smelling cleaning spray. Lemon works as well.

2. Baking soda

Baking soda does some cleaning on its own, but it’s also vinegar’s loyal companion. Baking soda gives that little bit of grit to help with scrubbing. Sprinkle it where you need it, then spray with vinegar to get the fizzing going. The reaction really helps with cleaning.

3. Castile soap

For those times you need soap, castile soap should be less toxic than the usual sorts of dish soap. You can use it as is, or water it down just a touch.

For dishes, combine a cup of castile soap, a quarter cup of water. Use as you would other dish soaps when hand washing dishes. If you’re having trouble with a film left behind on your dishes, have vinegar mixed into your rinse water. According to the Dr. Bronner’s website, mixing lemon juice or vinegar directly into the soap just doesn’t work that well.

4. Cleaning rags

Old towels or burp cloths which aren’t good for anything else are great for cleaning anywhere in the house, not just the kitchen. I have a bin full of old burp cloths, most of which have been in use since my 10 year old was an infant, first as burp cloths, but now for general cleaning. They work great.

You can cut up larger towels for use as rags when they get too old too. Think about what sizes you need, and trim by your preferences.

5. Steam mop

I hate mopping floors, but using a steam mop makes it more pleasant and doesn’t require anything other than plain water. I like that. Haan and Enviro Steamer are both considered good brands and are reasonably priced in my opinion.

6. Credit card scraper

When you have tough foods to get off, an old credit card is pretty effective as a scraper, as are similar cards. Obviously you have to be more careful about leaving it out, especially if it’s expired but otherwise a current card number. If you have a card of the same sort of material as a credit card but without such risk to your personal information, it will be a far better choice. Some store loyalty cards may be appropriate, especially if you use your phone number rather than your card when you’re at the store anyhow.

7. Recycled dish scrubbers

Full Circle makes a variety of cleaning supplies made from recycled plastic, plant based plastics and other generally eco friendly materials. A few other companies also make scrubbers. Natural fiber scrubbers

8. Skip antibacterial products

Antibacterial products have great marketing, but the way most people use them, they aren’t as effective at killing bacteria as many think.  In fact, antibacterial soaps may kill only about as many bacteria as regular soaps. With the environmental hazards of triclosan, it’s better to skip the antibacterial soaps.

Is Citric Acid an Eco Friendly Cleaner?

I’ve been trying something new in my dishwasher lately because my dishes just weren’t looking clean. It was getting frustrating always having glasses and cups look cloudy even when they were clean. I came across an article that mentioned using citric acid along with your regular dishwasher detergent gets great results.

So I tell my husband about it, and he recognizes it right away. Turns out they used citric acid to keep the glasses for the tasting room shiny at the winery he used to work at.

I bought a bag of citric acid through Amazon, and I have to say, I’m impressed. My dishes look better and feel nicer too, that literally squeaky clean feeling. Citric acid doesn’t remove food bits or anything like that if your dishes were a bit too dirty for the dishwasher to handle, but if you’re getting residue, it works great.

Still, my one question remaining was whether or not it’s really eco friendly. I hope we all know that natural doesn’t always equal the most environmentally friendly products.

I did some looking around. The EPA considers citric acid GRAS (PDF) or “generally recognized as safe.” Obviously, that’s a really good sign. It’s not something you’d want to get in your eyes; it’s still acid after all, but it’s pretty safe stuff.

Despite the name, citric acid is not necessarily produced from citrus. Matter of fact, that’s the expensive way to do it, so it really doesn’t happen much. It has been long known that you can get citric acid from a fermentation process with the mold Aspergillus niger. The production may involve corn, so you may want to check on that if you’re trying to avoid corn-based products.

Some say you shouldn’t put your silverware into the dishwasher when you use citric acid. This may depend on the type of silverware you have, so it’s something to be aware of. It may be problematic for silverware with actual silver, but may not be so bad for your typical stainless steel variety. If it’s enameled or anything like that, you may be looking at problems with citric acid and silverware (search for citric to see the parts I found most interesting).

Citric acid can have an impact on wildlife, but for the most part it doesn’t seem to be too bad. It’s used to help control the coqui frog in Hawaii, for example. It may, however, be associated with brown tide blooms.

Overall, I’m pleased with what I’ve found out about citric acid. As with anything else, it has its problems, but they don’t so far appear to be as much of a problem as other cleaners. It cleans a lot, too. It did an amazing job on the soap scum on my bathtub. Stuff that I’ve scrubbed and scrubbed in the past with baking soda and vinegar came off easily after a soak with citric acid.

How Do You Make Your Home Smell Fresh Without Using Air Fresheners?

If there’s one home care product that falls consistently on my least favorite list, it has to be air fresheners. Most do nothing more than add a scent to the air, usually created by some chemicals that if you really thought about it, you wouldn’t be spraying in the air you breathe.

They’re usually unhealthy, minimally to poorly effective, and frankly there are better ways to handle the smells that build up inside a home. For people with conditions such as asthma, it can be vital to avoid many of the usual commercial air fresheners.

Remove the Source

You won’t always be able to do this, but if you can get the source of the smell out of your home, that’s the best way to get the smell to dissipate. That could be taking out the trash, cleaning the cat litter, and so forth.

Open the Windows

Weather permitting, opening the windows is the simplest way to make a home smell fresh. It lets the air circulate. The smells floating in the air in your home have a way to get out rather than continuing to build up.

It’s important to open your windows in your home when you can. Indoor air can be more polluted than outdoor air, especially if you use a lot of conventional cleaning supplies.

Use Natural Air Fresheners

Natural air fresheners may not work as quickly as the ones you buy at the store and spray around, but they’re better for you and I think they smell better.

Baking soda is a classic odor absorber. Place bowls of it out where smells are an issue. Sprinkle it on carpets that are having odor problems and let it sit for a little or even overnight before vacuuming it up. It doesn’t have a pretty scent, but that’s not the point of using baking soda.

Vinegar isn’t a favorite scent for most people, but it does help to control odors. Put a bowl of it out or spray it into the air. As it dissipates, the vinegar smell and the problem smell will go away. Add in a drop or two of a favorite essential oil if you want to cover the vinegar smell right from the start.

Different herbs can help make a room smell nice too. Sprigs of rosemary or lavender are good choices, especially if you grow them fresh yourself. If not, dried versions smell good as well.

Boiling herbs and spices works also. Many people like the scent of cinnamon boiled in water. Boiling a sliced lemon or lemon juice is another good smell. Vanilla, orange, peppermint, cloves and nutmeg also smell good when boiled.

Your favorite essential oils can be used on their own to make a room smell good. Drop a little on a cotton ball and place it in the room. You can use a drop each from a couple different types of essential oils if you like.

Growing plants indoors also helps with air quality. Different plants clean air in different ways, but they’re generally good at what they do. Don’t overwater any plants or you may have scent issues relating to standing water or overly wet soil.

How Do You Find Eco Friendly Store Bought Cleaners?

Not everyone wants to make their own cleaners for their home, even when it’s as simple as baking soda and vinegar for many jobs. Some prefer to buy cleaner that have been made for them. The hard part is getting past the claims and finding products that are more environmentally friendly and safer for your family.

What do you look for?

There area few clues, and labels proclaiming that the product is “all natural,” “green” and so forth really aren’t it. Too many of these claims are not regulated and are in fact meaningless.

Clearly Marked Ingredients

The ingredients in general should be clearly marked. There are a lot of ingredients to look out for, such as anything derived from petroleum. There are a lot of ways these can be listed, such as mineral oil, propylene glycol, isopropyl alcohol, parabens, and many synthetic fragrances.

If you don’t know what’s in the cleaner, you don’t know what you’re using. A partial list isn’t enough.

Calling a product chemical free is misleading. While most of us would assume they mean dangerous chemicals, the simple truth is that nothing in this world is chemical free. Water is a chemical, for example. So is baking soda. Don’t let a label mislead you with this term.

Good Terms to See on the Label

There are several terms you do want to see on the labels of cleaning products. These include phosphate free, ammonia free, plant based, biodegradable, chlorine free, certified USDA organic, solvent free,  fragrance free, and dye or artificial color free.

Terms to Beware of

Some terms are there specifically to tell you that the product is dangerous to ingest or get on your skin. Even some natural products can have problems, such as essential oils that are better for you when diluted into a carrier oil. Natural does not equal safe, after all.

Poison and danger are the strongest terms. These are the products you most want to avoid, and doubly so want to keep away from your children.

Next come caution and warning. These have hazards, but not as bad as those labeled poison or danger. Still not thing you want to have around your home when you can avoid them.

Finally, if the package tells you to wear gloves or use in a well ventilated space, pay attention. These are hard on your skin or can make breathing difficult. They certainly aren’t healthy for you to have significant contact with.


You can’t avoid packaging, even if you make your own cleaning supplies. But you can do your best to buy cleaning products in packages that can be reused, refilled or recycled. Reusable and refillable are of course the best.

Many genuinely eco friendly companies try hard to have refillable containers. It’s a part of their work to be kinder to the planet. Non-eco friendly companies can do this as well, so it’s not a real indicator.

Refills should be in either larger containers or in a concentrated form so that they use less packaging than the original container. Ideally these containers should also be recyclable, although the lack of available recycling facilities is a reality many of us have to deal with.

Generally Good Brands

While I can’t promise that every product offered by these companies will be good, these companies tend to sell cleaning products that are more eco friendly than others you will see on store shelves.

Simple Green Naturals
Dr. Bronner’s
Seventh Generation