green cleaning

A How-To Guide on Green Cleaning Your Home

My cat Grimalkin came to live with me in 2005 as a tiny little long-haired ginger kitten who could fit onto my palm. I immediately became obsessed with his care, right from his diet, to his toys, to everything that I could do to give him a great quality of life.

I began reading the ingredients on the back of all the cleaning supplies I used, and I started to be concerned about what would happen if he were to inadvertently come into contact with them. I began to put him in his crate when I cleaned and would watch him groom his little pink paws after I’d swabbed the floor. I couldn’t bear the thought of him ingesting those incredibly toxic ingredients so I started researching alternatives that would be safer for him to walk on and be around.

My research showed me that the toxic ingredients in commercial cleaners aren’t just unsafe for pets and humans (particularly little ones); they’re also remarkably bad for the environment. The truth is that the stuff we use to clean invariably finds itself in the environment somehow. We can dump a sachet of drain cleaner in a clogged sink without a second thought, and that will end up back in the environment where it doesn’t belong and where it causes irreparable harm. Worse, I also discovered that commercial cleaning products are the leading cause of allergies and illnesses.

I was interested to find that I didn’t need commercial cleaning agents to clean my home; I had everything I needed right in my pantry. I switched to green cleaning in 2005, and I’ve never looked back. It really is the best way to make your home safer for pets, children, and the environment as a whole.

Safe and Effective Green Cleaning Solutions

As I said before, you can find some of the basic things that belong in a green cleaning kit right in your pantry.

White Vinegar

White vinegar is wonderful to cut grease and remove odors. It also blitzes mildew and combats wax build-up. I use a cap full of vinegar in warm water to mop my floors, and it’s better than any commercial solution that’s out there. Use apple cider vinegar to clean up after your cats—it’s the best thing I’ve found that neutralizes the smell of sulfur (which is found in cat pee).

This simple glass cleaner is perfect for windows and mirrors. Combine 2 cups of water, 1/4 cup of white vinegar, 1/4 cup of rubbing alcohol, and 8 to 10 drops of essential oil (orange, lemon, and lavender are my favorites) and pour into a spray bottle. Simply spray onto a soft cloth and use it to clean windows or mirrors.

Salt

Salt is great to use as a cleaning agent to wash your dishes. I prefer coarser rock salt to fine salt. For a “green” dishwashing detergent, try this great recipe from My Healthy Green Family that uses salt.

Baking Soda

Baking soda softens water and is great to scour surfaces. It also cleans and deodorizes.

Need an eco-friendly all-purpose cleaner? For a solution that’s highly effective in the kitchen (counter tops, appliances, and cleaning inside the fridge) and elsewhere, combine four tablespoons of baking soda with four cups of warm water. Store the solution in a spray bottle and use with a soft cloth. You may want to give the bottle a shake if it’s been sitting for a while. If you’d rather make less of the solution, then you can go with half the measurements.

Lemons

Lemons are highly effective against most household bacteria. They are also excellent at neutralizing odors (grind lemon rinds in the garbage disposal, or place cut lemons inside the fridge to absorb smells). Plus, they just smell nice (I might be biased).

Give this easy furniture polish recipe a try. Combine 1/2 teaspoon olive oil with 1/4 cup lemon juice and add a few drops of lemon essential oil. Use a little of the solution on a soft cloth and store the rest. It keeps indefinitely.

Soap

Use unscented soap in liquid, powder, or bar form. Soap is biodegradable and a powerful cleaning agent.

If your oven is looking grimy, try this oven cleaner recipe. Splash water over the base of your oven, and layer baking soda over the grime until it is completely covered. Sprinkle some more water over the top but not too much. Leave to sit overnight (at least 12 hours). Wipe up the loose grease the next morning. Then clean the residue (there won’t be much left) with liquid soap on a sponge.

Make Your Home Cleaner and Greener This Year

As you can see from my solutions above, baking soda and vinegar clean just about everything. For everything else, there are often nifty little solutions sitting in your fridge or pantry. Essential oils are great for when you want to add a nice little scent to your cleaning solution, but please be careful when using certain essential oils like tea tree oil, which is harmful to cats. One of my favorite air fresheners, for instance, is to simmer cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and water on the stove; it really does smell like Christmas. Or keep fresh coffee grounds on the counter of your kitchen. Lemon juice and baking soda in a little bowl works a treat too.

My point is, the sky’s the limit when it comes to making your own green cleaning solutions. And for those times when you can’t, well, there are actually products out there that are safe for you, your pets, and the environment; you just have to know where to look. If you’re short on time and energy, this list is a good place to start.

Now that you’re armed with a handful of recipes and a world of possibilities, you have everything you need for a cleaner, greener home in 2017 — and beyond. Good luck!

Awanthi Vardaraj lives and writes in the port city of Chennai, in the south of India, where she runs her own small artisanal bakery and keeps a garden full of jasmine plants and herbs that she still cannot name. As a freelance writer, she mostly focuses on food, feminism, travel, mental health, and poverty. She also nurtures a deep love for the Oxford comma and the semi-colon. Visit her website at www.awanthi.com and follow her on Twitter at AwanthiVardaraj.