Simple Routines for Homemade Green Cleaners

Written by contributor Katie Kimball of Kitchen Stewardship.

Busy time of year?

Things can get crazy with back-to-school lists, end-of-summer lists, shopping lists, and other to-do lists that seem to pile up on any flat surface (in my house, at least).

There’s always so much I want to do for my family, and sometimes I just get overwhelmed and can’t possibly add “one more thing!” to the list. Know the feeling?

If you’ve been tempted to move to greener cleaners but just can’t take the plunge because you’re worried about the time it will take, let me ease your anxiety.

You don’t have to set aside a time to “make” homemade cleaners or even think of putting it on your list, anymore than you would write “open new bottle of Windex” on your to-do list. You wouldn’t. You’d simply grab one from the linen closet when your Windex bottle ran dry, or add it to your grocery list.

It’s all the same with homemade cleaners, if you keep it simple.

Basic Natural Cleaners

Simple Organic’s post on natural cleaner recipes keeps it simple: vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda are the triple threat over here. At Kitchen Stewardship, my three basic green cleaners are vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and baking soda.

Grab that pen.

Write on your grocery list:

  1. vinegar
  2. baking soda
  3. empty spray cleaning bottles

Keep it simple.

Start with just two items, read the basic recipes at each post, and pick one or two easy ways you can incorporate a new green cleaner into your home this week.

Photo by Rowdy Kittens

Simple Routines

Here are some of my lazy tips, from someone who really, really likes to cut corners and save time doing mundane things:

  • Don’t measure the vinegar – just plop some in an empty bottle and add water. Do the same thing when it runs out, and you’ve got your “no harder than opening a new bottle of Windex” all purpose cleaner.
  • Store cleaners in sensible places:
    • Keep an old rag on top of the bottle of vinegar/water under your sink. Clean up spills so fast your kids will wonder if they really did knock their juice (or kefir?) off the table. Just leave the rag there to dry for the next time if you had a minor spot cleanup.
    • Keep baking soda under the kitchen sink in an old Parmesan cheese container. You’ll use it more often if it’s simple to grab.
    • Store a bottle of straight vinegar right next to the toilet brush. Grab, squirt, brush, done! Cleaning is even possible while children are in the tub, which is a great multitasking opportunity.
    • You can also spray straight vinegar on your bath/shower like an after-shower-no-wipe-spray, but not if you have grout.
    • Keep baking soda in the bathroom, too, for rings around the tub and toilet. Mine is in a dollar store condiment container, which has a hole just big enough to *poof* some out right where I want it.
  • Skip the fancy “recipes” for cleaners. Mixing baking soda and vinegar in the same bottle isn’t going to do much more than water, from what I understand. Keep them separate and use what you need for the job. When I spill something (I mean, when my kids spill something…), I usually squirt it with vinegar water, and if that doesn’t get something out, I try baking soda, and so on.

Keep in mind the greatest benefit of green cleaners, in my humble and overworked opinion: Kids can help and be the DO-ers of the work.

There, mom. You’ve just obtained more time than you had before, because now the kids can do the cleaning for you while you tackle something else on your list. Pat yourself on the back for that green goal: check!

What’s your quickest tip for making homemade green cleaners work for your household?

About Katie Kimball

An at-home mom who is passionate about food, her two kids, the good green Earth and her faith, Katie Kimball blogs about all that and more at Kitchen Stewardship.

Comments

  1. We buy vinegar and baking soda in bulk from our warehouse store and they truly are, as you say, simple to use. I’ve found very little that vinegar won’t take care of – a spray bottle in my laundry room with vinegar has saved many an item of stained clothing.

    LOVE that you point out that green cleaners = kids can help w/o me having to worry about what they are being exposed to. :-)
    Kara Fleck´s latest post: Practical Life Skills- Letting Your Young Children Help With Household Tasks

  2. I completely agree. Vinegar and baking soda almost always do the trick. I bought all of those other ingredients (washing soda, borax, etc.) for the fancier recipes and I didn’t use them. While everyone touted that they were “cheap” for me they were a waste.

    I’d add a small spray bottle of hydrogen peroxide (they sell them in spray bottles these days!) for killing bacterial messes from raw meats in the kitchen and some liquid castile soap to mix with hot water for moping too. I know I’ll never go back from these four items. :)

  3. Why can’t I use vinegar in the shower if I have grout? Is there something I can use instead?

    • Renae,
      I actually read that recently myself at SO’s first green cleaning post here: http://simpleorganic.net/easy-recipes-for-natural-homemade-cleaners/

      It says that vinegar could cause grout to break down. I haven’t found that to be the case with the diluted stuff on my floors, but I’m now hesitant to spray it straight on my bathroom walls. I think I’ll just use baking soda to scrub, and maybe a hydrogen peroxide dilution to spray…but I’m not really sure yet! I do have some 7th Gen products that seem to have good options for the shower. ??

      Good question!
      :) Katie

  4. Baking soda in spice/parm cheese container… GENIUS!
    Kendra´s latest post: Sleep- Glorious Sleep

  5. We use green cleaners for everything at our house. I have also been using homemade laundry detergent for the past one year and love it!

  6. My quick fix drain cleaner…
    Pour baking soda into a clogged drain followed by some vinegar. Plug quickly with a rag. Let it still for at least 10 mins. Then pour boiling water down the drain to help clear it out. I also do this as a preventative measure for the drains that tend to back up!

    Thanks for the other suggestions for using baking soda!
    Emily @ Random Recycling´s latest post: Back-to-School Lunch box ideas

  7. Any ideas for green cleaners I can use for my granite countertop? I understand I shouldn’t use anything really acidic, which would rule out vinegar. That means I usually end up with just water, but it would be nice to have something to disinfect without pulling out the 409…

    • Carrie,
      I agree with TanGreen, perhaps hydrogen peroxide would be mild enough. I dilute it 50/50 with water. Sometimes just soap and water is the best bet, keeping it simple! For disinfecting, there are also solutions with tea tree oil or grapeseed extract, I believe.
      :) Katie

  8. @ Carrie – Hydrogen Peroxide should do the trick for disinfecting.

    Switched to green cleaning a couple years ago and didn’t realize how much I was worrying my pets would get into the bad stuff until I didn’t have to worry any more. Now that we have a baby too it is even better knowing there is no toxicity to worry about!

  9. I mix 1/2 cup of ammonia, 1/2 cup white vinegar, a little squirt of Kirkland eco friendly plant based dish soap (cuts the grease) and fill up my windex bottle with water and shake well. (I even add a single drop of green food coloring … my family is more apt to use it if it’s colored … a carry over from years of store bought;) This really cuts the grease on my stainless steel stove vent/hood and works well on windows and mirrors.
    Mrs. Mac´s latest post: Sweet Sleep

    • Mrs. Mac,
      I used to use ammonia in my homemade cleaners, but…isn’t that pretty toxic as well? The fumes alone make me want to run for the hills, so I stopped using it except outside in the garden (where it might not be very “organic” either, but I have a huge jug to use up!). I find that vinegar and water alone does a fine job on mirrors, and I actually prefer just using water with my microfiber cloth for glass/mirrors nowadays. It does an amazing job with zero chemicals.
      :) Katie

  10. I use a 3 TBSP of dish soap, about 20 drops of tea tree oil and warm water in a spray bottle for an all purpose cleaner.
    Thanks for the tips!

  11. Thanks so much for simple recipes in one place! Something I tried the other day that works a treat was to fold some too-rough cloth baby wipes into a old disposable baby wipes or disposable bathroom wipes container (a better choice if you have actual baby wipes in similar containers) with a dish soap/water/tea tree oil solution and popped them in the bathroom for quick clean up. All the convience of disposable wipes without the disposing! If you fold in an alternating pattern you can even get them to pop up like the ‘sposie kind.

  12. Genius! Love the back to basics, easy-peasy thoughts here.

  13. Love it! I’ve been green cleaning since last November and don’t plan to ever go back to chemicals. It’s amazing now how I can’t even tolerate the smell of commercial cleaners. I just did a post re: some easy recipes for those more anal-retentive types–like I was when I first started out.

    One comment I have to make, though… mixing baking soda and vinegar in a bottle IS like water, because baking soda is alkaline and vinegar is acidic and if you use them together, they cancel each other out! Something I learned from my Better Basics for the Home natural cleaning book by Annie Berthold-Bond :-)

    • It’s true that baking soda and vinegar will “cancel each other out,” but you can use the process to your advantage. For example, if I have really stubborn bathtub ring and it’s just taking too much elbow grease to get it off with baking soda, I sprinkle some baking soda on the tough spots then pour some vinegar on it. The foaming from the reaction of the two helps breaks up stubborn stains.

  14. so glad you posted these easy ideas. When I first started green-cleaning, I thought I had to make all these complicated recipes. Now I just do what you do: dump some vinegar in a bottle and add water (I also add a few drops of peppermint or orange essentail oil just for the smell and the added cleaning benefit). I keep a huge thing of baking soda and dump it into the tub and toilet for cleaning those. So much cheaper than all those single-purpose chemical cleaners, and healthier too! I would love to hear your ideas about what you do with hydrogen peroxide – I’ve read recently that hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol make excellent cleaners for certain things.

  15. Hydrogen Peroxide, I saved a pot with it, I was going to toss the pot out, because of the burned on mess. I tried letting it soak, etc. So I figured why not try. Covered the burn and let it sit over night. Next morning, beautiful. Washed in dish washer. Good to go. We pour straight hydrogen Peroxide down the garbage disposal side of the drain before bed when it get s the “funky” smell. All is well the next morning.

  16. Any ideas for cleaning tiled floors WITH grout. If vinegar won’t do the trick, then what? my kitchen floors get REALLLLY filthy….

  17. Baking soda and vinegar are the best thing when it comes to natural cleaning. It will workout well!

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