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The Best Non-toxic Ways to Clean Your Home


Non-toxic Cleaners: Off the Shelf or Do-It-Yourself

Growing awareness and demand by ecologically-minded consumers, as well as parents motivated to keep their family healthy, has led to an explosion of environmentally friendlier and non-toxic products. There are many products in this category – from laundry detergents and fabric softeners to multi-surface and floor cleaners, to tile and bathroom cleaners -- that are convenient and safer for people and the planet. 

While some are indeed safer, others are unfortunately “green-washed,” marketed as natural while still including suspect chemicals.

Get in the simple practice of looking at product labels to see if the cleaning manufacturer is clearly disclosing all ingredients. If it is not, you can check the manufacturer's web site, but it could mean the manufacturer is trying to hide a particular suspect ingredient.

Third party “ecologos” and product labels can sometimes be confusing, even misleading. For independent reviews, use Consumer Report’s to find out what claims on labels really mean and if they’re actually regulated. You can also use the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Household Products Database to look up specific products and find out their ingredients. Likewise, you can check out a company’s web site – many are being much more transparent than in the past. Or contact them to find out what’s inside.

Some people may choose to make their own cleaning products. It's surprisingly easy, cheap, and for most ordinary household jobs, do-it-yourself cleaning products can be as effective as anything you'd buy at the store. It’s easy, inexpensive, and for most ordinary household jobs, do-it-yourself cleaning products can be as just as effective.

General Non-toxic Solutions:

  • Use a reusable microfiber cloth to dust -- it picks up dust particles without needing any chemical help.
  • White distilled vinegar can be used to clean windows; kill mold and mildew; get rid of soap scum; and sanitize kitchen counters and cutting boards.
  • Use baking soda and a few drops of soap to scour kitchen counters and bathtubs. For tough stains, use borax.
  • For fresh scents, use lemons or essential oils like lavender.

Try these recipes for homemade cleaners:

Household Cleaner


All-Purpose Disinfecting Cleaner

                2 cups water (preferably distilled water)

                1 1/2 to 3 tsp. liquid castille soap

                1 tsp. tea tree oil

Mix ingredients above to store and keep. Add a couple drops of your favorite essential oil to give it a pleasing scent.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner

                1 cup borax           

Pour into toilet bowl before going to bed. In the morning, scrub and flush.

Rust Remover

                1 lime


Sprinkle a little salt on the rust. Squeeze a lime over the salt until it is well soaked. Let the mixture set for two to three hours. Use the leftover rind to scrub the residue.

Glass Cleaner

                1/4 cup white distilled vinegar

                1 quart warm water

Mix ingredients above. Pour into a spray bottle or apply with a sponge. For lint-free results, wipe dry with crumpled newspaper instead of paper towels. Buff to a shine.


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Reviewed on December 22, 2008
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