Good Housekeeping

From the WebMD Archives

By Kathryn Drury

Country Living Magazine When it comes to cleaning, herbs and other natural ingredients offer a healthy solution.

Few of us enjoy cleaning house, but we all appreciate windows you can see through and showers free of mildew. Unfortunately, the same cleaning products you use to get your home sparkling can also be hazardous to your health. Many contain chemical compounds that are poisonous or corrosive -- just reading a product label can be alarming. The effects of chemical exposure can build up over the years, sometimes triggering allergies or even causing illness. But it's possible to keep a tidy home without harming people, pets, or plants.

When it comes to detoxifying your cleaning regime, you have several options. There are many "green" products you can purchase, or you may choose to prepare your own cleaning solutions, which is easy and quite inexpensive. I tested out Caldrea's window spray and dishwashing liquid, formulated with plant-derived cleansers such as birch bark and lemon balm. They smell so amazing I actually enjoyed doing windows and dishes. The Harmony catalogue, local health-food stores, and many Websites also carry a variety of similar earth-friendly cleaning supplies from "green" companies such as Seventh Generation, Soapworks, and Livos.

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If you want to try making your own cleaning supplies, you'll need only a few simple ingredients, such as baking soda, salt, distilled white vinegar, and essential oils (try citrus, peppermint, or rosemary, for example). Use clean containers to store any homemade cleaning products and be sure to label them clearly so you don't forget what's what or mistake a clear solution for plain water.

Spring into Cleaning Action

Glass cleaner: Mix equal amounts of water and white vinegar in a clean spray bottle; add a few drops of essential orange oil to give it an aromatic fragrance.

Drain cleaner: The Children's Health Environmental Coalition, an organization dedicated to reducing the number of carcinogens kids are exposed to, recommends this method to clean drains: Pour 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain, followed by a cup of vinegar. While it fizzes, cover the drain. Finish by rinsing the drain with a mixture of boiling water and salt. Repeat if necessary.


Gentle scouring cream: This can be used on tubs, tile floors, stainless-steel sinks, and appliances. Place 1 1/2 cups baking soda in a bowl. Add about two teaspoons of essential oil of citrus, mint, or lavender. Gently whisk together; apply with a dampened sponge. If you need more abrasive action, try using a loofah or a scrubber pad.

Air freshener: Just cooked a big fish dinner and want to rid your kitchen of the odor? Avoid spraying artificially scented sprays into the air and instead boil a pot of water with orange or lemon peels, or cinnamon sticks. You can also try lighting a paraffin-free candle, naturally scented with essential oils such as mint and myrrh.

Carpet freshener: In a medium bowl, crush 1/2 cup of dried lavender; stir in 1 cup baking soda. Sprinkle the mixture onto the rug, wait a half hour, then vacuum thoroughly.

Basic furniture polish: In Natural Cleaning for Your Home (Lark Books, 1998), Casey Kellar offers this "recipe." Mix 1/2 cup sweet almond oil, 1 tablespoon wheat germ oil, 1 tablespoon melted beeswax, 2 tablespoons sulfated castor oil (available at health food stores). For lemon- or pine-scented polish, add 3 to 5 drops of essential oil. Apply sparingly with a clean, soft rag.

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WebMD Feature from "Country Living" Magazine
Reprinted with permission from Hearst Communications, Inc.