What is wrong with store bought cleaning products?
Many commercial cleaning products contain toxic substances. For example, some drain cleaners are straight lye, which is so alkaline (pH 14) it can give you a severe chemical burn. Other products contain antibacterial agents that (like antibiotics) can be ineffective and/or create drug-resistant bacteria when used incorrectly. Looking at the labels of many products reveals warnings of injury and possible death from their use or improper use. There are simple substitutes for most of these toxic products including cheap materials like soap, vinegar, baking soda, and borax. In some cases, changing certain habits or one's way of thinking can reduce the need for any products at all.

Simple Nontoxic Cleaners and Tips
Cleanliness is a better goal than sterilization; it is impossible to sterilize an entire house. Habits like taking off your shoes at the entryway reduce a great deal of dirt/bacteria in you home.

General Purpose Cleaner
- ¼ cup vinegar
- ½ tsp liquid detergent (hand dishwashing soap)
- ¾ cup warm water
This works well for bathroom cleaning (counter, sink, bathtub) or other areas that can use odor control. The vinegar has a strong smell, but dissipates quickly.

Window/Mirror Cleaning
The general purpose cleaner above also works well for windows/mirrors. After you remove the residue from past cleaning products, straight vinegar and water will clean perfectly well. Using a squeegee to wipe off the surface saves on paper towel use.

Toilet Cleaning
The general purpose cleaner will clean the inside rim of the toilet if left on for 15 minutes before scrubbing. Borax can be poured into the toilet and left overnight before scrubbing to get rid of any rings/discoloration.

Bathroom Cleaning
- Lowering the toilet lid before flushing may reduce bacterial contamination.
- Mold and mildew may mean poor air circulation. Using an exhaust fan vented to outside or opening a window during/after showers, can prevent mold/mildew.

- Having certain herbs or potted plants inside can keep the air sweet and fresh.
- Proper hand washing with soap, water, and rubbing will prevent bacterial contamination. Some essential oils can be antiseptic.
- Boiling water can sanitize sponges or cutting boards, or straight vinegar for cutting boards. Using a separate cutting board for meat prevents cross-contamination.

Oven Cleaning
If the oven has an automatic high-temperature cleaner this is probably not necessary, but for all other ovens, this is a nontoxic alternative to harsh chemicals.
- Sprinkle baking soda (I used the old deodorizing box of baking soda from the fridge) in bottom of oven to cover
- Spray with water until very damp and keep moist by spraying every few hours
- Let this set overnight and then scoop out baking soda and rinse (a sponge and copper dish scrubber worked well)
It takes a lot of rinsing and a bit of scrubbing for bad spots, but this cleaner works well. It does not cause toxic fumes like many other oven cleaners.

Drain Unclogging
Manual methods with something like a plumber's snake are usually the best way to get rid of a drain clog. If you do not have a plumber's snake, you can try this method.
- Put about a cup of baking soda down the drain
- Pour boiling hot water after it
- Follow this with white vinegar if necessary (this will foam quite a bit)

- Better Basics for the Home: Simple Solutions for Less Toxic Living by Annie Berthold-Bond (1999)
- Fact Sheet: Safe Substitutes at Home: Nontoxic Household Products

Pamphlet compiled by Diedra as part of a Fairhaven College ISP titled: "Sustainability: Living Consciously" (2006)


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