Want to start green cleaning your home? Green cleaning is better for our health and homes and is surprisingly simple to get started. Here are some recipes, tips and tricks on chemical free cleaning that will save you a fortune AND reduce your waste.
Don't worry, I'm keeping this post very simple with only a few ingredients you probably already have. I'll cover how to Green Clean the important rooms in the house, your car, plus a few simple Green cleaning tasks you can incorporate if you wish.
This post is part of the War on Waste Challenge series, so if you are participating in the challenge, remember....
>The challenge is to pick just ONE thing this week to swap and get started
You can pick a small task or an entire room, I'll leave that up to you
>Plan to do it this week and enjoy your achievement in living greener
>Save this post somewhere where you can easily find it to refer back to in the future when you're ready to try another swap
This post does contain some affiliate links. This means if you click and make a purchase, the price is exactly the same to you, but i may receive a small commission. This all goes towards keeping the site up and running.
Why Try Green Cleaning?
Green Cleaning is a great way to be kinder to our waterways, oceans and the environment, including your home environment.
Everything we use to clean, usually ends up down the drain and coating surfaces in our homes.
This means we are breathing, touching and polluting the oceans with it.
You don't need a cupboard full of chemicals and so many green cleaning recipes are cheap, easy and effective.
These are some of the reasons I've included in this post series, plus it is a fabulous way to reduce household trash and recycling.
According to Retail World's annual report, in 2006 (which is some time ago know) Australians spend $1.7 billion dollars a year on cleaning products. This figure gets higher every years as companies bombard us with new, improved products and market new uses and needs to us, the consumers. That is a heck of a lot of money AND packaging! Sadly, many of us also use far too much, and more than what is required to sufficiently clean.
Having said that, I really don't want to make you feel guilty if you're a bit of a collector of cleaning products, and please don't throw out your cleaning products when you swap to a green cleaning product or recipe!
There are plenty of people and organisations that would welcome donations of cleaning products, plus they really can't be tipped down the sink or dumped in landfill. If you don't want to pass them on to friends and family, then look for a local women's shelter or homeless shelter. Unwanted cleaning products can be used for people setting up a first place to live after hardship.
Before You Get Started with Green Cleaning
Vinegar and bi-carb soda are absolutely brilliant for DIY cleaning products and safe for the whole family, and I'll be referring to these often as well as homemade citrus infused cleaning vinegar. Don't ever mix vinegar with bleach though, it is supposed to be a bad combo , and no - I haven't tested it.
I'm assuming you already have some basic cleaning equipment, but there are a few ways to make this a little more eco-friendly too. Ever bought a cheap plastic dustpan and broom? I have, over and over and it never occurred to me to find a metal and wooden version that will practically last a lifetime. Do consider buying good quality, sustainable, or non plastic items when you need to replace cleaning equipment, as you will get so much more use out of them and they wont end up in the bin too.
This goes for cleaning caddys, buckets, dustpans and brooms,(YES, you can buy them separately and only replace what you need), rubber gloves, scourers, scrubbing brushes, pegs that last for life, toilet brushes, and anything else you use often.
Skip the run of the mill mops and get a sturdy wooden handle and high quality mop head. I bought a great mop head several years ago and it is still going strong and so much easier to use than the ones sold in most supermarkets and shops. There are also no plastic parts to break off. I think it may have cost $40 or so just for the mop head and considering I have had 5 years use out of it already, it is pretty cost effective.
As for cloths and cleaning rags - well, use just that. Old towels and clothing make perfect cleaning rags and you may find that you end up with more than you need over the years. These can also replace your need for disposable wipes!
To get started, take a look through the areas, recipes and tips below and just pick one that appeals most to you, or the one that will replace your most frequently used product.
Basic Green Cleaning in the Bathroom
All Purpose Green Cleaning Spray
My favourite thing ever is this DIY all-purpose spray, which I'm going to mention several times as it is so useful and versatile, costs almost nothing AND does a fabulous job. You can mix it up yourself in a couple of minutes with vinegar and water.
I use this for the glass shower screen, shower tiles and floor, the bathtub, mirrors, taps, benchtop, light switches, door handles, toilet seat and the outside of the toilet. You can scent it with essential oils and enhance it by using tea-tree oil known for it's antibacterial properties.
There has been a lot of hype about toilet bombs, if you haven't heard of them, they are like a bath bomb for your toilet. I am not a fan, not just because I failed at it, but because there is no need to waste your time putting it into moulds and waiting for them to dry. Here's my cheat and you can get the same result in far less time and effort.
Got boys? Then make a spray using half water and half cleaning vinegar.
Spray it on the toilet, wall, floor or wherever daily (or hourly depending on the frequency or poor aim) and wipe clean. If you have a drain, once a week boil a kettle and tip it down the back and sides to get rid of the lurking urine and smells.
These tips will help you avoid toilet bowl cleaners and bleach overload. We use these all the time, EXCEPT if anyone in the house has gastro - then we use bleach for that time to ensure it doesn't spread to everyone.
This is not something that should need doing all the time, if it does, then I totally recommend calling in a plumber. I've been doing this for years with bicarb and vinegar, and it sure beats the chemical version. It does just as good a job and clearing out and de-smelling the drain and sinks with no need to worry about inhaling nasty fumes or when the drains overflow with caustic stuff while you are trying to use a plunger! The recipe and directions can be found here.
This will work on kitchen and laundry drains too.
These are what I consider the basic requirements for green bathroom cleaning. You only need a few key ingredients and you have most of the jobs covered. Did I mention you can also get your little kids to help too as they wont be using anything poisonous or toxic.
If you're feeling ambitious, you can read how to green clean and unclog your shower head.
Green Cleaning in The Kitchen
Bench Tops and Surfaces
Use the DIY all-purpose cleaning spray , or simply a sponge with dish detergent and water. Both are effective at cleaning up messes and avoiding unnecessary chemicals.
Kitchen Sink Coffee Stains
Bicarb is brilliant at removing coffee and food stains from the kitchen sink and is equally as effective as products like Ajax. Sprinkle around the sink and draining board, scrub with a brush or cloth and rinse off. It's safe to use even if a little bicarb remains.
Lemon, water and vinegar blitzed in the microwave and left to sit will make cleaning even the worst mess a breeze (more detailed instructions can be found here).
Alternatively combine a homemade citrus infused cleaning vinegar with water, spray and leave for a while before wiping down.
Bicarb soda and an abrasive cloth or steel wool inside the oven (but not on the heating elements) is a great green alternative to caustic cleaners. Removable parts can be soaked in dish detergent and scrubbed later, after a coffee or two.
As with the oven, removal parts can be soaked in a hot sink and given a quick scrub. For the remainder, it will depend on the surface of your cooktop. Enamel is cleaned easily with bicarb soda but for stainless steel finishes, combine the citrus infused cleaning vinegar with 50% water. This is really effective at removing oily, greasy food as well as baked on unrecognisable gunk. Just spray, leave it to soak and scrub down later. This will work great on greasy dishes with baked on food too.
Fridge and Freezer
Wiping the inside of your fridge with a little castile soap or dish washing detergent and a cloth is all that is needed to clean the fridge. Keep away from chemical cleaners in your fridge, not only can it contaminate food, but it could damage the fridge.
For smells and odours, use half a cup of used coffee grinds or bicarb soda and place in a small dish and wipe down shelves with a used lemon.
There are lots of home made recipes and ecofriendly products on the market and I think I've tried most of them. Vinegar is a brilliant replacement for rinse aid and I strongly recommend using a store bought eco-friendly dish washing powder. I have experimented extensively and personally found home made dish washer mixtures leave a lot to be desired. You can read more about this topic here on whether it is worth making your own dishwasher tabs along with other green alternatives.
Washing Powders and Detergents
I have experimented a little with homemade washing detergents and haven't found anything I liked enough to use again. My favourite store bought is planet ark for sensitive skin and I love soap nuts. I was very sceptical about these, but they DO actually work and literally have gotten dirt out of my daughters clothes. It takes 5 nuts to do a wash load and they can be used several times and then added to the backyard compost.
If you are starting from scratch to create your eco-friendly laundry, then, I can highly recommend checking out this plastic free laundry start up kit which comes with all the basics.
Check ingredients on your laundry powder and make sure what you are using is grey water safe and not full of fillers. Double check the quantities you are using, and then use a little less. There have been many studies that show manufacturers tell consumers to use more than what is necessary in order to increase sales. More detergent does not equal cleaner clothes, and in fact you are asking for itchy skin and tipping money down the drain.
If you are close to a bulk shop, chances are they will have liquid laundry detergent that you can refill your own bottles with.
If you're concerned about synthetic items you wash, check out these microfibre catching laundry balls which can stop it all heading into waterways.
Vinegar is a great fabric softener, add a little to each wash load. I don't bother adding essential oils as I can't smell them after the wash finishes and it seems a waste. If your towels are feeling rough, remember to check you are using the right quantity laundry detergent and aren't washing too hot.
Fun Fact - fabric softener actually coats fabric and stops it being as absorbent....it can also irritate sensitive skin.
Clothes dryers are pretty costly to run and use quite a bit of electricity. Reduce your invisible waste by line drying as often as you can or opt for an indoor clothes airer that you can move in and out of your house. When choosing a clothes airer, opt for wood or stainless steel to get a long life out of it. Cheap versions are prone to breaking.
Are you a fan of dryer sheets? Here are 5 Natural Dryer Sheet Alternatives you can swap to.
Use witch hazel or vodka as a base and add several drops of essential oils or dried lavender and rose petals from the garden to a glass spray bottle. This can freshen up linen and wardrobes without artificial chemicals.
Green Cleaning Floors, Rugs and Carpets
Hard Wood and Tiled Floors
I love wooden floorboards and feel lucky to have them in our home. The best way to clean them and get a streak free shine is to combine vinegar, water and a few drops of orange essential oil. I use the same mixture for tiled areas and occasionally use a small amount of bleach in the bathroom. In case you're wondering, your house wont reek of vinegar. The quantities to make up this mixture can be found here.
Green Carpet & Rug cleaning
Several few months ago we really desperately needed to do a deep clean of our rugs. We had just successfully house trained our puppy and although we spot cleaned any accidents, I really wanted to do a proper clean.
Using a carpet cleaning machine (which we hired from the supermarket) and a homemade recipe we were super excited to avoid the expense and odour of chemical carpet cleaners. I'm super sensitive to chemical fragrances and really didn't want the house to have that typical smell for the next few weeks. I totally recommend trying it next time your rugs and carpets are due for this - all the instructions are here.
Carpet Deodorising Powder
This even works for all kinds of odours including pets. Store bought powders are laden with all kinds of ingredients you really don't want in your homes or on your feet. Mix up this DIY carpet deodorising powder recipe and store it under the sink for next time you need it.
Green Cleaning Your Car
The simplest option is to wait for a rainy day and park it outside where it can get a free, water saving rinse. This is not going to get all the dirt and marks off the car, but that's my standard go-to option. I think the longest I have gone without washing my car was 4 years.
The Zebra created a very informative and helpful guide on green tips for cleaning your car that I plan on trying out, especially now we are heading into summer and the rainy days will be non-existent. The guide covers natural ways to clean and protect the exterior and interior of your car and also tips on saving water and reducing waste by reusing newspapers and other materials.
Using green cleaning products when washing your car is something we don’t always think about but can be really beneficial. Not only are you helping to save the environment, you’re also saving money by not buying unnecessary cleaning products.
Using liquid castile soap and a bucket of water, you can easily clean the outside areas of your car. Try vinegar and lemon for the windows and even make your own scented air freshener. Check out the Infographic below on the many options.
Now you know how to get started green cleaning in your own home and see how simple and achievable it can be.
You only need to start with ONE to make a difference and many of the recipes have dual uses, so you wont need to have lots of ingredients or spray bottles.
If you missed the previous topic, here it is: Grocery shopping for Less Waste
To go back to the beginning head here: War On Waste Challenge - Start Here