These days it seems you’re not ‘green’ enough unless you quit your day job and devote your entire life to attaining an entirely carbon-neutral lifestyle, or throw out all your possessions and replace them with their new ‘green’ alternatives.
It is, however, possible to take easy baby steps toward a more earth-friendly lifestyle without stress, guilt, or judgy eco-shaming. Now is not the time to tear through your home throwing out all your cleaners and toothpaste, making a complete 180 from your old life and driving your family mad. Take it easy, and adopt small changes as you go along. When you run out of glass cleaner, fill the bottle with vinegar and water instead.
Cleaning the home of toxic chemicals
We sacrifice a lot when we ask our cleaners to eat through dirt and grime while we hardly lift a finger. The same chemicals that promise to do all the dirty work for you can also irritate your hands, cause breathing difficulties, and be potentially fatal if ingested – kind of a crappy trade-off just to avoid some elbow grease.
If you are willing to put some muscle into it, you can reap the rewards of a full wallet, a clean house, and a spotless conscience to boot.
Here are a few recipes to get you started.
(If you can operate a cheese grater and a measuring cup, you can do this.)
1 bar soap, grated
1 cup washing soda
1 cup borax
1 cup baking soda (optional)
By now most of us are aware that most store-bought laundry detergents use chemically derived fragrances and harmful chemical compounds to coat the fabric that we wear closest to our skin. This is BS (and overpriced BS at that).
Stride purposefully past all those brightly colored, expensive plastic bottles of chemical goo and look along the bottom shelf – that’s usually where the good stuff is stashed. We’re talking about the stuff with no advertising budget, no marketing strategy, just pure product.
You’re going to buy one box of washing soda (different from baking soda), and one box of borax. Note how they are packaged in easily recycled cardboard boxes as opposed to hulking plastic bottles.
Now we need some natural soap. If there’s someone in your community who makes soap, it’s great to make the choice to support them. If not, see if you can find a brand called Dr. Bronner’s at your local health food store, or order it online.
If you live in a backwater where no one makes soap and your local Piggly-Wiggly doesn’t stock Dr. Bronner’s, don’t despair! You can use Sunlight soap or any bar soap, really. It won’t be quite as natural or eco- friendly but it’ll do the job.
So buy a bar of whichever soap you’re using, pop it in the freezer for a few hours so it hardens, then grate it. If you’re fancy you can use a food processor, but I use one of the fine sides of my cheese grater.
When the soap is grated, add it to one cup of borax and one cup of washing soda. You can add a cup of baking soda for extra deodorizing, or omit it for a stronger detergent.
Mix well and you’re done! Use 1–2 tablespoons per load. This detergent is great in cold water and is low-suds, making it a great choice for front loader and High Efficiency (HE) washers too.
(This is a fantastic all-purpose cleaner with some anti-bacterial properties too.)
If you have an old spray bottle kicking around, give it a thorough wash and then fill it with hot water, leaving two to three inches for the rest of the ingredients.
Add to the bottle:
3 tbsp. white vinegar
2 tbsp. Dr. Bronner’s liquid Castile soap
1 tbsp. borax
Mix until the borax is dissolved, then get trigger happy! Use this for wiping down countertops, tables, windowsills and pretty much all other general cleaning tasks around the house.
If you use scented Castile soap, it’s nice aromatherapy too.
Soap scum remover
(This is for everyone living with a glass shower door that has somehow become opaque with soap scum buildup.)
First, find yourself a clean, empty spray bottle and some trusty white vinegar. If you can get your hands on pickling vinegar it might work a bit faster because it has a slightly higher acetic acid content, but if not, your run-of-the-mill white vinegar will work fine.
Using a microwave or saucepan, heat the vinegar. (If you use your microwave, you’ll be multitasking by cleaning and deodorizing the microwave too! Just wipe off your microwave’s interior with a soft cloth after you’re done.)
Carefully transfer the hot vinegar into your spray bottle (a funnel is helpful), and, using the bottle’s finest mist setting, lightly spray the entire shower door. The goal is to use a really fine mist so that the vinegar sticks to the surface instead of dripping off.
Leave the whole situation to soak for 15 to 20 minutes, then wipe with a clean cloth or a non-scratch abrasive pad.
Depending on how crusty your doors are, you may have to repeat the process a few times, but in the end your shower doors will be looking crystal clear once again.
You’re not going to like this, but honestly, the best way to clean your floors is to put on some rubber gloves, get down on your hands and knees with a bucket of soapy water, and just start scrubbing. There’s nothing that will clean your floors as well as this, plain and simple. But if free time is scarce, this recipe will tide you over until you get around to doing it the old-fashioned way every few months or so.
Dish soap/Dr. Bronner’s liquid Castile soap
Fill a large bucket or sink with hot water, and add one tablespoon of dish soap or Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap, and one cup of vinegar.
First, sweep or vacuum the floor thoroughly to get rid of dog hair, crumbs, and the like. Then start mopping. If your floor is quite dirty (no judgment here), you’ll need to change out your water a few times or you’ll just be spreading dirt around.
After you’ve finished mopping, wring out your mop and, using the elastic band, secure the microfiber cloth over the mop head. Then go over your floor again with the mop, using the microfiber cloth to dry the floor. This eliminates streaks and also speeds up the drying process.
Next to the floor polish above, this is the easiest recipe there is. It’s almost embarrassing to have to write it out, but it’s a great alternative to that magic blue liquid, so I have to share it. It also works wonderfully on surfaces like microwaves, faucets, mirrors, etc. OK. Here goes.
Combine equal parts white vinegar and water. Spray onto your surface and wipe clean with a soft cloth or newspaper. Done.
Madeleine’s love of writing comes first, followed by an insatiable desire to create a simple, earth-friendly life. She lives in British Columbia and writes at SweetMadeleine.ca. All You Need is Less is her first book. Illustrations and excerpt courtesy of Viva Editions.