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What Eco / Green Household and Personal Cleaning Products Do I Use?

Our Household Cleaning Products


I get an awful lot of questions about what household products I use. Which dish soap do I use? What shampoo? What do I use to clean the floors? So I thought I should answer that, with the hope that you benefit from my years of trial and error!


In The Kitchen


  • Dish soap: Planet or Seventh Generation Free & Clear (in the dispenser in above photo). When we eventually start making our own soap, I imagine we’ll use that for dishes instead.
  • Diswasher soap: Ecover tablets. I have been on a quest for the perfect soap and have tried just about every green brand. This one is the only one that works well. I hate that each comes in its own package (recyclable plastic), but it’s truly the only one that works for us. We can set our dishwasher to all the energy efficient cycles, and the dishes come out sparkling.
  • Counter & cupboard cleanser: Bon Ami or straight Bob’s Red Mill baking soda, followed by a spritz of Spectrum organic white vinegar diluted with water (1:4).
  • Floor cleaner: Spectrum organic white vinegar diluted with hot water (1:8 or so). Or sometimes, hot soapy water.


In The Bathroom


  • Hand, Face, & Body soap: Ballard Organics unscented, local, organic, handmade liquid soap.
  • Shampoo: Bob’s Red Mill baking soda mixed with water, 1:3 or so.
  • Conditioner: Spectrum organic white vinegar mixed with water, 1:4.
  • Shaving cream: Ballard Organics unscented, local, organic, handmade liquid soap.
  • Toothpaste: Tom’s of Maine SLS-Free Flouride Toothpaste.
  • Toothbrush: Preserve recycled plastic toothbrush.
  • Deodorant: Bob’s Red Mill baking soda mixed with Bob’s Red Mill cornstarch.
  • Counter, cupboard, and shower cleaner: Bon Ami – or straight Bob’s Red Mill baking soda – followed by a spritz of Spectrum organic white vinegar diluted with water (1:4) for disinfectant & shine.
  • Mirror cleaner: Spectrum organic white vinegar diluted with water (1:4).
  • Tub & Tile cleaner: Bon Ami or Bob’s Red Mill baking soda mixed with enough water to make a smooth thick paste (scrub in and let sit 20-30 minutes, then rinse). Followed by a spritz of Spectrum organic white vinegar diluted with water (1:4) for disinfectant & shine.
  • Toilet cleaner: Either 1/2 cup straight Spectrum organic white vinegar, or Ecover toilet bowl cleaner.
  • Floor cleaner: Spectrum organic white vinegar diluted with hot water (1:8 or so), with a tablespoon of dish soap.


In The Rest Of The House


  • Wood floor cleaner: Murphy’s Oil Soap in warm water (1T soap per 1 gallon bucket).
  • Wood furniture cleaner: A dab of olive oil (can be mixed 1:2 with lemon juice if there is a buildup of wax or other material) or straight Murphy’s Oil Soap. In the past I’ve also used Murphy’s Oil Soap Multi-Use Wood Cleaner with Orange Oil but olive oil is working fine.
  • Window & Mirror cleaner: Spectrum organic white vinegar diluted with water (1:4).
  • Dusting: For non-wood surfaces, Spectrum organic white vinegar diluted with water (1:4). For wood surfaces, I use a microfiber dusting cloth (it works with a static charge).
  • Laundry Soap: Planet liquid laundry soap. My skin is very sensitive, and this is one of the few that works well but doesn’t irritate my skin. My next step is to learn about soap nuts.
  • Fabric Softener: Spectrum organic white vinegar (1/2 C per load in washer).
  • Fabric Stain Remover: Generic brand Hydrogen Peroxide (2T per load in washer. If there are blood, wine, or other tough stains: pour directly on fabric and leave for 24 hours – scary the first time, but it doesn’t bleach and it works!).


Suggestions, Thoughts, Questions?


Click here to learn more about greening your indoors


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24 comments to What Eco / Green Household and Personal Cleaning Products Do I Use?

  • bobbi

    Thanks for this post that pulls everything together. One of my green resolutions for 2009 is to change over our cleaners. I appreciate your efforts to research this area. Plus, thanks for your writings on community building. I actually ‘channel’ your blog in my mind when I come upon a chance to work on this goal. Does that sound weird? Consider it a compliment!

  • Do you have any idea how well the Ecover toilet bowl cleaner would work on rust residue? We have very hard water and I would love to get away from The Works but nothing seems to touch the rust in the sink and toilet. Maybe I’ll look into the Ecover line a little more. Thanks for sharing!

  • Carolyn

    Nice list. We’ve switched mostly to green cleaners and I find that they do the job the same and I can breathe while cleaning. ;-)

    @Jena,

    Have you tried Bar Keepers Friend in your toilet and sink? I use it to remove stubborn rust stains and it works every time. Even works on clothing. I seriously doubt that it is a ‘green’ product, but it is inexpensive and I use it around my toddler, always rinsing well, and no issues yet.

  • Sarah

    Hi do you know how i can get Bob’s Red Mill Baking Soda in the UK.

    Thanks.

  • Thanks for the list….I’m printing it out and taping it to the pantry cupboard for easy reference. We use baking soda for ALOT of our cleaning but you’ve given us tools to do even more. How is vinegar as a conditioner in the de-tangling department? I tried it years ago and it seemed to leave my hair kind of stiff instead of soft. But I really want to get away from store bought hair products.

    THANKS!

  • Great list that’s I’ll keep around as a reference. I’ve been absolutely amazed by how well vinegar and hydrogen peroxide work as cleaners for various things. H2O2 for a red wine stain in white carpet — gone. Another to maybe add to the list is removing difficult labels from jars (for jar reuse) with peanut butter.

  • I use Bon Ami in the bathroom and kitchen. And I use Trader Joe’s Next to Godliness dishwasher soap and laundry soap. And Trader Joe’s trigger spray cleaner. And i use baking soda and Vinegar for general cleaning. Vinegar makes a great window cleaner, and using newspaper to dry gives it a polish so it doesn’t get dirty so fast

  • Jennie

    Thank you so much for this list. I’ve been totally inspired by your website the last few weeks. My boyfriend and I are enjoying experimenting with all these green ideas. I stopped using shampoo and conditioner last week and have been incredibly happy with the baking soda / vinegar combo. I have to say I’m worried about my entire house smelling like vinegar, but I bought a big ol’ gallon jug of it and I feel so much better about using one safe product for most of my cleaning.

    Thank you!

  • bobbi, Of course you’re welcome. And boy, let me tell you I do consider that a compliment!! Thank you for saying so. Really. : )

    Jena, The Ecover website says it “removes tough stains.” But honestly, we had the rust problem in Geyserville and I tried several things that didn’t work. What worked for me was to don a pair of gloves and scrub with Bon Ami. You can also use Borax (which I suspect is pretty much what Bon Ami is). A third thing I’d try is vinegar mixed with baking soda and borax – it will fizz (which is harmless, but often cleans a little better than any of the 3 alone). You can then scrub it with a pumice scouring stick (you can find one in hardware stores and some grocery stores in the tub & tile section). Good luck!

    Carolyn, Definitely – breathing clean is a good reason to go green! It certainly helps my asthma.

    Sarah, I’m sorry I don’t. But if you go to your local health food store, I’m sure they will have a similar product. If you can’t find one, make sure to ask – they’ll be able to point you in the right direction and/or order one for you if they don’t have any in stock!

    Maureen, Thank you. : ) You made my day, along with Audrey, bobbi and Jennie. Thank you all for your sweet words!!!!!

    Vinegar de-tangles very well – my hair is straight and fairly long and I have always, always, always had to use conditioner. Vinegar works better in my opinion. You saw my post, where I explained how I use it? It’s here, in case you haven’t!

    Audrey, Me, too! I had no idea. Who knew that you could cut down most of your cleaners to just 4 things: baking soda, vinegar, soap, and hydrogen peroxide. And very interesting about the peanut butter. We used to use it to get gum out of our hair when we were kids!

    Rob, Sounds like your cleaning cupboard looks an awful lot like mine! I use a soft rag on windows – for some reason, the newspaper trick has never, ever worked for me. Somehow I feel like a domestic failure every time I try it. : (

    Jennie, Again, thank you for your sweet words – I really appreciate it! I’m so glad to hear you’re happy with the baking soda/vinegar combination. : ) I feel the same about vinegar – one big (and cheap) jug, no toxicity. I’m glad you’re enjoying the site!

  • You know, if you wanted you might even be able to give up some of those. I haven’t used deodorant since spring and not a single person has mentioned me smelling bad. And I ride a bike everywhere! I also haven’t used shampoo since July; after a few weeks everything was fine.

  • ana

    hi!

    what do you use for taking a bath?? i mean like soap or shower gel??

    i´m trying to find alternatives and its not easy, and i dont want to use products with sls!

    any ideas??

  • Sakhi

    This information is great.

    One question: How long have you been using Murphy’s oil soap for your wood floors?

    I bought it couple of weeks back and used on my floors and they look really good. One of my friends said it is not good for hardwood. So i googled a bit and found some very negative things about it on the internet.

    Any help is appriciated.

  • sueisrael

    hi,
    so glad to see ecover is recommended for dishwashers, that they clean good but does anyone have experience/thoughts on if the grey water from ecover tablets can be used to water plants? edible as well as non-edible?

    thanks

  • Meg

    Another thing that works well for hand-washing dishes, is to get over the whole “dish liquid” mentality completely and return to good honest soap. Here’s what I do: bought a stainless steel wire soap dish, screwed it into the backsplash hanging over the sink so the soap always dries well, and hang a natural-bristle wooden long-handled dish scrubbing brush (Brooks, made in Switzerland, outlasts plastic and the heads are replaceable, and can be trimmed down to nail brushes when they wear out) on the wall near the faucet.

    To wash dishes or scrub the sink, wet the brush, swipe it across the bar of soap, and get to work. The Kirk’s Castile soap is cheap, lasts long this way, and is ecologically sound. Dishes and faucets and sink get clean, hands also get clean but do not get dried out or harmed, and there is no plastic involved in any of it. Plus it saves me a lot of money.

  • Meg

    Another thing that works well for hand-washing dishes, is to get over the whole “dish liquid” mentality completely and return to good honest soap. Here’s what I do: bought a stainless steel wire soap dish, screwed it into the backsplash hanging over the sink so the soap always dries well, and hang a natural-bristle wooden long-handled dish scrubbing brush (Brooks, made in Switzerland, outlasts plastic and the heads are replaceable, and can be trimmed down to nail brushes when they wear out) on the wall near the faucet.

    To wash dishes or scrub the sink, wet the brush, swipe it across the bar of soap, and get to work. The Kirk’s Castile soap is cheap, lasts long this way, and is ecologically sound. Dishes and faucets and sink get clean, hands also get clean but do not get dried out or harmed, and there is no plastic involved in any of it. Plus it saves me a lot of money.

    Oh, and I did find that vinegar-water, while useful, will promote mold growth (mold likes an acid environment) so be sure to rinse well or use something alkaline like super washing soda or baking soda to neutralize it if you get mold problems.

  • emma

    wow im so excited by this website thankyou soooo much
    ive made my own homemade washing liquid which works fantastically on my smelly engineers clothing it takes me about half an hour to prepare and then another mixing the next morning and placing in storage containers i made my last batch ow 4 months ago!!!!!!!!!!!!! ow and money wise well im happy to say all up the initial outlay was $40 aus dollars and ive got enough product to last untill 2012!!

    1 cup Water (boiling)
    2 cups Bar soap (grated)
    be careful wear gloves with the next too if u have skin allergies
    2 cups Borax be careful wear gloves
    2 cups Washing Soda

    Add finely grated bar soap to the boiling water and stir until soap is melted. You can keep on low heat until soap is melted.
    Pour the soap water into a large, clean 30ltr bucket and add the Borax and Washing Soda. Stir well until all is dissolved.
    Add water untill 10cm from the rim of the bucket, stir until well mixed.
    Cover pail and leave overnight.

    in the morning it will be one big bucket of jelly goo
    stir well
    you can either use 3/4 to 1/2 cup of the jelly or dilute ++make sure with the jelly its not poured directly onto clothes its harmless to humans
    i then get two 20 litre camping jery cans and place half of the mix into each
    fill with hot water and stir with a stick when you happy with the consistancy add tap water

    i use a cup in my wash and it comes up beautiful every time i like the dilute as it can be used as nappy sand to soak aswell and in this form if u put it on stains and rub it removes them
    my water from my washing feeds the citrus and there loving it!! have given afew batches away and many have commented on the decrease in skin allergies and smells!!

    thanks for creating a hub of environmentally friendly options loving it

  • Last tube of Tom’s that I bought had the SLS in it! I was so surprised. Formerly, I didn’t see any SLS in any of the variations that Tom’s makes. But I think they’ve sold the company and things have changed. You may want to check the label.

  • Thanks for all your tips, everyone!

    Hi Darlene, Tom’s makes an “SLS-free” line of toothpaste that foams with licorice rather than SLS.

    sueisrael, I wouldn’t put Ecover on edible plants. I haven’t checked into it – please let us know if you found anything, as I’m sure you’re not alone in questioning that.

    Sakhi, It’s my understanding that oil soap is only good for hard-waxed floors. Otherwise, it can wash off the wax. If you’re worried about it, do it in an inconspicuous place first. Or just use a mild soap and warm water.

    Sorry, you two – somehow I missed your comments earlier!

  • Jenn

    Have you tried Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap? Is there a reason why you don’t use any of his products? I just started using them and wanted to make sure there is not something you know that I don’t :)

  • Malorye

    For my dishes, I just scrub them with a brush really well in a sink of hot water. After that I put them in the dishwasher, I put baking soda in the soap compartment and organic white vinegar in the jet dry compartment. They come out wonderful. And…thanks to your fabulous suggestion I use the left over sink water for my plants!!

  • KG

    You can try making your own soap. I have been doing it for years and use it in the shower and for our laundry(grated and mixed with borax and washing soda). All you need is a mix of oils, lye, water, a big enameled pot, wood spoon and a postal scale to measure.

    http://candleandsoap.about.com/od/coldprocesssoapmaking/ss/sscpsoap.htm

  • Alison Ross

    Hi, I’ve been using Soap Nuts for a couple of years now. You only need a few and they last for 3 or 4 washes so a 1kg bag lasts for ages (and I have three teenagers). Cheapest place I’ve found to buy them (in the UK) is http://www.salveo.co.uk.

  • [...] detergents, floor cleaners, carpet sprays, window cleaners… all of it.  Replace them with very natural versions (no artificial scents, and preferably no scents) or make them [...]

  • Great blog post! Another tip…Naptha Fels bars in the laundry isle of wal-mart, 97 cents! This bar has similar ingredients to Bon Ami(Feldspar), I am a professional carpet cleaner and can say with confidence that this product safely removes more spots than all the rest of my spotters combined! Also can be used with the washing soda and borax to make laundry soap similar to the post above.

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