Most people think they need an arsenal of products to get their home really clean. Unfortunately, many people buy more products than they actually need, and they often buy products that contain unnecessarily harsh and toxic ingredients, such as formaldehyde and other chemicals that release volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which have both short- and long-term health effects.
You only need a few essentials to get your home really clean while avoiding potentially toxic chemicals and other substances that can harm you and your family’s health as well as our environment.
1. I can’t say enough about plain unfiltered or distilled white vinegar.* Mixed with plain water it cleans everything from windows, sinks, showers, tubs, faucet fixtures, laminate floors and mirrors. Simply dilute 1 part vinegar to 1 part water in a small bucket or spray bottle to use. Vinegar naturally kills bacteria, mold and germs. Studies have shown that even at 5-10% strength, vinegar kills roughly 90 percent of bacteria and viruses. For disinfecting cutting boards, soap scum, grime and mildew, use it full strength. For windows, simply spray on and dry with newspaper. 365 Every Day Value Distilled White Vinegar, $3.29, available at Whole Foods Markets nationwide.
2. If you need a little more oomph for tackling stubborn mildew, soap scum and other gunk, use a tub and tile cleaner, Bathroom Cleaner, $4.99, methodhome.com or a good, old-fashioned all-natural abrasive cleanser (below), $1.69, bonami.com.
3. Stop using paper towels, and switch to reusable cloths. These have a terry towel side and a scrubby mesh side. Scrubby Dishcloths, $6.95 for 3, crateandbarrel.com.
4. Natural cellulose and plant-based sponges are soft and incredibly absorbent. French Pop-Up Sponges (above), $7.95 for 6, crateandbarrel.com or Twist Euro Sponge (below), $1.99, twistclean.com.
3. Dishwashing soap isn’t just for dishes. Use it to clean countertops, walls and painted wood. Ultra Dishmate Dishwashing Cleaner is fully biodegradable and made in facilities powered by 100% renewable energy, $2.99, ecos.com.
4. Simply having your hands in and out of water frequently can lead to excessively dry and chapped hands. Protect them with gloves while you wash or clean. The pair shown above is made from FSC certified natural latex and is cotton-lined. Household Gloves, $3.99, ifyoucare.com.
* Since vinegar is highly acidic, it can dissolve mineral deposits and fibers. I don’t use vinegar on my stone surfaces, but I’ve read you can. Simply dilute with water and test in an inconspicuous place first.