Many common household cleaners, including products sold in military commissaries around the world, contain toxic substances which can be harmful to your health. Although the U.S. requires manufactures to label hazardous household cleaners (warnings such as Poison or Avoid Eye Contact) the specific ingredients are considered trade secrets and do not have to be listed. You often have no idea what you are being exposed to when you use these products.
Recently, manufactures have begun labeling more cleaning products natural or green. The phrases imply that the products are non-toxic and safe, but there is no industry standard or governmental regulation for the use of these statements.
Luckily, you can easily rid your home of toxic cleaners with an affordable trip to the commissary. I began switching from common commercial cleaners to non-toxic substitutes a few years ago and have learned many of the best alternatives commissaries offer.
There are three simple ways to limit your exposure to dangerous chemicals in household cleaners:
Limit the number of cleaners you buy. Fewer products = fewer chemicals.
Check product safety ratings before buying at Environmental Working Group or Good Guide. You can download a free Good Guide App to scan barcodes while you shop.
Make your own cleaners. Homemade cleaners have easy recipes and are often cheaper than pre-made cleaners.
Non-Toxic Cleaners Shopping List
Curious about what cleaning products and cleaning product ingredients I regularly buy at the commissary?
Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
Super washing soda (sodium carbonate)
Distilled white vinegar
Olive oil (buy the cheap kind for cleaning)
Lemon juice (bottled)
OxiClean Free or OxiClean Baby (fragrance free)
Tea Tree Oil (pharmaceutical grade)
Kiss My Face Olive Oil Bar Soap, Fragrance Free (used to make laundry detergent)
Seventh Generation Auto Dishwasher Detergent Concentrate Pacs – (I make my own dishwasher detergent when citric acid is in stock, check the canning section.)
Seventh Generation Free & Clear Dish Liquid
Other good buys – Seventh GenerationNon-Chlorine Bleach, Bon AmiPolishing Cleanser
Recipes for Non-Toxic Cleaners
You may be wondering how this short shopping list gets my whole house clean. Some of the products are pre-made cleaners, such as the dishwashing pacs, but most are ingredients I use in my own cleaning concoctions.
Here are my favorite EASY recipes for natural cleaners to get your new year off to a non-toxic start:
Laundry Detergent – I make my own laundry detergent using Kiss My Face Olive Oil Bar Soap (fragrance free), baking soda, super washing soda, and OxiClean Free. The recipe makes 320 loads for $15.35.
Fabric Softener – I use white vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser of my washing machine. If you don’t have a fabric softener dispenser, buy a DownyFabric Enhancers Ultra Ball for $1.37 at the commissary and fill it with white vinegar when you start each load. White vinegar is a great deodorizer. It even takes the jet fuel smell out of my husband’s uniforms.
Bleach Substitute – Add one cup of peroxide or ½ cup lemon juice to a load of whites and allow them to soak up to one hour, add detergent and wash as usual.
Laundry Stain Remover – Mix 2 tablespoons baking soda, 1 tablespoon liquid dish washing soap, and 1 tablespoon hydrogen peroxide. Then spread on stains. This mixture takes out yellow underarm stains and ring around the collar. I use it on whites and colors.
All Purpose Cleaner – Mix 2 cups water, 1/2 cup white vinegar, and 1 teaspoon liquid dish soap in a spray bottle. Spray surfaces and wipe with a clean cloth.
Kitchen Sanitizer – Both white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide are good sanitizers and can even kill E. coli according to the USDA. Use ½ cup hydrogen peroxide or ½ cup vinegar. (Never mix.) Spray counters, cutting boards, sinks, etc., allow to sit for a few minutes, then wipe clean.
Glass Cleaner – Mix 1 cup white vinegar and 1 cup water in a spray bottle. Spray glass/mirrors and wipe clean with a lint free cloth, old newspaper or coffee filter. You can also use my cornstarch glass cleaner.
Shower/Bathtub Spray – Mix 1 cup water, 1 cup white vinegar and ¼ cup liquid dish soap in a spray bottle. Spray surfaces, scrub clean with a brush or clean cloth, and rinse.
Toilet Cleaner – Sprinkle the inside of your toilet bowl with 1 cup of baking soda or washing soda. Wait 15 minutes to half an hour, spray with white vinegar (it will foam). Scrub with toilet brush and flush.
Bathroom Mold & Mildew Cleaner/Sanitizer – Fight mold and mildew with hydrogen peroxide and tea tree (melaleuca) oil. Tea tree oil is a power anti-fugal, antiseptic, and antibacterial. It was included in first-aid kits given to Australian soldiers and sailors during WWII! Mix ½ cup hydrogen peroxide with 10-15 drops of tea tree oil, spray area, and wipe clean. For tough mildew areas such as grout you can spray on and leave the mixture. You can also use tea tree oil to treat athlete’s foot.
Scouring Powder – Mix 1 cup baking soda or washing soda and 1/2 cup table salt in a glass jar or parmesan cheese shaker. Sprinkle scouring powder on surface, scrub clean with a wet sponge or cloth and rinse. This works great on sinks, stainless steel, bathtubs, pans, ovens, etc. Do not use on aluminum.
Soft Scrub – Mix 1 tbsp baking soda with 1 tsp liquid dish soap. Scrub surface clean with a damp sponge or cloth and rinse. This works great on shower doors, bathtubs, and sinks.
Wood Cleaner/Furniture Polish – I make my own furniture polish and cleaner with olive oil, white vinegar and lemon juice. Get the recipe here.
Room and Fabric Refresher – Mix 1 cup of water with 1 cup of white vinegar then lightly spray areas to deodorize. The vinegar will dry and leave no odor. You can add essential oils to make the smell less vinegary, make scented vinegar or use cheap vodka in place of the vinegar.
Vinyl or Tile Floor Cleaner – Mix 4 cups warm water, ½ cup white vinegar, and ½ teaspoon liquid dishwashing soap in a spray bottle or spray mop. Spray floor and immediately wipe clean with an absorbent mop or cloth pad. Rinse floor pad as needed while cleaning.
Hardwood Floor Cleaner – Mix 2 cups warm water and ½ cup white vinegar in a spray bottle or spray mop bottle. Spray floor and immediately wipe clean with an absorbent mop or cloth. Rinse floor pad as needed while cleaning. You can also make hardwood floor polish/restorer using olive oil and white vinegar.
Carpet Refresher – I use baking soda and cornstarch to naturally freshen my carpet and vacuum. Get the directions here.
Heavy Duty Cleaning
Shower Door Cleaner – Dip half a lemon in table salt and scour shower doors. The grit and mild acid removes hard water stains. This also works on bathroom fixtures with hard water stains.
Drain Cleaner – Help slow moving drains by pouring ½ cup of table salt in a slow-moving drain followed by a quart of boiling water.
Garbage Disposal Cleaner/Freshener– Pour 1 cup baking soda down the drain followed by 1 cup of white vinegar, allow mixture to work for 15 minutes then use an old toothbrush to scrub the back of the black rubber shield. Pour ½ gallon of nearly boiling water down the drain to rinse. For extra freshness, complete this routine by grinding an orange or lemon rind in the disposal with water running.
Coffee Pot Cleaner – Fill the water reservoir with white vinegar and run the brew cycle. Wipe all surfaces clean then run 2 cycles of water through the machines. Your coffee will taste great with a clean machine and pot!
Washing Machine Cleaner – Fill all washing machine reservoirs (fabric softener, bleach, and detergent) with white vinegar and run a complete load on warm with all options selected (or the cleaning cycle). If you have a front loader, pour ½ cup of vinegar into the center of the rubber seal before closing the door and starting the machine. Dust the outside of the machine and wipe all surfaces clean with vinegar and water. Allow tub to dry with door open.
Non-Toxic Cleaners Costs
My non-toxic cleaners cost me about $52.00 if I buy everything on the list (including 320 loads of laundry detergent). For comparison, my old “commercial” cleaners* cost about $60.
*My old cleaning favorites: Arm & Hammer Laundry Detergent, Bounce Free & Gentle Fabric Softener Sheets, Shout Stain Remover, Scrubbing Bubbles Shower Cleaner, Soft Scrub with Bleach, Clorox Toilet Bowl Cleaner, Lysol Disinfectant All Purpose Cleaner, Windex Glass Multi Surface, Method Surface Cleaner, Swifter Wet Jet Multi-Purpose Cleaner Solution, Murphy Wood Floor Cleaner, Finish Powerball Tabs, and Pledge Orange Oil Furniture Polish.
One final note, many homemade cleaner recipes contain Borax. I do not use Borax because it scores an F for respiratory effects and developmental toxicity on the EWG scale and has been banned as a food additive by the FDA. Learn more about the Borax controversy and decide for yourself at Crunchy Betty or MNN.
Do you have a question about homemade cleaners or favorite cleaner recipe to share?