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Sick of spring cleaning? If you’re using traditional household cleaners, you really might be. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that pollutants can be two to five times higher inside the home than outside. Household cleaners are also dangerous poisons. The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported over 200,000 poison exposures in 2003 in the household cleaning substances category, over half of which were in children under 6 years old.

Household cleaning chemicals also pollute the environment. When you wash chemicals down the drain, they run into rivers, streams and oceans. The U.S. Geological Survey found high levels of detergent metabolites in almost 70 percent of streams tested.

Common chemicals in household cleaners can also combine into toxic combinations, such chlorine and ammonia, which used together form toxic chloramine gas and also contribute to health problems, such as asthma and eczema.

With the latest rise in green consciousness, though, it’s easy to find alternative household cleaners from eco-friendly brands, including Ecover and Seventh Generation. If the price is too high–often up to 50 percent more than traditional cleaners–you can also make your own from basics, such as vinegar and baking powder (see Alternative Cleaning Recipes).

Product Report: Household Cleaning Supplies


Good Stuff? – Cleaning Products


Eco-friendly cleaning products







Alternative Cleaning Recipes

Basic Essentials:

BAKING SODA (sodium bicarbonate): An all-purpose, nontoxic cleaner. Cleans, deodorizes, removes stains and softens fabrics.

BORAX (sodium borate): A natural mineral that kills mold and bacteria. An alternative to bleach; it deodorizes, removes stains and boosts the cleaning power of soap.

SALT (sodium chloride): An abrasive .

VINEGAR (acetic acid): Cuts grease, removes stains and is an excellent water softener.

LEMON JUICE Cuts through grease and removes perspiration and other stains from clothing. A bleach alternative.



HERBS and ESSENTIAL OILS For disinfecting and fragrance.

TOOTHPASTE: A mild abrasive.

CORNSTARCH Starches clothes, absorbs oil and grease.

All Purpose Cleaners

VINEGAR AND SALT: Mix together for a good surface cleaner.

BAKING SODA: Dissolve 4 tablespoons baking soda in 1 quart warm water for a general cleaner.

MIX IT UP: 3 tbsp. vinegar, 1/2 tsp. washing soda, 1/2 tsp. vegetable oil based liquid soap, 2 cups hot water. Mix ingredients in spray bottle or bucket. Apply and wipe clean.

Toilet Bowl Cleaners

BAKING SODA AND VINEGAR: Sprinkle baking soda into the bowl, then squirt with vinegar and scour with a toilet brush. Cleans and deodorizes.

BORAX AND LEMON JUICE: Mix enough borax and lemon juice into a paste to cover any stains. Flush toilet to wet the sides, then rub on paste. Let sit for two hours and scrub thoroughly.

MIX IT UP: 1 cup borax, half a cup white vinegar. Flush to wet the sides of the bowl. Sprinkle the borax around the toilet bowl, then spray with vinegar. Leave for several hours or overnight before scrubbing with a toilet brush.

Tub and Tile Cleaners

Use baking soda like scouring powder. Sprinkle and rub with a damp sponge. Rinse thoroughly.

To remove film buildup, apply vinegar full-strength to a sponge and wipe. Next, use baking soda as you would scouring powder. Rub with a damp sponge and rinse thoroughly with clean water.

Vinegar removes most dirt without scrubbing and doesn’t leave a film. Use 1/4 of a cup (or more) vinegar to 1 gallon water.

To clean grout, put 3 cups baking soda into a medium-sized bowl and add 1 cup warm water. Mix into a smooth paste and scrub into grout with a sponge or toothbrush. Rinse thoroughly.


Mix 1/2 cup borax into 1 gallon hot water or undiluted vinegar and clean with this solution.

2 tablespoons borax, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 2 cups hot water. Combine the borax and lemon juice with the water in a spray bottle. Use as you would any commercial all-purpose cleaner.

Isopropyl alcohol is an excellent disinfectant. Sponge on and allow to dry. Use in a well-ventilated area and wear gloves.

Floor Cleaners A pencil eraser removes heel marks from a floor.

For greasy, no-wax floors: 1 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup washing soda, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil-based liquid soap, 2 gallons hot water. Combine all ingredients, stirring well to dissolve the washing soda. Mop as usual.

Furniture and Scratch Polish

This polish should to be made fresh each time you use it. 1 lemon, 1 tsp. olive oil,1 tsp. Water. Extract the juice from the lemon. Mix with oil and water. Apply a thin coat on your wood surface and let sit for five minutes. Use a soft cloth to buff to a deep shine.

Rid wood scratches by rubbing with the meat of a walnut or use a soft cloth and wipe with a bit of mayonnaise.

To remove water stains on wood furniture, dob white toothpaste onto stain. Allow the paste to dry and then gently buff off with a soft cloth.

Glass Cleaners

Do not wash windows or glass when sun is on them or if they are warm. This causes the solution to dry too quickly creating unwanted streaks. Mix the ingredients and apply with a sponge or pour into spray bottle and spray on. Wipe dry with crumpled newspaper, buff to a shine. (Use crumpled newspaper instead of paper towels for lint-free results.)

Use undiluted vinegar in a spray bottle.

Equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle.

1/2 lemon juice and 2 cups water in a spray bottle.

1/2 cup vinegar or lemon juice, 2 cups water, 1/4 teaspoon vegetable oil based soap (such as Murphy’s Oil Soap)

Mix 1/2 cup cornstarch with 2 quarts warm water. Apply with sponge then wipe with absorbent cloth or towel.

No-Streak Glass Cleaner: 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1 quart warm water

Isopropyl alcohol is effective in place of glass cleaner.


Use liquid or powdered soap instead of detergents, which are petroleum-based

Use baking soda and liquid castile.

In dishwashers, use equal parts borax and washing soda. Add 1 cup of white vinegar to the rinse compartment of your automatic dishwasher. Wash dishes as usual.

Occasionally soak drinking glasses in a solution of vinegar and water to really get them clean. Makes them sparkle!

To remove coffee stains from cups or counters, rub with baking soda paste.

Alternative cleaning recipes provided by Betty Gearen at The Green House, 524-8427, [email: thehawaiigreenhouse].