Non Toxic Cleaning

what are they?

Big manufacturers are constantly bringing out new ‘improved’ products, which are basically petroleum-based detergents whose ingredients are often toxic, non-renewable, and take a long time to biodegrade. You don’t need such a range of products; you can buy green brands based on vegetable oils, or you can make your own cleaners from a few basic ingredients:

baking soda: dissolves dirt and grease in water; abrasive, so good for surfaces; neutralises acids and bases, so removes odours too.

washing soda: can only just be called non-toxic because of its high pH; use for very very stubborn stains (eg engine oil).

white (distilled) vinegar and lemon juice: nature’s acidic grease cutters.

hydrogen peroxide: (3% conc. from chemists) a natural disinfectant produced by the human body and by the action of sunlight on water.

borax: mineral (sodium, boron, oxygen and water), formed when salt lakes evaporate. very low toxicity, yet an effecitive fungicide and anti-bacterial cleaning and bleaching agent.

cream of tartar: a natural leftover when grape juice is fermented into wine.

natural cleaners: clockwise from left – hydrogen peroxide (3%); borax; baking soda; cream of tartar; white vinegar; lemon juice; salt

what are the benefits?

Ecover and Bio-D produce washing-up liquid in refillable drums, from which you can re-fill bottles, so that you don’t have to keep buying new ones. Making your own is even better (avoids the transport of all the water found in commercial products).

But the bottom line is that natural cleaners don’t cause the health and environmental problems associated with synthetic chemicals when they end up in our bodies or down the drain. Over 70,000 synthetic chemicals are manufactured, and only 600 have been adequately tested (US Office of Environmental Affairs).

The human body has not evolved to cope with exposure to so many chemicals; asthma and cancers are on the up, and sperm counts are falling. The cocktails of chemicals we use in our homes can’t help. Here is just a tiny selection:

phosphates: (washing-up liquid, washing powders); too much for sewage system, leads to algal blooms in rivers.

paradichlorobenzene: (toilet blocks; deodorisers) possible carcinogen.

chlorine: (bleaches) irritant, corrosive, can produce toxic gases when mixed with other cleaning fluids.

petrochemicals: (furniture polish, high-strength cleaners) eye, skin and respiratory irritant; can contain the carcinogen benzene.

sodium hypochlorite: (bleaches) corrosive, kills bacteria in sewage farms, eye, skin, respiratory irritant.

artificial musks: (air fresheners) liver toxin

formaldehyde: suspected carcinogen.

perchloroethylene: (dry cleaning) toxic air pollutant, probable carcinogen, a tiny amount will contaminate groundwater for many years.

what can I do?

Avoid products with these words on the container: chlorine, ethylene/ethyl, butyl/alkyl, benzene, phenol and formaldehyde. Buy green products or make your own:

all-purpose cleaner: soap and water; or two tablespoons of baking soda in a litre of water.

stain remover (surfaces): sprinkle with salt and lemon juice, leave for a while (a few hours for really bad stains) and wipe clean.

stubborn stains: as a paste, baking soda and a little water removes stubborn stains from coffe cups, doors, appliances etc.

carpet freshener: sprinkle baking soda before vaccuuming.

eliminating odours: cat litter trays – baking soda; fridge – baking soda/water paste.

removing grease: vinegar (white) with salt.

disinfectant: (kitchen chopping boards, bathrooms and toilets) spray with white vinegar, then spray with hydrogen peroxide solution; wipe clean.

oven cleaner: make a paste with equal parts salt, baking soda and water, paste onto oven walls, leave for a while (overnight is good), then wipe off.

metal polish: vinegar or lemon juice (don’t use baking soda on aluminium as it will attack it).

furniture polish: ½ cup lemon juice with a teaspoon of olive oil, apply with a soft rag.

window cleaner: 1 litre water, ¼ cup vinegar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, shake, keep in spray bottle and use like ordinary window cleaner.

drain cleaner: ½ cup baking soda, then ½ cup vinegar, leave for 15 minutes, then pour down a kettle of boiling water.

washing dishes: buy green washing-up liquid (see links) – phosphate free.

air freshener: open the window; cut lemons or baking soda in a dish; in the kitchen, simmer cinnamon and cloves.

toilet cleaner: spray with vinegar and water mix around rim, pour cup of vinegar and couple of spoons baking soda into a bowl, leave for 15 mins, brush and flush.

rust remover: scour with cream of tartar.

mould remover: spray with equal parts vinegar and water, leave for 5 minutes and wipe clean.

laundry liquid: green products (see links).

stain remover (clothes): equal parts vinegar and water; for grease, mix borax and water, rub in and wipe off.

laundry bleach: don’t use chlorine-based bleaches; ½ cup washing soda in wash cycle; ½ cup lemon juice in rinse cycle; hang washing out – sunlight is a natural bleach.

dry cleaning: don’t do it – wash woollens with mild soap and cold water.

Non Toxic Laundry List:

Free & Clear NON SCENTED Arm and Hammer, Citra Suds or Seventh Generation

Or any Free & Clear Non Scented plant based soap or detergent

Dryer Sheet Alternatives

  • Add a quarter cup of baking soda to wash cycle to soften fabric
  • Add a quarter cup of white vinegar to wash to soften fabric and eliminate cling
  • Check out your local health food store for a natural fabric softener that uses a natural base like soy.

Toxic - DON'T USE!

Scented, colored & chemical Detergents

Cause Asthma attacks & other problems

Dryer Sheets - Don't use!

Chemicals used in dryer sheets can cause nervous system disorders. Can contain Heavy Metals- very toxic!

Gain,Tide, CheerOil/Chemical Based Detergents contain harmful APE surfactants & other toxins.

Commercial fabric softener is toxic. Use non toxic alternatives. Even if you don't feel the effects of these chemicals today, they can affect you gradually over time, and children, whose systems are still developing, are particularly at risk. There's really no reason to expose yourself to these risky chemicals when natural alternatives exist. Not only are they safer for you, your family and the environment;they are much more economical too.

Your laundry water drains into the garden for the plants. Natural soaps will help keep you and your environment healthy!


green cleaning products: clockwise from left – toilet cleaner; cream cleaner; multi-purpose cleaner; washing soda; degreaser; laundry bleach; natural soap; washing-up liquid

the low pH of lemons makes them one of nature's acidic grease cutters

air fresheners: pot pourri; baking soda; cut lemon; cinnamon and cloves (simmer to remove kitchen odours)

more - information, books, links, suppliers etc.

Low Impact Natural Cleaning Link

Salt kills mold & fungus soak areas including skin & nails in salt water to kill it & preserve wood.

Toxic Non-Toxic

Ajax, Comet. Baking soda with a dash of Dr Bronners soap makes a great sink scrubber.

Toxic=Clorox or Bleach. Non Toxic Substitute = Lemon Juice