Cleaning Supplies & Methods

Archived Q&A and Reviews

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Good green cleaning products

June 2007

I share a janitorial job of which we prefer to stay as biodegradable and green as possible. Currently we use Natures Miracle for stains and Simple Green for floors & counters, and Trader Joe's cedarwood-sage multipurpose cleaner for surfaces and windows. Every now and then I am tempted to use a non-green product for extra tough jobs (floors, mostly) but my partner refuses, which is good because it is forcing me to find the ultimate cleaning product that is easy on the earth and the those using them. I do not mind an MLM product, I am open as long as it works. Any recommendations? Thank you.

I really like Holy Cow Multi-Purpose Cleaner. I've found a lot of green cleaners just don't work very well, but I've been happy with this product. The only place I've seen it is Piedmont Grocery, but they have a web site which may have more information. Fiona

Less toxic cleaning products

May 2005

A colleague of mine is working with a group of domestic workers in San Francisco who are interested in encouraging their employer to use less toxic cleaning supplies. She found the Berkeley parents website and was interested to see people's recommendations about less toxic products, and was hoping our community could help her get a little more information. She is looking for some personal testimonies from families who have switched to using less toxic cleaning supplies, including how you like the new materials, how they may have improved the health of you and your children, and any economic effects that the switch might have had. She is also interested in any comments about how families went about selecting a brand of ''nontoxic'' cleaner to use, since there aren't any standard definitions of what ''nontoxic'' or ''green'' and manufacturers change their formulations constantly. June

I have a great book to recommend: ''Clean House, Clean Planet - Clean Your House for Pennies a Day, the Safe, Nontoxic Way'' by Karen Logan This woman sells her own eco-friendly cleaning products and in her book, tells you how to make them at home. I have a dog- eared copy and have made everything from an all-purpose cleaner to furniture polish. AND MOST OF THEM HAVE WORKED! Joy

Non-Toxic/Non-Smelly Household Cleaners

August 2004

I have nine month old twins and have become very aware of how smelly our household cleaners are. The odor is really intense and I can't imagine it's particularly good for any of us. What non-toxic/non-smelly household cleaners do folks use? Thanks

For lots of things, I really like using baking soda. You can sprinkle it on like other powdered cleansers - either on a damp sponge or damp surface - , but is has no smell, is non-toxic, and doesn't scratch (unless the surface is super-delicate). I think it works better than those toxic formulas for some things - like counter-tops. Vinegar (diluted) works well for mild soap scum, shining faucets, and glass/mirrors. It's not toxic, and the mild vinegar smell dissapates quickly. R.K.
I work with Natural Home Cleaning Professionals, an eco-friendly housecleaning service that has tested a good number of products for non-toxic/non-smelly and effective cleaning. We've had great results with two environmental labels, Seventh Generation and Ecover, both available at Berkeley Bowl. We also use a light vinegar and water solution, which is very effective for cutting build-up on shiny surfaces and wood. Deb
Try homemade cleaners. Baking soda and vinegar work on everything and although vinegar has an odor, it is non-toxic. Vinegar and water make an excellent window cleaner, while baking soda is a fabulous non-abrasive scrubbing powder. -N
I'm with you, those toxic-smelling cleaners can't be healthy. A lot of us are conditioned to associate certain odors like bleach with cleanliness, but I prefer my clean house to be odorless. Some cleaners I like: Bon Ami cleanser for sinks and bathtubs. Baking soda for cleaning fingerprints off walls (you don't need Formula 409!)Just make a paste with a wet sponge. 2 Tblsp vinegar in a quart of water makes a good window cleaner. Or use club soda. For an ''air freshener'', open some windows. I use Murphy Oil Soap for floors. It's not odorless, but less toxic than most. There's a book by Karen Logan, ''Clean House, Clean Planet: Clean Your House for Pennies a Day the Safe Nontoxic Way.'' Also, the EPA has a website on this subject, Another health-conscious Mom
There are several ''natural'', ecological cleaners at places like Whole Foods or the Berkeley Bowl. If you're into making your own cleaners, check out the book ''The Naturally Clean Home'' by Karyn Siegel-Maier, which has recipes for all sorts of cleaners using simple ingredients like Borax, baking soda, and essential oils. Liz
You can make all of your cleaning solutions with vinegar, baking soda, water, essential oils, and boric acid. A good resource is from the Super Baby Foods book by Ruth Yaron. non-toxic cleaner fan
Vinegar can be used for a number of cleaning jobs. Salt and baking soda are also excellent cleaners. Water softener is a good agent, too, and can be mixed with the other cleaners to make almost anything. Also, you can buy Ivory soap flakes for really tough dirt. Mixed with water, they really loosen up things.

I use these products for a lot of different jobs and my friends think I'm pretty anal-retentive about my house so they must work. I also use bleach. It's toxic, but I find it's one of the better disinfectants. I keep it and the water softener in a place that is utterly unreachable by my son. The other things I don't worry about. If he wants a mouth full of vinegar or salt, I doubt he'll want a second mouthful.

I have found that these simple products are often more effective than the more toxic cleaning agents, they are cheaper, and they get the job done. If you are unfamiliar with how to use these things as cleaners, there is a good book called HALEY'S HINTS that I really like. Good luck. -- clean freak.

I use fragrance-free dish detergent, laundry detergent, soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion. Bon Ami for scrubbing. Vinegar for soap scum. Just a damp sponger works for most things. For instance, if there is a spot on the carpet, just try a damp sponge first. Here are some more ideas: sunsolsal
You are right to be concerned about the chemicals, especially since the industry is so unregulated on ''trade secret'' ingredients. It is well known that banned chemicals are slipped into products under the ''inert ingredients'' umbrella, allowing continued exposure to their hazards. I think baking soda, vinegar, vinegar. Bon Ami, and Dr. Bronner's work wonders. Gaiam/7th Generation has a good line. Pharmaca also carries one called ''Mrs. ___'' that look promising. Nori
A good resource for things environmental is the ecology center. They have a collection of non-toxic cleaning recipes at: I also have a more extensive list of recipes, many of which I have tried myself (they really work), that I am happy to send to people. If you want this let me know if Word format does not work for you. -Randall

Environmentally-friendly cleaning supplies

Feb 1999

Good for you for becoming aware of simplifying your cleaning supplies! The Ecology Center on San Pablo at Parker Street has supplies and lots of literature. Also, any of the larger health food stores would have supplies. Vinegar and baking soda do a lot by themselves. Barbara

My housecleaner effectively does our whole house using only vinegar and baking soda, along with a toilet bowl cleaner from a health food store. Stefanie
Cleaning supplies: I have a book called Clean & Green by Annie Bertold-Bond which tells you how to make your own environmentally sound cleaning supplies. ZRJ
Quick N Brite is a product that can be mixed in different strengths for different applications. It's good for counters, glass, floors, taking out stains on clothing, getting crayon off walls, etc etc. We are gradually replacing most of our cleaning products with this one. It's even available in a formulation for regular laundry, though I haven't tried it yet. Here's the address of the company that makes it, so you can order it directly from them:

Hope this is helpful! Dawn

I use two maybe three products. About 75% of what I need done gets Simple Green ( I keep two different concentrations premixed in spray bottles - 1 very light which gets used as Windex would, and another mid range for floors, appliances, etc.) I also keep some Comet or Ajax, for porcelain sinks/tub. And some Murphy's oil soap mixed with water in a spray bottle for spills on the hardwood floor, wood furniture, etc. Two out of the three are non toxic, and the Comet/Ajax gets relatively little use, and gets stored in a high cabinet. Diana
Someone recently asked for advice about child- and environment-safe household products. If you have time, you may want to join a Green Teamin your neighborhood or workplace, guided by a coach from the Bay Area GreenTeam Project. It's a great way to find out latest in cleaning products, recycling, energy use, and so forth. All the things we say we'll look into some day, but never quite find the time.

For more info: Green Team Project, gtp [at], (415) 546-1231, 546-1232 fax. Lori

There is a cloth from Sweden called Trasan Miracle Microfiber Cleaning Cloth (or the like). It is made from a special fiber that cleans incredibly WITHOUT any cleaning products. All you add is hot water. I use it to clean most everything from my kitchen, including a greasy, grimy stove, to the bathroom and everything in between. I started using it while I was pregnant to eliminate the noxious fumes associated with most cleaning products and am hooked. I think you can order it off their web site: I bought mine from some random person whom I no longer know how to get in touch with. I loved it so much I bought another one the next day for my mother. They cost about $13 but last forever. I've had mine about a year and have washed it many, many times and it still works great. If you have any other questions, feel free to contact me or check out their web site. Allison