We’ve talked a lot about greening your life so here are some actual recipes and methods for household cleaners – a quick reference for readers.

Cleaning your house with low-toxic cleaning solutions is comparatively healthy and effective when used with a bit of elbow grease (good for the figure!)  they smell a lot better and you can monitor and adjust this by adding essential oils by the droplet, cost less than commercial products, don’t pollute indoors, outdoors, and only take a minute to make.

You just need to save some attractive and practical bottles or jars for mixing so that you are not tempted to go out and buy the flashier looking articles from the supermarket or hardware shelves.

I don’t advocate wasting what you already have but start introducing your gentle ingredients as your old ones are finished.

Here are the ‘must-haves’ in your cleaning repertoire:

  • Borax
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Bi-carbonate soda (this is $1.50 a kilo loose packed!) The packets are dearer.  Buy in bulk from pool cleaning suppliers.
  • Salt both fine and chunky grained.
  • Washing soda (Lectric)
  • Cooking oil (el cheapo brand) and baby oil
  • Lemons/limes
  • Ti-Tree Oil
  • Velvet Soap or other yellow bar soap.
  • Lavender oil
  • Orange Oil (pure oil, not the cleaners available that have chemicals added)
  • Methylated Spirits (Called de-natured alcohol in the USA)
  • Elbow grease. These are not the easiest cleaners to use but their economic and environmental side effects more than make up for it.  There is no point in spending up to $10 for a bottle of chemical based cleaner when you can achieve the same with a $1 bar of soap, is there?
  • A soap saver.  This is a wire cage on a handle and you put your soap scraps in there and use it to wash up.  (Shake it in the water to make the suds).
  • A chunk of beeswax.

Now onto the recipes!

Dishwasher Detergent (for your machine) – phosphate free.

One part borax

One part washing soda.

Try a tablespoon of each and see how effective it is for your hardness of water.  Add or subtract accordingly.  Do not pre-mix and store.  Mix as you go.

Drain Unclogger

Mix 1 cup bicarb soda and one cup vinegar (it will foam) and tip in the drain.  Pour a kettle full of boiling water as a chaser. Continue until the matter dissolves and breaks up.  If you have hairs down the drain, you may need to use a mini snake (plumbing tool) or long piece of soft wire.

Laundry Soap

Natural cotton, silk, wool etc. can be washed with the Velvet soap or with a mixture of half borax and half washing soda and add a drop or two of vinegar to the washing water to prevent fading of colours.

Toilet Cleaner

Use a solution of bicarb soda and water or vinegar for the bowl. Sprinkle bicarb soda around the rim. Scrub with toilet brush as needed. This solution will clean and deodorize.  Finish with some ti-tree or lavender oil in warm water (wipe all surfaces).

Oven Cleaner

Sprinkle coarse but not rock salt on the greasy spill when the oven is hot. Let it cool for a few minutes, then scrape the spill away and wash the area clean with hot water. Use baking soda for scrubbing any stubborn parts.  Rinse well.

Furniture Polish

Cooking oil or baby oil two parts mixed with one part lemon or lime juice. Apply to furniture with a soft cloth and wipe it dry.  For stubborn stains or heat marks polish with a little cigarette ash or the ash from a mossie coil.

Tile Cleaner

1/4-cup vinegar to 3 litres of water and ¼ cup metho sremoves most dirt without scrubbing and doesn’t leave a film.  Clean often to avoid any mould or scum.  Sprinkle Bicarb on the grout and rub hard with a toothbrush dipped in vinegar (clean like made while it is fizzing).


If on linen or cotton, soak in a bucket of water with a kilo of salt added.  Soak overnight.  In the morning, hang without rinsing on the line.  (Keep the water in case you need to repeat the process). Dry thoroughly and then brush the salt off.  The mould should come too.  If it doesn’t – repeat.

Windows and glass

1cup metho

1 cup cheap vinegar

2 cups water


Wear rubber gloves.  One window at a time, apply the mixture and rub with a scrunched up sheet of The Age until you remove all streaks.  Dries to a shiny, clean finish.

Stains on wooden furniture

Use a cut lemon with the flesh removed as a scrubbing glove.  Dip in melted beeswax and use this to clean the furniture.

Almost anything can be cleaned with a mix of salt and lemon juice.  Bench tops are particularly appropriate.  Don’t leave it on marble for long periods though as it is acidic and can affect the polish.

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