Cleaning with a conscience – the shopping list

Living a healthier and more sustainable life has become profoundly important to me and has resulted in our family changing to more natural and environmentally responsible practices including our cleaning regime and choice of cleaning, washing and personal hygiene products.

I’m interested in green cleaning on several levels. Firstly, most commercial cleaning products are not good for the environment nor our health so making your own from a simple range of natural products will be safer for you, your family and the planet; recycling containers means less packaging and reduces waste; earth friendly cleaners are made from a simple easy to make combination of products you can buy from the supermarket and not an over-packaged, over-priced concoction of harmful chemicals and synthetic ingredients; they are ideal for people with sensitive skin because they don’t contain harsh chemicals; and  making your own cleaners is very economical and will save you quite a bit of money over time.

For those of you who like the idea of making your own cleaning products, I’ve put together a list of the basic ingredients you’ll need and have included a little bit of information on their origins and some common uses.

Like me, you probably have a shelf (or two) full of half empty bottles of spray this and wipe that. Now there’s no need to be a complete maniac and throw them all out,  that’s just wasteful, so use them up first and then clean out the empty spray bottles so you can reuse or recycle them. Every now and then I’ll add a recipe and over time you can aim to replace some of the products with ones you make yourself but you will find that you don’t need a different product for each job and will end up with only a few of your own natural products to do all the jobs in the home. This is what I’ve done and it’s worked well for me. Just remember that changing habits takes time.

This weeks recipe will be a general surface cleaner for your kitchen, bathroom, laundry, toilet, basins, sinks, bath etc. It was one of the first things I made when I made my changeover to green cleaning products and that first batch is still going strong.

I’ll also look at soap making but won’t go into that here.

Here’s the list.

Bicarb soda (sodium bi-corbonate) – is made from soda ash and processed into a non-toxic white powder. It is slightly alkaline and neutralises acids. It costs around Au$1.50 for 500g.

Cleaning: use to remove stains, to neutralise bad smells, for polishing and as a water softener.

Health: great for relieving itching, can be used as a deodorant and an ingredient in toothpaste.

Vinegar – made from fermented apples, grapes or malt. Vinegar is acidic and  neutralises alkaline substances. 2 litres of white vinegar cost me Au$1.20.

Cleaning: it breaks down grease and soap residue and can be used as an anti-mould agent, disinfectant, bleach and deodorant. It reacts with Bi-carb so using a combination of the two can help to lift stains from surfaces.

Health: perfect as a hair rinse instead of using conditioner.

Eucalyptus oil – natural oil distilled from eucalyputs leaves. Can be poisonous if swallowed. 25ml of lavender essential oil cost me Au$8.95.

Cleaning: used to freshen a load of washing, remove grease, gum, glue, permanent markers and adhesive labels from jars. Perfect for wool wash.

Health remedies – highly evaporative and great for repelling insects, relieving cold symptoms, ease aches and pains, as an antiseptic, deodarant or disinfectant.

Olive oil – made from pressed olive tree fruit.

Cleaning: for timber and leather polish.

Health: has soothing properties and is a perfect addition for salves, ointments, hair rub and beauty aids.

Cloves – made from dried flower buds of exotic myrtles. Non-poisonous.

Cleaning: great for repelling moths.

Lemon – Lemon juice is a weak solution of citric acid and can be used as mild bleach, deodarant and cleaning agent to help soften stains and repel insects.

Health: mixed with honey and garlic for a cold and flu tonic.

Washing soda – sodium carbonate is found naturally in plant ash but is usually processed synthetically from salt and limestone into crystals or crystalline powder. I paid Au$2.59 for 1kg.

Cleaning: is used as a water softener and oil, grease, alcohol and stain remover. It can also be used as a drain cleaner and descaling agent in boilers and espresso machines. When added with domestic salt can be used to remove tarnish from silverware. Is also used in the dyeing process to chemically bond the dye with plant fibers.

Health: poltice to reduce swelling in the bath to relieve aches and pains.

Borax – Borax is a naturally occuring mineral but can also be produced synthetically. Boron can be poisonous if swallowed. 500g of borax cost me Au$3.98.

Cleaning: a stain remover, natural deodarant, fabric and water softener, soap booster, bleach and disinfect and pre-soaker. Toilet cleaner. General cleaning for bench tops, sinks, walls etc.

Health: Anti-fungal foot soak. Can be used to control insect pests.

Pure soap flakes – shavings of  saponified soap made from a blend of vegetable oils. Doesn’t contain bleach, chemicals, dye, enzymes, perfumes or phosphates and is biodegradable.

Cleaning: Mixed with borax or baking soda for an all purpose cleaner for sink, floors, bath, toilet, benchtops and glass. An ingredient for both powder or liquid laundry detergent and gel soap. Dish washing liquid. Fireplace soot remover.

Health: hand and body wash, shampoo, sensitive skin friendly.

Salt – is sodium chloride and is non-toxic.

Cleaning: scouring, disinfectant for food preparation areas and utensils, drain cleaner and disinfectant, dye fixer, stain remover.

Health: diluted in warm water is great as an antiseptic for cuts and grazes, a mouthwash for ulcers, an eye bath.

Superfine steelwool –  an environmentally friendly material because the whole product is biodegradable, breaking down to iron oxide a mineral found in soil.

Cleaning: superfine for window and glass cleaning, normal grade for removing  stubborn stains on pots and pans (not teflon).

Elbow grease – an old fashioned ingredient that money can’t buy.


1/2 cup baking soda

1-2 tbls biodegradable detergent or liquid soap (whatever you have on hand)

1 tsp essential oil – lavender, tea tree


Straight white vinegar in an atomiser (label)

Blend the baking soda, detergent and essential oil into a crumbly paste. Store in a jar. Label.

Wipe cleaner onto surface with a soft cloth or knit your own. Then wipe off.

For stubborn stains wipe on cleaner then spray with vinegar and leave for a few minutes before wiping off.

Why not make a batch up for a friend too and give it to them with a knitted cleaning cloth. They’ll  love it!

Stay tuned for my next post….the start of community connections.

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