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Stocking Your Non-Toxic Cleaning Kit

April 2nd, 2012

A few years ago I detoxed my cleaning routine. Before that I was using “green” products, but they can be pricey and sometimes they’re not any better than regular products. Some of them still contain artificial fragrances, along with toxic ingredients. Once you get rid of all of your old cleaning products and stock your cleaning kit with a few inexpensive items you’ll never look back. Your house will be sparkling clean and you won’t have to worry about what is in those cleaners lurking in the cabinet. Here’s what I have in my cleaning kit:

carrying case
vinegar* – you can use white or apple cider vinegar (I prefer apple cider vinegar because it’s not made from petroleum and I can make it myself) I keep a squirt bottle and spray bottle with vinegar.
baking soda – which is easy and inexpensive to obtain in bulk
castile soap (regular and scented if desired)
essential oils if desired for fragrance & cleaning power
spray bottles
foaming soap dispenser
parmesan cheese shaker
cotton rags
variety of scrubbers & sponges
old toothbrushes
pumice stone

*if you dislike the smell of vinegar, consider infusing it with citrus peels, lavender or herbs – here’s how.
Fill a parmesan cheese shaker with baking soda and keep one in your cleaning kit and one by your kitchen sink.  Baking soda is the perfect non-abrasive scouring cleaner to give your sinks, toilets, tubs and pretty much everything that nice shine.  It’s especially nice for cleaning stainless steel pans and leaves them sparkling.  Baking soda is also a natural odor absorber.  Keeping it in a cheese shaker makes it super convenient to use. You can simply save a plastic shaker jar, I happened to have these glass ones that I use since I don’t purchase pre-ground parmesan cheese. I’ve been using them for about 10 years without ever breaking them.

In my cleaning kit you will also find a spray bottle filled with vinegar and one filled with my own homemade multipurpose spray (recipe to come later this week). Vinegar is a natural disinfectant and is perfect for spraying countertops after cutting raw meat. It also is a fantastic soap scum buster, spray on sinks, tubs and showers, let sit for 10-15 then scrub with castile soap. No need for a that super blue liquid for cleaning mirrors & windows, use plain vinegar (citrus infused vinegar works even better) or the multipurpose spray on windows & mirrors. Spray on and buff off with a cotton towel or a microfiber. You can use saved spray bottles but I prefer to get new ones, then I know they don’t have any chemicals that have leeched into the plastic. You can find a variety of them on-line, this Clear Spray Bottle 16 oz. is nice and I also love this colorful Crystal & Neon Mist Bottles as well. A foaming soap dispenser is also a great thing to have, you can purchase empty ones. All of mine were Method bottles.

Castile soap is one of the best when it comes to non-toxic cleaning, it comes in unscented or with essential oils. You can use Dr. Bronner Organic Castile Soap if you’d like, I purchase mine in gallon jugs from Mt Rose Herbs. If you want the essential oil castile soap, Dr Bronner’s come in a wide variety of scents like peppermint citrus, lavender, tea tree, rose, almond and my favorite eucalyptus. I also keep a bottle of Dr Bronner’s Sal Suds* on hand and linseed oil soap, they’re fantastic at busting grime and dirt that regular castile soap won’t (like that burnt on grease that gets on your oven mirror and super dirty rags). Sal Suds does contain SLS though, even though it’s biodegradable I use it sparingly and only when needed.  <em>*Note that as Sage pointed out Sal Suds from Dr Bronners does contain SLS.  I keep a bottle around and use it sparingly only if I actually do need to dissolve grease from my hands/clothing.  It’s then followed up with castile soap to remove any residual SLS. </em>

You’ll also want to keep a variety of scrubbers, sponges, old toothbrushes, q-tips and a pumice stone in your cleaning kit. Keep whatever kind of scrubbers you like to use. I’ve talked about my love of Twist Sponges here, they’re compostable and made from all natural materials. Why a pumice stone? It works at getting those tough rings off the porcelain of your toilet. Although it does still take some elbow grease, it’s easier to just keep the toilet clean in the first place.

I also keep some rags in my cleaning kit, along with a microfiber (although I admit that I hate microfiber with a passion and when these wear out I will not replace them). I’m more of an old towel cut up for rags than a paper towel kind of gal, I think they work so much better and are much more absorbent. The microfiber will come in handy for polishing mirrors and faucets (though a towel works just as well).

All my cleaning supplies fit in this shower caddy that I picked up a long time ago for a few dollars. When I’m not cleaning it lives in the laundry room closet. When I’m going to clean I grab it and work my way around the house. The rest of this week I’ll be showing you my methods for using these products to clean the cottage here at Chiot’s Run. We’ll go room by room and I’ll share any tips I’ve learned along the way, like non-toxic toilet cleaning made easy (which a lot of you asked about).

The truth is that it’s easiest to keep you home clean, you’ll spend far less time if you maintain clean rather than letting it completely out of control. This is often when people feel like they have to reach for heavy duty toxic cleaners.

What’s your biggest cleaning challenge?

Stocking Your Non-Toxic Cleaning Kit
Learning to Love Castile Soap
Make Your Own: Foaming Soap
Make Your Own: Infused Vinegar
Make Your Own: Multi-Purpose Cleaner
Make Your Own: Color Safe Oxygen Bleach
Homemade Whitening Scouring Scrub
Non-Toxic Cleaning: Doing the Dishes
Friday Favorite: Charlie’s Soap
Friday Favorite: Twist Sponges
and more to come

33 Comments to “Stocking Your Non-Toxic Cleaning Kit”
  1. Louisa on April 2, 2012 at 6:27 am

    This is awesome. And timely! I just decided I was going to get rid of all the chemical cleaners in my house and use natural things instead. And you’ve done all my research for me, wheee!!

    Reply to Louisa's comment

  2. Victoria on April 2, 2012 at 7:14 am

    We switched to Mrs. Meyers many years ago – pricey! I’ve wanted to make my own for some time, but haven’t taken the leap. There’s no better time than now!

    Reply to Victoria's comment

  3. Rip Van Winkle on April 2, 2012 at 8:22 am

    I am completely pumped about this series of posts: looking forward to this week! Thanks!

    Reply to Rip Van Winkle's comment

  4. Allison on April 2, 2012 at 9:39 am

    I changed over to all-natural cleaning supplies in my home and I lOVE it! My favorite part about it is that when my son plays under the sink or grabs a cleaning bottle, I don’t have to worry :)

    Reply to Allison's comment

  5. K.B. on April 2, 2012 at 9:44 am

    My biggest cleaning challenge at the moment? Drywall dust :)

    A note about the pumice stone: I found that you can get them cheaply at a good pet store. Yes, really – they are used to help groom wire-coated dog breeds in the traditional way (stripping vs. clipping). I have one for grooming the dogs – and it also comes in handy to remove pet hair from fabric by *very lightly* running the stone across the surface. I bought mine years ago, so I can’t remember the price, but I do know it was a lot cheaper (and larger) than buying one from a “cosmetic” section of a large store.

    Reply to K.B.'s comment

  6. Rhonda on April 2, 2012 at 10:28 am

    Pumice stones … ick. I can’t stand to touch them. They give my cold chills. Something about them give me that “nails on a blackboard” feeling.

    Reply to Rhonda's comment

  7. Mich on April 2, 2012 at 10:54 am

    My biggest cleaning challenge….my German Shepherd Ella who is moulting and the fact I’m not that keen on cleaning! Looking forward on reading on how to ‘green up’ my domestic chores tho :)

    Reply to Mich's comment

  8. itchbay on April 2, 2012 at 11:55 am

    Fantastic tips! I love love love using Dr. Bronner’s for just about everything around the house.

    Our biggest cleaning nightmare is the sunken fiberglass jet tub that came with our house. It’s huge, which means you have to get inside and crawl around to clean the jets. And since it’s in the master bath, it gets used as a shower a lot, and has developed a serious soap scum layer on the bottom that won’t come off with any amount of elbow grease or any of the mostly non-toxic cleaners we use. And, since it’s textured, that just makes it that much harder to scrub.

    Also, since we take more showers than baths, the jets build up mold inside them, so when we do want to use the bath jets, we have to give the whole thing a serious cleaning prior. Which kinda takes the spontaneity out of the whole “let’s take a bath” thing.

    I’d love to just junk the whole thing.

    Reply to itchbay's comment

    • Susy on April 2, 2012 at 11:58 am

      I have a friend with what sounds like the exact same tub and the same problems because of it!

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • Sincerely, Emily on April 2, 2012 at 3:23 pm

        I would love to know how to get the inside of those waterjets clean. We don’t use the jets on the whirlpool tub and I fear there is some nasty stuff lucking in there.

        to Sincerely, Emily's comment

    • Susy on April 2, 2012 at 3:31 pm

      I bet the best way to clean them is to fill the tub with hot water, add a cup or two of vinegar and turn on the jets, let them circulate for a half hour or so and it should help clean out all the gunk. Maybe an essential oil like tea tree might work to bust the mold and help a little in keeping it from coming back.

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • itchbay on April 2, 2012 at 8:53 pm

        To clean the jets, I fill the tub with hot water, which is a LOT of water, and add about a 1/4 cup of dish detergent (we use the supposedly natural version sold at Trader Joe’s). My main concern with this method is that I’m filling the tub just to clean it, which is a waste of water. It might be better if I used the jets more often.

        As for getting the soap scum off the bottom, I’ve tried stopping the tub and pouring vinegar into the tub so that there is a very thin layer over the whole bottom, but that doesn’t really break it up, sadly.

        to itchbay's comment

      • Susy on April 2, 2012 at 8:58 pm

        So glad I don’t have a tub with jets! Thanks for the tip on cleaning them. Does seem like a waste of water, but what else do you do?

        to Susy's comment

      • Sincerely, Emily on April 9, 2012 at 4:46 pm

        Ya – that part about filling the tub with water is so hard to do with being on water restrictions and not enough rain. We never use the tub, I just KNOW there is gunk lurking in there. I wish we didn’t have the tub, but it came with the house and I am not a person that wills the tub to a bubble bath to relax. Thanks for all the suggestions. It will come down to filling the tub to do this jet cleaning though one of these days. UGH!

        to Sincerely, Emily's comment

      • Susy on April 9, 2012 at 6:24 pm

        I would have a really hard time too, though I’m thinking I’d scoop out the water and use it in the garden on the acid loving plants like hydrangeas! If I ever build a house I think I’ll forgo the tub.

        to Susy's comment

  9. Amy on April 2, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    We have a gross late ’70s teal shower in our master bathroom and it’s a beast to clean. Not only does it show soap scum horribly, but the shower pan was stained when we bought the house so even when it IS clean, it doesn’t look it. The recipe I found on Pinterest works pretty well (hot white vinegar mixed equal parts with Dawn dish soap), but I’d love to skip the Dawn. I’ll have to try the pumice stone on the toilets! I look forward to reading more of your tips and recipes…

    Reply to Amy's comment

  10. Maybelline on April 2, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    Stainless steele stovetop is rough. Hot water and elbow grease works best.

    Elbow grease should be added to any cleaning kit.

    Reply to Maybelline's comment

  11. kristin @ going country on April 2, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    Mildew. Everywhere. The curse of a stone house in a humid climate. It’s worst in the bathroom, of course, where I can never really get rid of it completely, but we have closets in which mold will grow on shoes in the summer, and our downstairs bedroom will develop mildew on the backs of the doors (which always stand open against the wall). It’s really, really disgusting and I really, really hate it.

    Reply to kristin @ going country's comment

  12. Sincerely, Emily on April 2, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    I would say my biggest cleaning challenge is actually cleaning… like actually getting around to doing it. ha. I don’t have anything against cleaning, just seem to have so many other things to do instead of cleaning.

    You have a great organized kit to clean with. My homemade stuff seems to be spread all over the house, but I use it all and love it all. I have not tried a pumice stone.

    Reply to Sincerely, Emily's comment

  13. Jennelle on April 2, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    What a great post! I switched over most of my cleaning supplies to these types of things over a couple years. But the one thing I haven’t been able to find is something for keeping that icky pink mildew from coming back on the tile grout in my shower. I switched to the vinegar/water mix, and it would come back in a matter of a couple days. Then I added some bleach to that mixture, even though, it’s not exactly “non-toxic.” Still no luck. Whatever is in the Lysol mildew remover is probably going to kill me slowly, because it is the only thing that will keep that stuff away for at least two weeks. Let’s be honest–I don’t have time to clean it every weekend… Maybe I just need to get the grout really clean and re-seal it.
    I am also a huge fan of Bar Keeper’s Friend. It’s pretty cheap and also pretty “green” I think. Shines everything in my bathroom and kitchen right up.

    Reply to Jennelle's comment

    • Kathi Cook on April 2, 2012 at 3:48 pm

      what really helps keep the mildew off the tile is having the last person in the shower wipe down the walls really quickly with an old towel. I know it sounds like a lot of work ,but only takes a minute and really does prevent it from forming in the first place

      Reply to Kathi Cook's comment

  14. Maria on April 2, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    These are great suggestions for cost effective yet effective cleaning materials. I know how effective vinegar yet dislikes the smell. I am glad there is a way to minimize the smell discomfort.

    Reply to Maria's comment

  15. tj on April 2, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    …What a great post! I would have to say it’s the bathrooms at our home that are the biggest challenge. For one, they get used a lot and secondly, my husband isn’t the best at maintaining a clean bathroom. It’s funny how when he’s gone on a fishing trip or a hunting trip how clean the house stays when it’s just me. *giggle*

    …I am looking forward to this post – this’ll be great. :o)

    …Thank you for sharing and have a great rest o’ the day you two!

    …Blessings :o)

    Reply to tj's comment

  16. Andrea Duke on April 2, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    Thank You!

    I am a cleaner. I love coming home to a quiet house after taking my son to school and spending a few hours picking up, washing and cleaning. Because I am a ‘stay-at-home’ mom I feel that a clean house is something that I should take pride in.

    Baking soda(aluminum free) and vinegar has done wonders for me. Last year while a friend and I was making jelly it boiled over made a huge mess on my glasstop. I sprinkled some soda on it and then some vinegar. Everything came off like magic!

    Reply to Andrea Duke's comment

  17. Heather on April 2, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    I’ve also switched to using vinegar and baking soda for most of my cleaning needs. I feel better – no longer inhaling all those fumes of who knows what! Looking forward to learning more green/ natural cleaning tips this week! My challenge is getting the water marks and streaks off stainless steel appliances…any suggestions?

    Reply to Heather's comment

    • Susy on April 2, 2012 at 6:53 pm

      I use my homemade multi-purpose cleaner, recipe will be coming late this week.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  18. Rocky Top Farm on April 3, 2012 at 12:37 am

    Love all of these tips! Already doing many but can’t wait for your recipes! Also just purchased the twist products love them! :)

    Reply to Rocky Top Farm's comment

  19. My Suburban Homestead on April 3, 2012 at 1:45 am

    I make my own “cheese shaker” by pounding little holes in the lid of a mason jar. I just use a nail and a hammer.

    Reply to My Suburban Homestead's comment

  20. Wendy on April 3, 2012 at 9:14 am

    Vinegar and b. soda also work wonders at unclogging drains – follow down with boiling water. In a house with 4 of us being females -it clogs up frequently. Once my husband was ready to call in a plumber with a special snake for tubs because we just could not get it – he had liquid plumbered it several times. I took to it with b. soda and vinegar and boiling water – it took 2 or 3 tries -but it did finally unclog it. Ever since he’s let me just use the vinegar and soda. :) I feel safer anyway without having that stuff too close at hand!

    I tried the oranges in the vinegar – um…. we still all agreed that the bathroom wreaked of vinegar after using it. Not as strongly as before – but it did. I wish it didn’t bother me so much. Afriend uses it and I walked in her house after she cleaned it to show for selling her house and I could just smell it in her house… ugh. – I just don’t find it a pleasant aroma. ;)

    Reply to Wendy's comment

    • Susy on April 3, 2012 at 10:12 am

      You can mix your vinegar 50/50 with distilled or filtered water to make it less intense. You can also add more orange or citrus peels to make the citrus smell even stronger. At least with the smell it will dissipate in a few minutes and you know it’s not toxic. Throw open some windows, turn on the fans and get some healthy fresh air inside to help dissipate the vinegar smell if it bothers you.

      Also try using apple cider vinegar instead, the smell isn’t quite an intense as white vinegar – probably because it’s made form apples instead of petroleum.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  21. June Coady on April 15, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    This 78 year old grandmother just happened upon your column and will be back again and again. I am a vinegar and bp user but am still using “grocery store” cleaners. I’m inspired to try these green cleaners…like today! I like the Method cleaners and bottles and have a few of them about but will certainly be making up my own carry-about for all of my scrubbing supplies. Thank you so very much. See you soon.
    Sorry…I don’t understand URL. You can coach me if you are inclined.

    Reply to June Coady's comment

    • Susy on April 15, 2012 at 1:26 pm

      That’s where you add in your website address if you have one!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  22. Ashley W. on May 1, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    I would love to know if you make your own dishwashing detergent. I’ve tried using some of the more green alternatives but find that they don’t do a good job. I’ve read lots of reviews on using washing/baking soda and borax as the base, but I’m hesitant to use borax on our dishes because I’m worried about toxicity over time.

    Reply to Ashley W.'s comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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