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Non-Toxic Bathroom Cleaning

April 11th, 2012

For most people, bathrooms probably top the list as the least favorite room to clean. It also tops the list as the room people most feel they need toxic cleaners to get rid of the baddies. There seems to be this weird fear of germs that’s been cultivated in our society. Truth is, your kitchen sink is just as dirty or even worse than your toilet, *gasp* I know. You’re more likely to get nasty germs eating out, or from grocery store produce than you are from your own bathroom, so lighten up. No need to use toxic cleaners that are doing more damage to you than any kind of germ would. Bleach and toxic cleaners are hard on your liver and your lungs, so switch to something lighter and your bathroom will be just as clean and you’ll save yourself some medical bills later!

I’m actually not much of one to worry about germs, I focus more on eating healthfully to build my immune system than I do trying to eliminating every single germ from my house. I personally believe being exposed to germs is actually good for you. That being said, I scrub the toilet weekly and spray the kitchen counters with vinegar if they’ve seen raw chicken, but you won’t find me spraying down the toilet handle or the doorknobs with lysol every day and you’ll never smell a whiff of chlorine bleach in my house.

As with most things, it’s much easier to maintain clean than it is to clean a super dirty space. Scrubbing one week’s worth of soap scum is much easier than scrubbing off a months buildup. You’ll spend far less time if you do a quick clean-up each week than one big cleaning each month. It takes me about 5 minutes of actually scrub time to clean both of my bathrooms (not including mopping the floors).
Here’s the system I’ve developed for cleaning my bathrooms:
First: Pour 1/4-1/2 cup of vinegar in each toilet, let sit for about 15 minutes (if your toilet is really bad use up to a cup and let it sit overnight). If the level of water in your toilet is below the ring where the water normally sits, add a little water so the vinegar water covers this ring to soften it. Spray vinegar on inside of bowl above water line. While you let this sit, move on to sinks.

Second: Remove all items from sink tops and shower stalls; then spray the sinks, countertops and shower with vinegar, moving from one bathroom to the next. While I’m doing that, I also grab all the hand towels and put them in the laundry.

Third: Back in first bathroom, sprinkle baking soda in the sink, squirt some castile soap on my damp scrubber, and scrub the sink, counter, and faucet. Wipe down with a damp sponge and dry with a clean hand towel. Use this same towel to wipe down mirror, if you don’t use fabric softener in your laundry it will buff the mirror and take off spots since it’s slightly damp, no spray needed. If you use fabric softener or a scented detergent, buff with a microfiber or clean cloth. If the mirror is super dirty, give it a small light spray of vinegar and wipe away spots. Repeat in other bathrooms.

Fourth: Spray all parts of toilet with vinegar or homemade multi purpose spray. Next, sprinkle some baking soda in the toilet and scrub with brush. Dirt and scum should scrub away quite easily as the vinegar will help loosen dissolve lime and other minerals from hard water. If you have a distinct ring, try scrubbing it with a pumice stone or heavy duty scrubber (may require a long soaking with vinegar to loosen the minerals). If the toilet is really dirty it will take some elbow grease. Take this moment to remind yourself how much easier it will be if you clean the toilet weekly rather than letting it get to dirty (been there, and still occasionally do). Repeat in other bathrooms.

Finally: Sprinkle some baking soda and a squirt of castile soap on my scrubber then scrub the shower stall. Using an old yogurt container, I pour water on the shower walls to rinse soap away.

*Put a Tablespoon of vinegar in your toilet every time you flush or every night before bed, this will help keep the toilet from getting as dirty. Clean toilet weekly!!!! If you let minerals build up in the toilet they will be much tougher to get off than if you just spend a few minutes cleaning the toilets each week!

*Use a squeegee to wipe water off shower walls when you’re finished showering – this will keep water spots and minerals from building up. A few seconds after each shower will save you lots of time.

*Use towel to wipe down faucet and sink top after using, this will eliminate a lot of the soap scum and hard water build up, if you have hard water this is the best way to keep the minerals from damaging faucets.

*Spray surfaces with vinegar and give it some time to work, let the vinegar dissolve & soften soap scum & hard water deposits to make them easier to clean.

*If you have hard water, make sure you spray vinegar around the faucet to keep hard water build up from occurring. This will also help your faucets last longer.

*Using castile soap is gentle on surfaces and won’t wear away the finish. If you use harsh abrasive cleaners you will wear away the finish on the various surfaces thus making your cleaning jobs much more difficult as time goes on.

*Toxic, antibacterial, smelly cleaners do not equal clean and will not get rid of more germs than vinegar and castile soap.

What’s your least favorite part of the bathroom to clean?

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
Non-Toxic Bathroom Cleaning
Friday Favorite: Charlie’s Soap
Friday Favorite: Twist Sponges
more to come…

My all natural toilet brush was purchased from Life Without Plastic. Whenever something in my house that’s plastic breaks I find an all natural alternative. Love this toilet brush, works well, looks great and I love that there’s no container for the brush to sit in and get all funky. Never smells, no mildew, nothing weird – and I’ve been using it for 3 years. I have a few of their various cleaning brushes and scrubbers and have been happy with them all.

28 Comments to “Non-Toxic Bathroom Cleaning”
  1. kristin @ going country on April 11, 2012 at 6:17 am

    The grout between the tiles in the shower. My mother-in-law chose this very nice handmade tile from Italy when she completely re-did that bathroom, that unfortunately meant a kind of rough, serrated grouting pattern. It rips a sponge all to pieces if I scrub with that, so I have to use a toothbrush. And our water is slightly yellow, thanks to the lake and the cisterns, so the grout starts to look kind of orange after awhile. It takes about two hours with the toothbrush to get it all cleaned. It is ridiculous and will likely plague me for the rest of my days.

    Reply to kristin @ going country's comment

    • Susy on April 11, 2012 at 8:59 am

      Grout – ugh! Have you tried using straight peroxide on it to whiten it?

      Here’s a recipe from The Naturally Clean Home

      1 cup baking soda
      2 teaspoons cream of tartar
      1/2 cup borax
      1/4 cup grated lemon, orange, grapefruit peel

      Combine all ingredients in a container with a shaker top and mix well. Sprinkle small amount on surface and scrub, rinse well. If stains are bad let sit on surface.

      I’m guessing you could add some peroxide to this to improve the whitening, I’ll have to give it a try.

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • kristin @ going country on April 11, 2012 at 8:21 pm

        The MiL tried a paste of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide once, but I don’t think it was left on long enough to do much. I might try it again overnight and see what happens. But then I still have to scrub it off, so the scrubbing is just inevitable, I guess.

        to kristin @ going country's comment

      • Susy on April 11, 2012 at 8:23 pm

        I’m going to order some of the 35% peroxide and mix up a slightly higher concentration, I think this will work much better on stained caulk in our bathroom. I’ll let you know how it works. You know how that 10% peroxide cream people use on their faces for acne bleaches out towels/shirts like crazy. Figured it would be worth a try!

        to Susy's comment

  2. Songbirdtiff on April 11, 2012 at 8:17 am

    My son cleans our hall bath every week, and I finally switched on a homemade cleaner with vinegar, water, and teatree oil. It’s still got a pretty vinegar-y smell but he says he likes it. I’ll probably use mint essential oil for the next batch.

    Reply to Songbirdtiff's comment

  3. amy on April 11, 2012 at 8:19 am

    Love Love all of this information!! Thank you so much! I am motivated and off to give the loo a good vinegar overhaul instead of the “way I have always done it.” Blessings:)

    Reply to amy's comment

    • amy on April 11, 2012 at 8:25 am

      and Susy~I got my copy of The Naturally Clean Home in the mail yesterday:) Seriously psyched.

      Reply to amy's comment

    • Susy on April 11, 2012 at 9:12 am

      You’ll be amazed at how easy it is, seriously. Vinegar outperforms any other product I’ve ever used for cleaning the toil toxic or non-toxic! If the toilet is super dirty it can take a few cleaning to get rid of built up grime/minerals.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  4. Allison on April 11, 2012 at 8:57 am

    Amen! Great post! I do most of this in my bathrooms, but I need to get better about doing it as a daily/weekly up keep routine. We have hard water so it gets tedious! Thanks for sharing your tips!

    Reply to Allison's comment

    • Susy on April 11, 2012 at 9:06 am

      We have hard water too and getting in the habit of wiping up water on surfaces is the best way to deal with this annoying problem. A few seconds throughout the day really does save hours of scrubbing and saves money too. My faucets still look brand new even after 8 years of our hard water! Developing a routine is really the bet way, when you have one you get faster and the job gets easier. When the job is easy it’s much more enjoyable, thus making it easier to do each week (like a vicious cycle).

      Reply to Susy's comment

  5. Rhonda on April 11, 2012 at 10:23 am

    I love using vinegar and baking soda to clean with. I’ve been doing it about 2 years I guess. I get a lot of looks at the grocery store when I buy white vinegar at 2 gallons at a time. I’m getting used to it though. Ha ha. I started with using vinegar for the windows and the garbage disposal. Then I found this program on BBCA called, “How Clean is Your House?” and these women go in and clean these absolutely FILTHY homes in England with nothing more than vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, washing soda and borax (herbs and other things like that too). Then I started incorporating their ideas into my home cleaning. Something else I learned from them is that you can clean silver with aluminum foil, baking soda and hot water. Whodathunk it? No more NASTY silver cleaner! :-)

    Reply to Rhonda's comment

  6. Sincerely, Emily on April 11, 2012 at 11:15 am

    I think the shower is my least favorite, but ever since I was a teen I figured it was easier to to it all before I took my morning shower. I spray it with vinegar and tea tree and let it sit until I am ready to shower. Then I get in with all the tools and spray and whatever I need and scrub away. When it is done and I am ready to rinse – then it is shower time. Clean shower, clean me and not harsh chemicals. Other parts of the house, I just do a little at a time. I might hit the sinks one day a toilet or two the next, eventually it all gets done. My go-to spray bottle is vinegar and tea tree EO. I will have to try that recipe above in the comments if I have to really clean a section of grout. Thanks for all the tips and tricks. It is always fun to learn more and read the comments too. THANKS!

    Reply to Sincerely, Emily's comment

  7. rockytopfarm on April 11, 2012 at 11:16 am

    love this!!!!!!!!!!!! thank you for the great tips! love the brush set. what kind of tp do you use? i found one i love, made out of sugar cane but would like to get your thoughts. also i would love to hear what you use for body and face lotion. i use very few products and think they are green and clean, but love second opionions. i use a lot of coconut oil for my hair face and body too. love the stuff. my son had quite a wound last night, we cleaned it up and put a bandage with coconut oil and this morning it looks way better!! thank you again for all of this great info!!! it is helping me simplify even more! love it.

    Reply to rockytopfarm's comment

    • Susy on April 11, 2012 at 11:28 am

      We use Seventh Generation Bathroom Tissue which gets delivered in a 48 ct box every so often to our doorstep (we have trouble finding it at local stores).

      I’ll be doing a series on what I use for personal cleaning soon, I too use a ton of coconut oil – it’s handy to only keep one product around for cooking and for moisturizing!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  8. Maybelline on April 11, 2012 at 11:31 am

    Agree that it is best to maintain the bathroom daily.
    I wonder if your house smells like a salad on cleaning day?
    I have brass fixtures and think vinegar would be too harsh.

    Reply to Maybelline's comment

    • Susy on April 11, 2012 at 11:39 am

      Actually it smells like grapefruit on cleaning day since I use grapefruit infused vinegar, pepper mint too since I usually am using peppermint castile in my floor cleaner.

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • Maybelline on April 12, 2012 at 1:30 pm

        This is starting to sound/smell good to me.

        to Maybelline's comment

  9. tj on April 11, 2012 at 11:39 am

    …Now go to tj’s house and repeat. *giggle*snort* ;o)

    …What a great post Susy! Seriously. *applause* This is everything one needs right here. I will definitely be doing this and btw, thanks for the link regarding your toilet brush. As soon as my eyes landed on it I said to my self, “ooo, I want that.” :o)

    …Have a great day!


    Reply to tj's comment

  10. Jennifer Krieger on April 11, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    I boil up soap scraps with water and add baking soda and it’s a great soft scrub and general cleaner. That and vinegar and I can clean almost anything.

    Reply to Jennifer Krieger's comment

    • Susy on April 11, 2012 at 2:14 pm

      Great idea

      Reply to Susy's comment

    • Sincerely, Emily on April 12, 2012 at 9:26 am

      I like that idea also (soap scraps). For my “soft scrub” I use my homemade liquid laundry soap and add baking soda until it becomes the consistency that I like. After making it it separates a bit, so I need to shake the bottle each time, but after a while it all holes together.

      Reply to Sincerely, Emily's comment

  11. Wendy Buss on April 11, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    Thanks for giving us a peek at your bathroom cleaning routine (yes, definitely the place I like to clean the least!). I absolutely hate cleaning the shower, but I know that if I would wipe it down every day, my job would be a lot easier!

    Reply to Wendy Buss's comment

  12. KimH on April 11, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    Havent had time to post much this week but Im really enjoying this series.

    I’ve always wondered what the true amount of germs are in & on the toilet as opposed to other places in the house. Im not the least surprised that its nowhere near as bad as most think.

    Im not a germ o-phobe either and never have been. I believe the more anti-bacterial cleaners we use, the less our natural immunities work and the stronger the bacterias become.
    However, on the other hand.. when sickness is flying all thru work, like the flu is doing now, I do use the anti-bacterial cleaner as I leave the restrooms.

    Thanks for great reading!

    Reply to KimH's comment

  13. Sandra on April 11, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    I wanted to say that I’m enjoying this series on non toxic cleaning. As a cancer survivor with two small children I really try to eliminate all toxins as possible.

    Reply to Sandra's comment

  14. jackie on April 12, 2012 at 12:37 am

    I love this post. I have not been using store bought cleansers for about a year and am always looking for more ideas on making my own natural products.

    I LOVE you wooden bowl brush set. May I ask where you got it? I have been looking for something in wood for ages.

    Reply to jackie's comment

    • Susy on April 12, 2012 at 6:06 am

      Yep you can get them at Life Without Plastic, they have a few different options, I got the one with the stand.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  15. Jennelle on April 12, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    I’m gonna give the tea tree oil a try in my vinegar mixture for the bathtub/shower. Hopefully that’ll keep that ugly nasty pink mildew away on the grout. Thanks for the post, Susy!

    Reply to Jennelle's comment

  16. Grout Guy on October 2, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    Awesome posting! I love using vinegar too to clean my bathroom… the way i do it is spray it all over the bathroom floors and walls…and i leave it there for about 15 to 20 minutes…. Then I hit the shower , all the while rinsing everything off. The fresh smell of soap / shampoo when i take a shower usually gets rid of the vinegar smell…. I dont even have to get down on my knees and scrub. The vinegar, when allowed ample time to soak on the surface, will get rid of spots and germs… its a great way to maintain cleanliness in the bathroom. Doing this daily, gives me more free time for other fun things to do. I only have to do a deep cleaning of my bathroom once or twice a month.

    Reply to Grout Guy'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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