I try to use cleaning products that are as natural as possible. It’s partly for the environment, but mostly for my health and the health of those around me. The brands I buy most are Mrs. Meyer’s, Method and Green Works, but I also rely a lot on baking soda and vinegar. Baking soda is a great, gentle abrasive that does just about anything you want it to (in our house, when the Engineer asks me “How do I clean this?”, 90 % of the time the answer is baking soda), from dishes and jewelry to shower floors and countertops. Vinegar diluted in water is fantastic for cleaning mirrors, windows and floors. And of course, baking soda mixed with vinegar is perfect for unclogging drains. I also throw the occasional half lemon into our garbage disposal, to keep it smelling decent, but there are green ways to clean it more thoroughly.
I decided to give you a round-up of natural cleaner recipes and uses, in case any of you want to be greener. Here is a comprehensive list for the kitchen. The oven can be particularly tough; there are some suggestions here and here. If all else fails, keep in mind that Easy Off has a line of fume-free products, which aren’t as nasty as most (I do have a can of it as back-up). I recommend having an oven liner, or at least tin foil, in place to help clean up any spills.
If you are worried about what’s lurking on the surface of your produce (even if you are buying organic), here’s a recipe for home-made produce wash; I don’t think it keeps for very long, but it should work much better than water. That being said, I usually don’t pull out the baking soda unless I’m dealing with a particularly waxy fruit.
I use microfiber cloths to dust now, since they are reusable (the Swiffer ones, while convenient, generate too much trash). For tile floors, I use an O-Cedar Promist mop, and I fill its container with warm water and vinegar (I considered the Sh-Mop, but I’m a sucker for Peter Walsh, and I don’t regret my choice). Years ago, before I had a dog, I used to have Swiffer wet cloths, but then I realized how toxic that stuff is and I decided to stop using it. I still had the sweeper tool, though, so I ended up getting a washable, reusable cotton cover to fit it (though with cheap yarn, you can make your own); I use it with soap and warm water in our Montreal apartment.
If you sew, you can also make your own; there are several tutorials online, like this one, or you could cut an absorbent cloth such as the Shamwow to the right size. For wood floors, you might want a non-toxic cleaner such as Bona (though I can’t comment on it personally, because unfortunately, hardwood floors are hard to come by in South Texas).
Lastly, I just love Skoy cloths: they’re made with a mix of cellulose and cotton and are super-absorbent. They last a lot longer than J-Cloths, plus you can wash them either in the washing machine or the dishwasher! I try to use them instead of paper towels whenever possible. The link brings you to my Amazon store, because Skoy cloths aren’t available in many brick-and-mortar stores yet. I have to say I’m really thrilled with them!