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Many think their home is a sanctuary from pollution, think again. With the average North American household using about 40 pounds of VOC-rich (volatile organic compounds) household cleaning products, indoor air has 100 times more levels of pollutants than outdoor air according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Air pollution in the home can produce long term health concerns for families including allergic reactions and respiratory problems. Household cleaning products also harm our plants and animals and contaminate our soil and groundwater sources when they make their way to the environment.

Give your home a safe cleaning.  Natural cleaning products contain no toxic pollutants, ensuring that one's home is thoroughly clean without putting the health of the household at risk. Green cleaners can also more cost-effective substitutes to commercial cleaning products.

Some common household items that are highly effective are:

Lemon Juice:  The acid of lemon juice is a powerful disinfectant, bleach, grease-cutter, and stain remover. Use it to clean countertops, glass, or even your hands.  Lemon juice can also dissolve soap scum and soften hard water deposits.  Cut a lemon in half and add salt to the cut section to polish copper or solid brass.  Make a natural dishwashing paste by cutting a lemon in half then add baking soda to the cut section.  Lemon can also be used to make a natural floor shiner solution.  Simply mix one half cup of lemon juice with 1 cup olive oil.  Mop the floor or brush furniture surfaces with the solution for a shining, sparkling home in an instant.  Lemon can also be used to freshen up your sink. Just run a whole lemon peel through a garbage disposal to destink your kitchen in a snap.  Lemon is one of the strongest food-acids and is effective against most household bacteria.

Green or Black Tea: Green tea is a powerful natural cleaning solution, so don't throw out those tea residues left on mugs.  Collect the residues into a clean cloth.  If it's not enough to make about two bags of tea, then just add unused tea bags.  Fill a tea kettle with water, and bring to boil.  Fill a pot with the hot water, then place two tea bags into the pot.  Stir frequently until tea is totally extracted.  Dip a clean cloth or rag into the tea extract, and then squeeze out the excess liquid.  The green tea solution can be used to clean countertop surfaces, sinks, stove surfaces, and the inside and outside of an oven.  Black tea, on the other hand, can be used to scour rust from garden tools.  Brew just enough strong black tea to totally soak the tools in.  Wait for the tea solution to cool down before putting the tools in the solution.  After a few hours, wipe the tools with a cloth.

Oranges:  Oranges, like lemons, have very powerful acids that work against grease, rust, dirt, and germs.  Squeeze out the acid from the peel, add a few drops of water, and then add baking powder or vinegar.  Use the solution to clean the inside of your oven or your BBQ grills.  Slice an orange in half, and use it to scrub off stains or gunk from kitchen surfaces or to disinfect your chopping board.  For tough stains, squeeze out 1 teaspoon of fresh orange juice. Mix in a quart of warm water, 1 teaspoon vinegar, 1 teaspoon borax, and 1 teaspoon dishwashing soap.

Baking Soda:  Baking Soda cleans, deodorizes, softens water, and scours.

White Vinegar:  White Vinegar cuts grease, removes mildew, odours, some stains and wax build-up.  Coffee & Tea Stains in cups, apply vinegar to a sponge & wipe. 

Cornstarch:  Cornstarch can be used to clean windows, polish furniture, shampoo carpets and rugs.


Combinations of some basic products can provide less harmful substitutions for many commercial home products.  In most cases, they’re also less expensive.  Here are some formulas for safe, alternative home care products.

Note: These formulas & substitutions are offered to help minimize the use of toxic substances in your home, & reduce the environmental harm caused by the manufacture, use & disposal of toxics.  Results may vary & cannot be guaranteed to be 100% safe & effective.  Before applying any cleaning formulations, test in small hidden areas if possible.  Always use caution with any new product in your home.   Make sure to keep all home-made formulas well-labeled, & out of the reach of children.

All-Purpose Cleaner: Mix ½ cup vinegar & ¼ cup baking soda (or 2 tsps borax) into ½ gallon (2 Litres) water.  Store & keep.  Use for removal of water deposit stains on shower stall panels, bathroom chrome fixtures, windows, bathroom mirrors, etc. 

Another alternative is microfiber cloths which lift off dirt, grease and dust without the need for cleaning chemicals, because they are formulated to penetrate and trap dirt.

Air Fresheners: Commercial air fresheners mask smells & coat nasal passages to diminish the sense of smell.

  • Baking soda or vinegar with lemon juice in small dishes absorbs odours around the house.  Having house plants helps reduce odours in the home.
  • Prevent cooking odours by simmering vinegar (1 tbsp in 1 cup of water) on the stove while cooking. 
  • To get smells like fish & onion off utensils and cutting boards, wipe with vinegar & wash in soapy water.
  • Keep fresh coffee grounds on the counter
  • Grind up a slice of lemon in the garbage disposal
  • Simmer water & cinnamon or other spices on the stove
  • Place bowls of fragrant dried herbs & flowers in room

Bathroom Mould: Mould in the bathroom tile grout is a common problem & can be a health concern.  Mix one part hydrogen peroxide (3%) with two parts water in a spray bottle & spray on areas with mould.  Wait at least one hour before rinsing or using the shower

Tea Kettle or Coffee Maker: Add 2 cups of water & ½ cup of vinegar, bring to a boil.  Let cool, wipe with a clean cloth & rinse thoroughly with water.


  • Plastic food storage containers- soak overnight in warm water & baking soda
  • In-sink garbage disposal units- grind up lemon or orange peel in the unit
  • Carpets- sprinkle baking soda several hours before vacuuming
  • Garage & Basements- set a sliced onion on a plate in the center of the room for 12-24 hours


“Green” or “Eco-Friendly”Products

Many people are switching to products that are deemed "green" or "eco-friendly" but these products may not be what they claim to be.  To ensure you are buying environmentally friendly items, look for the EcoLogoEco Logo

The EcoLogoprogram was developed in Canada but is now recognized world-wide.  It ensures that all environmental claims can be verified, addresses the environmental impacts throughout the entire life cycle of a product, and provides consumers with the information they need to make informed decisions about products through the EcoLogoM website.

One type of product that is of concern to many consumers is the household cleaner, which can be made up of complex chemical combinations with potential negative impacts on the environment. To meet EcoLogoM criteria, cleaners must not only be effective, but must be biodegradable, and meet restrictions or prohibitions on specific chemicals of concern.

For consumers who want to buy “greener” products, choices can be made simpler by looking for products that have clear, relevant and verifiable product claims. The EcoLogoM program is one tool that can help.

 For more information click on the links below:

EcoLogo Program  
Canadian Living  
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