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My Journey to Go Green and Create a Safe, Non-Toxic Home Environment

Updated on March 12, 2014
Athlyn Green profile image

Athlyn Green has tried to reduce the chemical footprint on her property and shares tips and insights about safe and natural alternatives

A Home Free of Potentially Harmful Chemical Residues

We all know we should make the switch to green cleaning but where the heck do you start? In financially challenging times, some of the green cleaning products can be very pricey.

When I wanted to switch to green cleaning the main cause of my delay in getting started was the cost of environmentally-friendly products. While I wanted a safe home environment, being budget-conscious played a big role.

I'll admit, I never did take the plunge and purchase green cleaning products. Instead, I did some reading & looked around my home for products I had on hand, to replace chemical-laden household cleaners.

The Turning Point

I was over visiting a male friend and decided to do him a favor by cleaning his bathroom enamel. I asked if he had a cleaner on hand. He brought out a spray bottle with a dark blue liquid in it. I started to spray it in his closed-up bathroom (it was winter) and found myself choking on the fumes. They hit me at the back of the throat and my nasal passages burned. Then my eyes started watering and I found myself wondering about the chemicals I was inhaling. In that moment, my desire to find safe, non-chemical-based cleaners intensified.

I had been thinking about trying to "green" my home but wasn't sure how to really go about it. It's easy to form a resolution but a little harder to actually put it into practice. I had been looking for eco-cleaners but these were not readily available--at least in my area (I live out in the country)--and the environmentally-friendly cleaning products that could be ordered seemed a tad expensive. Since cleaners are something that we all use and will continue to use over the long-term, realistically speaking, anyone who desires to switch to green cleaners has to find a way to incorporate them into their budget. With increasingly harder times, most of us have a budget that is strained to the max. So, cost is a real and legitimate concern for many.

I've heard the same thing in relation to organic food. Most people would choose organic, hands down, but find prices prohibitive. I was talking to a mother of three children and she said that she wished she could afford to buy organic food but could not afford to do so. Whether it's green cleaners or organic food, many of us are in the same boat. We know we should take these steps to protect our health but financial pressure comes into play.

Baking Soda Makes a Great Scubbing Powder

One of the first products I turned to was baking soda. I knew I needed something for scrubbing. I had been using baking soda to clean my stove top/stove rings & found it did an excellent job of cutting grease. I wondered if it could be used for other cleaning jobs.

I researched baking soda & learned so much about this wonderful substance & why it makes such a good cleanser around the home. If you switch to using baking soda, you can eliminate all those scourers, scrubbing pastes & cleansers that leave behind chemical residues & you can save money into the bargain.

Baking soda neutralizes acids and breaks down proteins. It is especially effective for cutting through dried-on grease and for combating stains. Bicarbonate of soda neutralizes acidic scent molecules, which also makes it an effective deodorizer.

Tip: Since you'll be using more of it, it is a good idea to pick up a number of boxes of baking soda, so that you have them on hand. You might even be able to purchase it in cases.

Do You Use Baking Soda for Cleaning?

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Greening My Home and Eliminating Harmful Chemicals

When I returned home, I went through my cleaners and got rid of most of them. It turned out I didn't have that many. A couple of years ago, I had decided I would not use oven cleaner and I had switched to lining my oven with foil to catch most of the drips and mess. What I had on hand was a commercial scrubbing agent, a window cleaner, dishsoap, laundry detergent and bleach. Not a lot of cleaners but what chemicals did they harbor?

I decided to start with the first two products and see if I could replace them with something else. While the task of totally switching over to green cleaning seemed daunting, I could take baby steps.

After doing some of my own checking, I decided that I would try using baking soda to replace the scrubbing powder and I would use vinegar to replace the window/surface cleaner. I had both of these items on hand. They were products I always bought anyway and were available in my area and (always a plus!) they were and are inexpensive.

I've always liked the idea of using products one already has on hand, which translates into "hassle-free". By using something already on hand, these do double-duty, so using baking soda and vinegar wasn't a stretch. I've written Hubs such as How to Make Your Own Yarn Dispenser Using Everyday Materials, showing how you can "recycle" common household items to serve another purpose, so why call on baking soda and vinegar for another purpose?

I also opted to take it one room at a time, working at this gradually, until I'd found suitable replacements for the cleaning products I'd used for years.

Since the bathroom is one of the rooms that requires frequent cleaning, and a room where we expose our skin to cleaning agents, I decided it would be the first room to become chemical free. I filled a spray bottle with vinegar and filled a plastic container with baking soda. (I figured leaving it in the box in a humid room would lead to clumping.)

Vinegar Odor Dissipates

I wondered at first about the vinegar smell but found it soon dissipates. Now that I've gotten used to it, I hardly notice it. When you think about it, people used to clean their windows with vinegar and never worried about the smell.

You can breath in vinegar fumes and not have to worry about exposure to chemicals.

Do You Use Vingar for Cleaning?

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How I Clean the Claw Foot

I started with my claw foot tub. It's a big old dinosaur with rough enamel that has worn over the years. I spray a cloth or a sponge with the vinegar and then shake on baking soda so that I have a scrubbing paste. This bubbles and fizzes. When I've removed the soap scrum and grime, I finish by simply spraying the tub with vinegar and leaving it to dry. I find that doing this actually whitens the enamel.

Now, while this homemade preparation does not "eat in" to the grime like a corrosive cleaner might, it still does the trick. I'm willing to invest a bit more "elbow-grease" if it means my tub is a chemical-free zone.

The first time I had bath in the claw foot, I felt immediate piece of mind, knowing I was not bathing in chemical residues!

I talk about this in my Hub: How to Make Your Own Environmentally-Friendly Tub Cleaner, so if you have decided to go this route, you might enjoy the information. While this covers the same cleaning process, I've included videos in that Hub, which may prove helpful.

How I Clean the Sink

From there, I used the same scrubbing paste on my bathroom sink and found that my paste did the job. (Another benefit is that this preparation acts as a gentle drain cleaner.) Even better, I tried spraying my taps and the outside enamel with the vinegar and found to my surprise that it does a wonderful job! If you like shiny enamel, vinegar is more than up to the task.

The Toilet

It was so easy to tackle this task! I simply sprinkled in baking soda, then used my scrubbing brush to clean the bowl. Spraying the seat, lid and enamel with vinegar left them gleaming. And all was deodorized and smelled clean!

You know, there is much merit in simplicity. Once I'd cleaned my bathroom this way, I wondered why on earth it had taken me so long to get started. So, simple, so effective, so safe.

DIY Cleaning Products

Progress Report for Making my Home Green

So far I've replaced:

  • Dish-soap
  • Bathroom cleaner
  • Kitchen cleaners
  • Shampoo

On my to-do list:

  • Make my own toothpaste
  • Make my own hair conditioner
  • My my own furniture polish
  • Switch to environmentally friendly laundry soap

Reader Input Needed

I would like to find a replacement for bleach. Does anyone have suggestions?

Make the Start to Go Green!

If you are looking to go green, I hope this Hub has helped to give you ideas about how to get started and ultimately create a safe, non-toxic home. While we can't control toxins in our environment, we can take small steps on the home-front to protect our bodies from needless exposure to chemicals and known carcinogens. Each room and surface we come into contact with has the potential to impact our health, whether through inhalation, as in the case of fumes we are exposed to and breathe in, or through absorption, when our skin comes into contact with surfaces such as tubs, toilets, and floors.

What Are Your Favorite Environmentally-Friendly Cleaners?

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    • Athlyn Green profile image

      Athlyn Green 4 years ago from West Kootenays

      Hi Maddie, I find it is fantastic for cleaning around stove rings and it really cuts through the grease.

    • Maddie Ruud profile image

      Maddie Ruud 5 years ago from Oakland, CA

      Great tips. I use baking soda for so many things: baking, fridge deodorizing, stain removal, and cleaning!

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