7 Genius Toxin-Free Cleaning Tricks That Will Change Your Life

Follow these natural cleaning tips from the pros for getting out the grime sans chemicals.

August 24, 2017
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Love the fresh feel of a squeaky clean home, but fear the silently toxic residue of off-the-shelf cleaners? Common ingredients like phthalates, sodium hydroxide, chlorine, and ammonia can get on your skin or settle in your body, and exposure to repeated cleanings can damage your health. The EPA has helped clear up sketchy labeling with its “Safer Choice” buyer’s guide, but here’s something even better: Seven simpler, happier solutions, from green housecleaning companies. These insiders share easy, expert ways to get your home sparkling, without using a single toxic ingredient.

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elbow grease
All you need are soap, water, and elbow grease

Cori Morenberg, owner of NYC’s Ms GreenClean, explains, “The big secret is that almost everything can be cleaned with a basic organic liquid dish soap. I choose whichever is cheapest on shopping day.” This goes for toilet bowls, too: Morenberg says they’ll scrub back to sparkling from just one squirt. Morenberg also recommends using environmentally healthy shampoos as an all-purpose cleaner or a mild bar soap with a little warm water. (Be sure to avoid these 7 mistakes most people make when using green cleaners.)

zap cloth
Photograph courtesy of amazon
Choose the right tools for the job

Morenberg keeps a stash of cotton or microfiber cloths, sponges, and a few copper cloths. One of her favorites is the Zap Cloth, which along with water, leaves glass and windows clean and streak-free. “I was very skeptical when given one by the company a few years ago to try, but I love this thing,” she says. They work even better than microfibers for sleek, tricky-to-clean surfaces. 

Related: The Only 10 Things You Need To Make All Your Own Natural Cleaners

(Got a grimy cast-iron skillet? For the best way to clean it, check out the video below.)

pumice stone
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Clean your oven with a stone

We’re not all blessed with self-cleaning ovens. But there's no need to resort to toxic cleaners. “If you have a really bad oven, use a pumice stone,” recommends Susan Stocker, owner of Seattle’s Susan’s Green Cleaning. She recommends Pumie Pumice Scouring Stick—wet it before use to increase its effectiveness. Worried about scratches? While you should never use the stone on the oven's glass front, Stocker says you can safely scrub the walls, racks, and bottom of the oven without causing scratches or any other damage. Even oven techs might not know this trick, so before you turn your oven over to someone else, hand them the pumice. The simple stone helps get built up grime off without any harsh chemicals, Stocker says.

Related: 15 Ways To Keep Your Kitchen Cool On Hot Summer Days

Radu Bercan/shutterstock
Stock up on lemons

Lots of products claim to be the best for stainless steel, but Angela Petkovic, owner of San Francisco’s Natural Maidens, says to always opt for lemons. And she means the real deal: “Yes—actual fresh lemons. They can be costly, but they’re worth it.” That's true, Petkovic says, even if you can only afford occasional use. Rub a fresh-cut lemon directly on showerheads and other stainless-steel surfaces that need polishing. You can first sprinkle a little baking soda on the surface of the lemon to give your cleaning power a boost. Not only is the juice great at cutting through grime, but unlike manufactured products, that lemony-fresh fragrance is one you can breathe worry-free.  (Check out these 12 things you can clean with a lemon.)

Related: What's The Better Mold Cleaner: Lemon Or Bleach?

essential oil
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For the cleanest floors, add essential oils

“Nothing makes your home feel cleaner or better cared for than having properly cleaned floors,” Morenberg says. But skip the floor-cleaning products. "They add insult to injury by leaving a residue which attracts dirt buildup!” Instead, clean wood floors with water, soap, and a few drops of essential oil.

Morenberg recommends donning a pair of non-scratch kneepads before the hard work of getting the floors clean. Then follow this process: "Wet and wring out your cotton or microfiber cloth so there's no excess water in it. Start in one corner and systematically work your way through a room in lines, making sure to get corners and under items. If the floor does not dry instantly, there’s too much water in your cloth, so wring it out again.”

Related: 7 Mistakes You're Making With Essential Oils

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Make DIY dryer sheets

Add a fresh, synthetics-free scent to your clean clothes with a cheap and easy recipe from Petkovic. First, cut up some old washcloths. Then pour ¼ to ½ cup of white vinegar into a mason jar with 10 drops of essential oil. "Pick an essential oil you love," recommends Petkovic. Next, pack in the cloths, top off with more white vinegar and essential oil. Close the jar and swish everything around to get it completely saturated. Keep the cloths in the jar, and throw one in the dryer the next time you run a load. (Here are 6 more ways to nix the toxic chemicals from your laundry routine.)

Related: How To Make Old-Fashioned Laundry Detergent

tile wall
Temporarily remove grout stains

“If you have a stain in your grout, I can guarantee you it’s not going to come out, because it’s penetrated the pores," says Stocker. Ugh! If the word "regrouting," gives you a very tired feeling, Stocker's got the perfect stopgap solution: "To mildly bleach your grout, leave it soaking overnight in a solution of lemon and hydrogen peroxide—the 7 percent, not the 3 percent. That will bleach out the black stain.” And if you can, use fresh lemons instead of bottled, which Stocker thinks work best.

Related: 20 Genius Ways To Use Vinegar That You've Never Thought Of