Clean Lake Tip: Good Chemistry – Cleaning Up with Non-Toxic Cleaners

LCC uses non-toxic and home-made products to keep the office clean. Photo by Lauren Sopher, © Lake Champlain Committee.

Every space gets dirty. Whether at home, at work, or somewhere in between, most of us use cleaning products on a regular basis to tidy up. While commercial products may get things squeaky clean, they can also do more harm than good. Many contain ingredients that can be acutely toxic; carcinogenic or mutagenic; irritating to skin, eyes or lungs; non-biodegradable; poisonous to aquatic organisms; or water and air polluting. Some common components of store bought cleaners to watch out for include ammonium, formaldehyde, glycol ethers, sodium borate, sodium laureth sulfates along with artificial colors, dyes and fragrances. In contrast, most do-it-yourself (DIY) cleaning recipes typically contain just a few natural, readily available ingredients. Additionally, many can be whipped up in a home kitchen in under five minutes for a fraction of what it costs to purchase most store-bought versions and are equal to or superior in performance. –Better yet, they don’t send harmful residuals down the drain!

Non-toxic cleaners are safer for humans, pets, and waterbodies. There is a DIY recipe for nearly every cleaning need: general purpose, clothes, toilets, showers, sinks, carpets, floors, glass, and beyond. You can start out very simply using vinegar and baking soda for most household jobs. The acid-base reaction between vinegar and baking soda is why they make such a great cleaning combo. Pour them down a drain to unclog it; scour a dirty oven with a baking soda paste and spritz on a little vinegar to cut the grease. If you’d like to expand your repertoire with more home-made cleaning concoctions, stock up on:

  • Baking soda
  • Essential oils
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Liquid castile soap
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • White vinegar (buy a gallon jug to save even more money)

Below is a recipe for a sweet-scented cleaner that some LCC staff use to keep surface areas clean.

Do-It-Yourself All-Purpose Cleaner Recipe

       -2 cups water
       -1 ¼ cups vinegar
       -Rind of one lemon
       -10 drops of essential oil

  1. Combine the above ingredients in a glass jar. (Add a sprig or two of fresh rosemary and/or lavender for a stronger natural scent.)
  2. Lid the mix and store in a cool, dark location.
  3. Strain the solid materials out of the mixture after one to two weeks and decant in a 26 oz. spray bottle for use. 

Click here for more recipes and cleaning tips from the Chittenden Solid Waste District website.

The Lake Champlain Committee has a longstanding record of working to keep toxics out of our waterways. Read more about some of our past work here.