Thrifty Solutions for Greener Cleaning


Before having a baby, cleaning was easier than I ever realized.  I didn’t have to deal with the daily challenge of fingerprint smudges on windows or toys scattered across the carpet.  I don’t remember ever getting occasional dollops of mashed yams stuck to my socks when I traversed the kitchen floor.  Then again, life wasn’t nearly as interesting.


Nowadays, I spend much more time cleaning, but luckily I don’t spend much more money.  According to US Department of Labor Statistics, the average family shells out over $600 per year on household cleaning products.  Beyond the economic costs, many mainstream cleaners contain toxins that can harm the environment and negatively impact your family’s health. Our family spends less than fifty dollars a year by using our own cleaning solutions along with a few natural products.  It saves money, saves the planet, and keeps our house spick and span. 



Keeping the dirt out:

One big step we take towards cleanliness is making sure that our outside shoes never enter our home.  It keeps dirt and grime from being tracked into the floors that my toddler rolls around on.  We invest in slip-ons to simplify transitions in and out of the house and find that it’s worth the extra few seconds of hassle to limit our weekly cleaning efforts. 


Homemade cleaning solutions:

Oregon Environmental Council offers a printable fold-out card containing recipes for a window cleaner, a wood cleaner, an all-purpose cleaner and many others. All the recipes use simple household ingredients I mix up and store in reusable spray bottles.  They cost vastly less than their commercial counterparts and are much better for our household environment and the eco-systems downstream.  Vinegar, baking soda, and Borax are just a few of the inexpensive ingredients required to mix up some fabulous homemade cleansers. 



Chilling out on the dirt:

Somehow we got the message that being a good parent involves scrubbing the floor hourly and constantly washing our hands in foaming antibacterial soaps.  The truth is that being exposed to a little dirt can actually be advantageous.  Second and third children as well as children in daycare have much healthier immune systems than their more sheltered counterparts. Allergies have recently skyrocketed in developed countries, leading scientists to develop the “Hygiene Hypothesis.”  It’s based on research showing links between extremely clean environments and increased risks for allergies and asthma, possibly because more sterile environments create weaker immune systems.  So, before you feel compelled to clean every speck of dust off the floor, remember having a spotless house isn’t necessarily best for your child. What a relief!


Replacing Bleach with Eco-friendly Products:

A few months ago a mainstream product advertised that it was “Cleaning the Planet” and featured moms whirling around sparkling bathrooms armed with bleach and a smile.  The truth is that regular chlorine bleach isn’t exactly friendly to your household environment or our planet’s eco-system.  Ecover and Seventh Generation have created a non-chlorine bleach that is more biodegradable and eco-friendlier than traditional solutions.   There are also bleach substitutes like Biokleen’s Bac-Out that can be used to remove stains and odors when laundering cloth diapers.


So You Want to Switch—What Do You Do With Your Non-Green Cleaners?

You have a few options. Of course you can slowly use them up, but if worry about your family’s health causes you to want an immediate transition, it’s best to drop off your cleaners at a hazardous waste facility.  Small amounts of cleaners can be flushed with a great deal of water, but larger amounts need to be dealt with by the experts.  For more information, check out this article on another of our favorite websites,  


Greener cleaning has been one of the easiest ways for my family to save money, limit toxins in our home and support the health of the planet.  Once we made the decision to go green, our only problem was deciding how to use the few extra hundred dollars we found in our budget each year.  It’s a obstacle we’ve managed to easily overcome! 


  1. It’s funny that you post this. Just a couple of months ago I switched to a vinegar and water cleaning solution for my kitchen. I decided that 409 and fantastic are scams because vinegar and water does everything they do! I bought 2 gallons of vinegar at costco for about $3 and I figure this is at least a year’s supply. I read that if you add a little rubbing alcohol to this mix, it is great for windows although I haven’t tried that yet. And instead of comet, I just throw some baking soda in the sink and then spray the vinegar and use a scrubber – the sink comes out very shiny. My only issue is the smell – I don’t love it. I am going to experiment with adding essential oils to the vinegar and see how it turns out.

  2. Eileen, I wash windows and mirrors with a mixture of equal parts vinegar and water. Just spray it on and wipe with a crumpled-up piece of newspaper. I find this works better than store-bought cleaners and paper towels!

  3. While using vinegar is much better than chemicals and it is natural you’re still using a lot of water and putting something that didn’t originate in the water table back into it

    I’ve recently discovered Enjo products. Household cleaning using microfibres and only water which clean down a micro level and leave stuff 100% bacteria free. The company have a very ‘green’ way of doing business as well which I like.
    from their website….

    # Using ENJO will reduce water consumption by more than 50% and
    eliminating chemicals in household cleaning means 30L or more cleaning chemicals not entering the environment and waterways each year

    # Waste prevention: ENJO is delivered without additional packaging and using ENJO eliminates the chemical cleaner containers and accessories that would otherwise end up in the landfill

    Plus ( and here’s the bit I like a lot)

    # Saving Money: ENJO fibres last for many years and replace up to 90% of the chemicals used in home cleaning -saving the average household $400 or more per year -ENJO fibres last 2 to 3 years in normal household use- giving you $1,000 or more in real savings

    I was sceptical but my with a new baby my wife and I decided to give it a shot and now would never go back. Now I just wnat everyone to now about it

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