Modern Americans have been conditioned to believe that every surface needs its own individual specialty cleaner. While this is a terrific boost to someone’s bottom line (not yours), here is the inside information on how to be eco-nomical while being eco-logical.
To clean and maintain the average home or office, you only need three things; something nontoxic that foams, something nontoxic to YOU that kills germs and does not foam, and an unscented simple polishing cleaner for the bathroom porcelain and tile.
If you have sensitive skin or thin undyed hair, I also recommend a great organic bar soap like Vermont Soap’s shea butter bar soap.
For the sake of brevity, I will only recommend products that I have tested and I use. Most of these products are made by Vermont Soap in Middlebury, VT. As a product formulator, I founded Vermont Soap thirty years ago to manufacture nontoxic cleaning and personal care products everyone can afford.
With no meaningful definition of “natural” in sight, Vermont Soap subscribes to USDA organic food standards. Certified organic means audited natural. If you are ever confused about food, cosmetic or cleaner safety, USDA organic is your safest bet every time. Look for the logo.
Here are my favorite green household cleaners:
Izaroma is a 70% ethanol spray with peppermint essential oil. Izaroma is a cleaner, a sanitizer and a mild solvent. I love Izaroma. Simple elegant and awesome.
Use Izaroma to clean reading glasses and sunglasses, as a germ-killing bathroom odor masker and bathroom sink and toilet surface cleaner. Spray some onto toilet paper or a paper towel to make instant non-plastic wet wipes. Clean the film off the inside of a car windshield. Spray on your hands when washing alone is not enough. Spray the hairs out of your electric shaver, and spray onto toothbrushes after using them.
For a great, gentle polishing cleaner, check out Bon Ami’s 1886 formula. This is made from feldspar, a soft mineral just a bit harder than talc. Make sure it states 1886 on the label or you grabbed the wrong stuff. Bon Ami contains a little tallow soap, so if you are a strict vegetarian just make your own scrubbing cleaner from baking soda dampened with castile liquid soap.
Castile liquid soap (CLS) is the mainstay of the nontoxic household. By now you have probably heard about it and might have tried some when camping. For green cleaning, I recommend Liquid Sunshine, a Vermont Soap product that is specially formulated for cleaning.
I do a lot of laundry, and only use CLS. First, wet laundry stains and work in well before washing. Use CLS as you would any detergent concentrate. One quarter to one third cup per laundry load will do it.
The concentrate rule holds true for dish washers, too. Use the same measurement as you would a detergent concentrate.
Get yourself some decent refillable foamer pumps. These have special aeration screens inside that make the liquid come out in your hand like soap whipped cream. Be sure to dilute your CLS 50% to 60% with water before using or the pump will not work correctly.
Pump straight CLS onto your spongy dish scrubber. You can foamer out the soap if you only have a couple of items to wash. This method works better than pouring it directly into the wash water. Presoak the tough stuff. You can use the same CLS in the sink and in your automatic dishwasher.
CLS makes a terrific floor cleaner for all sealed floors such as wood floors, tile floors, and vinyl floors. Use one ounce (a shot glass) in 1.5 gallons of warm water. Works well with string mops and sponge mops and floor scrubbing rags and brushes.
Laundry, dish, hand foamers, floors. What else will CLS do?
Dampen a cotton rag with foam and rub into sealed woodwork. People will ask you how you found time to refinish your woodwork and furniture.
Get yourself a plant mister spray bottle from the hardware store. Fill it to an inch and a half from the top with water. Now add a small amount (about 5%) of CLS. And mix gently. Spray it into a sink. There should be a small amount of foam present. If it is too sudsy, dump some out and add more water. If there is little or no foam, add a bit more soap.
These diluted spray cleaners are super handy. I use them to clean the insides of vehicles. It does a great job on vinyl and other plastics. CLS is a good window cleaner, too. Use with balled up newspapers to polish the glass. Perfect for dusting, wiping down any sealed surface, and keeping your kitchen sparkling. I know a restaurant that used it on their tables every day for ten years without a soapy build up. During COVID they switched to Izararoma.
Your spray cleaner does double duty in the garden keeping aphids, jewel bugs and other common pests at bay. Spray your plants three days in a row, spraying both sides of the leaves well. An hour later, you can give your garden a good water spray down to remove it. Kills wasps, flies, grasshoppers and caterpillar moths. Make it as strong as you need; up to 15% is fine for nearly all green plants. I like to spray my vegetable garden a few hours before a rainstorm and let nature do the rest of the work.
Great-grandma Kate raised two boys and a husband using soap and water, a bottle of vodka, and some baking soda. I think she knew what she was doing.
Larry Plesent is a writer, philosopher and grandfather living in the Green Mountains of Vermont. He is the former CEO of Vermont Soap in Middlebury, VT (now retired) and the author of The Reactive Body Handbook, www.reactivbody.org