Easy Green Clean

Easy Green Clean

Having a clean house and caring for the environment at the same time can be easy to manage, and it doesn’t mean your house won’t be really clean. The information here is designed to help you easily incorporate ‘green’ cleaning into your every day chores.

Why should weGreen Clean’?

Apart from being kinder to the environment, it is a healthier option for your family, and is a cheaper alternative to the multitude of store bought chemicals.
You may even find that if you, or a family member, are suffering from an allergic skin or breathing problem, it may lessen or disappear when you limit the harsh chemicals used around your home.
By following these easy guidelines you will find ‘Green Cleaning’ easy and well worth the effort.

The main requirements are neither expensive nor hard to get – some of the ingredients will be in your cupboards already.

Vinegar, a mild detergent and a few essential oils will cover most chores. Add some cloths, and a couple of spray bottles and jars to hold the contents and you will be set.

Surfactants, Soaps and Detergents
Let’s look at what these terms actually refer to (without turning into a science lesson!) and understand what we need to clean effectively.

Until early in the 20th Century, basic soap was the only cleaner readily available. This was made (and hand-crafted soap still is made) by a process which has been around for hundreds of years and involves a reaction between animal fats or vegetable oils and an alkali. The problem with traditional soap was that it reacted with the minerals in water and left behind a film (think bath tub ring). usually an acidic rinse is enough to dissolve this.

Then chemists started to develop detergents from petrochemicals. These were specialised cleansers and were highly effective at stripping the film away. It revolutionalised the cleaning world, and more ”developments’ were made to produce detergents for individual cleaning tasks.  Traditional soap was also modified for the mass market until it’s compounds no longer resembled the original product. Our cleaning products were changing into sulphonated petroleum hydrocarbons which were totally synthetic and degrading to our environment.

They were labelled as surfactants, and confusion for the consumer ensued as many people tended to associate the term as meaning a “harsh” ingredient, and comprising Sodium Lauryl Sulphate ((SLS).

So let me expand on that just a little:

  • Surfactant literally means ‘surface active agent’.
    It works by attracting water and the oil/dirt together so that the dirt may be easily washed away. SLS is just one of the compounds in these products.
  • Detergents and soaps also come under the heading of ‘surfactant’
  • Not all surfactants are toxic. In the natural resource industry other cleaners have been developed without including the harsh compounds you may wish to avoid. “Soap Free” products are also made with surfactants. People with sensitive skin rely on these mild cleansers to provide an alternative to soap. They can be mild, green, sulphate free, vegan/vegetarian friendly, and made from sustainable or renewable vegetable sources.

However, the ingredients used in all surfactants have almost unpronounceable names, and that is where part of the confusion stems. But, just like plants, these are simply the Latin names – the “proper” names of the ingredients – so everyone has a common base to refer to (and knows exactly what they are).
So not all chemicals are “bad”.
The question we should really be asking ourselves is: “Are the chemicals from a good or bad source?” Then we would be able to choose surfactants made from natural ingredients and not be put off by the proper names.

In the home we need to use some form of surfactant to remove oil and dirt. This information is aimed at taking us back to a more basic and user friendly product. We can remove the harsh and damaging chemicals from the cleaning cupboard, and replace them with milder, yet still effective, cleaners and rinses.

Green Cleaning Basics
The following ingredients will create a variety of cleaners for a wide range of different surfaces and jobs. They are readily available, biodegradable and much milder than some of the products you may be currently using.

Bi-Carbonate of Soda
Used as a raising agent in cooking.
As a cleaner it is used as a scourer, and is a great laundry powder booster. It is available from the supermarket, and if you buy in bulk it is very cheap.

Borax is mined, and is usually bought as a white powder consisting of soft, colourless crystals that dissolve easily in water. It is used in various household laundry and cleaning products for its bleaching effect, and cleaning power.
Borax and Boric Acid are not the same.
Borax can be converted into boric acid.

Boric Acid
Boric Acid is also a white powder which dissolves in water but has a different chemical composition to Borax. It is mainly used as a cockroach and insect killer.

Warning: Borax bleaches by converting water molecules to hydrogen peroxide. This reaction is more effective in hot water. Although it is a natural substance, it is associated with skin, eye, and respiratory irritations and should not be used around food. Make sure to rinse borax out of clothes and off surfaces.

Boric acid is poisonous if taken internally or inhaled in large quantities. Its side effects are similar to borax.

Essential Oils
Essential Oils are concentrated and highly active plant extracts. For cleaning purposes only small quantities are all that are necessary to help keep your home sweet smelling and germ free.
(See below)

Liquid Soap
Liquid soap for cleaning purposes is more of a mild surfactant. This is your detergent base, and any natural liquid soap may be used.

Pure Soap Flakes
These can be purchased ready ground from suppliers, or buy a bar of natural soap and grate your own. This forms your laundry detergent base.

White vinegar is readily available from the supermarket and is the basis for your green cleaning rinses. The cheapest brand is fine.

Other ingredients will come up, but the above items are the ‘staples’ for your general cleaning supplies.

Cleaning Cloths
There is a wide range of cleaning cloths and sponges available these days and choosing something suitable for each particular job or room will make your tasks easier. Apart from those available in stores, don’t forget old towels, t-shirts or sheets and old newspapers make excellent cleaning materials.

Spray bottles and jars will be needed to store your products when you have made them. Obviously you can purchase new ones, but why not use the recycled containers from your old cleaning products.

Which Essential Oils to use

  • When purchasing an essential oil make sure it is undiluted, and not in a carrier base of sweet almond oil or similar. The size of the container is a good indication as pure essential oils usually come in smaller bottles with tamper proof lids.
  • All essential oils are active against bacteria, fungi and viruses to varying degrees.
  • Because of their high potency, only small quantities will be required to add wonderful value to your formulations. Adding more oil will not make your cleaner stronger, but could cause irritations. Use caution when measuring your oils, and keep them stored in a cupboard away from children.

In effect, the principles of hygiene and aromatherapy become partners when essential oils are used. It is not just an advertising gimmick that many commercial products contain citrus oils, as they are natural degreasers and have antimicrobial properties.

The following oils are the most common for cleaning. It is certainly fine to use a different selection, but be aware of any contraindications which may apply to them.

  • Eucalyptus
    Antiviral, antifungal  and antibacterial.
    It will remove air-borne germs and is clearing to the sinus. It has insect repelling properties. A great Australian remedy!
  • Lavender
    Antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial
    Lavender is a great general oil and suits a wide variety of purposes. A soothing and relaxing scent that is wonderful when used in the rinsing of sheets to help promote a peaceful sleep.
  • Lemon
    Antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial
    A fresh scent that blends well with other oils.
  • Orange
    This oil helps to eliminate bad odours. A lovely citrus which promotes good feelings.
  • Peppermint
    Antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial
    Used in blends it will help to deter ants, cockroaches and mice. A fresh and sharp scent.
  • Spearmint
    A fresh scent that is well liked and blends well.
  • Tea Tree
    Antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial
    The powerful properties work well to fight germs leaving a clean, sharp scent. The rule “less is more” is particularly relevant to Tea Tree, so use sparingly but with confidence. Another great oil that is uniquely Australian.


Recipes to get you started:

One Swipe Cleaner (This can be made in larger quantities and stored)
1 tblsp liquid soap
1 cup vinegar
1 cup water
10-15 drops essential oils (refer to list)

Mix to combine
Place in a spray bottle
Shake gently before each use
Spray onto surfaces and wipe with a damp cloth.

All Purpose Cleaner (Concentrate)
500ml Liquid soap
25-30drops essential oils (refer to list)

Mix carefully to avoid frothing
Place in a squirt bottle

Vinegar Rinse
300ml Vinegar
200ml Water
30 drops essential oil (refer to list)

Place in a spray bottle and shake gently before use

Oil and water do not mix, so the essential oils will separate out between uses. A gentle shake is needed to combine them prior to each use. A solubiliser can be used to maintain incorporation.

Green Clean Room by Room
Cleaning the house is often seen as a chore and challenge – a necessary task to tackle on a regular basis but offering no inspiration.

However with a little preparation, and done on a daily basis, it can be rewarding. It is amazing how much can be achieved in 1/2 hr a day, and the ‘big jobs’ are not quite so daunting anymore. For example, a quick wipe over the wet areas in your bathroom daily with your vinegar rinse will keep it fresh and clean.  Then it’s not quite as important if one week you are too busy to scour the shower!

Refer to my Post: Green Clean Room by Room for more in-depth information and further recipes. (Coming soon)

Clean Air:
Using your green cleaning aids will often be enough to leave your house smelling lovely and fresh as the essential oils permeate the home. However if you would like to dispel any odours during the week or disinfect during an illness, there are a number of ways to achieve this.

  • A room mist can be created by mixing essential oils with water in a spray bottle. Shake gently and spray up into the air. The droplets will settle with their scent.
  • A few drops of essential oil on a cotton pad/tissue and place in your vacuum cleaner will leave rooms scented and fresh.


A word on safety.
Although your “green” ingredients are  generally of natural origin, if ingested they may still be harmful.
Essential oils are highly concentrated and should not be used internally, but many smell good enough to eat and a small child may not be able to resist the temptation.
Please use the same caution with all these cleaners as you do your commercial ones, and keep them stored safely away from children and pets.

And Finally…………

The purpose of this information is to show how easy and effective cleaning can be using natural ingredients.

Remember that even the expensive brand name chemical products maintain that cleaning needs to be done regularly for best results. 

I know it is hard to get excited about cleaning, but there is certainly satisfaction when you realise your house can be effectively cleaned naturally, and the aroma of lavender or lemon remains lingering in the air.

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