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Posted on May 11, 2012 in Blog, Water


There are chemicals all over your house in cleaning products, paints, pesticides, etc.  While it is unrealistic to believe that people will completely eliminate the use of chemicals in the house, we can certainly try to reduce the amount we buy.  This is not only good for the environment, but for your own health as well.  Look at the following products, their ingredients and their impacts.


  • Petroleum distillates (in metal polishes): short-term exposure can cause temporary eye clouding, longer exposure can damage the nervous system, skin, kidneys and eyes;
  • Ammonia (in glass cleaners): an eye irritant and can cause headaches and lung irritation;
  • Phenol and cresol (in disinfectants): corrosive and can cause diarrhoea, fainting, dizziness and kidney and liver damage;
  • Nitrobenzene (in furniture and floor polishes): can cause skin discolouration, shallow breathing, vomiting – associated with cancer and birth defects;
  • Solvents (in carpet cleaners and spot removers): suspected carcinogen.

It is not necessary to use all these chemicals.  Up until World War II, householders used a limited number of simple substances to keep the house clean and garden pest-free.  Soap, vinegar, bread soda, washing soda, ammonia, borax, alcohol, cornstarch and certain food ingredients were used to lift out spots and stains, deodorise, polish wood or metal, disinfect, scrub, repel pests, clean pets, wash and starch clothes.

Safe ingredients you should have to hand at home for cleaning are:

Bread Soda: it can neutralise acid, scrub shiny materials without scratching, deodorise and extinguish grease fires.  It can also remove some stains.

Borax:  naturally occurring mineral, soluble in water.  It deodorises, inhibits growth of mildew and mould, boosts the cleaning power of soap or detergent and removes stains.

Lemon Juice: is a deodorant and can be used to clean glass and remove stains from aluminium, clothes and porcelain.  It is a mild lightener or bleach if used with sunlight.

Vinegar:  can dissolve mineral deposits, grease, remove traces of soap, remove mildew or wax build-up, polish some metals and deodorises.  Use vinegar to clean out coffee and tea pots and to shine windows without streaking.  Vinegar is normally used in a solution with water, but it can be used straight.

Some Household Cleaner Recipes:

All-Purpose Household Cleaner

Add 1 teaspoon liquid soap and 1 teaspoon T.S.P. to 1 quart warm water.

This solution can be used for a multitude of cleaning jobs including counter tops and walls. Look for new eco-friendly brands such as Ecover or Lilly’s

Degreaser (kitchen)
Add 2 tablespoons t.s.p. to 1 gallon hot water.

Floor Cleaner
Vinyl floors: Add 1/2 cup vinegar to 1 gallon water.
Wood floors: Damp mop with mild liquid soap.

Furniture Polish
Not essential. Simply wipe clean with a slightly damp cloth. If you do polish, use mineral oil.

Oven Cleaner
Add either 2 tablespoons of bread soda or T.S.P. or washing soda to 1 gallon of water and scrub with very fine steel wool. Wear gloves and rinse well. For very baked-on spots, try scrubbing with pumice (available at hardware stores).

Glass Cleaner
Add to a spray bottle: 1/2 teaspoon liquid soap, 3 tablespoons vinegar and 2 cups water. For very dirty windows, add more soap.

Mildew cleaner
For mild cases, scrub with bread soda. In more severe cases, scrub with T.S.P. and do not rinse off except in food areas.  TeaTree essence mixed in with water is a good disinfectant and prevents mildew.

Scouring powder
Use bread soda as a paste mixed with water or use with vinegar.

Spot removers
All work best when applied to fresh stains. Try one of the following solutions:

All purpose: Make a paste of water and bread soda or washing soda. Soak the stain and let dry prior to washing as usual. Check for colourfastness first.

Blood: Pour 3% hydrogen peroxide solution directly on the stain, before rinsing with water. Then wash as usual.

Ink: Apply a paste of lemon juice and cream of tartar; allow it to dry, then wash as usual.

Toilet bowl cleaner
Scrub with scouring powder (as above) and a stiff brush. For removal of hard water deposits, pour in vinegar.  Allow to sit several hours or overnight, then scrub.

Tub/Tile Cleaners
Use bread soda.

Air Freshening Tips
Leave open boxes of bread soda in refrigerators, closets, and bathrooms.
Use flowers, herbs, and spices to add subtle fragrances to indoor air.


Photos by: Lenny Montana, AndyRobertsPhotos and Brad Montgomery via