By Catherine Somerville of Sustainable Wallingford.

The last thing you want to do is dump toxic chemicals into the environment in the name of cleaning, right?

Have you noticed the statements on Persil, Ariel, Surf, etc that they permanently harm marine life? You can find Ecover, Faith in Nature and Earth Friendly products in many stores. They work just as well as their conventional counterparts. Better yet, make them yourself.

The basic supplies include:

  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Bicarbonate of soda (not baking powder)
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Borax (sold in a box in the laundry aisle of a grocer or ironmonger)
  • Liquid soap such as washing up liquid
  • Essential oils (super concentrated natural plant oils found in natural food stores or local chemist)
  • Cleaning cloths
  • Newspaper

Here are a few basic 'recipes' and techniques:

Glass: Mix 1/4 cup vinegar with 2 pints of water in a spray bottle. Wipe clean with old newspaper or a lint-free cloth.

Countertops and bathroom tile: Mix 2 parts vinegar and 1 part bicarbonate of soda with 4 parts water. Apply with a sponge, scour, and wipe away.

Floors: Mix 4 cups of white distilled vinegar with a gallon of hot water. Add a few drops of essential oil for a pleasant scent. After damp-mopping the floors, the smell of vinegar will dissipate quickly, leaving behind only the scent of the oil.

Wood furniture: Mix equal parts of lemon juice and olive oil. Apply a small amount to a cloth, and rub onto the furniture.

Toilet bowl cleaner: Sprinkle a toilet brush with bicarbonate of soda and scrub away! Disinfect your toilet by scrubbing with borax instead. Wipe the outside of the toilet clean with straight vinegar.

Disinfectant: Mix 2 teaspoons borax, 4 tablespoons vinegar, 3 cups hot water, and 1/4 teaspoon liquid soap. Wipe on with dampened cloth or use a spray bottle. Wipe clean.

Mold and mildew: Wipe with straight vinegar.

Air freshener: Sprinkle essential oil on a cotton ball, and tuck in a corner of the room. If you have kids, keep it out of their reach – essential oils are very strong and could irritate their skin. Lavender is a relaxing scent that is great for bedrooms, and cinnamon, clove, and citrus oils are great for the rest of the house. Put a few in the car—try peppermint to help you to stay alert.