detox your home (part 1)

A few months ago, I detoxed my beauty routine, which you can read about here, and my sun care routine (of particular relevance now it's the height of summer), which you can read here. I did so by ditching conventional products and using home remedies where possible. Over the past few months I've been doing the same for my home. When my spray n' wipe ran out, as 'bio-friendly' as it was, I didn't replace it. Likewise with my shower cleaner and toilet cleaner. Sounds icky? Fret not, I set about making my own cleaners, completely toxin-free, and utilising ingredients from my own backyard...

Photo by Laurey W. Glenn

The issue of toxins in the home is a long and complex one, and I'm not going to cover the whole gamut of concerns in today's post. They range from harmful chemicals used in cleaners, to toxic VOCs in paints and furniture, to endocrine-disrupting chemicals used in food storage containers and cans.

There's growing evidence these chemicals and toxins in the home are linked to allergies, asthma and skin irritations.

To be honest, I could mouth off about these issues based on what I personally know, but I want to research them thoroughly. I'm in the process of interviewing experts and reading books on the matter, so I can bring to the table the most up-to-date and accurate info I can. Knowledge is power, after all.

In the meantime, I thought I'd share some recipes for do-it-yourself household cleaners. They are easy peasy. They are effective. They are safe. And they are cheaper and more efficient than any organic or 'earth-friendly' store-bought product on the market. Here we go:

The basics - key ingredients you'll need to effectively and safely clean your home:

  • Water
  • Microfibre dust cloths - good quality microfibre cloths and a bit of water are basically all you need to dust your furniture. Microfibre is best for dusting because it grabs and holds on to more dust particles and dust mites than other fabrics.
  • Newspapers
  • Bicarb soda
  • White vinegar - make sure you use naturally-distilled vinegar
  • Lemon, lime, orange or grapefruit juice
  • Salt

The optionals (as in, if you can afford them, bonus!):

  • Essential oils of lemon, tea tree, eucalyptus, peppermint or lavender
  • Castille soap (either liquid or solid bar, or any other all natural perfume-free bar soap, like Herbon)
  • Lemon balm (a super versatile herb easily grown in a pot).

In a nutshell, this is how I clean my home:

  • For the kitchen benchtops and oven top, I use the all-purpose spray cleaner below. 
  • For dust, I use water and a microfibre cloth.
  • For dishes, I still have a bottle of store-bought detergent to get through but will then shift to the dish washing recipe below. It's a traditional method, tried and tested.
  • Bathroom sink and shower screen: I make the cream cleanser paste listed below, or I simply sprinkle a little bicarb soda in the sink and scrub with a moist sponge, then rinse. No pungent fragrance, no residue.
  • Floors? I mop with a solution of hot water and vinegar.
  • Laundry detergent? I haven't found a good recipe for that yet. Any ideas, please feel free to comment below!
  • Dishwashing powder? Again, haven't found a decent recipe. Share below if you have.
  • Airfreshener? I open the windows.

The recipes:

All purpose spray cleaner (kitchen benchtops, shower, toilet, bath):
Mix a 75:25 solution of water and vinegar in a spray bottle and you're done. The vinegary smell disappears when dry. You can add citrus juice for an antibacterial effect (lemon juice is the most powerful).

Dish washing:
Liquid castille soap or grated soap, diluted in equal parts with water. Optional: 1/4 cup bicarb soda for tough grease and/or 2-5 drops essential oil, any of those listed above. Or use soapnut or soapwort root decoctions. You can also wash your hair with these.

Cream cleanser:
Mix 1/2 cup bicarb soda with water until a think paste is formed. Done.

Toilet bowl cleaner:
Pour into the bowl 1/4 cup bicarb soda and 1 cup vinegar. It'll fizz. Let it sit there for a few minutes, then scrub with a toilet brush.

Floor cleaner:
50:50 water and vinegar. Essential oils optional.

Window cleaner:
Mix the juice of one lemon (or other citrus as above), water and a few drops of peppermint oil in a spray bottle. Shake well and use to wipe windows with newspaper for streak-free cleaning. The added bonus is that the peppermint oil deters bugs.

Pet water bowl cleaner:
Grab a handful of fresh lemon balm leaves and use to scrub the water bowl to remove any mildew build up. Lemon balm also has a slight antibacterial effect. You can even leave a few sprigs of the herb in there to keep the water fresh and deter flies and other bugs.


Bathroom mould & mildew - I spoke with building biologist Nicole Bijlsma who said the best defence against mould and mildew is simply white vinegar and a bit of elbow grease. Conventional mould removers contain bleach, which, says Nicole, is actually completely ineffective against mould. All it does is bleach it!

Stains on tiles, walls etc - lemon juice or vinegar

Tough grime on benchtops, walls, anywhere - bicarb soda and salt

Dirty ovens - bicarb soda paste

Clogged drains - borax (you can purchase it from pharmacies) or bicarb soda and boiling hot water (add vinegar and allow to fizz if bicarb soda alone isn't working).

Share the love & leave a comment below if you have any other nifty household cleansers you whip up yourself...


  1. Oh my god, It is so great! Thanks for the tips

  2. Thanks for these. I also find that the best stain remover is sunshine! I always hang stained stuff in direct sunshine after washing and the stains that were still there when I got the clothes out of the machine vanish. Natural cleaning wins again!

  3. Good old sunshine, love it! I've heard a bit of bicarb soda and lemon juice on the stain will work too. Thanks A.

  4. Great recepies! I am just about to make a blog post on this topic too! I also use wooden dishwasher brush with replaceable heads and a sponge made from hemp.
    I usually put my coths (for the kitchen I use 100% cotton and 100% linen) in the sink, pour boiling water over them and a few drops of some essential oil. The cloths gets clean and you get this pleasent smell in the house from the essential oil. Sort of an air freshener!

  5. I know this is an old post but I wanted to say that we just moved from an unfit-for-human-health mould house. All our belongings had to be either treated of thrown away (ie baby furniture and matresses all gone!). The vinegar thing is exactly hwta the treatment it! Bleach bleached mould and gives it food to feed on. Vinegar kills the stuff. We had to vinegar all our clothing and linen and books and toys.... but 6 months later no one has beem sick! It's miraculous!

  6. Im not sure of you ended up finding a laundry powder or dishwasher powder recipe, but I've been using the below all year and loving it :)
    Laundry: Equal parts, bicarb soda, washing soda (from laundry aisle in the supermarket) and grated soap (natural of course!). I just toss it all in a glass jar and shake it up. Its never gone clumpy of hard and I only need 1 tbs per wash. I also add a cap of eucalyptus oil in with the clothes as a de-greaser, smells great too.

    Dishwasher powder: 1 cup washing soda, 1 cup bicarb soda, 1/4 cup coarse salt, 1/4 cup citric acid, 1 cap of essential oil (tea tree/eucalyptus work well). Just put it in the powder compartment in the machine and use vinegar in the rinse aid and its perfect.

    Hope these help. I got them from a few places, but i find Jilly Cooper's ONe Good Thing blog to be fabulous :)

    1. Thanks so much for those suggestions! Where do you buy citric acid from?

  7. Citric acid is usually is the same part of the supermarket as the bicarb, or at least where all of the "baking" type products are


  8. Oh, my goodness, I am once more late to this fantastic Eco party! LOL

    Nonetheless, I'll use the adage, "Better late than never" and proffer my air-freshener contribution?

    Fresh fragrant blooms!

    What a pleasure and a treat!
    I particularly love WHITE Oriental Lilies. Once they bloom, the fragrance is beautifully intoxicating and even more so when you know it is natural - in the TRUE sense of the word!
    In fact, I have a single bloom just to the right of where I am sitting now, and every time I sit down in this spot to write or read, I get this delicious 'greeting' and that's when I am reminded of that single stem tucked in between two sofa chairs!

    It may not be the most economical, but here are the options to make it more feasable:

    1. If you have a garden, grow them :)
    2. Flower markets? Bargain!
    3. Buy them locally (grocer or supermarket - I get mine from Thomas Dux for $15 a bunch ) and divide the bunch!!
    Currently I have a single stem in each bathroom (that's all you need!), one in the living room, and the rest on the outside dining table.
    Normally as they bloom, I snip off another single stem, pop it into one of my recycled Loving Earth coconut butter jars (!) and then find a new room to fragrance!!
    I hope this has been helpful

    Have a blooming lovely day!



  9. Love love love this, just re-reading it as I clean the bathroom right now, working a treat indeed!

  10. I've found a couple of drops of clove oil in water finely misted over the bathroom walls and ceiling and wiped down to be incredibly effective to remove mould and stop it coming back.

  11. Water and lemon are two of the best home remedies for practical cleaning. However, if you really want a safe and clean home, go for natural cleaning products that are free from any toxic chemicals.



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