Though I'm occasionally tempted to douse the entire house in full-strength bleach, I prefer my cleaning routine to be as neutral and gentle — yet effective — as possible. Here's a rundown on how I keep my home clean and green...
Windows + Mirrors: White Vinegar + Water
I keep a spray bottle filled with equal parts white vinegar and water for cleaning glass surfaces. I use a microfiber cloth on the inside windows and mirrors, and paper towels or old rags on the much-dirtier outside windows.
Sinks, Bathtubs, + Stove: Bon Ami + Biokleen Dishwash Liquid + Water
If you're not using Bon Ami for all your scrubbing needs, do yourself a favor and start now: there's such a cute little chick on the package! The Bon Ami motto is "Hasn't Scratched Yet" — especially impressive because they've been making it for 128 years — and I believe it. I've scrubbed the hell out of things with this stuff, and it gets rid of the gunk without any scratching, thanks to the "trademark feldspar and limestone as gentle, effective abrasives". Once I'm done scrubbing, I spray everything down with Biokleen's dishwashing soap diluted with water (another ready-to-go spray bottle). The grapefruit extract it contains is believed to have antibacterial properties — perfect!
Countertops + Surfaces: Biokleen Dishwash Liquid + Water
Yep, it's that same spray bottle again. I don't have a formal dilution ratio — maybe 20+ parts water to 1 part soap? That stuff is concentrated, so I err on the side of weaker so surfaces aren't left sudsy.
Countertops + Surfaces When I'm Lazy: Clorox Green Works Wipes
Why does grabbing a wipe seem a thousand times easier than grabbing a spray bottle and a rag? I have no idea, but on certain days, it does. I splurge on these wipes every once in a while, and love how handy they are. I was about to also mention that I love the natural thyme scent, because that's what I've always purchased, but the Clorox website only lists "original" and "water lily" scents.
Dishes: Biokleen Dishwash Liquid
The grapefruit seed extract that this contains is a super-powerful cleaning agent, and yet this soap is also super-gentle. In fact, when I moved to San Francisco and was broke, I bought one bottle of this and used it for dishes, shower gel, and shampoo — not bad for one large $5 bottle.
Floors: Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds
I've yet to find a floor cleaner that I'm totally jazzed about, but this one works well, and the fir and spruce essential oils smell nice. Dr. Bronner's recommends adding 1/2 tablespoon Sal Suds to 3 gallons of hot water, in that order. At that rate, one bottle will last you a good long while.
Floors When I'm Lazy: Clorox Green Works Spray
Somedays, spot-mopping is all a person can be expected to do. When just the thought of pulling out the mop and bucket and filling the bucket makes me tired, I spray this on any noticeable spots, wipe with a rag, and I'm done. I've also used my spray bottle of diluted Biokleen for this purpose, and when I was really on top of things I kept a bottle of diluted Sal Suds on hand, too.
Laundry: Ecover Laundry Powder
This is what I always used in San Francisco — it was cheap, effective, and smelled nicely neutral — but the most natural option I've found here in small-town Illinois is Arm & Hammer Perfume & Dye Free Laundry Powder. It is also cheap, effective, and nicely neutral, even if it doesn't have quite the same eco-cred.
Used Clothes: Biokleen Chlorine-Free Oxygen Bleach Plus
I buy used clothes exclusively, and though sometimes I wear them right away because I like to live dangerously, I generally try to give them a thorough washing first. I first learned about oxygen bleach after I bought an amazing vintage bathing suit at a garage sale and wanted to know how to really clean it. Since then, I've used it on other vintage swimsuits, and I always throw a bit in the laundry when I'm washing thrift store/garage sale clothes for the first time.
(Image credits: Kim Lucian)