Janelle Sorensen is the Chief Communications Officer for Healthy Child Healthy World. Simultaneously, she takes care of her sweet little girls, cooks, cleans, gardens, reads, bikes, hikes, crafts, laughs, speaks using silly voices and accents, drafts environmental policies, works on a Master's Degree, and tries to keep up with social media. Well, typically not all at the same time.

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My Favorite 5 Easy Steps For Safer Cleaning

Enlist Your Kids!

I was recently speaking to a pediatrician about the risks of toxics in everyday products and what we do at Healthy Child. One of the things I mentioned we recommend to parents is making their own cleaners.

He scoffed at me like I had said the most preposterous thing ever – “Parents don’t have time to MAKE cleaners!”

I had to bite my tongue. Hard. And, after a brief pause I gave him a saccharin smile and said, “I’m a busy parent and it’s never been hard for me – and I know A LOT of other parents who do it, too.”

Have you made the switch yet? I know more and more parents who are – not only because it’s better for their family’s health and the environment, but also because it’s a lot cheaper.

Here are my 5 favorite, easy steps to keep your home clean safely:

Go with H2O

Water is the universal solvent and many everyday jobs are easily and effectively addressed with a damp rag. Try it for dusting, wiping water-spattered vanities, spot-cleaning floors, and more.

Buy 5 simple staples

Keep your cleaning cupboard stocked with safe power-houses like:

Liquid soap: a plant-based soap like castile soap.

Distilled white vinegar. Note that while vinegar has a slight scent while wet, when dry, it leaves no odor. (Read about The Wonders of White Vinegar.)

Baking soda. (Check out these 61 uses for baking soda.)

Salt. (Here are 10 Ways to Clean with Salt.)

Essential oils

A little goes a long way for both adding a nice scent to your cleaning and, more importantly for disinfecting. According to Annie B. Bond,“There are many essential oils, such as lavender, clove, and tea tree oil (an excellent natural fungicide), that are very antiseptic, as is grapefruit seed extract, even though they aren’t registered as such. Use one teaspoon of essential oil to 2 cups of water in a spray bottle (make sure to avoid eyes). A grapefruit seed extract spray can be made by adding 20 drops of extract to a quart of water.”

Make a Wonder Spray

Mix up an easy, all-purpose spray. I have a very random recipe that we use for almost everything: a couple cups of water, a couple squirts of liquid soap, a splash of vinegar and a few drops of essential oil. You can find tons of variations on-line.

Use baking soda for baked on grime

This is one of my favorite tips because it’s so easy and because oven cleaners are some of the most noxious cleaners available. Simply spray the bottom of your oven with water. Sprinkle baking soda over the area. Spray with a little more water and let it sit overnight. Spray it again with water in the morning and wipe away baked on grime with no sweat or tears. This also works great for baking sheets.

Enlist the kids

I’ve had my daughters helping clean since they were two years old – and at that age it’s fun for them. The sooner you get them engaged in the responsibilities of taking care of your home, the better. I used to just give them spray bottles with just water and direct them to various surfaces. (Be sure to label bottles clearly.) Whether or not they were always helpful (sometimes mom has to follow behind to do a little “touching-up”), they felt empowered helping me, and they learned basic skills and tricks over time to tackle projects on their own.

Just a few months ago I was grumbling about having to clean our grease-spattered stovetop. My 10 year-old piped up, “Mom, can I do it? I’ve seen you do it so many times and I want to try!”  I thought,  “Pinch me, slap me, hit me with a board – am I dreaming??” No. She did it. And the sparkles gleaming off of it were almost audible. Ting. Ting.


Note: ALL cleaners, whether homemade or store bought, and cleaning ingredients should be kept safely away out of the reach of children and pets in locked cabinets or high places.

What are your favorite tips? Do your kids help?

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Comments (7)

  1. Pingback: How to Raise a Healthy Baby Boston Mama

  2. Tanya 04/05/2011 at 7:23 pm

    A few tips to add, depending on how far down the rabbit hole you want to travel:

    Basic Baking Soda contains aluminium. Bad stuff. If you’re looking for chemical free, you won’t find it with regular Arm & Hammer. Hit the health food store and expect to pay 3 times more, at least.

    Similarly, iodized salt contains iodine. Also toxic. (I know, shocking, considering they try to feed it to us.) As well, the higher the grade of salt, the less likely it was gathered from a polluted waterway. In other words, table salt and untreated water from a polluted waterway have more in common than you’d like to think about.

    I’ve done my research, and I made all my own cleaners for over a year (including laundry detergent) but I have to say I finally found a brand I can trust, and it works so much better than all my homemade brews.

  3. Janelle Sorensen 04/05/2011 at 2:33 pm

    Jessica- What a great tip! I’m going to have to add that one to my “tool box.” Soap scum can be very tough to get rid of and I can’t wait to try this method. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Jessica 04/04/2011 at 4:28 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. For quite a few months now, I have been using Vinegar and Simple green. When I need soap scum removed from my bathroom shower tile walls, I heat the water and vinegar together in the microwave, put in a spray bottle and spray away, let sit. Not only does this get rid of soap scum, it also cleans my microwave. It loosens the splatter to the point where I only have to wipe it.

    Can’t wait to try your magic soap. I have yet to use oils, which I am planning on doing soon.

  5. Anastasia B 04/03/2011 at 5:15 pm

    I agree, no time is not an excuse 🙂 I clean a lot with baking soda.

  6. Janelle 03/31/2011 at 3:24 pm

    Carina – There’s so little in the spray that you really can’t smell it much (or at all if you add some essential oil!) And it really works great – I LOVE it!

  7. Carina Wytiaz 03/28/2011 at 10:56 am

    I once cleaned with vinegar and my husband (who DESPISES vinegar) knew it. I don’t know how he could still smell it even after it dried, but I can’t use it to clean. I use baking soda all the time, and even use Borax as part of my laundry routine! I like your “magic spray”, I bet I could mix some up and not have him know.