Mother Earth Living

Herbal Homekeeping: Nontoxic Homemade Cleaning Solutions

Create your own natural cleaning products from herbal ingredients.
By Sandy Maine
May/June 1999
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The next time you’re dashing down the cleaning product aisle of your local grocery store, searching for your favorite cleaning items, STOP! Look at how many cleaning products are available and the shelf-feet of space they take. I see an amazing irony on those shelves: All those cleaning products, offered to make your homekeeping duties easier, actually complicate life. They also waste valuable natural resources, time, money, and space. They create certain kinds of stress, too—and nobody needs that.


How many plastic bottles and containers can you fit under your kitchen sink? Advertisers would have us believe that we need a different product for each surface in the home and for every messy possibility: dust, grease, mud, pet tracks, clothing stains.


Have you read the labels of these “helpful” products? Many give poison-center phone numbers, toxic-waste disposal information, and disclaimers for allergic reactions, and for good reason. The ingredients of these products are poisonous, toxic, and downright hazardous—yet they’re promoted as our best housekeeping friends.

Raising a Stink 

I believe that many people resist cleaning chores because of the penetrating synthetic scents of most cleaning products. They not only smell bad, but for many people these products also cause shortened breath, burning eyes, headaches, and irritability. Couple these problems with subtle fears of toxicity, and it’s no wonder homekeeping is maligned today.

What is the real cost of using these homekeeping products? I’d count indoor-air pollution, solid and chemical toxic waste, and billions of dollars in unnecessary consumer spending. I wonder if the human cost is too high, as well: Have consumers, impelled by advertising and ever-more-numerous products, become compulsive about cleaning everything, all the time? More human misery at the sponge mop isn’t in our best interests.

A Gentle Proposal 

Is there a better way? Of course, there is! And I have found it to be a satisfying, economical, and ecological way, too! Why not simplify your homekeeping needs? Why not learn how to incorporate the sensual, healing beauty of the herbal world into your own homekeeping cupboard of favorite household formulations?

By making your own simple, herbal cleaning products, your home can smell fresh, sparkle with cleanliness, and satisfy your desire for a healthful, pleasant environment. Along the way, you can experience contentment, creativity, and living lightly on the planet. By making and using your own herbal homekeeping products, you take an important step toward simplicity.

Key Lime Dish Detergent Powder

Using this powder differs from using a liquid, but the powder is just as effective. If you find that you really prefer dishwashing liquid, add some boiling water to the formula, stir until the powder is dissolved, and bottle in your favorite squirt dispenser. The following formula will last the average family of four approximately six months.

1/2 cup clay powder
2 tablespoons lime essential oil
6 cups baking soda

Wear a dust mask to mix this formula. Mix clay powder and essential oil, then, in a two-gallon pail or container, combine with the baking soda. Mix well.

To convert to a liquid soap, add 18 cups of boiling water and stir until all ingredients are dissolved. Store in gallon jugs and refill squirt bottles as needed.

To use, add about a tablespoon of powder or a good squirt of liquid per sink load while filling the sink. For tough jobs, make a paste of the powder by adding water and rub directly on the spot, or apply liquid directly to it.

Grapefruit Abrasive Cleanser

This cleanser gets its punch from finely ground pumice, a volcanic rock dust. It’s comparable to a soft scrub and can be used for tubs, sinks, tiles and even hard-working hands that have been stained with grease. The lingering scent is pungent and fresh!

1 cup fine-grade pumice
1/2 cup clay powder
2 tablespoons grapefruit essential oil
1/4 cup baking soda
1/2 cup boiling water, or enough to make a thick paste

Mix all ingredients together and stir. Store in an air-tight container with a label.

To use, apply gently with a damp sponge or cloth and scrub. Use a light touch on fiberglass fixtures.

From Herbal Homekeeping by Sandy Maine. Copyright © 1999, Sandy Maine. Reprinted with permission of Interweave Press. 

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