Spick and Span: A Guide to Natural Cleaning Products

Turn everyday items into natural cleaners with this guide.
March/April 2005

Put these everyday household items to new use as natural cleaners or look for these ingredients when you're buying natural, nontoxic cleaning products.

Baking Soda
What it is: Slightly alkaline sodium bicarbonate is a mineral.
Uses: Nonabrasive soft scrub that removes and prevents odors
Where to get it: Grocery store

What it is: Solid, pliable wax made by bees
Uses: Furniture polish, floor wax, candles, healing balms and salves
Where to get it: Candle-making, soap-making and art-supply shops or beekeepers' apiaries
Precautions: Because of the heating process, supervise children.

What it is: Natural mineral compound. Disinfects, deodorizes, softens water, inhibits mold growth.
Uses: For use in the kitchen, bath, garbage, basement, ovens and other heavily soiled areas.
Where to get it: Grocery store
Precautions: Protective gloves for individuals with sensitive skin or those prone to allergic reactions.

Castille Soap
What it is: Olive oil-based soap
Uses: A gentle, natural cleaner in cleaning solutions, shampoo
Where to get it: Soap suppliers, natural foods and health stores
Precautions: Remove soap scum or buildup that may occur. Follow with a vinegar rinse.

What it is: Vegetable stalk
Uses: Rub on cutting boards to absorb odors
Where to get it: Grocery store, farmer's market

Citrus Peel
What it is: From oranges, lemons, limes
Uses: Solvent, disinfectant, deodorizer, fragrance and air freshener
Where to get it: Grocery store

What it is: Dried, ground corn
Uses: Abraisve quality can be used to spot clean and scour pots and pans, appliances, bathroom, kitchen
Where to get it: Grocery store

Cream of Tartar
What it is: White, crystalline mineral powder
Uses: Nonabrasive cleaner for porcelain, drains, metals
Where to get it: Grocery store

Essential Oils
What it is: Extracts from lavender, rosemary, eucalyptus, juniper, sage, thyme, pine, tea tree
Uses: Add to general home cleaners as a disinfectant
Where to get it: Health food stores, Internet
Precautions: Avoid contact with eyes. Use sparingly. Test for allergies.

Flaxseed Oil
What it is: Pressed from flax; nonedible form called linseed oil.
Uses: Furniture polish
Where to get it: Health food stores, Internet

Grapefruit Seed Extract
What it is: Highly acidic liquid
Uses: Cleansing aid with antiseptic qualities. Add to water for cleansing.
Where to get it: Health food stores, Internet

Hydrogen Peroxide
What it is: Liquid made of two hydrogen and two oxygen atoms. Disinfectant with antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial qualities.
Uses: Use in kitchen or bath; add to wash water or directly to sponse. Removes stanis from clothing.
Where to get it: Grocery store, pharmacy
Precautions: Do not swallow or get in eyes.

What it is: Juice or extract from the fruit.
Uses: Natural cleaning ingredient and air freshener with slight bleaching action and flea-fighting properties.
Where to get it: Grocery store

What it is: Volcanic stone used whole or pulverized
Uses: Abrasive cleaner for hands, hard metals, water deposits. Exfoliates in soaps, hand-cleaning recipes.
Where to get it: Grocery store
Precautions: Use with discretion on skin and on smooth surfaces to avoid scratching or discoloration.

What it is: Natural mineral
Uses: Non-scratching (to most surfaces) abrasive cleanser with antibacterial qualities
Where to get it: Grocery store

Vegetable Glycerin
What it is: Colorless, viscous liquid derived from vegetable fats and used in soap
Uses: Stain remover to add to cleaning recipes. As a moisturizer it works in creams, salves, balms
Where to get it: Health food stores, Internet

Washing Soda
What it is: Highly alkaline sodium carbonate (also known as caustic soda)
Uses: Cuts grease; cleans clothing; removes dirt, oil and stains; neutralizes odors
Where to get it: Grocery store
Precautions: Potential skin irritant; wear gloves. Clothing laundered in washing soda must be rinsed well to avoid irritation to skin.

White Vinegar
What it is: Dilute acetic acid
Uses: Dissolves buildup; remove tarnish; cleans cloth, kitchen appliances, drains
Where to get it: Grocery store


(800) 477-0188
soy cleaners for the home

biodegradable home cleaner

Earth Friendly Products
(800) 335-3267
natural home cleaning products

Ecover(800) 449-4925
plant-based cleaning products

Seventh Generation
(800) 456-1191
nontoxic household cleaners