Green Cleaning: The Less Toxic Approach to Cleaning

My latest obession is natural cleaners. It all started last year as my daughter’s normally manageable asthma spiralled out of control. When my daughter started kindergarten last year, she was exposed to many irritants such as dust and mold which left her struggling to breathe. The anxiety of starting school probably had more to do with the severity of my daughter’s asthmatic symptoms than the mold and dust. Regardless, one of the many things I did to help manage my daughter’s symptoms was remove possible asthma triggers from our home. That is when I switched completely to natural cleaners. To read more about asthma and tips on caring for a child with asthma, click here.

Regular commercial cleaners are full of dyes and perfumes that can irriate the skin, eyes, and lungs. Some chemicals found in household cleaning products are carcinogenic, which means they can cause cancer, and have been found to cause disruption in certain human hormones. When fumes from one cleaner combine with another, it can produce an even more toxic fume. Before I had kids, I used to buy whatever that would get the job done. After I had my daughter, even before I knew she would be diagnosed with asthma, I started buying products without bleach and opted for greener and less toxic products. When I found out my daughter had asthma, I removed all possible irritants from my home, to help my daughter breathe better. Switching to natural and less toxic solutions wasn’t easy but I am happy with the results so far.

Below are some types of common household cleaning products and their greener, less toxic replacements:

Air Freshners & Candles

Boiling water with warm spices such as cinnamon, caradamon, and cloves, leave the house smelling very nice. I have also tried boiling water and a few drops of eculyptus essential oil, lemon oil, or vanilla bean for a fresh smelling home. Boiling water with lemon or with a bit of white vinegar after cooking helps deodourize the home as well.


To get that “odd” smell out of carpets, closets, the freezer, or the refridergerator, you need only a box of baking soda. A whole box or some baking soda is a glass dish can be left in the back of the refridgerator, and replaced with new baking soda every month. Baking soda can be sprinkled on top of the carpet before vaccuming to remove foul odours from the carpet. A box of baking soda can be left in shoe and laundry closets instead of spraying Febreeze. Baking soda does an exceptional job of absorbing foul odours.


White vinegar has replaced my Lysol wipes and disinfect sprays. You can disinfect anything from cutting boards and countertops to toys. Most disinfects rely on bleach which is an eye, skin, and lung irrant to kill germs, whereas vinegar is already a natural disinfectant. I mix one part vingear with one part water and store it in a spray bottle from the dollar store. For disinfecting the toilet bowl, use full strength vinegar (do not dilute with water).

All-purpose Cleaner

To make your own all-purpose cleaner, combine 1 L of water with 1/4 cup white vingear and 1/8 cup baking soda and store in a spray bottle. This all purpose cleaner can be used to clean windows, tiles floors, stove-tops, countertops, the outside of mircowaves, faucets, bathroom shower stalls and more.

Scouring Powder

To make scouring powder mix equal parts salt, baking soda, and borax (can be purchased at Canadian Tire or in the laundry aisle). Borax should be kept out of the reach of children. If you prefer not to use borax, equal parts of salt and baking soda can be used. This scouring powder should be stored in an air-tight container. Use as you would regular scouring powder to clean sinks and stove-tops.

Laundry Detergent

Two green laundry detergents I have tried are, Eco Max and Seventh Generation, both of which are available at the Real Canadian Superstore, Whole Foods Market, and other health stores. Eco-Max is alot cheaper than Seventh Generation and both can be bought scented or unscented. The scented laundry detergents are scented with essential oils such as lavendar or citrus, and contain no bleach, dyes, or perfumes. Using natural laundry detergents ensures that no chemical residue is left on the clothes. This is especially benefical to those with asthma, or sensitive skin.


Anybody that knows me knows that I love to clean. Having a clean home is very important to me but it is also important to me that I use safe cleaning products for not only my family but the environment that we live in.

One tip I would suggest for those of you wanting to go green, is to replace one household cleaner at a time with one less toxic cleaner. See how you like the new product and go on from there. There are many green products out there and choosing one can be overwhemling. Green products are also far more expensive than the regular commerical cleaning products. For a couple of dollars you can make your own cleaning products as mentionned above. Sometimes I even add a few drops of essential oils (lavendar, lemon, or grapefruit) to my solutions for a nice scent.

Happy green cleaning!

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