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Squeaky Green: Natural Cleaning Products that Actually Work

Whether you want more DIY natural cleaning product ideas, or you just want to know what to look for in the supermarket, this guide is for you!


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Natural cleaning products

More and more Filipinos are choosing to ‘go green’ and adopt a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. In many cases, that means using more eco-friendly cleaning products. And while we’re no strangers to creating our own concoction of cleaning solutions (think mixing calamansi with a laundry bar to make dishwashing soap), it’ll definitely help knowing the right way to do it.

Are natural cleaning products better?

Cleaning products that are natural have fewer synthetic chemicals, so they’re usually gentler to your skin and lungs, not to mention kinder to the planet. They can also be just as effective as their less eco-friendly counterparts. Some need you to use a bit more elbow grease, but others are perfect for the Juan tamads among us.

How can I make natural cleaning products at home?

If you can’t find eco-friendly cleaning products in your local supermarket, why not use pantry essentials instead? It’s good for the environment, your health and your budget. Just follow our top tips and easy DIY recipes.

Before you start: things to keep in mind

  • Keep lemons, baking soda and white vinegar as kitchen staples. They’re the core ingredients of most DIY cleaning products.

  • Make your own natural cleaners using the DIY recipes below.

  • If you prefer to use household names, choose products that are highly concentrated as they save on packaging waste.

  • Cleaning products that are natural are usually kinder to your skin. But if you’re a sensitive soul, choose products approved by local environmental organizations.

Cleaning with baking soda

Baking soda contains small amounts of natural acid, making it an excellent natural cleaner!

  • Keep an open box of baking soda in your fridge and food cupboards to absorb bad smells.

  • Sprinkle baking soda on your carpets before vacuuming to freshen the fibers.

  • Sprinkle baking soda on kitchen work surfaces and wipe with a damp cloth to remove dirt, stains, and greasy residue.

  • Use baking soda to clean your oven without chemicals.

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Cleaning with vinegar

Vinegar is acidic, and while it’s not as good at cleaning dirt as baking soda, it may be more effective at removing germs and bacteria.

  • When it comes to cleaning, use white vinegar as it tends to be a lot less smelly.

  • Wipe kitchen and bathroom walls with vinegar to help prevent mold.

  • Mix vinegar with a small amount of salt to clean faucets and sinks.

  • Wipe undiluted vinegar onto the inside of your oven door and leave it to sit for a few minutes before wiping it off to help remove grease stains and food splatters.

Cleaning with lemons

Like vinegar and our local citrus calamansi, lemons are acidic. They’re also a natural source of citric acid, which is a wonder at removing limescale. Not to mention they’ve got antibacterial and deodorizing qualities, which makes them one of the most powerful environmentally friendly cleaning products that are easily accessible, too!

  • Add one cup of olive oil to half a cup of squeezed lemon juice to make your own polish for hardwood furniture.

  • Cut a lemon in half, squeeze on kitchen faucets, and leave overnight to remove limescale.

  • Pop a bowl of lemon juice in your fridge to get rid of the nasty smells.

Removing rust with potatoes

It might sound like a joke, but potatoes contain an acid that dissolves iron oxides that help remove rust from kitchen knives and pans. Dipping half a potato in baking powder and rubbing it on the metal should do the trick!

Polishing with olive oil

Olive oil isn’t just for salads, it’s also an effective natural cleaner that works well on numerous surfaces.

  • Cleaning wood: Add a few drops on a cloth to bring the shine back to your hardwood furniture. It’s also good on leather chairs!

  • Seasoning your patio furniture: Just pour a few drops on a clean cloth and wipe your patio set down every once in a while to help stop the wood from drying out.

  • Removing paint from your hands (or anywhere else you happen to get it): Rub a few drops of oil into your skin and let it rest for a few minutes before washing off with soapy water.

  • Buffing stainless steel: Get a deep and satisfying shine simply by working the oil in with a cloth.

Cleaning with toothpaste

It already does a good job at cleaning your teeth, so why not the rest of the house? Toothpaste contains abrasives, such as calcium carbonate and aluminum oxides, which help break down the plaque on your teeth. It is these ingredients that also make it an effective eco-friendly cleaner around your home. As a bonus, natural toothpastes often contain baking soda.

  • Cleaning and polishing silverware: Rub the paste on with a soft cloth before buffing off with a clean cloth. Make sure you remove it all or rinse well with warm water afterwards.

  • Smoothing out small scratches on a mobile phone screen: Use a tiny amount and then wipe clean with a damp cloth.

  • Getting rid of food smells on your hands: Rub a small amount into your palms and fingers before thoroughly rinsing off.

Descaling with citric acid

Living in a country that relies mostly on a hard water supply for homes, most of us have probably had to deal with limescale. Citric acid is a natural descaler that’s just as powerful as the chemical solutions.

  • Removing limescale stains on toilets: Drizzle a cup of citric acid into the bowl and leave it overnight. You should see a noticeable improvement by the following morning.

  • Getting rid of kettle boiler stains: Start by boiling your kettle. As soon as it clicks off, add a tablespoon of citric acid to the water. Cover the spout with some spare cling wrap or foil and leave it to sit. In most cases, you’ll only need to leave it for half an hour, but if your kettle is seriously stained, it might need to rest overnight. Then just pour the limescale away and rinse to reveal a sparkling kettle.

Making DIY natural cleaning products

If you want to save some cash by making your own 100% natural, non-toxic cleaners, here’s how!

All-purpose natural cleaner

  • Mix one cup of white vinegar, one tablespoon of baking soda and one cup of water together.

  • You can also add a few drops of essential oils for a dash of natural fragrance or 20 drops of lavender oil if you’d like. Not only does lavender add fragrance, it’s also naturally antibacterial.

  • Pour your mixture into a spray bottle and use anywhere you would use a commercial multi-purpose spray.

Bathroom and kitchen cleaner

  • Mix a little lemon juice with salt to create a paste.

  • Use it on a sponge to clean taps, sinks, brass, non-lacquered cabinet handles, and more.

Window cleaner

  • Add a couple of tablespoons of white vinegar to two cups of water.

  • You can also add a squeeze of lemon juice or a few drops of essential oil for fragrance.

  • Pour your mixture into a spray bottle to use for clean, streak free windows.

Staying safe when using DIY cleaning products

Here are three important things to be aware of when you’re making DIY cleaning products:

  1. Stick to well-known recipes for natural cleaners, like the ones we’ve featured.

  2. Don’t mix products that can create toxic gasses such as:

○ Bleach and ammonia

○ Bleach and acids

○ Bleach and rubbing alcohol

○ Bleach and vinegar

○ Hydrogen peroxide and vinegar

3. Research what surfaces each natural cleaner can and can’t be used on, and test on a small area first in case they leave a mark.

Buying environmentally friendly cleaning products

Prefer to have your cleaning products ready mixed? We hear you. If you’re heading to the supermarket to stock up, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Natural’ and ‘environmentally friendly’ don’t always go hand-in-hand

While natural products are generally better for the planet, it’s not always the case. Ingredients like palm oil are often not sustainably-sourced and can result in deforestation, high transport emissions, and even human rights violations. So occasionally, synthetic ingredients can be better for the environment than natural ones.

Ditch packaging waste

Look for ultra-concentrated products as they need less packaging. Avoid ones with plastic packaging that’s difficult to recycle, like shrink wrap. Remember, glass packaging is usually only better than plastic if it can be refilled, as it’s heavier to transport (so leads to more emissions) and more energy-intensive to recycle.

Look for refillable packaging

You know what’s better than recycling packaging? Reusing it. Some brands are cutting their plastic waste by allowing you to refill the bottle. You either top up from a larger bottle in a zero waste store, or buy an ultra-concentrated refill pack to mix with water.

Choose hard-working products

Look for products that help you effectively clean while using enviro-friendly ingredients like Breeze Powder Detergent with EcoClean Technology.

Research a brand’s eco-credentials

If you’re prepared to dig a little deeper, it’s worth checking what the brand itself is doing to become more environmentally friendly. Most brands will have a sustainability report (or at least a page) on their website. It’ll likely cover areas such as CO2 emissions, the sustainability of ingredients and water consumption. When it comes to eco-friendly cleaning products, what’s left out tends to be more important than what’s included. Eco-brands will usually provide a list of any chemicals that they won’t use. Of course, eco-cleaning isn’t just about the products you choose. From using less water, to washing at 30ºC, there are lots of ways to be more environmentally friendly while cleaning your home.

Originally published