The health risks of using commercial, chemical-based cleaners always bothered me, especially since having Ian and Maya. It took me awhile to switch over to greener cleaning products, but I've been very happy since doing so. With a little elbow grease these products clean just as well, if not better, than the store-bought stuff.
My essential "cleaning kit" includes the following :: Dr. Bronner's peppermint Castile soap, Costco-sized white vinegar + baking soda, borax, essential oils, scrubbing brushes, old toothbrushes, and microfiber cloths.
[My cleaning supply carrier full of stuff that rarely gets used.]
A book that really helped me is Green Up Your Cleanup by Jill Potvin Schoff. I use several of her cleaning "recipes" instead of store-bought cleaners ::
2 teaspoons boraxGLASS CLEANER
1/4 teaspoon liquid Castile soap
Put the borax in a 16-oz spray bottle, fill it with hot water, and shake until the borax dissolves. Last, add the Castile soap. Spray on surfaces like counters and walls, let is sit for a little bit, and wipe off with a clean sponge or microfiber cloth.
1 cup distilled white vinegarBAKING SODA SCRUB <-- love this stuff!
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon liquid dish soap (optional)
3-8 drops essential oil like lavender, lemon, peppermint, and tea tree (optional)
Fill a spray bottle with vinegar and water, and shake gently. You can add essential oils to cut the vinegar smell. According to the book, you should use the liquid dish soap in the glass cleaner to dissolve the buildup left behind by commercial glass cleaners. Once that buildup is gone you can omit the soap.
2 tablespoons baking sodaDISINFECTANT
liquid dish soap or Castile soap
Put the baking soda in a wide-mouthed container (I used an old reusable Ziploc sandwich container) and add the soap a little at a time until you have a foamy paste. Apply the paste to what you want to clean with a rag, sponge, or brush and let it sit for a little while before rinsing with vinegar. Spray the vinegar off with water. You can keep the scrub in the container for awhile with the lid on it. But I've gotten so lazy that I just squirt some Castile soap on whatever surface I want to clean and sprinkle on baking soda before scrubbing away.
2 cups waterSchoff has a few other "recipes" I haven't tried yet, like laundry soap and dishwasher soap, both items I still buy at the store (although I try to buy the "green" option, whatever that means). And I still buy toilet cleaner at the store. Every once in awhile I try to use baking soda to scrub the inside of the toilet and then I spray it down with the disinfectant. I'm not sure which is more effective, seeing as my toilet always seems to be dirty ... I'll just have to keep experimenting.
1/4 teaspoon (about 25 drops) tea tree oil
1/4 teaspoon (about 25 drops) lavender oil
Fill a 16-oz spray bottle with water and then add the essential oils. Shake gently before each use. Spray on surfaces and leave to dry.
And I'm leaving you with one last "miracle" cleaning tip (which I read about in a Japanese baking soda + vinegar cleaning book) :: you know that oily buildup that accumulates on stuff near the stove? I've always had a heck of a time scrubbing that crud off my teapot, which I leave on my stovetop. I used abrasive cleaners and hot water and nothing ever worked. Until I read that baking soda alone could clean it up! Sure enough, all you have to do is sprinkle baking soda on the item and scrub with a dry brush (I usually use an old toothbrush) or even your fingers. The oily residue just balls up and crumbles off. Once you're all done rinse it with water.