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8 July 2009

Biggest Kitchen Table - Green Cleaning

How are you going on your no spending task? I know Pippa has bought more milk for her boys, it's incredible how much milk teenage boys drink. If you've had to buy something, just get back to no spending for the rest of the week. If you're haven't gone to the shops at all, well done! We'll see the week out together with our money in our pockets and not handed over to someone else.

I've loved reading the comments for our biggest kitchen table series. I haven't had much of a chance to comment myself because I've been at my voluntary job the past couple of days, but I read every one and I learn and smile along with the rest of you. We have built a community of supportive and intelligent people here and I always look forward to seeing what little gems are left in the comments section.

Today we'll focus on green cleaning - which is all that cleaning we do without the use of harsh chemicals that are in almost all the supermarket cleansers. We've been hoodwinked into believing that we need a different cleaner for each job and that what you use in the kitchen or to clean the bathroom floor can't be used for other cleaning jobs. That's hogwash. We're encouraged to buy a different product for all types of cleaning but most of us know that soap, vinegar or bicarb/baking soda will clean almost anything. If you go to this old post, you'll find recipes for making all sorts of cleaners using basic requirements like those just mentioned, and, as usual, if you have some ideas or recipes to share, we would love you to share them.

Additional reading from my archives:
Green cleaning - floors and furniture
Green cleaning - the bathroom
Green cleaning - the kitchen
Frugal cleaning
Cleaning with rags
Establishing household routines

Our changes
  1. I'm currently knitting a few lighter dishcloths. I'll post about these soon.
  2. I'm making liquid soap that I'll post about soon.
Things to think about
  • Make sure you label your bottles. This is especially necessary if you have small children living in the home or visiting you. Keep your recipe sheet in your home management journal so that if a child does swallow some of your cleaners, you'll know immediately what's in there and can take the sheet to the ER if you have to go there.
  • Never mix ammonia and bleach together - it's very dangerous.
  • Ridding your home of harsh chemicals will not only save you a lot of money, it's much healthier for you and your family.
  • Our grandmothers and their grandmothers used these types of cleaners. It's only in the past 50 years that we've used what is common now.
  • Make up cleaning kits to keep in the bathroom, kitchen and laundry. Each kit can be stored in a little bucket or old ice cream container that you can fill with warm water if you need it. Keep each kit in the room you use it in so it's always ready for its purpose.


  1. I had to chuckle this morning as I washed my hair with baking soda (and a splash of white vinegar for conditioning) ... then I moved on to cleaning the sinks, tub, and toilet with the same container of baking soda. What an easy and inexpensive all purpose product. We're almost rid of our store bought products. As they are used up, I make up a family friendly replacement. Thanks for your post about the cleaning products (link).

  2. I love this audit. I'm translating the steps or the Dutchies that visit my blog.
    My no spending week has turned into a low spending week. I had to do a little shopping today. I got the eggs for free (I had coupons) and I even sold some old magazines this week, so I've earned 8,50 euros.
    This audit is making me very aware of how we live and which things are up for improvement.


  3. I have gotten all my green cleaning recipes from this blog. At first I was concerned that baking soda would be too harsh for my hair, but it feels clean, is easy to manage,I have had no ill effects at all and I have used it for months. I also like that it is earth and people friendly, easy and cheap. I have passed this information on and in my circle of friends there are many new converts. Let's all keep up the good work!

  4. I have made laundry soap twice now and I love it! The clothing does not need any fabric softener at all!
    It is so much thicker and so is managed a bit differently but I like that.
    .25 cent an ounce cant be beat!~

  5. HI Rhonda Jean,I am loving this series of posts.
    About a month ago I made some Liquid Hand soap. The link is below
    It was SO easy to do.And now that my Lavender is in full bloom I plan on making another batch using my Lavender.
    Keep up the good work.Your blog keeps me going and when I feel like my work is not worth it your blog really cheers me up.

  6. Rhonda, I Love this series!
    I have learned so much through your postings and the comments! I link to your blog more than any other!
    Our home is becoming more frugal and sustainable, and financially independent and I
    Thank You and God Bless You for sharing the Knowledge!
    Like My closing statement on my blog says
    It maybe a frugal life---but it's our life!
    We are enjoying Life so much more!
    Haven't spent this week so far!YEAH

  7. We're making some progress in this area -- using up the last of our commercial dish and clothes washing soaps (and about to make a batch of your homemade soaps), and use mostly baking soda and vinegar for our other household cleaning. We still have some commercial cleaners to use up. I think I have a lifetime supply of window cleaner! But I know we certainly won't be buying any more.

    Oh, and I'm amazed to report that no-spend week is going very well!

  8. Mrs Mac .. my hubby found using the baking soda and vinegar cured his dandruff within a week! :)

    I'm still learning in the department of laundry soaps, so thank you again Rhonda! :)

  9. About a year ago, I Freecycled the store-bought cleaners I had about the house (I didn't want to throw them away, but I definitely didn't want to use them any more, so Freecycle seemed a good choice). Since then we've been using baking soda, vinegar, and a little dish soap to clean. It really works - and I'm so happy that we don't have the fumes in the house from using the old cleaners any more!!

  10. I'm the biggest fan in the world of vinegar and bi-carb. I haven't used store-bought cleaning products for about two years now. Thank you for these helpful posts. I have not taken part in the no-buy week this time (will definitely be doing this sometime soon though) but have been thinking carefully about what I use at home.
    Does anyone have any suggestions for rubbish bags in the kitchen? Can you buy biodegradable ones anywhere?

  11. Hooray an area I feel in control of. I have never been a commercial cleaner user and I am so glad. My kids know to reach for the lavender or tea tree sprays or use the Enjo cloths. Cleaning is simple and less scary without all those weird chemicals. Looking forward to the new dishcloths.

  12. So far this week - starting Sunday afternoon - I have spent nothing, in fact haven't been near the shops.
    I currently use baking soda in my dishwasher along with half a piece of commercial dishwashing tablets. (This is only to use up these expensive items before going onto baking soda entirely. Same goes for other commercial products I have in my cupboards.)
    I love your blog and check it every day. Would love to put a link to my blog which is mostly about writing but does have things about life in general as well.

  13. Morning Rhonda. :)

    Our no-spend week is also a low-spend week. We spent $20 on groceries last night, are posting a birthday present today, and dh bought his weekly train ticket along with petrol. All these things are budgeted for.

    I'm also replacing my commercial cleaning products as they run out.

    Cath in Sydney

  14. I haven't had a no spend week like I intended but more of a low spend/mindful spending week. I am much more aware of my purchases and that is a good thing!
    I have some cleaning products (environmentally friendly) that I will finish using up but then plan on making my own products using your recipes. Thanks for all you do Rhonda and thanks to everyone for sharing their ideas!

  15. Good morning Rhonda, this is a great series, thanks so much.My no spending week is going well if not perfectly, I had to pick up two things yesterday but overall it's going well. I pulled out my old price book (made from your suggestion) to update soon. What a great tool that is, you really know if a price is good or not.

  16. Hi Rhonda,

    I have been following your blog for months now and have not ever posted a comment but have to say that you have such an incredible vault of knowledge. Barely a day goes by when I am not running about through your site gaining info! I think your information about green cleaners is especially important as I believe it makes such a huge difference not having chemicals in your life.

    Thank you for your always amazing insights. :) I am now off to write a post about green cleaners for my blog.

  17. No spending here yet! :)

    Thanks for the challenge. It really makes one aware of being nickled and dimed to death.

  18. You mentioned I believe that you should not use borax in your clothes washing powder recipe if you are using the gray water. What would happen if you did? What does it harm? Also does that mean to not use it in the grass or is borax ok there? Is it just to not use it to water the fruit trees and veggies? I want to make up the washing powder but without the borax it will not work as good will it?? Is there a way to compensate for not having it in the powder or a substitute for it? Sorry for all the questions. I am about out of my commercial powder and want to make a batch. Jody

  19. Hi Jody. It is a naturally occurring mineral but vegetables do not like too much, and will suffer if exposed. Even grass does not like it. If you're using your grey water in the yard, don't add borax. Add a little more washing soda if you like but overall, it will still work without the borax.

    Here is a fact sheet about borax.

  20. Hi Rhonda

    I'll repeat my hint about cleaning ceramic cooktops with a mix of salt and baking soda, and a damp (cotton) cloth. This does a much better job that the commercial cleaners. I found it even removed "ancient baked on marks".

    Have been making my own laundry powder since December and loving the results. Like Donetta I find there is no need for fabric softenener.

    I don't have the space in my wee home to make my own soap, and hope some of your NZ readers can help me:

    Where can I buy a basic plant based soap (i.e. not made from tallow) that is reasonably priced? I'm happy to buy by mail order as I don't drive, but am not prepared to pay "green boutique" prices.

    Thanks for another great Kitchen Table,

    Michelle in Wellington

  21. Hi,
    I felt compelled to comment on your no spending week. I have tried the same thing in the past and it has been very hard, costs come up unexpectedly or a forgotten bill comes along, and wham, you've spent money and feel like a failure. I tend to agree with the other people who've commented and said they've had 'low spend weeks' and think that this is probably more realistic. I know you've pointed out that everyone is in different circumstances and that's exactly right and I hope people really take that in..
    There's a danger in people feeling like they are failures if they've spent some money and then they give up and go back to their old ways. Spend less and spend mindfully, that's what I try anyway!
    Keep up the great work,

  22. I am loving this Biggest Kitchen Table week Rhonda-Jean, thank you so much for initiating it and for continuing to inspire us.

    My no-spend week is going really well. I had to spend 20 pence on parking and have put in an order for a fortnights 'on-line' groceries, (to be delivered next Tuesday so I didn't think it counted as a 'this week' spend), but that's all. I love the freedom of being able to walk through the local shopping centre knowing that I won't be stopping to buy anything - it's very liberating and I'm going to do a 'no-spend' week every 6 weeks or so. I already use vinegar and washing soda crystals for most of my cleaning but although I will rinse my hair with vinegar I haven't plucked up the courage to use the baking powder to wash my hair - yet! Can you use it on coloured hair? How much do you use? Do use wet the hair first?

    How is the olive oil candle experiment coming along?

    Many, many thanks, to you and all the ladies who contribute to the comments - they make inspiring reading too!

    BB Sheryl

  23. Hello Rhonda, thank you for asking. It's going very well, I have to say. There were moments I thought I had to go out to buy something, but then I remembered my commitment wit you. I thought about what I was going to buy and replaced it by something I was having already at home. And you know what I like about it the most? My husband's also enthusiastic!

    About your cleaning part: that's a really big challange. First of all I'm going to read all about it at your links and the given comments.

    Nice day and greetings from Holland!

  24. Our no spending week has gone so well, I will be aiming to do this on a monthly basis..I have to stop tomorrow as I need to take the children shopping for school supplies.Next time I will be more organized ahead of time....I have followed along on my blog each day linking to you, there has been so many good tips around the blogger kitchen table....

  25. I began experimenting with baking soda and vinegar in the last month. I do use them for my hair and my face and love the results. As I finish up other store bought products, I will begin experimenting and replacing them with the homemade recipes.

  26. Hi Rhonda,

    I have done very well on my "no-spend" week other than I had to pickup my daughters bike after a repair and then pay for it. I wanted to not spend at all but that was a necessary for her. Other than that I have NOT spent one minute in any store and have not bought anything at all! I have to say that having no money really helped. I also wanted to say that there are many times that we go a week without spending so for me this wasn't at all difficult. I really need you to summarize how to make some of these cleaning items (maybe it's there already). I'm not sure where to look. I'd love the hair wash and conditioner, a multi-purpose spray for counters, etc. dish soap, laundry soap. Can these household cleaners be put in a sprayer and used on counters, floors, windows interchangeably? I want to make this switch soon. Thanks, Rhonda for this series!


  27. Hi RJ, Greetings from Texas! I'm about to make my first batch of laundry detergent, but there's one snag. The recipe calls for a bar of "pure soap", and the only thing I could find here is a bar called Zote: white laundry soap with a minimum fatty acid content of 66%. Would that work? If not, is there someplace on-line that I could order the pure soap from?

    HCH (aka Becky T. Lane)

  28. As of this morning, I'm still in the no-spend world. But today I will travel into the middle of Amish and Mennonite territory here in the Shenandoah Valley. Will I buy any fresh produce while I'm there???? (If I do, I will confess to spending. lol)

    Can't wait to read your post on making bar soap. I have not tried that yet and want to do it this year. Already asked my husband to build a small wooden mold for me since we have scrap plywood.

  29. I think there is tremendous value in a no-spend week. It helps retrain habits but it also helps you learn a little about how you think. I need an item right now that is very inexpensive and I forgot to get before the week started. But it has been very good for me to do without it and have to improvise. I have had to think about what "need" means. I have had to consider how to make or do without.

    I could run to town and buy it. It would be a low-spend thing for sure. But I really am valuing the change in focus and mindset of a no-spend week.

  30. Thankyou so much for answering my questions. Yes Rhonda I we do use all our washing gray water to water the yards. It does go on two of the fruit trees too. It only reaches that far so none of this water goes on the veggies and the rest of the fruits. It's shame borax could do harm as I take it it is a help in the cleaning process or would not be added! We now use a natural fragrance free liquid detergent. We've been using this same product for years. We only use 1/3 or less of what it calls for and seems to work just fine with so little. If I have a stain I rub it with Fells Naptha laundry soap bar before washing. Never use any softner and line dry everything all the time. Towels that are not soft only tell me I am the first to use it! They act like a gentle loofa so what is the problem with that? Right away they soften up anyway. We all use something to get the dry skin off anyway so why not get a little of that action when you use your clean line dryed towel!! :) I am one of those old dogs that do learn new tricks! Thank you for teaching me!! Jody

  31. Has anyone else had their liquid laundry detergent end up VERY THIN?
    I am wondering what I did wrong, so I don't repeat my booboo, but am using this stuff anyway. Any help would be appreciated!!

  32. I think the last tip about a little cleaning set for each room (where appropriate!) is the most useful thing for me today. I don't have too many chemicals in the house anyway, but never seem to have the right things in the right place. Thanks again for another informative, useful and thought making article.
    (I am not taking part in the no/low-spend week, haven't been keeping up with my blog reading lately, but I might try next week instead).

  33. Thanks for doing this series! :D Changes I've made: I FINALLY made a successful batch of bread, without a breadmaker! I never thought I would be able to do that. :O My dear hubby LOVED it, and asked me to make more. Oh yes, I'm quite please with myself! :P (I've had quite a few UN-successful batches...hee hee!)
    I've planted some tomato plants. We moved late this yr, and in Canada you have to plant earlier than July to get a good crop so the garden will have to wait. :( I've delved into natural healing with herbs and teas instead of the antibiotics I was raised on- so enlightening! Thank you for encouraging me and everyone else to not go for the "norm" and what's commercialized. Have a spectacular day!

  34. PS- I'm also making my own laundry soap :D It's so exciting to be able to learn all these new things. :D

  35. I love the idea of a cleaning kit. I'm going to have to do this.

  36. Chris in EnglandJuly 09, 2009 4:51 am

    Hi Rhonda, I live in a 'hard water' area and although I used home made laundry powder and liquid for a while, found that it left an increasing amount of grey slime in my front-loading washing machine and it began to smell. The white washing quickly became yellow and I'm afraid I went back to traditional washing powder, but I don't use nearly as much as it says on the box.


  37. Chris, add half a cup of white vinegar as a rinse aide. That will cut through that build up.

    Karen Sue, sometimes the laundry liquid separates and you get a watery bit and a gel bit. Has that happened? That is fine, just mix it together and make sure you scoop up water and gel when you add it to the machine.

    Little chrissy, my mother used to wrap all her rubbish in newspaper and add wrapped parcels to an unlined bin.

    Becky, Zote soap is fine.

    BB Sheryl, wet your hair first, put a scoop of baking soda in the palm of your hand and add a few drops of water to make a paste, then just rub it through.

  38. Thought I would check in again just to say that I didn't spend any money, despite travellng near farm produce today. So far, so good -- I'm still holding all of my pennies. lol

  39. So what do you all think about soap scum?? Back when I used supermarket soap, we never had scum in the shower. Now that we make our own soap, it really builds up. We have tried many different things to get rid of it, but nothing seems to do the trick. The best we've done so far is a spray bottle full of vinegar, but it's a lot of work and doesn't get it all off.
    I love this topic. Commercial cleaning products are expensive, wasteful, and harmful. Thanks

  40. I use vinegar and bicarb for all of my cleaning but i have a problem with moldy grout between the tiles in the shower. They were black when I moved in and even after repeated scrubbing (lots of elbow grease!) it still hasn't come off. I was going to surcumb and go and buy a mold removing product but thought I ask here first...doesn't anyone know a natural mold remover?

  41. Ariad, add ¼ cup of borax to 2 cups of hot water and spray that onto your tiles and grout. Don't rinse it off. It might need a few applications. Borax and hot water morph into peroxide that will kill the mold.

  42. Thank you for the hair cleaning info, Rhonda Jean, and also for the mould cleaning tip. My shower room is only tiny and having two teenage sons who, (despite all pleas and threats to the contrary!), spend ages soaking in the shower, it means that it gets mouldy very quickly. I've used every commercial mould cleaner I can lay my hands upon but it doesn't fit with my green ethics, (or my purse!). I have some borax, shall go and put the kettle on.....




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