4 January 2008

Green cleaning - floors and furniture

You have probably spent a lot of money on the floors and furniture in your home so it makes sense toprotect your investment by caring for them properly. You could easily go to the store and buy specialist cleaners for wood, leather, glass, fabric and carpet but if you want to be sure you don't add harmful chemicals to your own environment, use cleaners that you know are safe.

Buying a carpet cleaner or general spray that contains ingredients you don't know and can't even pronounce, could introduce harmful chemicals to your home. You and your family will sit on the furniture you clean, your children will play on the floor, so they must be safe. It is your responsibility as the homemaker to provide a safe and clean environment for the entire family. If you do this the green way, not only are you providing that safety, you'll also save money by using simple cleaners.

Our theoretical room today is the lounge room, or family room. First check the room and remove everything that shouldn't be there - like toys, clothes, cups etc. I'm guessing you don't live solo in your home, so make sure the children help you with this. It's an easy thing, even for a small child, to carry toys back to their own room. They can also carry clothes to the laundry and whatever needs to go to the kitchen. If you need heavy things moved - for instance, if you're going to vacuum behind the sofa, ask your husband or older children to help you.

When the room is clear of extras, you can start cleaning. Make sure you have your general cleaning kit with you so you don't keep running back to get cloths. When you decide which of the cleaners below work well in your home, add them, in a clearly marked bottle, to your general cleaning kit for future use.

There is a general debate over whether it's prudent to vacuum or sweep before you dust, or after. I vacuum/sweep first, because I believe that sweeping and vacuuming can create its own dust. So if you have a carpeted floor, vacuum it, making sure you use the crevice tool to get right into the join between the wall and carpet. While you have that tool on the vac, check for cobwebs and quickly suck them up if you find some. Also with the crevice tool, go along the windows and remove all the dust on the window sill and the recess the window fits into.

If you have wooden floors, you'll need to vacuum/sweep before you mop, but the mopping is the last thing you'll do. So for now, just vacuum or sweep, then go on to your furniture.

If the furniture is dusty, wipe the dust off with a slightly moist terry or cotton cloth. Then clean it with one of the two cleaners below:

All-Purpose Cleaner #1
½ teaspoon washing soda
2 teaspoons borax
½ teaspoon grated soap or homemade laundry detergent
2 cups hot water
Combine the washing soda, borax, and soap in a spray bottle. Pour in hot water, screw on the spray bottle top and shake until the minerals are completely dissolved. This cleaner can be stored in this spray bottle indefinitely, so mark it “HOMEMADE ALL PURPOSE CLEANER” with a permanent marker.

Spray the cleaner on surfaces you wish to clean. Use your terry cloth to rub on as you go. For hard to move dirt, leave the cleanser on for a few minutes before wiping it off. Shake the bottle each time before you use it. Dry with a clean dry cotton cloth.

All-Purpose Cleaner #2
¼ cup baking soda (bicarb)
1 cup ammonia
2 litres warm water
Mix all the ingredients together and store in a sealed plastic container that is marked with the name. Dry with a clean dry cotton cloth.

This cleaner can also be used as a floor cleaner – tiles, laminate or vinyl or for general cleaning of walls, counter tops or sinks.

Wooden furniture polish
½ teaspoon oil, such as olive oil
¼ cup vinegar or fresh lemon juice
Mix the ingredients in a glass jar. Dab a soft rag into the solution and wipe onto wooden surfaces. Polish with a dry cotton cloth. Seal in the glass jar and store indefinitely.

TV and appliances
Wipe the TV screen, as well as the glass on any picture frames you have, with plain vinegar on a clean cloth . Wipe the other appliances such as DVD player, stereo, remote controls etc with a barely moist cloth. Dry everything with a clean dry cotton cloth.

When all your furniture is clean, fluff up your cushions, take rugs or blankets outside and shake them, before folding and placing on the sofa again. Stack magazines, books and newspapers neatly.

If you've already vacuumed your carpeted floor, you've finished.

If you have floors that are not carpeted, now is the time to mop the floors. Choose the cleaners below suitable for the type of floor you have. Make sure your mop isn't too wet as you don't want the moisture to seep into the floor at any of the joins.
Please note: If you have wooden floors, you don't have to wash them every time you sweep or vacuum, just wash when you see the floor is dirty.

Floor cleaner – floating wood, tiles, vinyl or laminate
½ cup white vinegar plus 4 litres hot water in a bucket and a clean mop will clean up all but the worst floor. If you have a really dirty floor to deal with, add ¼ cup grated homemade soap to this mix.

Wooden floor cleaner
2 tablespoons homemade vegetable soap - grated
½ cup vinegar
500 mls strong black tea (about a pint)
bucket warm water
Combine all the ingredients in a bucket.

A clean mop is a necessity when cleaning floors. If you start with a dirty mop you’ll just loosen the dirt on the mop by making it wet again and then spread that on the floor. When you finished your cleaning jobs, rinse the mop out to get rid of the loose dirt then let it soak in the bucket half filled with water and a ¼ cup of bleach. Let the mop soak for 30 minutes, rinse the bleach out and dry the mop in the sun.

Tell everyone in the house not to step on the floor until it's completely dry.

Now that is done, it's time for a cuppa. : )



  1. Thank you for all the cleaning recipes Rhonda. I am sure my house is begging to look cleaner. I have managed to get a hold of borax, washing sida and caustic soda (for my soap) but a couple of things still elude me.I am also begiing to suspect that the very expensive in wash stain remover which i have used for some years (£5.98 a tub) is actually washing soda (56p for same sized bag) but the pruinbt is actually too small to read even with my glasses. Can it be that they dont want us to know what is in the product??
    Happy cleaning & best wishes

  2. Hi Lizzie. I bet they don't want you to know what's in it. Washing soda is sodium carbonate, get your magnifying glass and see what you can find out. Borax, washing soda and soap are your main cleaners. What can't you find?

    Happy cleaning to you too. : )

  3. Amonia & hydrogen peroxide, although my borax and caustic soda had to come from ebay,which i would prefer to have bought locally. oh, and as I am working my way through all your older posts, I am also on the look out for a mother of vinegar and seeds to see if I can grow loofas on my allotment!
    I think I am definitely a convert, I have never been more satisfied with the way I can see life going.

  4. You should be able to find ammonia in the cleaning aisle at your supermarket, if not, try the hardware store. The hardware might also have caustic soda and borax too. Peroxide will be at the chemist.

    It's good to read that you're feeling optimistic about your future. It is a great way to live.

  5. Hi Rhonda Jean,
    THanks for another great post.
    I use pretty much the same homemake cleaner except for the last one.I'll try that one. Thanks .
    Blessins', Lib

  6. Thanks for this - I am going greener & simpler all the time - your post remind made me feel like I had a new flylady mother (a good thing!)

    Home made vegetable soap istructions would be appreciated.

    Plus shampoo???

    Many thanks for sharing with us all

    Love Leanne

  7. Are you a mind reader or something Rhonda? How did you know that I was looking for just this? I think you may need to repost this because it's going to be worn out by the time I'm finished with.

    Thank you for your lovely New Year's gift and have a great New Year - I know you will without me saying it.

  8. Lady you have the best and most inspirational blog in the world. I've been lurking for a long time but have to say thank you.

  9. Rhonda- this is just what I needed. It is very very dry here in New Mexico and the olive oil and lemon juice used as a polish would do so much more good to the wood than all the spray polishes I have used over the years. Thank-you so much!!

  10. Hi Rhonda,

    Is there an alternative to borax that can be used in these cleaners? Borax is banned from sale here in Denmark.


  11. It's good to see so many of you are enthusiastic about your cleaning.

    Rebekka, just leave the borax out, dear. It was be as effective but it will still work.

  12. Rhonda, you're a star for taking the time to type these out. Well done! :) Don't you just love that Pear's soap picture? Happy times :) Best, Becca

  13. Hi Rhonda,

    Any suggestions for how to get some dried red wine out of a cream carpet?

    Thanks so much for your other cleaning tips. I am determined that things will become a lot simpler around here in the future!

  14. What kind of a mop do you use on wood floors?

  15. Thanks for these tips, Rhonda.
    I have a beige carpet in my living room. You didn't mention what cleaners to use when the carpet needs a cleaning. I've also got a few spots too. I have a toddler and I don't want her playing on a carpet full of harmful chemicals. Any suggestions?


  16. Thanks for the recipe for furniture polish--I've been looking for an alternative to sprays (which can make floors slippery when they spray out) and for something that is really lemony fresh. :-)

  17. Thanks for all the cleaning recipes. Recently I have started to switch to products that I know are safer, like the Pure Essentials line for laundry detergent. It can be hard to find products to trust, so thanks for this great post!

  18. LashyLashla, if it's a relatively new stain, you might have some success with glycerin and white vinegar. It's a tricky thing to do because you want to wet the pile of the carpet but not the base or the underlay. Get several clean cotton cloths and dip one in glycerin. Wipe the stain making sure you don't rub into the carpet. Leave for 15 minutes and wipe with white vinegar. It will take you several goes but you have to keep wiping the stain on the pile without rubbing it in. Keep changing your cloth so you're not moving the wine stain around. It will take you a while to do it and the success depends on how long the stain has been there but if it's a freshish stain it's worth a try.

    Anon, I have a cotton mop - the old fashioned kind and a fake chamois mop. The chamois mop is good but unless I clean it thoroughly after use it tends to smell. I usually use the cotton mop with one of those buckets with the little well in it to help wring it out.

    I am Anna, if you have milk stains in the carpet, a clean with with soap and water is the best. Try to just wet the pile, not the backing or the underlay. For the wine stain, see above. To do a general clean of the carpet, use the method I talk about here: http://down---to---earth.blogspot.com/2007/12/saturdays-work.html Good luck. : )

  19. When you have something like the all purpose cleaner (I think #2) made up with 2 litres of fluid, how long does such a thing last, please? Thank you.

  20. anon, If you're asking how well it keeps, it can be stored in a sealed container for about 6 months.

  21. Oh thank you so much for these recipes I wish I would of come for a visit before I used this Murphy oil soap. I could not remember the research I had done for the vinegar. Would you mind if I link a post to yours I have a lot of ladies asking for this info

  22. Please do Donette, it would be my pleasure.


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