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Green Cleaning Tips

Homemade cleaning alternatives use natural ingredients that cause less damage to the environment. By replacing household cleaners, which may contain harsh chemicals, you can reduce the amount of contaminants you put into water systems, dispose of in a landfill or release into the air.

Green Cleaning at Home Brochure (PDF 288KB, 2 pages)

Use the following information to help you make a switch to greener cleaning in your home.


Glossary of green cleaning terms

Biodegradable – the term that describes the natural ability of an item to be broken down into its most basic components by exposure to air, sunlight, water, and microorganisms. 

Compostable – the term that describes the ability of a substance or material to be broken down into compost in a reasonable amount of time in either a municipal waste management program or in a backyard composter. Food, paper, and yard waste are generally compostable, but other items will differ depending on if you are participating in Peel's Organics Recycling Program or composting in your own backyard.

Essential Oils – are concentrated, fragrant plant oils.  These oils are often used in cleaning products and perfumes and can be found in most health stores.

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Cleaning supplies

Green Cleaning begins in your supply closet. Be sure to have the right tools for the cleaning jobs around your home and to take the proper care to keep them in working condition. Maintaining the tools you already have ensures that less waste ends up in a landfill, and keeps more money in your pocket.

Following is a list of essential tools for your green cleaning collection.

  • Microfiber mop
  • Sponge mop
  • Broom
  • Dust pan and brush
  • Washable microfiber cloths
  • Steel wool
  • Scouring pads (without detergent already in them)
  • Natural sponges
  • Recycled paper towels
  • Rags or old t-shirts
  • Buckets
  • Old toothbrushes (dip into a little hydrogen peroxide to disinfect regularly)
  • Large scrub brush
  • Squeegee
  • Gloves

Consider the following when using sponges and paper towels:

  • Sponges trap dirt and bacteria and can be a perfect breeding ground for germs. Be sure to rinse them thoroughly and replace them often.
  • You can also boil or toss natural cellulose sponges in the microwave (for two minutes) to disinfect them.
  • If you are using green cleaning products, you can throw your used paper towels in the green bin to be composted.

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Recipes

Try these easy and affordable recipes in your own home.

In the kitchen

Oven Cleaner

  • Baking soda and water

    Sprinkle baking soda to cover the messy area in the oven. Spray with water until very damp and let sit. Re-wet once or twice, then let sit overnight. In the morning, wipe the mess away with a little warm water.

Mildew and Germ Killer

  • 2 cups water
  • ¼ tsp tea tree oil
  • ¼ tsp lavender oil

    Fill spray bottle with water. Add tea tree and lavender oils. Shake gently before each use. Spray on surfaces and leave to dry – do not wipe.

In the bathroom

Tub and Tile Cleaner

  • ¼ cup baking soda
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • 5 cups water

    Mix baking soda and white vinegar with warm water. Apply directly to tub and tiles. Scrub and rinse clean.

Toilet Cleaner

  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Lemon juice

    Combine ingredients in equal parts in the toilet bowl and scrub well with a toilet brush. Let sit for at least half an hour before flushing.

General household cleaners

Wood and Furniture Polish

  • Lemon juice
  • Olive or vegetable oil

    Use a mix of one part lemon juice with two parts olive or vegetable oil and polish with a soft cloth.

Window Cleaner

  • Vinegar
  • Water

    Use a mix of one part vinegar and one part water and store in a spray bottle.
    Optional: Add a couple of drops of your favourite essential oil for fragrance.

Metal Polish

  • Toothpaste

    Spread a small amount of toothpaste on a dry microfiber cloth and rub on metal surface. Wipe away with clean cloth.

Water Rings on Wood

  • Toothpaste or mayonnaise

    Apply toothpaste or mayonnaise to a damp cloth and rub into the ring. Once the ring is removed, wipe the area clean and buff the entire surface with a dry cloth.

Shoe Polish

  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice

    Apply oil with a few drops of lemon juice to shoes with a thick cotton or terry rag. Leave for a few minutes. Wipe and buff with a clean, dry rag.

Mothballs

  • Dried lemon peels

    Simply toss into a chest, or into a cheese cloth and hang in a closet.

Green recipes for outdoors

Organic Pesticide (to prevent aphids or munching beetles)

  • 1 pressure spray bottle
  • 4 litres (16 cups) of warm water
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • 2 tablespoons of non-detergent dish soap
  • 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper

In a large bowl, mix ingredients and pour into the spray bottle. Spray and drench affected plants thoroughly. This mixture will not harm plants.

Slugs Bait

  • Beer

    Slugs are attracted to the yeast in beer. If you place a shallow container of fresh beer on the ground near your garden, slugs will crawl into the container and drown. In the morning, empty the traps of both beer and slugs and refill it the next evening.

Fungicide

  • 1 pressure spray bottle
  • 4 litres (16 cups) of warm water
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • 2 tablespoons of non-detergent dish soap
  • ½ cup of baking soda

    In a large bowl, mix ingredients and pour into the spray bottle. Spray and drench affected plants thoroughly. This mixture will not harm plants.

Weed Control

  • Vinegar

    Vinegar may be used as a herbicide. Spray pure vinegar (10 percent acidity) on weeds along pathways and driveways. Do not get the vinegar on garden plants or grass as it will burn them.

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Green cleaning with kids

Getting your children involved in making a recipe for an alternative cleaner is a good way to make green cleaning a habit in your home. By having your children take part in green cleaning, it may help encourage them to assist around the house.

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How to properly dispose of cleaning products

Safe disposal of household cleaning products is an essential part of protecting our environment.

Cleaning products with a flammable, corrosive, explosive or toxic symbol should be disposed of free of charge at a Region of Peel Community Recycling Centre.

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Air purifying plants

Plants are an attractive, efficient and inexpensive way of keeping the air in your house clean. Houseplants help to keep a room properly humidified by emitting large amounts of water vapour through both the soil and leaves. Houseplants provide protection against airborne mould spores and bacteria while boosting the oxygen levels of indoor air.

Plants also help to purify the air in your house by absorbing and breaking down airborne chemicals. But one plant won’t cut it. Because each house has different air quality and each plant provides unique air purification properties, you’ll need a selection of plants throughout your home. Choose the best growing location for each plant and pick plants that reflect your home’s style – the more plants, the better.

Here is a list of some popular house plants known for their air purifying potential.

  • Boston Fern
  • English Ivy
  • Peace Lily
  • Rubber Plant
  • Ficus alii
  • Bamboo Palm
  • Spider Plant
  • Dracaena Janet Craig

Additional ideas for keeping the air in your home naturally clean include:

  1. Don’t smoke indoors.
  2. Clean humidifiers with vinegar and water solution often.
  3. Ventilate rooms well and often.
  4. Clean air conditioners and change filters regularly.
  5. Make sure that paints and cleaners are tightly sealed and properly stored.

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Where to find more information

This website is just a start to green cleaning. There are many resources available to help you learn more about green cleaning.

www.ecologo.org - This website provides information about EcoLogo, North America's largest, most respected environmental standard and certification mark. EcoLogo provides customers (public, corporate and consumer) with assurance that the products and services bearing the logo meet stringent standards of environmental leadership.

www.sinsofgreenwashing.org - This website provides information to educate both consumers and marketers to help them avoid greenwashing. Greenwashing is the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service. "Green washed" products are usually labelled as "environmentally friendly" or "green" but are very similar to regular products of the same kind.

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Revised: Monday February 08 2010

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