Non Toxic Solutions to Clean Your Toilet

Does anybody like scrubbing toilets? I don’t think so. I mean, I certainly appreciate indoor plumbing, but that doesn’t mean I have to like cleaning the toilet bowl.

And those conventional toilet bowl cleaners have some not so nice chemicals in them. Some are made with strong acids or caustics that can cause burns on the skin. Some have synthetic scents that contain hormone disrupting phthalates.

But, an easy way to clean the toilet is to use my favorite homemade soft scrub followed with a vinegar chaser. I talked about this non toxic option for cleaning toilets on CBS’ The Talk.

So, first, to make the soft scrub. Take an empty squeeze or squirt bottle – be green and re-use a ketchup or mustard bottle (cleaned out of course) and add some baking soda. Now, how much depends on the size of your squirt bottle. Try 1/4 cup to start and add to the bottle with a funnel. Then add liquid castile soap. My fave is Dr. Bronner’s rose scented, but you can use whatever castille soap (a vegetable based liquid soap) you like. Just add until you like the consistency.

I happen to like this soft scrub a little runny. Okay, you can use the soft scrub for counters, sinks, etc. but you can also use it to clean the toilet. Just squirt up under the rim to coat the bowl (like your typical toilet bowl cleaner), let sit, and then follow with some distilled white vinegar. The vinegar and baking soda will react, cleaning your toilet without scrubbing. If your toilet is in bad shape to start, then you can just sprinkle in baking soda to start, followed with vinegar, and allow to foam for 10 minutes or so before flushing.

Another option is 2 parts Borax to 1 part lemon juice.

Here’s a video showing how to make the soft scrub if you need it:

#Ecowed Twitter Party – Method’s New Antibacterial Cleaning Products

Do you think that bleach is necessary to kill germs in your house?

Do you want to cheat on your bleach but are worried that surfaces just won’t be clean enough without it?

Are you tired of making your own cleaners but don’t want to buy conventional cleaners because they can contain nasty chemicals?

Well, come learn about Method’s new line of anti-bacterial cleaners during this Wednesday’s #ecowed Twitter party. The party is sponsored by Method, and we will be talking about Method’s line of botanical based antibacterial cleaners. These products use thymol as the active ingredient to disinfect.

The #ecowed party is November 17, 2010 from 7 to 8 pm Pacific. You  just need to tweet with the #ecowed hashtag during they party and follow me, TheSmartMama, and our sponsor, MethodHome.

Now, I have to admit, the cleaners aren’t perfect in terms of ingredients from a green perspective. For example, the Method Antibacterial Kitchen Cleaner has thyme oil, oregano oil, sodium lauryl sulfate, citric acid, copper sulfate pentahydrate (< 15 ppm Cu++), a fragrance oil blend, and water. Now, the sodium lauryl sulfate may be of concern to some. But, this isn’t sodium laureth sulfate, which can be contaminated with the carcinogen 1,4 dioxane. No, this is sodium lauryl sulfate which has a reputation for being a carcinogen. But, there is no evidence that SLS is a carcinogen. In fant, that story persists online despite the complete lack of scientific support. SLS can, however, be an irritant in beauty products, but that usually isn’t a concern when it is used in cleaning products. Of more concern is that SLS is synthesized by reacting lauryl alcohol with sulfuric acid, and the lauryl alcohol usually comes from coconut or palm kernel oil. Since palm oil raises concerns about deforestation, Method only works with suppliers taht are part of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil and is also working to develop a sustainable American source of palm oil. As for the fragrance oil blend, it is a combination of synthetic and essential oils. Synthetic oils can be problemmatic, and are derived from a non-renewable resourc. However, the synthetic oils are phthalate free. So, good, but not perfect.

But, all in all, these are pretty good products to buy if you want a greener product from a company committed to doing good things and trying to be green.

During the Twitter party, Method will have an expert environmental chemist to answer questions about the products and their ingredients, as well as concerns over sources of ingredients and packaging.

Not sure if the products will work? You can check out the reviews from some of the bloggers that participated in a tour of the Method Antibacterial products:

And we’ve got prizes to boot. We’ve got Method’s Fight the Flu kits and a dish soap/kitchen hand wash bundle. Just leave a comment to be eligible to win a prize about questions or comments on cleaning and fighting germs. Then tweet with us Wednesday, November 17, 2010 from 7 to 8 pm Pacific (that’s 10 to 11 pm East Coast). Follow me, TheSmartMama and MethodHome and use the #ecowed hashtag.

No Such Thing As Chemical Free In Cleaning & Beauty Products. Really. Really really.

Fingers cross

Cross my heart – there is no such thing as “chemical free” when it comes to cleaning and beauty products. Unless you bought a product that just contains a vacuum – nothingness. Because if it was just air, it would still have chemicals.


Really really.

A “chemical” is a material with a specific chemical composition. Like water, whether it is found in nature or manufactured in a laboratory, is always 2 hydrogen atoms and 1 oxygen atom, or H20. Now, there are some refinements to that. For example, in organic chemistry, there can be more than one chemical compound with the same composition and molecular weight. These chemicals are known as isomers. You actually know this. Really. Glucose and fructose are isomers. Both have the same molecular formula but differ structurally.

Okay, enough chemistry. Basically, all you need to know is that a chemical is a material with a specific chemical composition.

So, if a product contains water, it contains a chemical. If it contains propylene glycol, it contains a chemical.

But, lately, I have seen a TON of products claiming to be chemical free. Take Blue Lizard’s Baby Sunscreen. It claims it is chemical free and fragrance free. Yet, here are the ingredients:

Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide (10%), Titanium Dioxide (5%)

Inactive Ingredients: Water Purified, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, C12 15 Alkyl Benzoate, Ethylhexyl Stearate, Polyglyceryl 4 Isostearate, Cetyl PEG/PPG 10/1 Dimethicone, Hexyl Laurate, Propylene Glycol, Cetyl Dimethicone, Trimethylated Silica/Dimethicone, Octyldodecyl Neopentanoate, VP/Hexadecene Copolymer, Methyl Glucose Dioleate, PEG 7 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Sorbitol Oleate, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Beeswax (Apis Mellifera), Stearic Acid, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Ethylparaben, Disodium EDTA, Diazolidinyl Urea, Tocopheryl Acetate

Take a close look at the ingredients. Does that really seem chemical free to you? So the two active ingredients – although naturally occurring minerals – they are chemicals. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are both chemicals. (Although in sunscreens, they work by providing a barrier, as opposed to chemical sunscreens.)

The first inactive ingredient – water – is a chemical. Water is H20. Always. So it is a chemical.

Then we can pick on all the other synthetic ingredients too.

It has skin penetrants – the PEG/PPG ingredients. It has lots and lots of petroleum based ingredients, such as propylene glycol. And it has 2 parabens, something many individuals are avoiding.

So if you see a beauty or household cleaning product claiming to be chemical free, be wary. If the company is going to make that blatantly false a claim, then what else is it doing?

If the company is claiming all natural ingredients, or no harsh chemicals or something similar, that is a different issue. It may well be true – it all depends on your definition since “all natural” and “no harsh chemicals” are not legal or regulated terms.

But chemical free? That is just a lie. Unless the company is selling you absolutely nothing. Because even water is a chemical.

Don’t be fooled. Even natural products must contain chemicals.

And, by the way, natural doesn’t mean safer by any stretch of the imagination. Arsenic and lead both are natural.

Demonstrating Homemade Cleaning Recipes on BetterTV

I’ve been absent from my blog for a bit because I’ve been doing some exciting activities to promote my book. One of those exciting activities was an appearance on to demonstate some homemade cleaning recipes. Here I am demonstrating how to clean your microwave, how to pull up grease stains from carpet, how to make an all purpose cleaner and how to make a soft scrub all without conventional cleaners.

And, I have to say, the BetterTV people rock. So check it out.

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Homemade Cleaning Recipes – Green, Healthy, Non Toxic and Frugal!

castile soapThe 518Moms blog posted some green cleaning tips from my forthcoming book, Smart Mama’s Green Guide: Simple Steps to Reduce Your Child’s Toxic Chemical Exposure , and since they are some of my favorite tips, I thought I would share the post with you. So check it out for green cleaning tips that are non toxic AND will save you some green. 

But, the blog post left out my most favorite tip – a homemade soft scrub. I find a soft scrub to be the most versatile cleaner – from the toilet to counter tops to sinks. All you need is some liquid castile soap, some baking soda, some essential oil and some glycerin (perhaps). I like Dr. Bronner’s rose or citrus castile soap – rose smells wonderful if you like floral, and citrus is great too. Just place 1 cup baking soda in a squeeze bottle and add castile soap until you get the consistency you like. I like almost a ratio of 1 to 1, but make it as you want. You can add an essential oil for a pleasing scent, or add an oil with antibacterial properties, such as tea tree or rosemary. If you plan to store (not use up right away), add 2 teaspoons vegetable glycerin. 

A note on castile soap – castile soap is a soap made from vegetable oil, not a brand. Target carries Dr. Bronner’s castile soaps in the natural beauty oil, or you can pick up from almost any health food type of store. You can also order online – Mountain Rose Herbs (click on the affiliate ad over on the left and I make some many if you order – I love Mountain Rose Herbs and that is why I’m an affiliate). 

However, if you have hard water, a soap may not work that well. Try a small amount and see how well it performs.

Make your own disinfecting spray


Curious about how to make an easy disinfecting cleaner?  Here’s how to do it from Healthy Child Healthy World.  Skip buying many different conventional cleaners at $4.99 or so each and instead make them from ingredients you find at home. 

What you’ll need: 

  • 2 cups water (preferably distilled)
  • up to 3 teaspoons liquid castille soap
  • 1 teaspoon tea tree oil
  • spray bottle

Disinfecting Your Home – One Worry, Two Safer Solutions

All of the claims, information, studies, etc., on being green and non-toxic can be overwhelming after awhile.  The conflicting claims are frustrating.  What’s better – organic food trucked in from remote farms or local, but not organic produce?  Should I worry about climate change or pesticide residue when buying lettuce?

So, I’m going to start a new feature.  One worry & 2 solutions.  Basically, Smart Mama’s 2 Simple Solutions to One Worry.  Okay, that name kinda sucks, so perhaps a reader can come up with something fabulous?!

Smart Mama Worry:  I want to disinfect but I don’t want to use chlorine bleach – bad for the environment, bad for me, bad for my kids. 

Smart Mama Simple Solutions

  • A good all purpose disinfectant is to mix 1/2 cup of borax in 1 gallon of hot water.  According to The Nontoxic Home & Office by Debra Lynn Dadd, this disinfectant was tested in a California hospital for one year by a bacteriologist and was found to have met all state germicidal requirements.  You can find Borax with the laundry supplies in most stores. 
  • Try Isopropyl Alcohol.  You might have it in your cabinet already.  It effectively kills germs and bacteria, but is not as effective in the presence of organic matter.  IPA does not persist in the environment due to evaporation.  Alcohol is effective against resistant fungal and bacterial spores.  Of course, use in a well ventilated area and store out of reach of children.

Smart Mama Simple Tip: Clean & Deodorize the Garbage Disposal

Here’s a simple, quick, cheap and easy way to clean and deodorize the garbage disposal – use vinegar ice cubes.  Just freeze some vinegar in an ice cube tray, and then put a couple in the garbage disposal. 

Another option is to use some cut up lemon peel or orange rind.  That works too.  But I really like the vinegar ice cubes because they seem to clean the blades a bit better than lemon peel or orange rind.

Quick Tip to Clean Microwave Without Chemicals

After removing the bowl or cup, wipe down the interior with a damp cloth.  If you have an interior tray, take it out and wipe it down.  The steam from the water will loosen the food particles, and the lemon will add a pleasant fresh smell without any harsh chemicals.