Natural Alternatives for Spring-Cleaning Supplies

One of the more unpleasant aspects of cleaning house is coming into contact with abrasive cleansers or inhaling fumes from powerful chemicals. Not only are natural substances kinder to the environment, but they have less impact on your wallet, as well. Many eco-friendly substitutes can be easily found at any store—and for a lot less than mass-market household cleaners.

Another benefit of using natural alternatives for cleaning is that these products are gentler on the skin—in fact, some can double as cleansers for your hair and body. Here are a few of the most versatile and effective natural cleaners for the home.


1. Vinegar

You probably already have a bottle or two of vinegar in your cupboard already, but distilled white vinegar sold in jugs are the ideal household all-purpose cleaner. This highly acidic liquid can be used in the bathroom, kitchen, on floors and counters, in laundry and more.

Vinegar can dissolve soap scum and mineral deposits, and, combined with baking soda, erase tarnishing. Additionally, vinegar helps prevent the growth of mold, mildew, and to some extent, bacteria (like e coli and salmonella). Despite vinegar’s initial pungent scent, the smell dissipates quickly—vinegar can actually be used to deodorize.

If you plan on using vinegar as an all-purpose cleaner, dilute the acid with equal parts water in a spray bottle. Diluting vinegar is important as the acid can eat away at certain building materials, like grout or marble. Toilet bowls can withstand pure vinegar—and the liquid will dissolve rings. Half a cup of vinegar in the rinse cycle functions as a fabric softener and can help clean the washing machine, as well.

While distilled white vinegar is rarely used as a natural skin care product, other vinegars, like apple cider vinegar, are often used as an astringent and antiseptic. Apple cider vinegar is also used instead of shampoo.


2. Lemon Juice

Another acid, lemon juice, can dissolve soap scum and hard water deposits. Lemon can be used on surfaces in the bathroom, in the kitchen, and for cleaning brass and copper. Combined with vinegar and baking soda, the paste can be used to erase stains on a variety of materials.

Note that lemon juice can bleach, so test areas you plan on cleaning prior to applying the paste or juice to an entire area.


3. Baking Soda

An inexpensive and readily available abrasive, baking soda can be used to scrub most surfaces. A great deodorizer, baking soda can be placed directly onto carpet prior to vacuuming. It can also be used in the refrigerator, freezer, trash, or laundry room to absorb odors. The abrasive can be mixed with vinegar or lemon juice (or both) to create pastes that both clean and remove stains.

Baking soda is also gentle enough to be used on your skin as an exfoliant to remove blackheads and other blemishes.


4. Essential Oils

Frequently associated with skin and hair care, essential oils are also excellent disinfectants. Derived from plants, certain essential oils can kill bacteria and mold. Extremely potent, a few drops of oil can go a long way. Combine with white vinegar to clean combs and brushes, erase scuffs from floors, protect against soap scum and disinfect toilets. Orange and lemon oils are particularly good for household cleaning.


 5. Liquid Castile Soap

A soap made with no animal fats, this soap gently washes away dirt and muck from surfaces without dulling them. Liquid Castile soap, diluted with water and/or vinegar, can be used to clean floors, marble countertops, cars, tile (mix with baking soda) and stovetops.

Castile soap is gentle enough to wash your dog, or to use as a body wash substitute for yourself.

These common household products are effective enough to clean your whole house, but gentle enough to use on your skin. Consider incorporating these alternatives into your spring cleaning for an eco-friendly and healthy household.


Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer from California. She writes on a variety of topics, from health and wellness to beauty and sustainability. When it comes to staying green, she uses natural cleaning agents to keep her home safe and clean.