Tips For Green Cleaning

Mary Moppins,author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Green Cleaning and the site GoClean, shares some tips for easy household items that double as cleaners, how to naturally clean your pots and pans, and her favorite eco-friendly brands. — Yasmin Fahr


'Green' Versus Industrial Cleaners

I would not compare green cleaners in the store to the green cleaners at a janitorial supply company as industrial cleaners are definitely stronger mainly because they are concentrated. So if a heavy duty cleaning situation needs a stronger solution, then the cleaning professional adds more product. Consumers can also buy concentrated cleaning products. I carry two of them CleanEz, an all purpose cleaner, Benya a concentrated glass cleaner. 

First of all, concentrated cleaners save the consumer a lot of money. Ready to use products cost and average of $8 plus tax a bottle. A concentrated all-purpose cleaner that costs $25 makes 32 quarts of ready to use products, so the consumer saves $270.

Concentrated cleaners reduce energy for manufacturing, fuel for shipping, and greatly reduce the amount of plastic bottles and thus oil since plastic is an oil derivative. Plus, say someone needs a strong product for a heavier duty cleaning job like scrubbing soap scum off the shower. They simply use a bit more CleanEz in the bottle rather than having to buy a separate product. 

So no, ready to use green cleaners found in retail stores will not have cleaning ability of a concentrated green cleaner. Plus many of them I have tested just do not clean as well. They are fine for light cleaning like counter tops but fall way behind when it comes to the heavy duty cleaning jobs.   


Kitchen Items That Double as Cleaners

1. Definitely vinegar but make sure it says food grade, made for pickles, or made from grain otherwise it is made from petroleum. Need a good disinfectant? Reach for vinegar and mix it 50/50 with water. Vinegar kills more germs than bleach plus it does not contain pesticides especially Triclosan used in antibacterial products. To make sure those germs are good and dead follow this with straight hydrogen peroxide. Never mix peroxide and vinegar together as they neutralize the effect of each other.

2. Mix 1 part vinegar to 10 parts water to mop linoleum, laminated, and most hardwood floors. Never use vinegar on a stone surface as the acid will eventually etch the stone.

3. Need an air freshener? Fill a spritz bottle nearly full of water and add a tablespoon of vinegar and a drop of your favorite essential oil. Do be picky when it comes to buying essential oils. Make certain they are cold processed and organic.

4. Coffee grounds are more effective absorbing refrigerator odors than baking soda.

5. Pour fresh squeezed lemon juice on a rust or difficult stain and sprinkle on the salt. It works quite well on delicate linens.

6. Freshen up a disposal drain by grinding up an oregano leaf. Or crush it in with baking soda when you scrub the sink.

7. Clean brass by sprinkling salt on the cut surface of a lemon.

8. Fill a new spray bottle half full with water. Add ¼ cup vinegar and a drop or two of organic liquid dish soap – I like the one made by Bio-Kleen – for a great all-purpose cleaner for the kitchen. 

9. Don't toss your box of baking soda. It's great for scrubbing sinks or mixing with vinegar, water, and a bit of organic liquid dish soap to remove baked on food from the bottom of pans. Mix the vinegar and water together and heat them. Pour in the pan and add liquid dish soap and baking soda for a bit more oomph.


Natural Ways to Clean Appliances

Stuck food on a cast-iron skillet is easily removed by boiling an inch of water and a drop of organic dish soap for a few minutes. After cleaning, wipe on a liquid oil to prevent rust and sticky issues.

Whether a cutting board is plastic, granite, composite, or wood, rinse it under hot water then pour a few drops of organic dish soap on the board and scrub with a nylon scrubber. Make your own scrubbers by saving the plastic nets that many vegetables come in like avocadoes or lemons. Put three or four inside one net and you have a great recycled scrubber. Then treat the board with a 50/50 solution of vinegar to water and let that set five to ten minutes. Remove odors by pouring salt and crumbling up some oregano on the board and rub with a slice of lemon.

Shine the outside of copper by cutting a lemon in half lengthwise and pour salt on the lemon. Lemon will return the shine to copper while the salt adds a bit of abrasive elbow grease.

Always clean stainless steel appliances and cookware in the direction of the grain. Wiping or scrubbing against the grain leaves fingerprints and food particles in the grain leaving the appliance or cookware dirty, which allows the growth of bacteria. Clean stainless steel appliances weekly to prevent fingerprints and oil from becoming permanent residents.


Recommended Brands

I carry an excellent EPA certified, organic and highly concentrated all purpose cleaner called CleanEz as well as one of very few concentrated, streak-free window cleaners on the market called Benya. These are all found on my website GoClean.

The best dishwashing detergent, dish washer soap, and laundry soap I've used are made by Bio-Kleen found in many health food stores or on their website.

PureAyre is an excellent and totally green air freshener. It even tackles mold and mildew odors. You'll find it in the health food stores.     

Pet stores carry a product called Nature's Miracle that removes pet stains and odors. It also disinfects stone countertops and floors. (Remember you can't use vinegar or a cleaner on these surfaces.) Nature's Miracle does a great job without damaging the stone.

Borax is a good bathroom cleaner. It is a powder and I do not recommended it for countertops due to the difficulty of rinsing it off the counter but it does a good job on the showers, in the toilet, and bathroom and kitchen sinks. Use it in the laundry to brighten whites instead of bleach, which turns whites dingy besides being highly toxic.

The other truly organic cleaners I tested just did not live up to my expectations in a cleaner. They did not clean the heavy soils as I expected. They also come as ready to use cleaners. Ready to use products although they may be organic are not truly Earth friendly.


Last Words of Advice

First: The most important though is not to believe what is on the front of bottle labels. Companies are allowed to use all the green words and symbols they want on a label. Only a label may be hiding toxic chemicals.  

Second: One of my business mentors once told me, "If what you are doing is not working, then change what you are doing." This applies to cleaning as well. When your closet is full of disinfectants, toilet bowl cleaners, shower cleaners, stain removers, kitchen cleaners, all-purpose cleaners, window cleaners, air fresheners, etc., it means what you are doing is not working. Break these expensive, toxic habits. Try reading my book to get rid of the gadgets and cleaners in your closet. They are costly to your budget and our Earth's precious resources.  


Feel free to email Mary at for some good old-fashioned and down-to-earth cleaning solutions.