Last updated 2022-12-30
Contrary to myth, you rarely need specialized cleaning products. Simple products, some with organic ingredients, can work effectively and efficiently. And surprisingly, even for many tough spots.
We’re talking hard, washable surfaces you clean frequently. Like your counter top, stove top, small appliances, sinks, tubs and showers.
No fussing with recipes! Just add water, and you’re good to go.
2022-12-20 Update: If you have hard water, or dealing with serious grease, skip the simple soap and vineger in this post. And try Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds instead. Sal Suds contains no organic ingredients but is still non-toxic— and works! For other challenges check out my piece, Using the Least-Toxic, Simplest Cleaners That Work.
Assuming you have soft water, and no serious grease, as with Mike and myself, read on!
Pure castile soap
This plant-based, petrochemical-free soap can clean almost everything. Check out basic facts about castile soap.
Buy in bulk when you can find it, to reduce packaging waste. You may need to bring your own bottle. If you can’t find bulk, buy the largest size you can. In the shot above is the gallon size.
At least three brands contain organic ingredients. Here are a few I’ve checked out.
- Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile-Soap. The most widely-available. Works awesomely.
- Dr. Woods Liquid Castile Soaps. Works every bit as well as Dr. Bronner’s! Check out my brief testimonial here.
- Vermont Liquid Castile Soaps. I’ve not yet tried this brand, though it should work like the others.
Organic distilled white vinegar
Green Myth alert— Vinegar doesn’t work on grease! Not for me, at least. Its’ often better as a rinsing agent. For grease, try a plant-based dish liquid instead, like Seventh Generation.
Some brands of vinegar are USDA Organic, Including Spectrum Organic Distilled White Vinegar. The only ingredient in Spectrum is organic distilled vinegar.
Did you know— some vinegar brands may be made with petroleum-based ingredients. Not to worry— that would not make the vinegar toxic. Personally speaking, though I prefer organic when it’s available. I just assume that organic farming is more sustainable than petroleum production into the future.
Buy vinegar in bulk when available— again, to reduce packaging waste. You may need to bring your own bottle. If you can’t find bulk, buy the largest size you can.
You’ll need baking soda too— for tough spots
OK, baking soda is not organic. It’s made from trona, a naturally occurring inorganic mineral.
Use baking soda for light- to medium-duty scrubbing. It won’t scratch, the way some dry scouring cleaners do.
Green Myth alert— Baking soda’s not an “all-purpose” cleaner. Soaps and detergents work better for that purpose, especially when dealing with oils or grease.
When shopping, get baking soda in bulk when you can find it. If you can’t find it in bulk, buy the largest size you can. Either way, you’re minimizing packaging waste.
Store your baking soda in a wide-mouthed plastic jar with a tight lid. This keeps baking soda dry and flowing. Kept in cardboard in a damp spot, it can too easily cake.
What’s worked for you?
Have you tried cleaning with soap, vinegar or other simple products made with simple ingredients? And baking soda? How are they working for you, in the real world?