The best way to keep your home clean is to not let grease and grime build up in the first place. A quick regular wipedown is still the best way to prevent surfaces from getting sticky, greasy and grimy. It will also make doing big jobs, like ovens and hobs, a lot easier in the long run.
To limit your exposure to the chemicals in household cleaners, try the following options:Use hot water. Many people forget that hot water and steam are among the best and most effective household cleaners. In addition, it is usually elbow grease, not the chemicals, that really gets the job done
Dilute (and dilute again). Most liquid detergents and soaps can be made into useful all purpose cleaners by simply diluting them. To expose yourself to a minimum of chemicals, try using an ecological, vegetable based dish detergent or, even better, a liquid castile soap, well diluted in water
Limit your use of sprays (even pump sprays of homemade mixtures) to hard to get at places to reduce the amount of chemicals you inhale
For tough grease, make a strong solution containing:
1/2 tsp washing soda (sodium carbonate, soda ash or sal soda)
2 tbsp distilled white vinegar
1/4 tsp liquid soap or dish detergent (alternatively, 1 tsp soap flakes)
2 cups (500 mL) hot water
Add a few drops of essential oils if you wish.
This can be used neat or put into a spray bottle for hard to reach places. Always wear gloves when working with washing soda
Make a simple scouring powder from 200 g of bicarbonate of soda. Keep in an airtight jar. If you like, add 10 drops of an essential oil like lemon, grapefruit, mandarin, tea tree, rose, peppermint or lavender and mix well.
Make a stain removing scouring powder with:
8 oz bicarbonate of soda
3 oz borax
3 tbsp soap flakes (lightly crushed)This will get rid of all but the most stubborn stains. To increase the bleaching power of this mixture, add 3 tbsp sodium perborate (available at healthfood shops), which is a bleach.
You should wear gloves when using this formula to avoid skin irritation
Make a stronger cleaner, using a mixture of liquid soap and trisodium phosphate (TSP). Add the following to 1 1/2 pints of warm to hot water:
1 tsp liquid soap
1 tsp TSP
1 tsp borax
1 tsp distilled white vinegar
TSP is effectiveness against grease and mildew, but is also a strong skin irritant, so you should wear protective gloves when using it.
Alternatives for the bathroom
Not even the darkest recesses of your toilet need attacking with so many detergents and disinfectants. And it's not the cleaning products, but the tools you use with them that are important. The first thing to do is invest in a really good quality toilet bowl brush one with stiff bristles which can be stored in a unit which allows it to airdry between uses. You can clean your toilet with any detergent and get the job done. Plain, diluted vegetable based dishwashing liquid or castile soap is ideal, or try the following:
Make a simple toilet cleaner with:
4 oz vegetable based dishwashing liquid or castile soap
2 cups baking soda
2 oz water
2 tbsp white vinegar
You can even add 1/2 tsp of essential oils like peppermint, lemon, pine, tea tree or eucalyptus to give it a fresh clean scent. Mix the ingredients together (adding the vinegar last) and put them into a thoroughly rinsed squeezable bottle. This mixture can be used inside and outside the toilet bowl
To remove mineral deposits, add a cup (250 mL) of white vinegar to the toilet bowl, then toss in a handful of baking soda. Let this bubble away for 10-15 minutes before giving the bowl a good scrub and flush
An overnight soak. A simple way to clean the toilet bowl is to pour 1/2 cup of borax straight into the bowl, use your brush to give the bowl a quick once over, then leave it overnight
Another overnight soak. At night, put two effervescent 1000 mg vitamin C tablets (unflavoured), or a mixture of 2 tbsp each of citric acid and bicarbonate of soda, into the toilet bowl. In the morning, brush around the bowl and flush. This helps to remove scum below the waterline
Buy washable shower curtains. Wash them regularly to prevent soap and mildew build up. If they get really scummy, spray with undiluted distilled vinegar before washing to get rid of soap residues. If you have a glass shower door, wipe it down after each use with a superabsorbent sponge cloth or, better yet, a squeegee. Wiping down tiles and glass doors regularly will prevent soap scum build up. Sounds like too much work? Actually, it only takes about 30 seconds. Limescale removersBathroom descalers are similar to those used in kettles and are usually based on either citric or phosphoric acid. Citric acid is relatively mild and harmless while phosphoric acid can cause skin and eye injuries. For a less toxic way to remove limescale in the bathroom, consider:
For metal showerheads, clean by boiling them for 15 minutes (or until the limescale deposits begin to soften) in 1/2 cup (125 mL) of white vinegar in 1 L of water. This will remove all but the most stubborn mineral deposits. Scrub clean with an old toothbrush
For a plastic showerhead, soak it in equal parts of white vinegar and warm water for one hour, then scrub clean with an old toothbrush
For removing mineral deposits around taps, cover the fixture that needs cleaning with a cloth soaked in hot vinegar. Let it stand for an hour or so, then wipe or gently scrub off.