All-Natural Cleaning Ingredients for the Sustainable Household

This guest blog postfrom our very good friend, Erin Darling, over at Black Chicken Host.  She is witty, laughs at my Space Balls references, runs her website, manages a homestead of her own in Michigan with her husband, runs a successful business in addition to being the chief geek over at Homestead Host—the web server host for Pantry Paratus.  Legend has it that you could not confuse her with a picky homemaker, however in her defense no one in the known world of electronic communications returns email faster than she does.  Nevertheless, she does use natural cleaning ingredients as much as possible around the homestead, and has graciously offered to share her favorite cleaning agents with us.  Please help give a warm welcome to the Homestead Host.  



There is not a single person on this earth who could accuse me of being a clean freak – indeed, there is more than a little dog hair on the carpets and sometimes the kitchen looks like this:



Homestead Host Kitchen

Natural cleaning agents sometimes take a little more elbow grease than those harsh, toxin-laden commercial products, but the extra work is worth it to us to keep our family and the environment from being exposed to horrible chemicals. For decades, we have been bombarded with TV commercials about disposable this and easy that – it cultures a mindset of “convenience over doing the right thing.”  All that quick and easy comes at a cost—especially if you are on a well and septic system.

It can take some time to break those habits! Even after we began our homesteading process, we still found ourselves reaching for plastic baggies, paper towels and other disposable items. But with mindfulness, it is possible to free yourself from those patterns. Start simply! Keep multiple dishtowels around the kitchen, so they’re always in reach for spills or wipe-ups, and put the paper towels into a cupboard or pantry. That one little change might make it much easier to start using reusable towels.  When the kids stain or tear an item of clothing beyond repair, it can always get one more use as a rag somewhere.

Baking Soda and White VinegarSome of you already know about our two primary go-to cleaners, baking soda and white vinegar. Used together or separately, these cleaning dynamos take care of everything from dirty counter tops to clogged shower heads. Mixed together as a paste, these two agents create a powerful foaming action (think grammar school baking soda volcanoes minus the red dye and that panicked look on your Mother’s face as you attempted to prove your theory on the living room carpet) that will attack stubborn stains and stuck-on grime. Baking soda mixed with a little water is a great cleaning paste all on its own, too! We also use baking soda in our homemade deodorant, but that is a post for another day.

The water on our little homestead is incredibly hard, leaving residue everywhere. Running vinegar through the coffee maker or tea kettle quickly dissolves the sediment and lets things work smoothly.   More to the point, starting the day off with coffee helps everything run smoothly.  

Vinegar mixed with water is a great floor cleaner, too, and the vinegar smell dissipates almost immediately. You can also add essential oils to the mop bucket to add some extra freshening and disinfecting power to your cleaning chores.

Baking soda mixed with salt (especially a rougher salt, such as Kosher) has enough grit to really get into stubborn areas, such as white kitchen or bathroom sinks.

Baking soda mixed with some hydrogen peroxide is a powerful whitening agent, and also kills mildew. This is a great brew for using in the bathroom, but be sure not to use it on fabrics, as they will likely bleach. Another great mildew killer is a mixture of lemon juice, baking soda and salt. One time while living in Seattle, I, in a tragic feat of forgetfulness, once left my unused pickup truck’s window ajar – all winter long! You may intuit that the climate there is wet and that would certainly have an impact on the truck’s interior.  When I opened the truck up in the spring, a nasty surprise awaited me – green and yellow mold and mildew everywhere in the interior. Not to be deterred, after a few gallons of the lemon juice, salt and baking soda mixture had soaked on it for a few days (and was literally hosed out with a garden hose), I am happy to report that there was absolutely no trace of the nasty stuff anywhere!




Lemon juice itself is a wonderful, fragrant cleanser on its own, too! Faced with a stinky garbage disposal, cut up a lemon into quarters and feed it down the mechanical beast (while the blades are running) to freshen things up nicely. Lemon juice is far better for your septic or sewer system than harsh bleaches or other chemicals. Lemon juice mixed with baking soda and water freshens up the kitchen or bathrooms nicely, leaving everything sparkling clean and smelling great.

To keep wood products looking great and to prevent them from cracking, lemon or olive oil is a fabulous alternative to commercial polishes and protectants. With a rag or towel, apply a thin coating of oil to wooden spoons, bowls, cutting boards, furniture or wall hangings and allow to sit overnight before wiping with a clean rag the following day. Your wood will have a deep, healthy glow and your cutting boards will last so much longer.  You will not get the same result on thickly-varnished wood products, as the oil will not be able to penetrate heavy finishes.

If you are not able to make all of your own cleaning products, do not despair! Too often, we who promote sustainability fall into the trap of “if I am not doing it all, I am not doing well enough,” and we may be discouraged enough to stop trying. Take baby steps, and gradually work toward a healthier, less toxic lifestyle.  


Gas Mask


You can even skip making your own cleaners, and just buy more environmentally-friendly ones! We do use some commercial products around the house. In fact, in the above photo you can see:

    Dr. Bronner’s Almond Castille Soap
    Lavender-scented Tropical Traditions Organic Hand Soap
    Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent
    Seventh Generation Dish Soap
    Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Soap

One day I would like to try my hand at soap-making as a hobby, but I have not quite found the time for yet.  To that end, we like to support companies who put ecological preservation ahead of profits, since we do not always have time to make our own.

Jill Winger at The Prairie Homestead has several fantastic posts about using natural cleaning remedies, too – we highly recommend her site:

    Frugal Homemade Laundry Soap
    Natural Oven Cleaners
    Frugal & Natural Carpet Cleaner

She has many, many more tips and ideas on her great blog, too!

There are a lot of great homemade cleaning products and methods out there online – if you do a quick Google search for “homemade cleaning products,” you will get a plethora of amazing ideas.


If you would like to contact us over here at Black Chicken Host,  feel free to drop us a line anytime on our contact form.



Thank you Homestead host for stopping by today.  Natural cleaners, essential oils, reduce and reuse—all good stuff!  I have personally tried Jill’s natural oven cleaner trick and it does work!  Nothing in the house makes me happier than a clean kitchen and to know that you can get the same effect with great alternatives like this is homesteading done right.



Pro Deo et Patria



Photo Credits:

Gas mask by mhYdUPi

About Wilson Foedus

WilsonWilson grew up learning how to cook from scratch from his Italian Nonny, which sometimes meant he couldn't sit on the vinyl slip-covered furniture until the homemade pasta was dry. He is a certifiable food nerd and believes that preparedness is part of healthy living.

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