a peek inside the fishbowl

20 Feb, 2008

more verbiage about natural cleaning products

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Yaktivism

I’ve had a couple of emails this week asking me what I use to clean around the house.

I have to tell you, I am pretty new at this stuff so I don’t consider myself an expert. AND – I’m learning and changing over as I go.

Here’s the what’s what:

In the kitchen I use an all-purpose kind of spray for counter tops and the stove-top called Citra-Solve. The main ingredient is orange peel. I’ve also used vinegar and baking soda when I need something a little more abrasive. When the microwave gets grimy I nuke a small bowl of vinegar/water/lemon juice until the inside gets all hot and steamy and softens all the grease and splatters. Works like a charm.

For dishes I use an unscented clear dish soap, President’s Choice Sensitive Skin. I pour it into a glass container with a metal stopper (I don’t know what it’s called). It’s a little more decorative this way (I hate displaying the plastic bottle beside the sink) and it comes out slower so I tend to use less of it. I’ve tried natural dish soap but it’s hard to get used to the lack of bubble action. Suggestions are welcome!

We have a dishwasher, which we run only when it’s totally packed full of dishes. (Basically once a day.) We use powdered Cascade, but I’m willing to wager there is a better alternative out there.

We discovered the miracle of orange oil about 10-12 years ago when we bought our cross-country skis. We were sold a container of it to strip the wax off the skis. It’s 100% orange peel (!). It smells amazing, and we use it to remove residue from stickers and price tags etc. ANYWAY, it is good stuff. I bought a different container at the Superstore a few months ago and have been using it (diluted as per instructions on the label) to wash the kitchen and bathroom floors, and sinks etc.

For laundry, we use scent-free Tide for everything, and PC-brand delicate stuff for my delicates. It is very lightly scented so I don’t mind. I gave up dryer sheets a long time ago, but I have to admit, I do miss the nice “clean laundry” smell. I’ve read that I could dab a drop of essential oil on a hanky and toss it in the dryer with everything. I wonder if this’ll work, and if I could find a smell that isn’t lavender or rose. Hmm.

In the bathroom/restroom/washroom whatever you call it
The best invention, like, ever, has been the invention of the microfibre cloth. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I sweartagod this one small thing has cut down on a lot of my need for cleaning supplies. I keep it under the sink, and just wash it when I do the towels. If you spend 20 seconds and wipe your sink down after you brush your teeth in the morning it will be just as shiny and clean as if you had sprayed it with a “regular” cleaner like Comet (which, btw, I blame for corroding my faucets!). When I’m feeling like it needs a particularly good wipedown (i.e. it’s cold season) I use diluted orange oil (as mentioned above).

You already know what I use for the toilet.

The tub needs a little more of a scrub. I’ll use the orange oil, but have also used baking soda with a splash of vinegar in it. This does a great job. Last time I used the bathtub I realized I didn’t actually flush away all the baking soda. I was just getting into the tub for a bath (it’s white), and I didn’t realize what a lousy rinsing job I did. “Craaaaaap!” I thought with some alarm. “I didn’t rinse it!!!!” And then, as I sank into the hot water, I realized it didn’t matter. It was just baking soda, not powdered Comet (like I used to use).

I wipe the bathroom mirrors down with the microfibre cloth (as above) as well. It seems to work okay. We have been known to get out the Windex to polish windows, but I use a lot less of the stuff than I did before.

TMI? We use the PC green recycled toilet paper around here. I held off on trying this FOREVER. I was afraid it would be like the sandpapery one-ply they used to get at the office, but I was pleasantly surprised. (I WILL SAY NO MORE.)

My friend Kristina recently emailed me about a recent cleaning spree. She got to thinking about the nasty chemicals in everything from baby bottles to shower curtains, and so she tossed her old PVC shower curtain liner and replaced it with one from Ikea. Great idea huh?

Here’s something interesting:

“Regular vinyl shower curtains release chemical gases and odors from their ingredients and are manufactured with non-renewable and chemical resources. They are difficult to clean and end up in a landfill where they don’t decompose and could release dangerous substances into the ground.” (via)

Ew. We used these things for years and hit a breaking point. This was a few years ago, before the fuss about the offgassing of all those toxic chemicals. We were tired of buying them and throwing them out when they got dirty. So Mark came home with a fabric liner. I was doubtful at first, but we’ve had it for a couple of years now and I’m not disappointed. It doesn’t have that terrible plastic stink, it does the job just fine, and it’s totally washable too. Bonus!

What else? We don’t use air fresheners. Or anti-bacterial soaps.

Also worth mentioning, I use Murphy’s on the hardwood floor, and I sweep and vacuum. Swiffer hasn’t sold me. Spend the money and get yourself a good vacuum with a good filter and you’ll get the same result AND you won’t be throwing part of it every time you use it. When I dust (and I should dust more often) I use a soft cloth (an old cloth diaper actually!) and a bit of furniture oil on the wooden stuff. Otherwise, I just use the brush attachment on the vacuum.

I guess that’s it. I know I’m preaching to the choir here (a lot of you are green, and that’s great) but I would also like to point out that there are a couple of women here in Ottawa who have taken on this quest as their very own. Have you heard of Pure Know How? They have tested a LOT of products and post the results on their website. Check it out.

It’s important to educate ourselves. We can’t continue poisoning our living and breathing space just for the sake of “clean.”

Any other suggestions, do add ’em.

26 Responses to "more verbiage about natural cleaning products"

1 | Renee

February 20th, 2008 at 11:00 am


Thank you so much for this post! It has come at a perfect time since I have been thinking more about the products I use and expose my family to.
One question from your post and it may seem silly, but where do you get your microfibre cloths from and what is the brand?
Thank you again. I’m off to make a change!

2 | andrea

February 20th, 2008 at 11:27 am


Shoot. I don’t know! It’s a light green colour and I bought it at the Superstore, but I bet every major grocery chain carries them now.

These cloths are better at grabbing and holding dirt better than a regular cloth because of the shape of the fibre. You can use them anywhere.

3 | Javamom

February 20th, 2008 at 1:58 pm


I quite accidentally saw something weird on TV the other night. This woman suggested to another woman with filthy dirty windows to use some cornstarch mixed with water in a spray bottle. The cornstarch will take off the grease (how do windows get greasy?), and after you wipe that off with a paper towel you use a regular soft cloth to shine the window.

I haven’t tried it myself, and I can’t see any grease on my windows, but there is black grime (pollution, not cleaning the outside of the windows in -22 degree weather) that needs to be cleaned too. Anyone know if it works?

4 | andrea

February 20th, 2008 at 2:04 pm


Hmmm. I hadn’t realized how useful cornstarch can be around the house. Check this out.

5 | Nicol

February 20th, 2008 at 2:13 pm


I am a total lurker. I have been reading your blog for months.

This is one subject that I can relate to. I decided the end of last year that this year will be the year that I go green with my cleaning. I have been making a very nice switch.

For the dishwasher, I still haven’t found a good product to clean but instead of the jet dry rinse aid I have been using Lemishine and it works perfect! For windows and shining up the faucets and sink I make my own using vinegar and water. For the first few times you must ad rubbing alcohol to break down the wax left by traditional products. I found on Monday dryer sheets by the company Method. They are actually wet to begin with and you can use them twice. I like that idea and so far they are not bad. Clorox has come out with a new natural line with a multipurpose cleaner, window, toilet bowl, etc that I found at Wal-Mart this week. The nice thing is that they are a lot cheaper then the other green products that I purchase at the Natural foods store. I also use a vegetable oil base cleaner on my floors (hard wood) called Murphy Oil soap and I am liking that as well.

I found a lot of helpful info in a book called Greening Your Clean. She uses a lot of essential oils in her cleaning.

I have several more things to switch over this year. I will continue to replace as I run out. Thanks for some new ideas.

6 | The Veggie Vixen

February 20th, 2008 at 3:06 pm


Lots of good tips. Orange oil, eh? I’ll have to buy some. Here is a good recipe for laundry detergent. I use this all the time. When I make a batch I just double the recipe.

1C washing soda (this comes in a blue box and I found it at Loblaws)
1C baking soda
1C soap flakes (can be found at most health food stores)
10 drops essential oil of choice (optional)

Blend all ingredients and store in heavy plastic container. Break up any clumps that form when adding oil with a fork.

Use 1/2 C (half cup) for an average load.

7 | andrea

February 20th, 2008 at 3:20 pm


VV – sounds good, but I have my doubts about it working in my front loader!

re: essential oils
What’s the best place to get them in Ottawa?

8 | The Veggie Vixen

February 20th, 2008 at 3:32 pm


Acutally it just might. I’ll find out for you. I’ll ask the person who gave me the recipe b/c I’m almost positive that she has a front loader. Sidenote: this woman turned green about a year ago when two of her cats died of the same problem. She blames her cleaning products. She now makes her own and sells homemade baby products as well.

Re: ess. oils — Rainbow & Natural Food Pantry are good and you’ll get a person with knowledge to help you.

9 | porter

February 20th, 2008 at 4:02 pm


Thanks alot for this post Andrea. Well…I had to buy ALL of my cleaning products today while grocery shopping (I was out of everything and even needed laundry detergent because of my new washer…that is coming tomorrow!!!). I ended up buying the Nature Clean toilet bowl cleaner you posted about as well as their dishwasher detergent, laundry detergent, dish detergent, and all purpose cleaner. I will post about it soon…that is after I have time to clean the house WITH my new products.

10 | andrea

February 20th, 2008 at 4:06 pm


Holy Smokes Porter! Let us know how you do with it all!

11 | robyn

February 20th, 2008 at 6:33 pm


I’m a Method girl. Their unscented concentrated laundry detergent (use a teaspoon for big load!), multi-use dryer sheets, granite cleaner, and dish soap all have a place in our house. Otherwise, we use orange oil, vinegar, and baking soda/cornstarch for everything else. I keep a vinegar + water spray bottle under the sink for spot cleaning (like when you’ve got the “only five minutes to tidy and clean with people on the way over” troubles. Mineral oil/baby oil is handy for shining up stainless steel, too. Like the bathroom faucets that ALWAYS seem to have toothpaste on them. :)

Regular cleaning products just…stink.

12 | nina

February 20th, 2008 at 7:13 pm


I use method bare naked dish soap on the counter – bubble factor is still pretty high. Also, although I don’t love their paper products, Seventh Generation has a decent detergent.

13 | The Veggie Vixen

February 20th, 2008 at 7:51 pm


Method is awesome. I love that it says on the package that you clean yourself with the stuff. Or at least it used to…

By the way, Shoppers and maybe Loblaws sells a line of hair products called Live Clean. It’s a great product and it has no yucky stuff.

14 | Miss Vicky

February 20th, 2008 at 8:01 pm


Ravensara has a good selection of essential oils!

We’re pretty much a vinegar and water or vinegar and baking soda household. Nellie’s laundry soda (to avoid residue on cloth diapers), with vinegar in the rinse cycle instead of fabric softener.

15 | Chantal

February 21st, 2008 at 9:23 am


Even if I am already a convert I like reading about what other people are doing and researching new options. Gracias!

16 | Mama V

February 21st, 2008 at 11:34 am


I don’t know if you’ve heard of Epicure – it’s a 100% Canadian company based out of Victoria, BC. We do our business mostly through home parties. Last year, they introduced an all-natural home & body care line, as well as their own set of Microfibre cloths – and most recently, a mint, orange & bergamot glass cleaner. If you’d like more info, drop me a line at heyspicelady@hotmail.com. I’m a consultant.

17 | Chantal

February 21st, 2008 at 1:48 pm


I was watching CTV news at lunch and I saw an article about these two companies (thought they might interest you):

Bonus – Live without plastic is a local company – Wakefield.

18 | Mark

February 21st, 2008 at 3:26 pm


As well, CTV just finished airing a 3 part series on toxins in the home. You can watch all 3 parts of this series on their website:


Scroll down to the special reports section on the left hand side.

19 | porter

February 21st, 2008 at 9:22 pm


I’m going to try to watch the CTV special…thanks Mark

Andrea, I know! I am keeping notes on what I think of the products and will give my reviews on my blog.

AM I THE ONLY PERSON WHO DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT VINEGAR AND BAKING SODA??? I use vinegar already but holy smokes the vinegar and baking soda worked magic in my tub, the finish is gone and it looks grimey really easily. Everyone will gasp but I’ve been using Tylex for years ..yeah I know…shudder to think of what we’ve been inhaling and maybe even soaking in not to mention what I’ve dumped down the drain….and what’s worse is the fact that the baking soda and vinegar worked BETTER.

One last comment/question, does The Veggie Vixen have a blog? I love your comments…if you don’t have a blog gosh I wish you would start one!

20 | andrea

February 21st, 2008 at 9:44 pm


Yah VEGGIE, where’s your blog? ;)

21 | andrea

February 21st, 2008 at 9:45 pm


And yay Porter!

22 | Karen

February 22nd, 2008 at 7:44 am


I switched to all green cleaning products last year. I had trouble finding though really good products that were green. I haven’t been entirely satisfied with the stuff in the Loblaws organics section. Some Nature Clean stuff works well, some doesn’t. Tide Free still contains some nasty chemicals even though there isn’t colour or scent. So, I joined a local Ontario Natural Food Co-op Buyers Club. I can get through our club all Seventh Generation and Ecover products (Ecover floor cleaner is as good as Murphy’s Oil and is mainly linseed oil – awesome). I can also get SG toilet paper and paper towels. There is NO fee for being in a club and no minimum monthly purchase. You just buy when you want. Anyone can start a club. Here is the website for the ONFC: http://www.onfc.ca/main_menu/index.html

23 | The Veggie Vixen

February 24th, 2008 at 7:53 pm


Oh Porter, that’s such a nice thing to say.

I’m ashamed to say that I’m a “blog drop-out”. I’ve started two and they both went bye-bye. Honestly, everyday I toy with the idea of restarting and since I now know that there’s people out there who might be interested in what I think I may have to restart again. Third time’s a charm. :-)

I’ll keep you posted.

24 | andrea

February 25th, 2008 at 9:32 am


Product update. Here are some new purchases:

– Seventh Gen dishsoap, it’s foamy and works great.
– Seventh Gen liquid laundry detergent for H.E. washers. It seems to be doing the trick too. Buh bye Tide!
– essential oils: grapefruit, lemon, orange. I’ve already dotted a pretty hanky with the lemon stuff and put it into our stale-smelling china hutch. Grapefruit in the linen closet. I’m also going to mix me up a batch of “Lemon Oil Duster” for cleaning the wood furnishings around the house:
· 10 drops lemon oil
· 2 tablespoons lemon juice
· A few drops olive oil or jojoba

The recipe is from Pure Know How. I’ve been told the recipe can also be cut in half and refrigerated for future use. Yay me!

25 | Chantal

June 2nd, 2008 at 1:40 pm


Just read this post and it made me think of you

26 | Roxanne Browning

August 31st, 2009 at 10:26 am


Helpful greening tip, I had success with 7th Gen, their recycled paper products and laundry detergent work well. Since I do not welcome plastic into my home, I use all glass food storage containers. For trash bags, BioBag is biodegradable that brakes down in landfills.

I do not buy water bottles, they leach the harmful BPA chemical into the water, costs valuable resources to produce, etc. Instead, I carry a metal water bottle made of stainless steel (aluminum is not safe) where ever I go, along with my cloth grocery bags when shopping. I’ve noticed many more people doing the same.

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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