At home

Green cleaning

There’s usually an organic alternative for any commercial chemical cleaning product – you may already have the ingredients for an effective ‘green’ household cleaner in your cupboard.

Green cleaners

  • Baking soda cleans, deodorises, softens water and is a good scouring powder for everything from silverware to sinks.
  • Lemon juice is a mild bleach, deodoriser and cleaning agent.
  • White vinegar cuts through everything from tarnish to grease, and it’s a deodoriser and mild disinfectant. It’s also great for cleaning mirrors and windows. Mix half and half with water, and keep it in a labelled spray bottle.
  • Washing soda cuts grease and removes stains.
  • Olive oil is great for hydrating wood or minimising scratches. Mixed with lemon juice, it can be used as furniture polish.
  • Salt mixed with lemon juice or vinegar, gets rid of tough stains and mineral deposits.
  • Borax is a naturally occurring mineral salt with cleaning, bleaching, deodorising and disinfecting qualities. It can also be used to control pests such as ants and cockroaches.
  • Pure soap is a general purpose cleaner that biodegrades completely.

Specialist cleaning products

If you do need to buy specialist cleaning products, select those that are plant-based and biodegradable:

  • Use dishwasher detergents that are free of chlorine bleach and lowest in phosphates.
  • Use bathroom cleaners that are free of aerosol propellants and antibacterial agents.
  • If your carpet needs professional cleaning, go to a professional service that uses less-toxic cleaners low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and irritants.
  • Avoid air fresheners – try to eliminate odour problems rather than covering them up.
  • Use reusable unbleached cotton towels, rags and non-scratch scrubbing sponges instead of bleached disposable paper products.

Controlling pests

Keeping your home as clean as possible, particularly food areas, is the best way to prevent pests, but you can also to deter them without using toxic chemicals:

  • When storing winter clothing, use cedar blocks or bags of cedar chips; avoid mothballs that contain p-dichlorobenzene or naphthalene, which are toxic and can contribute to respiratory problems.
  • Use mouse or rat traps instead of baits.
  • Consult your veterinarian for non-toxic pest control products for your pets.
  • Use non-toxic head lice treatments, including combing and enzyme-based treatments.
  • Ask your pest exterminator to use non-toxic and environmentally friendly products if your pest problem is larger than you can manage.
  • Avoid using pest strips; they contain pesticides that are released into the air in your home.

Hazardous chemicals

To dispose of potentially hazardous household chemicals, refer to the CleanOut program.


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Page last updated: 29 January 2016