Natural, Thrifty Cleaning Tips

We have lost touch with some of the less chemically-based, more natural methods of cleaning. From old books – such as Mrs Beeton’s Household Management, and programmes like the BBC’s Victorian Farm, we can pick up some useful tips from the past, though obviously most of us would not want to revive some of more extreme uses of natural products, like cleaning our teeth with soot!


General Cleaning Tips

It is a good idea to tackle a room at a time, and to start at the top of the house and work down; similarly it is good practice to start at the top of each room and work down to ground level. A good clean out is better carried out on a fine day, where windows may be opened and rooms aired. When thoroughly cleaning bedrooms, try and have some help to turn mattresses.


Old fashioned feather dusters reach out of the way corners. Natural cotton white vests and t-shirts can be washed and cut up for dusters. Save old shaving brushes for dusting delicate objects. Old toothbrushes can be used to clean awkward crevices.


Lemons have a multitude of uses. Make a paste with lemon juice and salt and use to clean stained brass. Heavily stained (but not plate) taps can be cleaned with a lemon juice and salt mix also. Rinse well and buff with a soft cloth. Half a cut lemon placed in the fridge helps to neutralise strong odours.

White Distilled Vinegar

This can be diluted well and used to wash mirrors and windows. Finish by polishing the glass with crumpled up newspaper.

Bicarbonate of Soda

Put half a teaspoon in the bottom of a stained teapot and fill with boiling water. Leave to stand. Bicarbonate of soda solution can also be used to clean cups and mugs. You can wipe down the inside of the fridge with a little bicarb. in warm water

Sugar Soap

Generally, paint work can be cleaned with washing-up liquid and warm water. More stubborn stains can be removed with the use of sugar soap

Denture-cleaning Tablets

Dissolved in warm water these are really good for cleaning stained cups and teapots. They can be left to soak overnight.

Soda Crystals

Again, soda crystals dissolved in hot water provide a traditional, less commercial answer to cleaning your sinks, drains and tiles

Natural Beeswax Polish

Good wood furniture needs to be dusted regularly, but can be polished using a soft cloth and a good Beeswax polish less frequently. This keeps the furniture in good condition and helps to protect it.

Spring Cleaning, Yesterday and Today: Purging the House of a Winters Worth of Grit and Grime


During the nineteenth century, a long winter of burning, coal oil lamps and wood or coal fires often left walls stained and carpets and drapery sooty.

Spring Cleaning In the Nineteenth Century

In those days, spring-cleaning consisted mainly of throwing windows and doors open and dragging rugs outside to be beaten on the clothesline. In fact, the whole house was given a good dusting and sweeping.

Heavy, broadcloth bedding and drapes were also taken out for a thorough pounding and airing. And not to be forgotten, the outhouse was washed down with a strong solution of chlorine or lye.

Woods floors, mainly in the kitchen, were either washed in a lye solution or repainted. Even in Victorian times, some cleaning products such as Gillett’s lye were considered toxic and needed an open window to release the fumes.

Often walls in the kitchen and parlor were either repainted or walls stripped and new wall paper applied. Wainscotting which covered about one-third of the walls was also repainted to match the new wall covering.



Modern Methods of Spring House Cleaning

Spring-cleaning in today’s households, if it is done at all, is usually done by a residential cleaning service. But there are still those who either can’t afford a cleaning service or prefer to do it themselves.

It’s best to start at the top (ceilings) and work downward toward walls and floors. As Grandma did, upholstery cushions should be aired outside and the house given a thorough dusting. Today’s high powered, vacuum cleaners certainly do a much more efficient job of ridding the house of dust and airborne fibres.

Removing all window coverings usually reveals a myriad of places where grit and grime have accumulated. Ceiling fans, wall recesses, tops or door casings and baseboards all need vacuuming or washing with a mild soap solution.

Most modern curtains and draperies can be easily washed in a washing machine or by hand. Wipe wooden, window blinds down with a mild, dish washing solution. Plastic blinds can be laid flat and washed in the bathtub. Simply give them a rinse under the shower and they are ready to hang.


Make House Cleaning Less Overwhelming By Breaking Tasks Down

If cleaning the whole house seems too daunting a task, try tackling the job one room at a time. The kitchen and bathroom may be the most in need of a good scrubbing. But to avoid house-cleaning burn out, it may be better to start with the living room or a bedroom.

In the kitchen, day-to-day maintenance such as cleaning up spills and splashes from stoves; fridges and counter tops can greatly ease the spring-cleaning burden. Make a spring-cleaning check off list and try each day to reach that goal. Also, lay in a good supply of cleaning cloths, mops and environmentally, friendly cleaning products.

Whether the work is done by professionals or by the home owner, both family and friends will enjoy sitting back and savoring the satisfaction of having a sparkling clean, sweet smelling home.


Commercial and natural products

Comparing Natural and Commercial Cleaners

Between all the different labels and claims around ‘green’ or ‘natural cleaning products, determining what to purchase for your household can be confusing. It’s important to know the difference between a safe cleaning product and the everyday cleaners that use harsh chemicals. How do you know what buzz works like organic, all-natural, or eco-friendly really mean? Why do some products market themselves as a natural product, but still contain unsafe ingredients? Follow along as we debunk the differences between natural and regular cleaning products.

Read the Label

Did you know that there is little federal regulation about what makes a cleaner safer or less-toxic? Terms are typically misleading, because they can call their product whatever they want without being held to a certain set of standards.

The Environmental Protection Agency has created a program to help consumers make better choices. They’ve developed a Safer Choice label to help buyers identify products with safer ingredients. The presence of the label on the bottle tell consumers that the manufacturer met EPA standards and their product was reviewed by EPA scientists. So the best way to figure out if a product is a good choice for your household? Read the label.

Hazardous Products

Unregulated cleaning products were made to do one thing: get the job done. However, that can come at a cost for our skin and respiratory system. The Organic Consumers Association details just how toxic our household cleaning supplies are. Most regular cleaning products boast warnings that the contents can cause rash, burns, or even long term effects like cancer. Some of the more harsh ingredients to watch out for are chlorine bleach, ammonia, or chemicals like alkylphenolethooxylates, or surfactants. Again, reading the label can save you a lot of heartache. Watch for words like hazardous, poison, or danger, plus warnings of serious side effects.

Make a Safer Choice

Choosing to forgo unsafe cleaners and purchasing a Safer Choice labeled bottle or making your own natural cleaners can have positive side effects on your whole family and the environment.

Look for brands that replace toxic surfactants to break up dirt and using less phthalates that add fragrance to cleaners. Most experts say these less harmful formulas work just as well as traditional cleaners.

If you’re still iffy about store bought cleaning products, try making your own at home, like this citrus spray by HGTV.

Vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice have almost magical cleaning powers and can be used on multiple surfaces in the bathroom and kitchen. If there’s no way around using a potentially dangerous cleaner, make sure to shield your eyes and skin and use it in a space with plenty of ventilation.