Minimalist Cleaning

Life has gotten complicated, the choices we have to choose have grown to the point we need huge stores with shelf after shelf of cleaning products.   These products are far from natural and safe and as a result the chemical load we are mixing in our homes can be very toxic for our families.


Growing up our stores were smaller, the selections not as varied. When it came to purchasing cleaning products we had few to choose from.  In some ways, it made our shopping easier and quicker. We knew what we needed and didn’t need a large list. I can still remember what were used in my home while growing up.  These cleaners were safer to have in the home, and are still available if you look, but there are other products you can purchase that will save you even more money and do a better job both at cleaning your home and protecting the health of your family.

Non-toxic, cleaners of the past

In the kitchen we had a container of comet cleaner for scrubbing surfaces, and a bottle of dish soap, usually Palmolive, okay not perfect. The bathroom had another container of comet for cleaning the tub and sink, and a bottle of bleach for the toilet. Laundry supplies consisted of a bottle of Clorox bleach for whites, a box of powdered bleach safe for colored clothes, a box of powdered Tide, and finally a bottle of Downy fabric softener. With the availability of dryer sheets we also kept a box of those handy for times we ran out of liquid softener before our weekly shopping day.

Floors were cleaned with Spic-n-Span mixed in a bucket of warm water, our furniture was polished with Lemon Pledge once a month and a dry rag the rest of the month.  We had bars of soap in a dish in both the bathroom and kitchen to wash our hands.  We had old rags, pieces of fabric cut up from old towels or sheets which were worn and no longer nice enough to use for their intended purposes.

While these weren’t all non-toxic, they weren’t as bad as what we have today. Nothing was anti-bacterial, we hadn’t been taught that every germ was bad for us.  If you added it all up, there was no where the number of cleaners in the home as there are today which meant we weren’t exposed to the number of chemicals we are today.

Products we buy burden our wallets and the landfills

What do we buy today? Paper towels, special cleaners for tub, one for toilet, one for counter tops, and so on. Not only do we now need a place to store all these extra cleaning products, they now contain more ingredients than ever, many if we thought about it we wouldn’t want in our homes around our families.

Instead of a can of Pledge furniture polish we can now buy a container of disposable cleaning cloths containing the furniture polish.  Each extra container we buy uses natural resources to make and must be disposed of when used. The disposable cleaning cloths have replaced the bucket of rags we found in our childhood homes.

Our landfills are expanding at an alarming rate, Have you ever noticed how much garbage each household has weekly at the curb for pick up? Growing up in a family of three, we had half of a paper grocery bag to put out weekly.

  • If we are throwing out more, it is because we are buying more.
  • If we are buying more, it means we are spending more.
  • If we are spending more it means we are working more to earn the money to spend.
  • And if we are working more, what are we missing out on during our working hours.

I have pared down what I purchase for cleaning my home over the past several years.  What I ended up with are the least damaging to the environment and least toxic to my home that I could find. I buy larger containers so I have less to toss out and I look to see if a container can be reused or recycled when I am done. I have changed not only my cleaning products but also my health and beauty products.

What do I currently use in my home

  • Seventh Generation dishwasher powder or baking soda when hand washing dishes.
  • Homemade laundry detergent made from a grated bar of soap, baking soda, and washing soda.  The secret to clean laundry is more about the agitation of the machine than the type of detergent we use.
  • White vinegar, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide for general cleaning and disinfecting.
  • For hand soap I grate a bar of castile soap and fill a glass jar, I use a natural castile bar of soap for bathing as well.
  • Rather than wasting money on shampoos and conditioners I use the” no poo” method for to wash my hair.  I mix a small amount of baking soda with warm water run this through my hair starting at the scalp then working it through, rinse and then spray with white vinegar as a rinse.  My hair is healthier than it has ever been, I never have tangles, and I can go up to 5 days between washes.  An added bonus of the white vinegar rinse is that the persistent dry flaky scalp I’ve had since childhood was gone by the second use.  I can’t explain how freeing it has been to have finally solved this problem.

Skin Care and hygiene products

For my dry skin in the winter months I treat my face (after washing with plain water) with aloe vera or coconut oil.   I keep an aloe plant nearby and simply break off a leaf and open it up to get the gel. I purchased a large aloe plant for $6 which continues to grow as I snip it. OR a bit of coconut oil which leaves my skin feeling baby smooth.

I also use the aloe plant for burns, cuts, cracked cuticles, and for the many scrapes my grandchildren get. Every new boo-boo seems to need aloe.

To heal cuts or other open sores a bit of raw honey does the trick. It is antibacterial and will pull bad bacteria out and heal the wound faster than anything bought over the counter.

After experimenting with various toothpaste, I finally tried a mixture of baking soda and salt. I am so amazed by the results that even if it cost more than the tooth paste, I would never go back to using tooth paste.

I recently began Oil-pulling click here and download a free ebook on the subject using my raw coconut oil and felt not only the health benefits within days my teeth have improved and the oil gets rid of any plaque you may have.

For bee stings or other insect bites a dab of apple cider vinegar does the trick eliminating the pain and/or the itch.

Replacing paper products

I incorporated a basket of rags tucked in a cabinet in place of paper towels. These are used for washing my face, handy when the grandchildren need a quick wipe, or for cleaning around the house. I also have a basket of cloth napkins handy in the kitchen for everyone to see and use. Cloth napkins can be acquired cheapest by cutting up fabrics from clothes or towels. If you have old t-shirts or jersey sheets these fabrics won’t fray if they aren’t hemmed.

I have very little garbage as you can imagine. My home is clean and safe for the little ones to play in.  When I need to do my shopping, I no longer need a list, as remembering 5 items I use is much simpler. If in doubt I just pick up another one, I know I will run out sooner or later.  Best of all, this only costs me a couple of dollars a month.

Better air quality and money saved, what could be better

Think of all the money we save by eliminating one paper product a month or combining several cleaning products into one general purpose cleaner. Size matters too, compare the large bottles of dish soap, laundry detergent and baking soda. You will find, usually, that you are paying for the convenience of the smaller containers.

This is a process, as I took on the task of greening my home and buying less I started with what I was running out of. Instead of buying another cleaner specially made for the bath tub, I asked myself if I replace it with one that would also clean other bathroom surfaces? When I found one that would fit my needs it was freeing to find I didn’t have to run back out to the store to buy the cleaner I had used on my vanity when that ran out.

Little by little I have returned to the way I was raised, and even improved upon the practices of my youth. My health has improved, my chores take less time to complete, especially when I can carry one cleaner to each job rather than search or dig out the next one I need.

What’s next? Zero waste. The ultimate goal will be to produce no garbage and eliminate recycling by repurposing what comes into my home.




  1. I am totally with you on this one. I think that in this culture we so often think that “clean” has to mean “toxic.” With the carpet beetle infestation, I ended up having to wash everything in bleach… Holy Moly! Does that smell EVER come out? I know some people think bleach smells “clean” but to me it just smells “toxic.”

    Currently I’m struggling with two things in this department: Sunscreen and cloth napkins – and I would LOVE some suggestions from you or anyone else out there who might have ideas.

    I had a zinc based sunscreen that I was really happy with, but they stopped making it, and I’ve had a really hard time finding something to replace it. I have such mixed feelings about sunscreen in general, but since I spend so much time out in the sun, and I just had two pre-cancerous lesions frozen off, well, I think sunscreen is pretty much a necessity for me. Anyhow, I tried a brand called Badger, but it was horrible – thick and gooey, and went rancid after only a few weeks. Then I tried Babyganics brand mineral based sunscreen… which was more pleasant than the Badger brand was, but it doesn’t seem to work well, and I keep getting sunburned even though it’s rated as SPF 50! So at the moment I’m back to Coppertone Sensitive skin – which is a blend of traditional and zinc sunscreen. I’m not wild about it, but it’s better than skin cancer.

    The other problem I’m having is with cloth napkins (and to a lesser extent dish cloths and dish towels.) I just can’t figure out how to get the grease out of them, and they’re all starting to smell rancid. The only thing I’ve found that works is to either boil them for an hour or two – which sorta seems crazy in the wasted energy department, or to soak them for a few days in LOTS of detergent and oxyclean. Maybe this isn’t true, but if you have to use so much in the way of energy, water and detergent to get them clean, is it really helping the environment? What do you think?


    • I hate the smell of bleach, but not being able to breathe when bleach is used is a good excuse to not be around it. 🙂

      I don’t have much advice for you on sunscreen. I don’t ever use it. I’ve found that most people who developed skin cancer wore sun screen and decided (for myself) that the chemicals in them is the cause. I get that you need some protection when you are out there working up a sweat on your bike and I hope you find something that works safely for you.

      Honestly, when I have cloths with grease I typically toss them out. It’s similar to paint roller covers. The amount of water it takes to clean them is worse for the environment than to let the roller covers dry then toss them out. But back to your grease question, I haven’t found I good way to get grease out. Grease isn’t a big problem here but still I’d be interested in hearing any solution you might find.


  2. You are so right! i stopped buying cleaning products many years ago.There is a lot that can be done to same money and save the planet,. You will have to keep trying to convince the rest of the world. I rarely have trash either.


    • Now and then I’ll receive Mrs. Meyers as a gift but I can’t seem to find a recipe I like for the dishwasher so I’m still using a powder for that.

      I don’t think we can convince the rest of the people to give up their cleaners but their shock will come when those cleaners are no longer available.

      Liked by 1 person

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