7 ways to clean green for Earth Day

These DIY concoctions will get the job done

Last updated: April 19, 2014 09:00 AM

The annual Earth Day celebration on April 22 might inspire you to live greener—maybe you'll consider buying an electric or hybrid car to replace your gas guzzler, replace energy-hog incandescent lightbulbs with efficient CFLs or LEDs, or exchange your gas-powered mower for an electric model.

When it comes to spring cleaning and household chores in general, you can work greener by concocting your own greener cleaners from some basic ingredients. Bonus: These environmentally friendly products will save you money.

Keep the following in mind: Don't mix chlorine bleach with toilet-bowl cleaner or ammonia as it could produce dangerous fumes. Don't mix bleach with vinegar because the combination increases the potency of bleach, which could damage certain materials. Add water to a bucket or spray bottle first, then pour in ammonia, bleach, or other items. This way there's less chance that the caustic material will fly out if there's splash back.

And if you usually use contacts, wear glasses instead when handling these products since contacts can absorb vapors and hold them against the eye, causing irritation or damage.

1. Freshen up

Make your own air freshener using 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of vinegar (or lemon juice), and 2 cups of hot water. Pour mix into a spray bottle and spritz away. White vinegar has a slight scent while wet, but it leaves no odor after drying.

2. All-purpose cleaner

Soapy ammonia is a versatile cleaning agent. You can use it in place of a commercial all-purpose cleaner for everyday kitchen and bathroom cleaning. Dilute according to the instructions on the container.

3. Window and glass cleaner

Just add 3 tablespoons of vinegar per 1 quart of water in a spray bottle and you have a safe, eco-friendly window cleaner. Some recommend using half vinegar and half water. For extra-dirty windows try this: ½ teaspoon of liquid soap, 3 tablespoons of vinegar, and 2 cups of water. Shake well. The best way to get streak-free windows? Use newspaper instead of paper towels to wipe them.

4. Stains and spots

Cream of tartar lifts stains from sinks and tubs, and removes spots from aluminum pans. A mild alternative to chlorine bleach that can be used for stain removal and mild bleaching and killing germs, this common baking ingredient is available in drug stores and supermarkets.  

Don't want to go DIY? Check our Ratings of all-purpose cleaners, which include green products. Also, find the best paper towels for your chores.

5. Grime and grease

Use baking soda to clean up in the kitchen. For a "soft scrub" for countertops, mix baking soda and liquid soap until you get a consistency you like. The amounts don't have to be perfect. Make only as much as you need, as it dries up quickly. To clean extra-greasy ovens, mix together 1 cup of baking soda and ¼ cup of washing soda, then add enough water to make a paste; apply the paste to oven surfaces and let soak overnight. The next morning, lift off soda mixture and grime; rinse surfaces well (gloves are recommended as washing soda may irritate skin).

6. Borax in the bathroom

Sold in most grocery stores, borax is a water softener and sanitizer. For a good all-purpose bathroom sanitizer, mix 2 teaspoons of borax, 4 tablespoons of vinegar, and 3 to 4 cups of hot water in a spray bottle. For extra cleaning power, add 1/4 teaspoon liquid soap to the mixture. To clean your toilet bowl, pour 1 cup of borax into the toilet before going to bed. In the morning, scrub and flush. For an extra-strength cleaner, add 1/4 cup vinegar to the borax.

7. Silver cleaner

1 piece aluminum foil (big enough to cover the bottom of the cleaning container)
1 to 2 tablespoons baking soda
2 quarts very hot water
Lay the aluminum foil along the bottom of a plastic or glass container.
Place the tarnished silver on top.
Sprinkle the silver with baking soda, and cover it with very hot water.
Soak until bubbles stop, then rinse and polish the silver with a soft cloth.

In the chemical reaction, the silver sulfide (tarnish) breaks down and transfers to the aluminum foil, which you can then throw out. The result: shiny silver. (Note: This technique removes tarnish uniformly, so don't use it with antique or intricately patterned silver.)

3 cleaners for dirty-fingernail jobs

Floor-wax stripper

1 gallon cold water
½ cup powdered floor cleaner
2 cups ammonia
Fill a 2-gallon bucket with the water.

Carefully add the floor cleaner and ammonia. Mix well. Apply the stripper with fine steel wool and a lot of elbow grease.

Wall cleaner

3 quarts water
1 quart chlorine bleach
1/8 cup trisodium phosphate

Fill a 2-gallon bucket with the water, then carefully add the bleach and TSP. Mix well. Apply the cleaner with a sponge or soft brush, working from the bottom up—it's easier to clean streaks off a clean surface. Rinse the surface with a cloth dampened with clean, warm water. To avoid damaging paint or wallpaper with this (or any other cleaner), test it on an inconspicuous spot.

Wood furniture cleaner

6 teaspoons light olive oil
3 cups distilled white vinegar

Pour the oil and vinegar into a 1-quart spray bottle and blend well. Spray the cleaner onto wood, wipe over a damp cloth, and finish drying with a clean, lint-free cloth.

Find Ratings

All-purpose cleaners Ratings

View and compare all All-purpose cleaners ratings.

Dishwasher detergents Ratings

View and compare all Dishwasher detergents ratings.

Laundry Detergents Ratings

View and compare all Laundry Detergents ratings.

Paper Towels Ratings

View and compare all Paper Towels ratings.

E-mail Newsletters

FREE e-mail Newsletters! Choose from cars, safety, health, and more!
Already signed-up?
Manage your newsletters here too.

Home & Garden News


Cars Build & Buy Car Buying Service
Save thousands off MSRP with upfront dealer pricing information and a transparent car buying experience.

See your savings


Mobile Get Ratings on the go and compare
while you shop

Learn more