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Earth friendly cleaning in the bathroom

Toilet bowls, soap scum and mildew. These are typical bathroom cleaning challenges which require something stronger than mere soap and water. The big concern in the bathroom is killing germs and bacteria which may be spread by…well…the activities typically undertaken in the bathroom. This fear of pathogens often leads us to use the harshest chemicals in our bathrooms. While we aren’t likely to ingest those chemicals, they can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Many of these products can kill off the natural bacteria in spetic systems and wastewater treatment plants as well.

There is a real concern when it comes to keeping surfaces clean in the bathroom. Here are some natural cleaning techniques that will kill the germs without adding unwanted toxins to your environment.


Make your own disinfectant with thyme leaves. The main essential oil of the thyme plant is thymol, which is known for it’s antiseptic qualities. Thymol is a very effective anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral agent and often is the primary active ingredient in commercially available ‘green’ cleaners. Among other things, thyme leaf extract kills anthrax bacillus, typhoid bacillus, meningococcus, and is effective against salmonella and staphylococcus bacteria.

To make disinfectant, pour 2 cups boiling water over thyme leaves. Allow to steep for 10 minutes. When cooled, drain off the liquid and use full strength on a sponge or in a spray bottle.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner

For everyday cleaning sprinkle baking soda in the toilet bowl and then add vinegar and scrub with a toilet brush. For heavy cleaning jobs, mix 1/2 cup borax in 1 gallon of water and scrub. Tough stains can be removed by applying a paste of borax and lemon juice and letting sit for 2 hours, then scrubbing with a scouring brush.

All purpose/multi-surface cleaners

Mix 1 quart of warm water, 1 teaspoon of borax and a splash of lemon juice or vinegar. You can also try a mixture of 1 quart warm water and ½ cup vinegar. Add baking soda to produce a scouring effect. 

Glass Cleaner

Mix 1 quart of water with ½ cup vinegar and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or rubbing alcohol. Pour the mixture in a spray bottle and use on glass surfaces. Use newspaper instead of paper towels to wipe the glass. It’s eco-friendly and it doesn’t leave lint behind like paper towels will.

Tub and Tile Cleaner

Remove soap scum and film by first applying vinegar with a sponge. Then use baking soda as a scouring powder and rinse with water. Grout may be cleaned with a mixture of 3 cups baking soda and 1 cup warm water. Rub the mixture into the grout and rinse with water.

Mildew Cleaner

Use baking soda, borax or white vinegar on surface mildew spots. To clean grout make a paste of salt mixed with either vinegar or lemon juice. Scrub into grout with a tootbrush.  To remove mildew from shower curtains, add 1/2 cup soap and 1/2 cup baking soda to the washing machine. Finish by adding 1 cup white vinegar to the rinse cycle.

Lime and Mineral Deposits

Remove deposits from bathroom fixtures by covering them with a paper towel soaked in white vinegar for about an hour. This will soften scale up sufficiently to be wiped off. To clean shower heads, remove them and submerge in a mixture of 1 quart water and 1/2 cup vinegar. Boil for 15 minutes. Scrub with a stiff brush and rinse.

Clogged Drains

Use a plunger on the drain to loosen up the clog. Pour a handfull of baking soda down the drain, followed by 1/2 cup of vinegar. Cover the drain and let it sit for approximately 15 minutes. Pour 2 gallons of boiling water down the drain to remove the clog.

To prevent clogged drains in the first place, use screens or traps and pour boiling water down the drain weekly to keep sludge from building up.

Porcelain Cleaner

Sprinkle cream of tartar on a damp cloth and rub on porcelain to remove light stains. For tougher stains, scrub with a paste of 3 tablespoons borax and 1 tablespoon borax. A paste may also be made from 3 tablespoons cream of tartar and 1 tablespon hydrogen peroxide. Rinse with water. Note that you should always use a nylon scrubbing pad rather than steel wool.

Employing these simple remedies in the bathroom will ensure your family is not exposed to toxins like chlorine and ammonia. As an added benefit you will find they’re easier on your wallet too.

Have other ideas? Please feel free to share them in comments.

For further reading on this topic, check out the following resources:

Image courtesy of rhdoesitall.com.



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