Reality-Based Green Cleaning

Reality-Based Green Cleaning

It’s Earth Day. This post has been almost-written for a while, but I hadn’t published yet since I know this can be a hot-button issue (and I generally stay away from those).

(Deep breath.) Here goes.

I love green cleaning.

Really.  I have a Pinterest board about it and everything.

Question: Am I a supporter/advocate/lover of chemical-free, totally natural, wouldn’t-hurt-you-to-lick-’em cleaning products?

Answer: Yes. I am. Absolutely. 100%.  They’re awesome.


(I cannot lie, I do NOT like big BUTs.)


I’m not against traditional cleaning products.

Reality trumps awesome.

Here’s one reality:

Slobs tend to be idealists.

Don’t get me wrong. Idealists are not necessarily slobs, but slobs are almost always idealists.

People like me love to talk about the very best ways to clean things.  We talk about the horrors of breathing in chemicals.

About the did-you-knows of what was really in whatever your mother used to clean her toilets.

All that talk and idealism and fear? Totally noble.

But having a disgusting bathroom isn’t noble.

There have been times when my freak-outs backfired on me.  I couldn’t stand the thought of all those chemical-ly cleaners, so I just didn’t clean.

Here’s the reality about using all-natural cleaners: They work great as part of your cleaning routine.

Routine is the key word here.  Most green-cleaners are mild by definition.  Mild cleaners are perfect for cleaning up a week’s worth of soap scum.

Y’know. A mild mess.

A (few)  month(s)?  Not as much.

They can do it, but require extra:

  • muscle
  • sweat
  • effort
  • irritation
  • TIME

Five more excuses.  Five more reasons to put off cleaning for even longer.

I’m all for finding ways to do as much cleaning as possible with as few chemicals as possible, but I have to be careful that my desire to do everything in the ideal way doesn’t mean I just don’t clean.

I have found there are two options when I want to be green but have let things go for a little/lot too long.

Option One:

Do my best to clean with green cleaners, knowing it’s not going to look perfect or maybe not even “clean” at the end of today.  Then, come back tomorrow (or the next day or next week at the latest) and clean it again.  Repeat consistently until finally it’s totally clean.

Option Two:

Get over my ideals, put the kids in the backyard for a few hours (or send them to Grandma’s house), open the windows, put my pink bandana over my nose and mouth like a bank robber, and use the stuff with a skull and crossbones on the label.

And then next time (next WEEK), I can come in with my drinkable vinegar and keep it clean.

Or clean with the hard stuff again if that’s all I’ve got.

Worrying about chemicals while NOT cleaning at all?  That’s not an option.







  1. 1

    I love, love, LOVE how real you are. I too am sooo for earth and physically healthy, cleaners, but (BUT!)…desperate times can call for desperate measures…I’ve been sick for 3 weeks…and before that, i had missed cleaning the bathroom for, a week into bronchitis, when i was coughing so hard that i was throwing up, you betcha that i whipped out the 3 year old bottle of Lysol toilet bowl cleaner (I’m very tidy about the while throwing up business…pull my hair up, get myself a washcloth bib,AND make sure the toilet is given a quick swipe….but, of course after 3 weeks of not being clean, and being afflicted with hard water, a swipe just didn’t cut it! sorry, tmi, i know)…and, since I’m still recovering, and have a renewed.
    sense of how precious life is and that i needed to have more intentional time with my almost 3 year old…I’ve continued using the ol’ Lysol (well, plus i ran out of baking soda and haven’t written it down to get more…doh)…and have felt sooo guilty.

    all that to say…thank you for the reminder that there is grace, and to just get back up on the green clean wagon once you can hitch your chaps back up. I’m not a cowgirl. <3

  2. 2
    R.M. Koske says:

    Yes. Yes yes.

  3. 3

    Last summer I fell and hurt my back so our bathroom’s did not get cleaned for almost 4 week’s.With 3 people( not of the female gender)using the bathroom’s,this meant that I needed something really strong to clean with. My sister suggested Bar Keepers Friend.I love this stuff! No loud chemical smell and it cleaned my bathroom with minimal scrubbing.As a slob who hates to clean house,I feel your pain.I normally use vinegar for cleaning but it just was not strong enough for this cleaning job. Now that the bathroom’s are clean I can go back to my green cleaner’s. Most of us do fall off the wagon every now and then.

    • 4

      Bar Keepers Friend! Isn’t this a fanastic cleaner. I used it to take rust off chrome legs on a 50’s kitchen chair. Did it outside. Best kept secret. It took the rust off!

  4. 5
    Angela Michaud says:

    I have similar fears! I saw something cool on Pinterest recently (don’t you just love Pinterest?! Oh my gosh, I waste so much time there…).
    Anyway. It was about soaking citrus peels in vinegar for a week or so to make your own green cleaner. At first, I was like “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”. But as my husband & I have been juicing a lot recently, we had tons of peels. So I thought it would be worth a try.
    I let them soak about 10 days, and was skeptical. The results, however, BLEW MY MIND!
    It cleans up anything. Everything! I have two sons (7&8), so we have a Ph.D in mess. It smells like vinegar, don’t get me wrong. But it isn’t going to poison anyone, is totally cheap, and cleans like a champ. Who doesn’t like that?
    Bonus? It’s gotten rid of the little ants that hang out by our sliding glass door every Spring.

  5. 6

    This post really hits home… I am all about eventually getting to where I use all green cleaners but I was just telling my fiance at this point, our house needs some chemicals lol Love your blog!

  6. 7
    Katie Wirth says:

    You need som MelaMagic or Sol u Mel in your lives, totally does the same as the chemically cleaners but safe for us and earth!

  7. 8

    Yes! and no… 🙂 You are totally speaking the truth for a lot of us. I have run into this quandary when it comes to decluttering because I want to get rid of things, but I don’t want to throw them away since “away” doesn’t really exist. I am at a standstill because not everything can be reused or recycled and I feel guilty trashing it. I’m working on it, but as you know it’s all a process! I think part of the issue with cleaning products is that we’ve all been sold to believe that commercial cleaning products are superior to “natural” cleaning options. As Angela above just showed natural can and does work just as well. Vinegar disinfects just as well as bleach and doesn’t kill aquatic life in the process, but we’ve been indoctrinated (for lack of a nicer term) to believe strong chemical smell = super clean. Now if my house is super dirty, people are coming over and all I have is leftover 409- then yes I’d use it, but I don’t want it to be the norm. I’m sure you’re going to get lots of suggestions, but I did just want to share that I moved into a rental where I don’t think the shower was ever cleaned- there was a layer of soap scum so thick I literally tried using a razor blade on it, yuck! Luckily my mom had just bought Norwex’s Blue Diamond cleaner and it knocked the soap scum right off. It cleans most surfaces, has nearly no scent and isn’t terrible for the environment or us. It is awesome stuff, worth its weight in gold!!! I’m not a seller, just a happy customer. Here’s one place to check it out if you get a chance:
    PS: I love your blog! Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your journey!!

  8. 9


  9. 10

    Thank you – THANK YOU – for lifting some of my guilt and reminding me that sometimes the tough stuff is ok. We aren’t great at routine, but I’m great about figuring out how I’ll clean it someday… With natural cleaners! Sometimes, DONE is better than PERFECT.

  10. 11

    “Idealists are not necessarily slobs, but slobs are almost always idealists.”

    YES! You understand!!!! And you put it so succinctly! (And make it sound so noble!) The road to Hoarders is always paved with good intentions. For examples, I’m always thinking about the people who could use whatever-is-cluttering-my-house-that-I-don’t-use-and-should-get-rid-of, or waiting to get the steam cleaner out in order to green-clean my house without harsh chemicals, and IT DOESN’T GET DONE. *sigh* Thank you for your voice of understanding. I always thought I was alone.

  11. 12
    Martha G says:

    I’ve done my best to clean green. I’m down to 1 chemical cleaner that I use regularly (monthly). The rest are either eco-friendly (vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice) or the least offensive that I can find (Dawn dish soap, hydrogen peroxide). I don’t miss the chemicals, hubby and I both have big trouble with the fumes. It does take a little more work though. It’s worth it….most of the time. I’m seriously considering dynamite for the soap scum in my shower.

  12. 13

    Dear Nony,
    Our family has allergies so can’t use the harsh stuff and had resigned myself to not that sparkling bleach look BUT (love this big but!!) found via another ebook I got the same time as yours a cleaning product to LOVE! IT WORKS!!ITS NON-TOXIC and BIODEGRADABLE and CHEAP!! (sorry for the italic overload) Has a slight fragrance but dissipates immediately. I found it at our Home Depot for $9 for a gallon and its concentrated! So can dilute it 1/2 and 1/2, even less or use full. It’s called KRUD KUTTER (get the original) I”d love to hear if you get a chance to use it and what you think. And THANK YOU for your blog! Now I know why I am the way I am!!


  13. 14
    Rebecca Gonzales says:

    I also cannot stand the strong smells (let alone the extremely harmful effects) of traditional cleaners. I use (and sell) Norwex which allows you to clean your entire home with water and our Antibac microfiber AND your home really does look sparkly clean after you’re done! For harder to clean things (like soap scum buildup or a burned spilled in your oven) Norwex has non-toxic products that you can use to clean up the long overdue messes in no time. Another great thing is that Norwex microfiber is warrantied for 2 years…. So you don’t have to buy traditional cleaning sprays for over 2 years! I don’t mean to be using this as an advertisement, but honestly I haven’t ever had a traditional cleaner clean as well as Norwex does.

  14. 15

    I totally agree. As a pet owner sometimes I really have to use something stronger than vinegar (esp. when I clean cages in between sick and healthy rats or other animals). But usually hot water and some simple edible ingredients is enough.

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