Top 10 Natural Cleaning Tools I Use |

Top 10 Natural Cleaning Tools I Use

admin January 10, 2013

Daily Tip: Don’t be afraid to buy items that you really need to help yourself succeed.  Frugal doesn’t mean cheap, it means carefully chosen.

When I first got married, I bought all the same stuff my parents had used — things like Soft Scrub, caustic toilet cleaner, regular ol’ dishwasher detergent, bleach….  Those are what I used to clean my house.  They did the job…and gave me a headache in the process.

My first foray into natural cleaning was when my daughter was around 10 months old and I was newly pregnant with my older son.  I had tried desperately to clean my shower, which was gross, with everything chemical out there — bleach, CLR, I don’t even remember all the options.  The mildew didn’t budge.

Being pregnant and having a mobile child, I didn’t feel safe using those caustic chemicals.  I wondered what would happen if I tried something different.  I plugged the shower drain and flooded it with warm water and sprinkled baking soda all around.  I let this sit for about 20 minutes, then came back to it.  All I needed was a sponge, and the mess just wiped away.  Seriously — that easy.

I was sold.

Natural Cleaning Tools That Work

There’s still a perception that natural cleaning doesn’t really work.  As my experience above shows, they certainly do!  You might need some different tools and different methods, but really — they work.

To make your life easier (I hope), I’m going to share my top 10 cleaning tools and methods with you.

1. The Soak

Fill it with water and soak it for awhile.  10 – 15 minutes is usually enough.  This goes for dishes, showers, tubs, anything that is dirty.  Water alone is a powerful solvent and it doesn’t take long to work.  Let whatever is dirty soak for awhile in warm or hot water, and then wipe away the junk easily.  If it’s not that easy (for example, if something’s burned on), all you need is….

2. Baking Soda

This is super safe, but also very abrasive.  If something needs a scrub or has some burned or caked-on junk, add baking soda to the soak and use more when you scrub.  If you have a dirty pot, you can even boil it with baking soda water and it will come clean more easily.  I sprinkle baking soda on counters, sinks, bath tubs, dishes, stoves, and more, and use it to help get a nice shine (if applicable) and to loosen the junk more easily.  Works every time.

3. Vinegar

White vinegar goes in so many places.  I keep a spray bottle filled with half vinegar, half water.  When the kids want to “help” I let them spray this and wipe.  It cleans glass, counters, stoves (I have a glass top), just about anything.  White vinegar also goes in the dishwasher as a rinse aid, or into the washing machine as a fabric softener.  I keep a gallon of it in the house so I can use it as needed.  It’s super cheap, too.

4. Spray Bottles

These are super handy.  They can be filled with straight vinegar, vinegar and water, water and essential oils, or various other combinations.  Using water and essential oils can function as a disinfectant around your home, and a very safe one at that.  Keep a few around to make your job easier and label each.

5. Microfiber Cloths

I have a lot of these…I had up to 50 at one point in time.  They are my go-to for scrubbing anything because they work and they are cheap, so they can be thrown out after a really dirty job.  I use them for wiping down counters, the stove, bath tubs, mirrors, really anything.  I also tend to use them for covering bowls of food that are soaking on my counters.  They sell these in the automotive department.  Clean ones can also be used as diaper inserts.

6. Essential Oils

Some of these just add a nice scent.  Some disinfect.  Tea tree oil, thyme oil, oregano oil — these are the primary ones that can disinfect.  Mix a few drops in with water and a little white vinegar and spray any surface.  It makes cleaning toys easy, and is safe for most furniture too (to be used like ‘Febreze”).  This is excellent on door knobs, faucets, etc. after a recent illness!

7. Toilet Brush

There’s no getting around this one — you need a standard toilet brush.  I used to use those disposable pads that came with their own cleaners, but they don’t work as well and who knows what is in those little pads.  Buy a regular, cheap brush and replace every several months — they get pretty gross.  I keep one in every bathroom so I’m not constantly hunting for one when I need to clean a toilet.  I recommend at least one per floor of your home.

8. Spray and Wipe

Most of the time when I am cleaning my kitchen, I will spray down all the surfaces at once (with the vinegar-water) and then go back to the first surface to start wiping.  Allowing it to sit for just a couple minutes makes it much easier to wipe the junk off.  If I have stubborn spots I may repeat the process on those while I work on another area.

9. The Scraper

I have a plastic scraper that I use.  It mostly is used on dishes, but I also use it on counters and floors to remove any sticky, stuck-on junk.  (Think waffle batter that spills and doesn’t get wiped up right away, or chunks of banana the kids dropped under the table and didn’t tell you about.)  This is much easier than just scrubbing and getting frustrated!  It also makes washing dishes easier.  I can’t stand to get big clumps of food on my dish sponges (I may have mentioned that before), so I use the scraper to get off as much as I can first.  If the scraper isn’t working, steel wool is my next go-to.

10. The Walk and Scoot

I used to use a mop of some kind to clean my kitchen floor.  But I had to constantly rinse it in the sink (unwieldy, to say the least) or I’d have to get a bucket out (dangerous with small children — they could drown, or at least spill it and make a huge mess).  Plus, it often wasn’t “scrubby” enough to get up the sticky spots.  No thanks.  Instead, now, I just use my microfiber cloths.  I soak them with hot water, wring them out, and drop them directly onto the stickiest spots.  I use my foot to scoot them around and clean the floor.  This is much faster and I can get just the trouble spots, instead of feeling like I need to mop the whole floor.  It works on dried-on juice and chocolate milk…not that I’d know anything about that. 😉

And that’s it!  My simple cleaning tools and methods, to keep my home looking decent.

baking soda and vinegar

Additional “Stuff”

Okay, I really do have more than that.  But I included just my favorites, things that were less obvious.  I also have:

  • Natural dishwasher detergent (after failing with various homemade concoctions, I buy Trader Joe’s brand)
  • Toilet cleaner (I go back and forth between ‘natural’ ones and the most caustic I can find…I haven’t found a natural one that consistently works)
  • Vacuum (need I say more?)
  • Wash cloths (I keep a whole drawer full in my kitchen to wipe fresh spills, faces, etc.  We don’t use paper towels at all)
  • Sponges (I use them for cleaning dishes, mostly, but sometimes bathroom counters too)
  • Dish liquid soap (I have varied between Dawn and plain Dr. Bronner’s, depending on my mood)
  • Steel wool (if nothing’s working to get burned-on junk off, I switch to this)
  • Soap nuts (this is the only thing I use in my laundry most of the time, and it works on everything and is completely natural)
  • RLR (this is the one laundry additive I have, it is natural, and I use it on cloth diapers from time to time if I have a big/especially dirty load)

Notice I do not keep bleach, air freshers, and other such things around.  I don’t use any scented products unless they are made with essential oils only, because the fragrances are made from petrochemicals and they are carcinogenic (cause cancer).

The simple stuff works, it’s in expensive, it’s versatile, and it’s safe!  Can’t go wrong there!

What are your top cleaning products or tools?


This is the writings of:



  1. Kate, do you know anything about Melaleuca products and their safety? I have tried checking them on EWG but none are listed with information.



    • Sigrid, I’m a Melaleuca member, and their products are pretty good. WIth that said, you could still make your own products to perform almost all the functions that the Melaleuca products perform. Also, they aren’t perfect…all products are free of bleach, formaldehyde, and ammonia, but some do have ingredients that some would consider questionable. For example, their antiperspirant has aluminum in it and some of the hair products have SLS. If you’re looking for something that’s easy (don’t have to do a “recipe” to make it), mostly natural (and definitely much safer than the mainstream stuff) and competitively priced, it’s a pretty cool company! They do make almost any thing you would want, from make-up, hair products, supplements, cleaning supplies, etc.


  2. Norwex! I discovered Norwex over a year ago and will never go back. If you like microfiber cloths you will be crazy about these. All microfiber is not created equal. With one microfiber cloth and one polishing cloth I clean 90% of my home. Since I’m not using anything but water on my surfaces, not even vinegar, there is nothing to streak or leave residue which attracts dirt and dust faster. You have never seen cleaner windows and mirrors, counters, stainless surfaces, tile, etc. I would love you send you some cloths to try. I’ll try to send you an email. I love your website and it has been so helpful to our family during our transition to real food and a more contentious lifestyle. Thank you so much!


  3. I have tried Melaleuca and though they portray themselves as a natural company, this is simply not true. I requested ingredients in many of their most popular products and plant extracts or oils were only added in small amounts to their items. The rest of the ingredients were your typical parabens, MEA, etc. I would not recommend them.


  4. We are just going through a serious case of the stomach flu and I’m wondering what you would use to disinfect our house once this is all gone?


  5. I started my switch to natural cleaners last year. I still buy a few “safer” products (7th gen…) but have made the switch homemade for most things. I use a spray bottle of 1/2 peroxide, 1/2 water and 3-5 drops of tea tree oil as my disinfectant. A bottle of citrus infused vinegar, 1 part vinegar 2 parts water, for everyday cleaning and a bottle of plain water with my microfiber cloth for glass, windows or anything I want to shine. Not only is it better for my family but it is Cheaper too!


  6. Great post. We do the same sorta things round here, but I would like to know, do you have any solutions for natural air freshener or ways to get rid of odors like dog, cooking etc?


  7. I think these are all great. I am wondering what you use to clean up drips of cod liver oil. I have just recently started using CLO and always drip a few drops when dosing it out to my littles and myself. This past week, I have “ruined” w hole pile of kitchen cloths. They smell worse than the CLO does. I tried soaking them in vinegar and washing with Chalie’s soap. Still there. I had resolved to not using paper towels at all, but have been using them again recently because of the messes that happen at every meal on the kitchen floor. I find that my cloths get so gross and smelly and that the smell doesn’t come out with washing. I don’t use enough each day to warrant washing them each evening or even every other. I feel like I could stand to throw out my cloths and get new every month. That doesn’t seem to outweigh the drawbacks to using paper towels for the bigger food messes. Tell me, am I crazy? Is there something I’m doing wrong? How do you wash your cleaning cloths?


    • My washer has a “sanitary” cycle that heats up the water hotter than my hot water temperature. It is also a longer cycle. I find that helps get my cloths clean. I also use 1/2 cup of a borax/washing (not baking) soda equal part mix for extra cleaning power (OxyClean substitute). Also, you can try soaking in a covered container after use until washing in a vinegar/water mix or borax/washing soda mix maybe with a little tea tree oil. I hope this helps!


  8. I agree about the Norwex products…they are fantastic and do a great job of cleaning. I use their toilet brush & cleaner. The cleaner is natural, does a good job, and the toilet brush has silver in it so it disinfects itself within a few hours (because bacteria cannot live in the presence of silver). That is the secret to many of the Norwex products. They also have a good dishwasher detergent that lasts a very long time because you only need to use a very little bit.


  9. Good tip No. 4 -didn’t think of that! Thanks 🙂


  10. I am trying sooo hard to use fewer chemicals for cleaning, but have had not so good results. The primary problem is that vinegar gives me horrible headaches. Like lay in a dark room for the rest of the day headaches, despite ventilation. Seventh Generation products do the same. Baking soda did an okay job in the tub and sinks (needed a lot to get the job done) but failed miserably in the toilet, so I ended up using the chemical junk to get it clean. I used an entire 89 cent box of baking soda for 1 tub cleaning, whereas generic cleanser is $1.59 and lasts for 10-12 cleanings. Without spending a fortune (Norwek is way out of the budget), does anyone have any other suggestions?


    • Hmm. Water with a few drops of essential oils (skip the vinegar) might work for some jobs. I do buy the chemical stuff for toilets, though. We aren’t going to touch it there and it’s a dirty area, obviously.


      • I have never used essential oils… do you have any suggestions for a beginner? I would prefer one that disinfects and perhaps has some pest control potential as well. I am thinking a quick spray and wipe cleaner for counters, faucets, doorknobs, etc. to decrease use of bleach and Clorox wipes. We also recently discontinued our pest control service, due to cost, and I am worried little creatures (mostly spiders and ants, with an occasional hornet’s nest in the rafters) will return if I don’t do something! Thanks!


      • For toilets we have found that Ecover’s Toilet Cleaner works great. And I have not found such great results with many of the other natural brands. All the best.


  11. Any Tips for natural air freshening ideas?? I love candles, but would love better ideas!


    • Ang-Try essential oils in a diffuser, fresh flowers, or some of the oven scents you can find on pinterest (like oranges, cinnamon, and cloves boiled in a pot of water on the stove, etc.)


  12. what the heck…..I posted some caveats with regards to essential oils, then realized that I had a typo, so I posted a comment correcting it & in doing so, it erased my original comment

    so I am trying again….the caveats are that many essential oils are not safe for pets to breathe, get on their fur, or consume….and that even though they are natural, many people do still have bad reactions to them, too (like asthma, other respiratory issues, migraines, skin issues, etc)


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Hi, I’m Kate.  I love medical freedom, sharing natural remedies, developing real food recipes, and gentle parenting. My goal is to teach you how to live your life free from Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Government by learning about herbs, cooking, and sustainable practices.

I’m the author of Natural Remedies for Kids and the owner and lead herbalist at EarthleyI hope you’ll join me on the journey to a free and healthy life!

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