Posted by: littlebitofparadise | May 15, 2013

Toxic Free Cleaning


I’m thrilled to feature a guest post today from a dear friend, Cheryl Barnette of the blog Chery’s Kitchen.

I met Cheryl and her husband Sean through our small group bible study in Greenville, SC many years ago.  Cheryl and I have several things in common, but of most interesting note is the fact we each have two children who are practically identical in age. Cheryl’s Noah was born the same week as my Mark (June 2010) and we each gave birth to a baby boy named Luke in November 2011 (our Lukes are two days apart). I must admit when I took that positive pregnancy test with Bambino #3 I was tempted to email Cheryl and see if she had any news. (LOL).

I asked Cheryl to guest post for me today because her blog has become a wealth of helpful information for the care of my home, and I really want to share her insights with my readers.

While the Hubs and I made the full-on conversion to healthier eating (no processed foods, organic produce, free range and grass fed protein, etc etc) early on in our marriage, I must admit I’ve been much more hesitant to make the leap into the world of toxic-free home care and personal care.

For a couple reasons.

—I thought it would be a lot of WORK. It’s a no-brainer for me to pick up a bottle of Windex or a canister of Clorox wipes to clean down my bathrooms. It’s convenient to buy ALL or Tide detergent for our laundry room.

—I thought it would be EXPENSIVE. There are precious few things I can use coupons for at the grocery store since I don’t buy many processed or prepackaged foods. But I still get great sales and deals on cleaning products and in the shampoo aisle. I thought I’d be racking up too many extra bills if I made the “green clean” switch.

—I thought it would be a lot of extra TIME. Who needs another DIY cleaning project when I could be Pinteresting craft and home decor projects? Making my own dish detergent didn’t sound nearly as sexy as spray painting a garage sale steal into a new living room show stopper.

That’s where Cheryl’s blog really helped me. She showed me that toxic-free cleaning was fast, easy, inexpensive, and totally worth it for the health and safety of those I love most.

If you’ve made the “toxic-free cleaning” switch in your home, or are considering making the leap, please do share your thoughts and experiences with us below!

Enjoy Cheryl’s post – and be sure to visit her blog Cheryl’s Kitchen to stay updated on toxic-free cleaning ideas for your home!

— Steph


Toxic-Free Cleaning

Over the past several months, I have made a complete switch from using store-bought cleaners, detergents and personal care products to making everything myself. And I mean everything. It’s not as complicated or time consuming as you may think, and I’d like to share a little bit of why I’m doing this and how it all works.

My husband and I have long been committed to feeding our family as nutritionally as possible. We provide home-cooked meals to our kids and try to cut out as much processed food as possible. We both feel pretty good about our healthy lifestyle. However, after watching a documentary called Chemerical: Redefining Clean for a New Generation on Netflix, my eyes were opened to an entire side of the coin that I had never considered: the world of toxic chemicals that we expose ourselves to daily in all our cleaning and personal care products.

What I learned in that documentary, combined with the reading I have done since then, has given me a strong desire to completely rid my family of these toxins. I wish I could elaborate on all the specifics I’ve learned about these toxic ingredients, but that would turn into quite a long blog post. There is a wealth of information out there that you can research for yourself. Two good places to start are and Both have amazing articles on health issues, including the toxins in our products.

There are also two databases that rate thousands of products (and some individual ingredients): and These websites give each product a score of 1 to 10 as well as list any health concerns. If you aren’t sure about a product you own, you can easily look it up and see the rating.

Another point to remember with all these products is that there is absolutely no regulation as to what needs to be included on the label (like an ingredient list) and they can make any claim they want (this product is “natural,” “pure,” “gentle,” “organic,” etc.) without it needing to actually be true. Those regulations are for the food industry only. If it’s not food, they can claim anything they want on the label.

Where to start

After watching the Chemerical documentary, I knew I wanted to go the homemade route, but the task felt overwhelming and I had no clue where or how to start.

So the first thing I did was sit down and make a list of all the cleaners and detergents I used on a regular basis that I need to replace. The list wasn’t as long as I thought it would be: laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, dish soap, bathroom/toilet cleaner, window cleaner and all-purpose cleaner. Your list will probably be similar.

Then I made a list of the personal care products I wanted to replace: hand soap, shampoo, bar soap for the shower, toothpaste and deodorant. For me, this covers the basics. It’s a short list, so yours might be longer. Also, I don’t wear make-up, so I can’t speak to cosmetics. I do know that the cosmetics industry is really bad about using unhealthy ingredients (like lead in lipstick, for example). I would research what you have and if it’s not good, then find some safer products.

Once you have your list, don’t let it overwhelm you. Take one thing at a time. Find a recipe you want to try. Make it. See if it works. If not, try something different until you’re happy with the results. Then move on to the next thing. Once you get the ball rolling, it will all flow pretty easily.

Basic ingredients to buy for natural cleaning


I’ve come to figure out that part of the simplicity of making your own cleaning products is that you only need a base of 4 ingredients to pretty much clean everything: baking soda, white distilled vinegar, washing soda, and castile soap. I assume we’re all familiar with baking soda and vinegar, but the other two might need a short introduction.

Washing soda is baking soda’s cousin. They are similar, but not the same chemically speaking. Arm & Hammer makes this product (I’m not sure if there are other brands) and on the box they call it a “Detergent Booster and Household Cleaner.” It also says it “cleans grease from indoor and outdoor surfaces all around your home.” In addition to cleaning surfaces, it can also be used in the laundry and on dishes. Washing soda can be found in the laundry aisle.

Castile Soap is a type of soap that is made from vegetable oil and is pure and natural…no harmful chemicals added. It can be used on your dishes, in the laundry, as a general cleaner, as hand soap, as shampoo or body wash. Pretty much anything you need to clean with soap! As far as where to find it, I think you’re limited to health food stores, specialty shops that sell natural products, or the internet.

Finding Recipes

So once you have your list and your basic ingredients, you’re ready to start making some homemade products. There are many books (including inexpensive ebooks) out there with compilations of homemade recipes for cleaning. This would be an easy way to have everything you need all in one place.

A free option – the one I took – is to search online for what you need and sift through all the choices. This takes a little more discerning on your part as to what might work or not work, and probably some trial and error.

The recipes that I have tried out (or have come up with myself) and are happy with, I have posted on my blog: My blog contains natural cleaning options as well as ways to eat healthy.

Specific ways to clean naturally

I want to leave you with a few specific things you can start with that are super easy.

The first thing you can do is find an old spray bottle (or buy a new one), and fill it half with white vinegar and half with water. This will be your new all-purpose cleaner. Vinegar will disinfect and work well on mold/mildew. Use this in the kitchen as well as in the bathroom for your counter, sink, shower and mirror. It’s also a wonderful window cleaner. For the toilet, sprinkle some baking soda and spray with the water/vinegar mixture.

Another easy fix is with your hand soap. Get an empty pump dispenser and put in 1 part castile soap to 2 parts water. It will be waterier than what you’re used to, but it will lather and clean just fine.

My blog has many other household recipes, all of them very simple to make and for the most part they contain only the 4 main ingredients I talked about. Just look under the “Toxic Free Cleaning” category on the left sidebar.

A final word

I’m very grateful for that afternoon I sat down to relax and picked that documentary to watch on Netflix. It has forever changed the way I look at store-bought cleaners and other products. I know the dangers that are hidden inside, and I want my family no where near them.

If you think you don’t have time to make all these things yourself, then take it slow and see where it goes. If you need some motivation, then pick up your hand soap, lotion or shampoo bottle and research the whole ingredient list. I guarantee that’ll inspire you to get started.




  1. Thank you so much for this post! I just sat down at my computer to look up natural, non toxic cleaners and I see this post. I came to this decision after cleaning my bathroom with windex a few hours ago and hating the fumes. I am going to check out Cheryl’s website!

  2. I do have one question either for you Stephanie or for Cheryl: what do you use to clean up spills such as raw meat on the counter? Do you use the vinegar/water combo or something stronger? This has always been a concern of mine. Thanks!

    • Great question! I must admit I’d still reach for a Clorox wipe 🙂 (I’m still a work in progress). I hope Cheryl will answer this for both of us!

    • In general, vinegar is a disinfectant…it kills bacteria. But I just did a quick google search specifically on vinegar and meat (my family is mostly vegetarian, so this hasn’t been much of an issue for me), and here’s an article worth reading over:

      Here’s a quote from it that should answer the question: “However, (vinegar) won’t touch some types of salmonella, which can transfer from raw meat to chopping boards and onto other foods to give us food poisoning…we should focus on cleaning with hot soapy water and good old-fashioned elbow grease to physically scrub away organic material…It’s only the act of rubbing and scrubbing a dirty chopping board that can break down the slimy matrix around certain types of salmonella, allowing the disinfectant to then get to work.”

      So maybe clean with soap and water, and then let some vinegar sit on it for a few minutes.

  3. Thank you!

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