When you move into a new place, part of the experience will involve cleaning: as soon as you arrive, of course, but also throughout your stay there. After all, you now have to keep at least one-and-a-half rooms neat and tidy! Plus the fridge, microwave and shower stall… which (in principle, at least) won’t clean themselves. 

Instead of rushing out and buying all kinds of household cleansers, read on for more ecological, and economical solutions. Making these products yourself is easy, efficient, and it won’t pollute the air or water. Not only that, but did you know that a lot of the cleaning products sold in stores are bad for your health? Some can cause respiratory problems, and others do even worse. Homemade mixes have fewer side effects—we promise! 

(Note: If mixing your own products isn’t for you, at least buy green products. To make the best choice, look for those that display the EcoLogo.) 

What you’ll need

Here are the basic products you’ll need for your mixes:

  • Sodium bicarbonate (commonly called baking soda) – It’s an amazingly versatile household product!
  • Borax – Available in natural-food stores and pharmacies, it cleans, deodorizes and disinfects.
  • White vinegar – It degreases, disinfects, and gets rid of mould as well as calcium deposits.
  • Vegetable-oil-based liquid soap – It’s useful for dishwashing, among other things.

Two other useful products:

  • Soda crystals, also called washing soda, which you can find in some natural-food shops.
  • One or two vials of essential oils (e.g., lavender, rosemary, grapefruit) to give your products a pleasing scent. Warning: essential oils can damage certain kinds of plastic, so always test your mixes on a small, inconspicuous area!

The rest of the equipment you’ll need:

  • Two spray bottles
  • A squeeze bottle
  • Labels to identify your mixes
  • Cloths and one or two sponges
  • Scouring pads
  • A broom, or vacuum cleaner if you have carpets
  • A mop
  • A toilet bowl brush
  • Rubber gloves

Mixing your products quickly and properly

First, decide whether you want a powder or a cream:

  • Scouring cream – Mix 250 mL baking soda with 30 mL borax and 30 mL soda crystals. Add enough liquid soap to get a creamy paste. Scent with a dozen or so drops of essential oil. Store in a squeeze bottle. If you notice the cream thickening over time, just add some water.

Here are some more practical recipes:

  • Glass and mirror cleaner – Dilute 45 mL vinegar in 500 mL warm water. Pour the mix into a spray bottle. Spray onto surfaces to be cleaned and then wipe with a cloth or newspaper.
  • Healthy freshener – Dilute 1.25 mL baking soda in 125 mL warm water. Add a few drops of lemon juice and a dozen drops of essential oil. Mix and pour into a spray bottle.  

Cleaning tips for various surfaces

Shall we keep on cleaning? Here’s what you’ll need, broken down by type of surface:

  • Walls and floors – Pour 60 mL vinegar into a 4 L bucket of warm water. Clean with a mop or cloth that has been well wrung.
  • Sinks, bathtub, toilet bowl and ceramic tiles – Use your scouring product (powder or cream) and rinse thoroughly.
  • Shower – A cloth soaked in water and dipped in vinegar will do the job. For calcium deposits on the shower head and plumbing joints, make an old toothbrush (also dipped in vinegar) useful again!
  • Refrigerator – To clean the outside as well as the inside, use a paste made from baking soda and a little water (about three parts powder to one part liquid). Rinse with a damp cloth soaked in vinegar. You can use the same method to clean the outside of your stove, among other things.
  • Microwave – If the inside of your microwave oven looks like a war zone, heat up a cup of water for two minutes (you can add one or two slices of lemon to the cup for a pleasant scent). Let the steam act for a few moments, and then wipe down the inside with a damp cloth. If there are some stubborn stains, try the baking soda paste.

Other ways to keep your place spick and span

To keep the air in your apartment fresh, so as not to attract vermin: 

  • Dust all surfaces with a damp cloth, and sweep or vacuum rooms regularly.
  • Keep kitchen work surfaces clean.
  • Refresh the air by opening the windows often (even in winter).
  • Wash the shower curtain often to prevent mould.

A final important point… If you have a pet (or an entire menagerie), don’t forget to clean their spaces often! Animal dander (tiny bits of skin) is a major source of dust and allergens in homes.

The cleansing product recipes are drawn from Clean Home and Green Garden: Guide to Healthy Home Maintenance and Ecological Gardening, prepared by the City of Montréal’s Environment division. 

Clean Home and Green GardenPDF file