Be Green Project: Replacing Household Products with DIY Green Alternatives

By Catherine Gorecki, Modo Yoga Brantford Instructor

We have a fairly ‘green’ household.  We use vinegar in the rinse cycle for the washing machine and the dishwasher, dryer balls in the dryer, and I generally use baking soda and vinegar to clean whenever possible.  We flush only as needed, carry our own water bottles, bring bags to the grocery store and re-use the plastic veggie bags until they are too dirty, then use them for the dog.  I feel like we are already doing a lot, so I was curious to see what else we could add to our routines.

I’ll admit, also, that I was fairly skeptical about the possible results, particularly where cost is concerned.  Essential oils can be very expensive so I haven’t really embraced this movement, although I’ve enjoyed the products that I’ve received as gifts.

To begin with, I took a look under the sink in the kitchen and bathroom to see what evil chemicals were lurking under there.  An hour spent on Pinterest revealed a few recipes that were viable with some of the same basic ingredients.  My friendly, neighbourhood doTerra supplier was very helpful with advice, a few spray bottles, and she even gave me the oils at her wholesale cost.  I spent a bit more money at the Dollar Store and the Bulk Barn to complete the supplies.

  1. Oven Cleaner:

Recipe:  Mix ½ cup of baking soda with 3 tbsp of water into a paste.

Brush this mixture onto the sides, racks and door of the oven and let sit 4-6 hours.  I let it go overnight.

Spray with vinegar and wipe away.


Well, it’s not exactly as easy as that.  You do need to employ a fair amount of elbow grease.  In fact, I adopted the wax-on/wax-off approach, using my left arm whenever possible to take the pressure off my sore right rotator cuff.   My good old Pampered Chef pot scraper also came in handy.   The cleaning process took about 2 hours, and was not as thorough as using the Easy Off. A can of Easy Off costs about $5 so there’s no doubt that this method is cost effective as well. However, not ingesting the fumes and not sending the aerosol can to the landfill made it worth the effort for me.

Next time I’ll layer on the baking soda paste more thickly and allow the vinegar to sit and interact with the baking soda longer – that seemed to help.

As I scrubbed away it occurred to me that if our family were vegetarian it would cut down on the greasy blackness in the oven.   Unfortunately, I’m not sure my group is ready to consider something other than the full turkey dinner at those special holidays yet.  I was sore for a day or two after though; maybe I can recruit some help for the next scrubbing session.

Here are the before and after photos of my scrubbing efforts:

  1. All-purpose cleaner

The recipe calls for 8 oz of vinegar and 8 oz of water mixed in a spray bottle with 20-25 drops of lemon essential oil.   It works very nicely on the counters and floors.  I keep a shaker of baking soda in the bathroom to get at the dirt ring in the tub.  This cleaner smells very natural and left the bathroom fresh.

Lemon oil is known for its antiseptic and anti-fungal properties but I’m not 100% convinced that I trust it as an anti-bacterial (not that we’re a hyper clean family).  I really believe that over-using the anti-bacterial products causes us to have lower immunities in general.  However, back when we had two toddlers and we all got the roto-virus at the same time, and my hubby and I were taking turns getting out of bed to help the children, I would have chosen Lysol over lemon oil.

The lemon oil cost $14 + tax wholesale.  I used about 1/8th of the bottle for all the projects so it seems it will go a long way.  The bottle of Lysol costs $3 at No Frills and would last us several months.  I think that the new recipe is cost-effective after the initial investment.

  1. Toilet cleaner:

The recipe:  Mix 1 cup of water with 1 cup of vinegar.  Add 15 drops of Melaleuca and 10 drops of lemon oil.   Spray the bowl with this mixture and let sit, then sprinkle in some baking soda and scrub.

Since Melaleuca is tea tree oil, I used the bottle we still had left over from the lice episode in Grade 2.  This recipe is not 100% non-toxic since tea tree can be harmful to pets, so be careful.  Tea tree is known to have anti-bacterial properties.

It smells lovely and does a good job of cleaning.  The spray bottle will reduce the volume of product that we’re using, so it will probably last as long as the bottle of chemical cleaner.  The yellow brand cleaner cost $3.  Overall, I think that this switch is cost effective, and it’s certainly much more pleasant to use.

  1. Air freshener:

Don’t you just love this spray bottle?  My doTerra friend had this extra nozzle that fit the screw cap on the champagne bottle perfectly.

The recipe:  6 tablespoons of distilled water, 10 drops each of lavender and lemon oil.  Mix in 2 tbsp of vodka or rubbing alcohol as an emulsifier.  We actually didn’t have any vodka so I used rubbing alcohol in this recipe.

Glade is the most inexpensive air freshener I could find at the low price of $1.47, but the smell actually isn’t very pleasant.  This new spray smells wonderful!  The Pinterest post also said that it could be used like Poo-pourri and sprayed into the bowl ahead of time to limit smells.  At this time I have no test results available for that claim.

The lavender oil was quite expensive at $30 + tax (wholesale price), but it will last a long time and have other uses as well.  I’m happy to continue mixing up this spray and stop sending more aerosol cans to the landfill.


  1. Dry shampoo:

Not a household cleaner this time but a beauty product that I’ve been using more and more often.  All the dry shampoos seem to have the same odour but the Batiste has been the best I’ve found.  Until I made this recipe, that is!

The recipe:  Mix 8 tbsp of arrowroot power with 4 tsp of Kaolin clay.  Add in 24 drops of essential oils and mix well.  I used peppermint oil that I had, and the lavender oil.  These little glass spice shaker jars came from the dollar store.  I like that you can turn the dial to different sized sets of holes.

The Bulk Barn didn’t have Kaolin clay but they had this tub of Bentonite clay.  Some research showed that either of these would work.  Other recipes for facial masks said that the Bentonite would be more drying to skin, so I’m guessing that it will be more oil absorbent.

It smells heavenly and does the job very nicely for me.  I made a second jar with some cacao powder mixed in for my daughter who has darker hair.

The Bentonite clay was quite expensive, $14 for the tub; $3 for the arrowroot powder.  The organic cacao is also quite expensive but I only used a tablespoon for this recipe.  Dry shampoo is very expensive as far as hair grooming products go, $8 for the can, and I seem to be using a can about every two months.  All in all, after the initial investment, this product works out to be economical.  Another aerosol eliminated!

I’ve learned quite a bit more about essential oils and other uses for vinegar with this project.  We will have five less sets of chemicals coming into the house and out in our waste water, and three less aerosol cans going to the landfill.  Yay!  Once we get used to these new methods, I’m sure that I’ll be finding other ways to Be Green.

Special thanks to Beth Van Sickle of Essential Change for her technical support and advice for this project. 🙂

Pillars: Be Green, Live to Learn