Natural cleaners entered our home about 4 years ago, and I can't even remember how I got started on them. While I would love to say that I made the switch to "green" cleaning products to be more earth-conscious and healthy, I think I was more motivated by the desire to save a little money. It was the same thing with switching over to cloth diapers. But as a result I have become much more conscious of how all of our decisions in regard to the products we use can affect both the environment and our health. For me it feels really great to use products that work well (I personally find the products I use now to be way more effective than their commercial counterparts) and are also not dangerous for my children who want to help clean or my one year old who might go exploring under the sink.
When I first got started with natural cleaners I used a basic cleaner made up of half vinegar, half water. And then I added a little tea tree oil as a disinfectant. After a while I got lazy and started using Simple Green, which I have since learned is actually NOT a very green product. I have since dumped it. About 6 months ago though I got back on track with making my own products. I don't know what got into me but one day I just got up and revamped our whole cleaning system. I put together a basket for each bathroom and for the kitchen in order to have everything easily accessible for each place when I am cleaning. This also allows for more easy on the spot cleaning. I cleaned out all of our old spray bottles to reuse with my homemade vinegar cleaner. I put a bottle in each basket along with a bottle containing just plain water. I also put a tupperware container full of baking soda in each basket, along with a cleaning sponge and a cleaning rag. Lastly I added to each basket a little dark spry bottle that I filled with hydrogen peroxide. Here is a summary of what products I use for what chores:
Basic Cleaning: I use a mix of 1/2 vinegar, 1/2 water with a few drops of essential oils. I use this in a spray bottle to clean counter tops, floors, bathroom fixtures, the microwave, etc. Instead of using paper towels I use cleaning cloths made by Casabella and e-Cloth. I started out with the Casabella cloths and then my friend Catherine introduced me to e-cloths on her blog. I like them both quite a bit but am considering trying out another brand. I will keep you posted on that!
Stainless Steel Appliances: For these I either use the vinegar spray or just a spray of plain water with the e-cloths specialized for stainless steel, though I have found that the general e-cloths work fine too. The same would work for non-stainless steel appliances.
Sinks and Bath tubs: For these I use plain old baking soda and a scrub brush. It works great! This will work just fine on grout and tile as well, though our tub is in desperate need of a re-grout job so not even the greatest product can save us at this point! But to clean basic mold and mildew in bathrooms you can use the vinegar spray or hydrogen peroxide. If memory serves, I have heard that vinegar can wear down grout though, just FYI.
Mirrors and Windows: All I use here is water and the cloths from e-cloth intended for windows. It does take a little bit of elbow grease to get the windows and mirrors clean, but they are gleaming afterward!
Floors: We have porcelain tile floors in the kitchen and bathrooms. To clean them I will either use the vinegar cleaning spray with a rag or I will use my floor steam mop. I love my steam mop but the handle is broken so it is a little harder to use right now. Steam mops are a great way to clean and disinfect though!
Blinds and Basic Dusting: My least favorite chore is dusting. I use these dusting gloves. They make things soooo much easier!
Toilet Bowls: I either use baking soda with vinegar or the leftovers we still have of Clorox green toilet cleaner (which I am not even entirely sure is truly green - we won't buy more after we use it all up).
To disinfect or clean mold on windows I use hydrogen peroxide. I bought a couple of little hairspray bottles (the bottle needs to be dark for hydrogen peroxide) and dumped out the hairspray and cleaned them out. Then I filled with the hydrogen peroxide. I use this on door handles or other things I want to disinfect. For the mold on windows I first use the vinegar spray with a paper towel and then follow it up with the hydrogen peroxide.
So those are my cleaning basics. I have found that having the right products can make cleaning quite a bit more fun! And seriously, this route makes cleaning so much cheaper! The cleaning cloths might seem expensive at first, but keep in mind that they last for years and seriously reduce the need for paper towels. So they pay for themselves pretty quickly - not to mention they are better for the environment and do a FAR better job cleaning than paper towels do.