I try to do a few “green” things, like using cloth diapers and drying them on the line instead of in the dryer, but I wouldn’t say that I’m a total hard-core earth mother. Like a nice spring green or chartreuse even, not really a deep forest green. I have been experimenting with making my own nontoxic cleaners, though, both for environmental and economic reasons. Also, I like not having a ton of toxic chemicals around the house that Stephen could get into once he’s mobile. Some have been more successful than others, but here are a few things I’ve tried that actually worked pretty well.

– 1/2 white vinegar, 1/2 water: this is a great all-purpose cleaner. I use it to clean almost any non-porous surface — to wipe down the kitchen counters (unless we’ve been cooking with raw chicken or pork, in which case I use a regular kitchen spray), to clean bathroom counters and mirrors, and to spot-clean the floor. It works great on mirrors and glass, our water is really hard and this solution removes hard water spots perfectly without streaks.

– baking soda and vinegar: I use this to clean our toilets. I flush the toilet, sprinkle baking soda all around the inside of the bowl, then pour full-strength white vinegar into the toilet and scrub it with the toilet brush while it’s foaming. It leaves the toilet really nice and clean.

– baking soda and dish soap: This makes a great soft scrub for really heavily soiled surfaces. I used it on our kitchen cabinet doors when we were getting ready to put our old house on the market. Put a small pile of baking soda in a bowl, and add enough dish soap to make a paste. Rub it onto the surface you want to clean. The only downside of this cleaner is that if you don’t rinse it off really well it does leave slightly grainy streaks, so make sure you rinse or wipe down the surface thoroughly.

– lemon juice and olive oil: A solution of 2 parts olive oil to 1 part lemon juice works pretty well as a furniture polish for varnished wood. Shake it up and put a little bit onto a soft cotton cloth. Make sure you rub it in really well, and go over the surface with a clean cotton cloth to get up any excess oil. It leaves the wood really nice and shiny, but if you don’t wipe up the excess you’ll see some streaks on the surface.

– baby wipes solution: I made a wipes solution for Stephen, out of 1 tablespoon apricot or almond oil, 1 tablespoon liquid castile soap, 2 drops tea tree oil, 1 drop lavender oil, and 1 cup of water. I shake it up before using it, and it works really well to clean his little bottom without irritating it.

– borax: I add borax to our washer with the detergent, as it acts as a natural water softener. I also put some down in the kitchen where we’ve had some black ants coming in, as I read that they take it back to their queen and it eventually kills them. So far it doesn’t seem to be working, but we’ll see if eventually they start disappearing.