05/22/2015 08:10 EDT | Updated 05/22/2016 05:59 EDT

How to Cut Back on Chemical Detergents

The lifecycle of chemical cleaning products returns back to our surface water, posing environmental and ecological risks. On World Environment Day (June 5), instead of pouring harsh chemicals down our drains, alternative resources might be a solution

Visuals Unlimited, Inc./Inga Spence via Getty Images

The lifecycle of chemical cleaning products returns back to our surface water, posing environmental and ecological risks. On World Environment Day (initiated by the UN, June 5), instead of pouring harsh chemicals down our drains, alternative resources might be a solution. Some of the most time-saving and natural cleaning ingredients may already be in your trash bin. No one is looking, take out those used coffee grounds from the trash and use them as a high-performing chemical substituent. At Helpling, we've compiled a list of our favorite natural cleaning ingredients to help you around the house in a environmentally-friendly way.

Distilled white vinegar

Vinegar is such a versatile cleaning substitute, it's hard to find examples of what cannot be cleaned by this household staple. Store purchased vinegar typically contains 5 per cent acetic acid, the main ingredient for tackling grease and bacteria. Vinegar is especially good at decalcifying mineral deposits or cleaning non-waxed floors. Use it to clean your coffeemaker to fight against oily residues and other deposits. Run a half vinegar and half water mixture through the coffeemaker and then just water a few times to get rid of the vinegar odor.

Olive oil

Not to be outdone by vinegar, olive oil helps to remove adhesives from wood, plastic, leather or any other smooth surface, add shine to dull wooden surfaces or help neutralize smells coming from your drains. Pour one tablespoon of olive oil with a little essential oil down your drain to remove the smell. Olive oil can also to be used to prevent water marks on your stainless steel kitchen sink, those annoying spots that make any cleaning job look undone. Wipe the kitchen sink with a light layer of olive oil to help prevent water stains.


Lemons act as natural disinfectants due to citric acid. Use lemon juice and boiled water to kill household germs for any kitchen or household items requiring sterilization such as baby toys. Lemons can also be used as a whitening agent for dish towels and linens instead of bleach. Soak the whites in a 1 part lemon and 4 part water solution overnight and dry in the sunshine the next day. Lemon juice can also be used to remove soap scum and hard water deposits in your bathroom. Apply the lemon juice with a cleaning sponge on the trouble areas and let it sit for a couple of hours before rinsing.

Baking soda

Some of your favorite fruits and vegetables like celery, peaches, blueberries, and greens need thorough washings to get rid of hidden traces of dirt and pesticides. For fruits and vegetables that require washing, soak them in cool water for about 5 to 10 minutes with a few tablespoons of baking soda while occasionally scrubbing with a vegetable brush. Baking soda is also a gentle but effective abrasive and works well for removing grimy layers built up on toasters and other kitchen appliances made ​​of chrome or stainless steel. This layer of film can be removed by dipping a soft damp sponge in a little baking soda and applying to the surface.

Essential oils

Essential oils as a cleaning product work together with their aromatherapeutic benefits. For example, soak the smell of eucalyptus oil to your bedding by adding 25 drops into your wash cycle. Dust mites hate the smell. Essential oils such as lavender or lemongrass oil can be used to clean your windows due to its antiseptic nature. Add a few drops to water to clean grime away from windows.

Coffee grounds

Used coffee grounds are great for absorbing unpleasant smells from your trash bins, your refrigerator and even your hands after handling onions and garlic while cooking. Place small batches in smelly trouble spots instead of using chemical freshener sprays. Coffee grounds can also be used to help scrub hard to remove leftovers from your dishes. Simply soak your dirty dishes in mixture of warm water and 2 to 3 teaspoons of coffee grounds for an easier wash.


The most unlikely pairing comes from these two; a heirloom oil painting and the soft insides of a piece of bread. First, lightly dust the painting and then dab it with the doughy part of the bread to gently remove accumulated dirt and other particles. The bread easily breaks apart as it picks up the dirt. Use a soft brush to wipe away the breadcrumbs afterwards. Dampened bread is also a good way to pick up small pieces of broken glass.


Salt can be used to scour stains from teacups and coffee mugs and as a grease absorbent. Sprinkle salt on food spills in your oven to keep them from hardening. Before washing greasy iron pans, add salt to absorb the grease and then wipe away. Salt can also be used together with baking soda and vinegar to unclog shower drains. Pour 1 cup of salt, 1 cup of baking soda and half a cup of white vinegar down your bathtub or shower drain. After 10 minutes, pour 2 liters of boiling water.


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