Going Green While Keeping Clean
I have found cleaning with natural, eco-friendly products in Costa Rica to be easy, convenient and affordable. I first made the switch to green cleaners because of my housekeeper’s penchant for bleach. She doused my bathroom and tile floors with it every week, despite my requests to use less. She’s a wonderful housekeeper in all other regards, so instead of looking for a new employee, I looked no further than the supermarket’s cleaning aisle.
I began with a gallon of white vinegar (about $2) that I bought at the grocery store. I also purchased a small vial of tea tree oil, which you can find at most GNC’s or health food stores in Costa Rica. Vinegar is one of the world’s best natural cleaners and can be adapted for almost every household use: cleaning windows, disinfecting countertops, mopping the floors, cutting grease, and so much more. Armed with a few “recipes” and several old cleaning bottles, I prepared and labeled some formulas for household use:
Clean Tile Grout: Mix 1 tbsp. salt and 1 tsp. white vinegar, and use it to scrub dirty or stained grout.
Kill Germs: Spray full-strength vinegar on any surface, let sit for a few minutes, and then wipe with a damp cloth. For extra antibacterial cleansing, add a drop or two of tea tree oil to your cleaning solution.
Clean the Microwave: Combine 1/2 cup vinegar (or lemon juice) with 1/2 cup water, place in a microwave-safe bowl, and heat on high for two minutes. Stuck-on food will wipe off easily.
Cut Grease: Spray full-strength white vinegar onto surface, let sit for about 10 minutes, and then wipe off.
Wash Windows: Spray full-strength white vinegar onto any glass surface and then wipe with crumpled newspaper.
Mop Tile Floors: Mix one cup of vinegar with one gallon of warm water. For extra antibacterial cleansing, add a drop or two of tea tree oil to your cleaning solution.
My housecleaner soon adapted to the new cleaning regimen and together, we picked out a few essential oils – lemon, vanilla, and jasmine are my favorites – to add to each vinegar formula. To my surprise, the essential oil scents lingered while the vinegar smell quickly dissipated. My house is sparkling clean, and I feel good knowing that I am using planet-friendly products for the bulk of my cleaning.
In addition to cleaning with vinegar, I use the natural cleaners below to wash laundry, do the dishes, combat soap scum, and vanquish stains. There are quite a few green cleaning products available in Costa Rica that will help you disinfect without using harsh chemicals.
Florex: Not only green, but local! Florex is a Costa Rican company dedicated to producing Earth-friendly household cleaners. Their current product line includes a degreaser, disinfectant, laundry detergent, fabric softener, and dishwashing detergent.
Earth Friendly Products: This imported brand offers cleaning products free of toxins, petrochemicals, bleach, ammonia, phosphates and other harmful ingredients. In Costa Rica, their product line includes window cleaner, dishwashing detergent, floor cleaner, non-chlorine “bleach,” and laundry detergent. This is the only eco-friendly laundry detergent I have found for high-efficiency (HE) washing machines.
Ecover: Hailing from Belgium, Ecover has been making green cleaning products since 1980. All their products are made from plant-based and mineral ingredients. Their Costa Rica line includes dishwasher detergent, dishwashing liquid, laundry detergent, fabric softener, all-purpose cleaner, and limescale remover.
Green Works: Made by Clorox, these cleaners are marketed as Earth-friendly, using few, if any, harmful ingredients. In Costa Rica, their products include an all-purpose cleaner, bathroom cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner, dishwashing detergent, and glass cleaner.
Do you have experience with going green or tips on your favorite Earth-friendly cleaning products?