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Using Herbs to Clean Up Your Act

August 31, 2012

So we know that herbs are good for all kinds of healing, supplementing and soothing the mind, body and spirit. But what about supplementing and soothing (not to mention cleaning) your space? I’m talking about all that stuff we walk on, wear, sleep in and eat from.

Most of us are conscious consumers at this point; we read labels, we avoid harsh chemicals and artificial colors and fragrances. But what about making your own cleansers? Quick, easy, and incredibly healthy (and herby, of course), the following recipes are whipped up easily and, in the long run, will (bonus) save you quite a bit of cash (and all those plastic containers).

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Lavender Laundry Powder:

This washing powder is safe and effective—for you, for children, for sensitive skin, and for those with septic systems (although the jury is still out on cloth diapers…). Okay. I think that covers everyone.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 bar of glycerin or castile soap (I like Dr. Bronner’s unscented or lavender scented)
  • 1 cup washing soda
  • ½ cup baking soda
  • ½ cup citric acid
  • ¼ cup coarse salt
  • ¼ cup dried lavender flowers OR lavender essential oil (or both…)
  • A food processor (Seriously—if you don’t have one, borrow one; otherwise, you’ll be hand-grating soap for a few hours. Not that this is a bad thing. If that’s your only recourse, put on a good movie or some music and get grating).

Grate the soap. I usually do this by cutting it into chunks and feeding it directly into my food processor, letting the blade cut it up (I suppose you could also use the grater attachment thingy as well). Once the soap is finely grated, add the rest of the ingredients and mix. Make sure you let the powder settle before you take the lid from the food processor—otherwise you’ll be inhaling this stuff. It may be safe for washing, but you don’t want it in your lungs. Add essential oil to your own scent preference. Use one tablespoon per small load, two per large load. Cost per load? Anywhere from 5-10 cents.

Oh, and you’ll probably want to add a desiccant to your bucket-full of detergent. Try a few tablespoons of powdered clay in a small pouch or sock. Storing this in your detergent container will keep the powder from clumping as it absorbs moisture. Need to find a bucket with a lid for this project? I get mine from the café or bulk section of my local co-op—they usually get things like tahini and almond butter in bulk, leaving them with lots of handy bucket-and-lid combos.

Bonus: Air dry when you can, but if you are using a dryer, infuse a dry washcloth with 30 drops of your favorite essential oil and toss this into the dryer with the clothes—definitely a better option than dryer sheets.

Citrus Floor Cleaner:

I searched long and hard for a good, wood-friendly, floor cleaner. My yoga studio has bamboo floors and with all those feet coming in and out all day, it definitely needs constant attention. Speaking of feet—let’s think about them for a moment. Your feet have a high concentration of pores and pores absorb everything. Think about what you put your bare feet on and now think about what chemicals may have recently touched that surface. Yeah. No thanks.

For a chemical-free floor cleaner, try the following:

  • 1 cup (or 1 part, depending on how much you’re making) organic white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup 2% isopropyl alcohol
  • A few drops of liquid castile soap (again, I use Dr. Bronner’s)
  • Enough drops of citrus essential oil (lemon, orange, or grapefruit) to suit your scent preferences
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Shake all of this up in a spray bottle, spray down the floor and use a microfiber mop to wipe it all up. The result is shiny, grime-free, citrusy deliciousness.

All-Purpose Cleaner:

If we don’t want chemicals touching our feet, then we definitely don’t want them on our hands (which end up in our mouths more often than we probably admit to…). So try this for general cleaning purposes (bonus anti-bacterial recipe included).

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 cup organic white vinegar
  • 4 tbs organic lemon juice
  • 30 drops of tea tree oil
  • 15 drops of the essential oil of your choice
  • Mix this up in a spray bottle and clean away.


For cold and flu season, try this anti-bacterial spray on your various household surfaces:

  • 2 cups food grade hydrogen peroxide
  • 1 cup distilled water
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Shake these up in a spray bottle (opaque is best—think about the dark brown bottle that hydrogen peroxide typically comes in) and apply to countertops, doorknobs, wherever hands visit often. I like to let this air dry, but you can wipe the surface down with a clean cloth.


The best thing about homemade products isn’t just that you know every single ingredient included in the recipe or even that you’re taking your health into your own hands. The best thing, I think, is the voting you’re doing with your dollar when you stop buying chemically-laden products (even those laundry detergents marked “free” aren’t really free of chemicals...). Big companies really need to start taking responsibility for all the chemicals they’re releasing into the market. The best way to get their attention? Keep your dollars in your pockets.

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