So, you're interested in natural cleaning? Here's the lowdown: what you'll need to get started, where to get it, and how to find more information.
1. Empty Spray Bottles--various sizes (dollar stores are good for this)
2. Baking Soda--the BIG box!
3. Borax (often found in your local grocery's laundry aisle)
4. White vinegar--the MEGA bottle!
5. Distilled water (I've also started using filtered water from my fridge for ease)
6. Various essential oils
7. Liquid castile soap, such as Dr. Bronner's
The good news is, there are only two kinds of supplies that may take a little hunting for--essential oils and liquid castile soap. I can find a wide selection of both at my local health food store. GNC (yes, the vitamin store) sells both as well. And, of course, there are tons of online retailers like Amazon that offer these supplies. My personal favorite is Lucky Vitamin. I can get Dr. Bronner's, essential oils, and other things I use regularly (like organic and natural skin care products, coconut oil and even organic maple syrup in bulk).
Better Basics for the Home by Annie Berthold-Bond
Clean House, Clean Planet by Karen Logan
I own both of these books, and would recommend them to anyone starting out. Logan’s book is shorter and focuses just on cleaning, while Berthold-Bond’s is much more comprehensive and includes everything from housekeeping to skin care to gardening, pets, and pest control. Both books include good basic info on the cons of chemical-based cleaning and recipes for natural alternatives.
Start small. Try one new cleaner at a time. See how easy it is to make. Test it out and see if you like how it works. (You won't necessarily love every green cleaning recipe or technique--what works for one person or situation, might not work for you.)
Take it slow. Gradually phase in more and more green cleaners, while phasing out commercial cleaners.
Learn to adjust your expectations. Green cleaners work differently than harsh commercial cleaners. They don't have harsh foaming agents like sodium laurel sulfate, so you probably won't notice the same kind of foaming action (this doesn't mean they're not working, though). Using vinegar and water or plain club soda for mirrors take a different approach than Windex--wipe and let it dry a bit on its own (it doesn't evaporate as quickly as the blue stuff), then buff it dry and shiny with a clean rag.
Wing it when you can. Sprinkle baking soda anywhere you need something a bit abrasive and scrub with a brush or scrubbie. Add a few drops of castile soap for added cleaning power. Mix vinegar and water and essential oils in a roughly 1 to 3 ratio of vinegar to water and add oils as desired. The more you clean using natural methods, the quicker your routine and the more comfortable you'll be ad-libbing.
Have fun. Realize the benefits of natural cleaning... Less money. Less fumes. Less toxicity. More peace of mind.
(You can also read my posts Making Your Own Cleaning Supplies, Part I and Part 2 for simple green cleaning recipes.)
Image: Francesco Marino / FreeDigitalPhotos.net