ashley englishsmall measures

small measures with ashley: so fresh and so clean

by Grace Bonney

My tendency for cleaning fastidiousness evidenced itself rather early in life. In fact, I told my mom that when I grew up, I wanted to be a professional house cleaner. No astrophysicist or molecular biologist dreams for me. Nope, it was housecleaner all the way. Each bedroom I kept was carefully curated, every object in its place, every toy put away after I finished playing. As I aged, I found myself delighting in arranging the pantry, styling the linen closet, and sweeping the floors. Arranging, straightening, and dusting calmed my overactive mind, kept my sanity in tact, and made my house shine.

Even if you’re no clean freak (neat-nick is the euphemism I prefer…), at some point or other, a bit of elbow grease will be in order, lest you end up living in a den of iniquity (the euphemism preferred by many over ‘pigsty’ or ‘cess pool’). Because we all share this common plight (or, in my case, delight), most of us host some assorted collection of cleaning products under our kitchen and bathroom sinks. I’ve found it astonishing to learn that over 17,000 petrochemicals are approved for home use , only about 30% of which have been tested for human and environmental safety. Petrochemicals are, by definition, derived from petroleum, a non-renewable resource.

I decided long ago that the best products for my house, my body, and the critters sharing the same space with me are those forgoing use of petroleum-derived ingredients. More recently, I’ve been whipping and mixing up my own home cleaners, saving money in the process. Additionally, by creating my own blends, I’m able to customize the scents, tricking my house out with my favorite aromas and not limiting myself to whatever fragrance might be found in a store-bought item.

CLICK HERE for the rest of Ashley’s post (and her Homemade, Dollar-Saving, Fragrance-Uplifting, All-Purpose Spray) after the jump!

As I have a literal arsenal of cats (5! and I STILL think of getting more!), 2 furry dogs, a forest of dirt outside my front door, an exquisitely gifted yet perpetually messy cook of a husband, and an innate need to clean, my go-to homemade cleaner of choice for wiping down any and every surface in sight is an all-purpose cleaner. The recipe below, adapted from Sophie Ulliano’s fantastic green guide “Gorgeously Green” (a wonderful gift idea, for yourself, or for shining the green light on the ladies in your life), takes about 3 minutes to make, tops. It is also made from inexpensive, easy to find ingredients (tea tree oil and other pure essential oils can be found at any natural foods store or online from distributors such as Aura Cacia).

Homemade, Dollar-Saving, Fragrance-Uplifting, All-Purpose Spray

The Goods:
-1 empty 32 oz. spray bottle
-3/4 c. Distilled White Vinegar
-1 c. Hydrogen Peroxide
-1 1/2 tsp. Castille Soap (Such as Dr. Bronner )
-30 drops Tea Tree Oil
-30 drops Essential Oil of choice (some of my favorite choices include lavender, lemongrass, rosemary, lemon verbena, spearmint, clove, cinnamon, anise, sage, grapefruit, lemon, and lime; experiment with one or a combo and see what scent makes you want to get lean and clean!)

The Deal:
-Place all ingredients into the spray bottle using a funnel or measuring cup with a spout.
-Add water until contents reach top of bottle.
-Shake vigorously and use with abandon!

*For those with no time, or inclination, to make their own natural cleaning products but still needing a good cleaning kit, these companies offer a repertoire of items you can feel good about purchasing:

* Mrs. Myers
* Seventh Generation
* Method
* Ecover
* BioKleen

Suggested For You


  • I agree with commenter Brian above – pre-mixing and diluting hydrogen peroxide (and wiping it up right away) renders it useless. Also, Castile soap reacts with the minerals in water and will leave an icky residue on services that will build up over time – its best to use a synthetic detergent made of plant-based materials (Seventh Generation dish soap)

  • While you have the vinegar handy, remember it is wonderful for setting colors in cotton so if you just bought a black t-shirt or red towels, soak them in vinegar water before washing to help them retain their color.

  • I was all set to love this post (you had me at “fastidious”), and the cleaning formula sounds great, but why oh why the line, “for shining the green light on the ladies in your life”? Why not just exhort readers to buy the little lady an iron? Or a washing machine for her birthday? Argh. I enjoy this blog and all, but between the oft tweeness of it and lines like that, it sometimes makes me cringe. Caitlin Flanagan would approve.

    • april

      the green book that ashley was suggesting isn’t just about cleaning- the book contains a lot of great “green” ideas that aren’t relegated to home cleaning. there are ideas for clothing, makeup, travel, etc.- i can assure you that all of us here are far from suggesting that women should be the only one cleaning, or anything like that. ashley’s column is about small ways to green your life, and green home cleaners happen to be one of those ways.

      i’m not sure what else about the site makes you feel caitlin flanagan would approve, but twee and suggesting washing machines for women don’t really have any connection for me. we talk about home cleaning, cooking and design because we’re a home site. our audience is predominantly female so a lot of our language will call out to women, because they’re the majority of our audience (and staff).

      d*s does a lot to support women running their own businesses (3 years of free biz ladies meetups and articles) and attending or going back to school (the d*s scholarship) so i’ll have to admit the idea that we’re doing anything close to suggesting “buying women a washing machine” is pretty off-putting to me.


  • Hurray! There is a God! Do all of your Neat Freaks…I mean… Conscientious Cleaners want to come party at my place? I’ve got enough dirt for everyone and I would LOVE to share!
    Thanks for making this less than pleasant task more enjoyable.

  • This post and the summer day make me think of my favorite spot remover for laundry: Put lemon and salt on the spot and lay out in the sun before washing.

  • I was just told by our local coop that they don’t carry Mrs. Meyers body products because they contain too many chemicals! I was so surprised. They carry the cleaning products because they feel that having them in one’s environment is not the same as having them on one’s body…

  • thank you so much for posting on this topic! i’m trying to go all green and all natural for cosmetics and home products, this is very interesting!! :)

  • Grace,

    I appreciate your clarification about the book, although the phrase, “for the ladies in your life” still sits uncomfortably with me.

    I applaud your efforts to help women entrepreneurs; I don’t mean to suggest that you are personally advocating a return to 1950’s domesticity, or that your site consciously reinforces gender stereotypes — it does not. I certainly don’t take issue with the fact that this site targets women. As I mentioned, I read it and enjoy it, and I think you’ve done an admirable job in building a brand and leading by example.

    But what I sometimes perceive as an overarching girlishness in content and tone — it comes with the territory, perhaps — occasionally gives me pause. It’s not a good or a bad thing in and of itself (nothing wrong with understanding and speaking to your audience), it’s simply a matter of personal preference. My tolerance may be somewhat less than others. What some call twee, others call sweet. Tomato, tomahto. And it’s easy to remedy: if I need a dose of Helvetica, I’ll head over the Swiss Miss. When bold type, left justification and right angles become too much, I head back over to your site.

  • The Caitlin Flanagan reference was a knee-jerk response to the post and unfair to your site as a whole. I apologize for that.

  • Wow, where did all that crap come from?

    Women (men, womyn, wombyn, girls, guys, gals, etc.), if you want to read a muscular, sans-serif Women’s Powertool Smackdown blog, go read that, by all means. Sounds fun, but why does everything have to be butch or gender-neutral to avoid this kind of nit-pickery? How… rigid and constraining. Reminds me of my mom in the 70s, and not in a good way.

    Anyway, thanks for the recipe!

  • There is a great Australian green cleaning guru – Shannon Lush, who has a handy ‘stain database’ at this address. She’s already on Australian ABC radio, and is about to get a show on the Lifestyle channel on Australian cable tv. I think you’d love her book ‘Spotless’! Thanks for the post!

  • Post-femenist rants?
    Whoa. It’s that kind of thinking that just furthers the kind of the gender stereotyping that we (read: men, women, trans, queer) have been trying to get past for, well, a billion years.

    The ladies in the 80s proved that we can work it in power suits in business. Mamas in the 70s proved that we can have babies and sex however we want. It’s our job to explode these typified gender roles and reclaim them on our own terms. Ladies like to clean? Great. A dude wants to make curtains? Awesome. I like to quilt? That’s ok too, cause I claim it as my own.

  • My issue was not that some women like to clean (for instance, I do; hence, I was initially drawn to the post), or that some men like to craft or whatever. It was the assumption that because you are of a center gender you will necessarily want to do one or the other. If you think certain types of activities are not stereotyped as “women’s work,” and therefore fraught in certain contexts, you aren’t acknowledging history. And, as I’ve stated, I felt my first reaction was not particularly nuanced.

    Labels like “post-feminist,” are meaningless, especially when they’re thrown around with little understanding for what they’re supposed signify. The relativistic position you espouse is exactly what some might call “post-feminist.” And I don’t take being called a feminist of any stripe an insult, although I think it’s interesting that you seem to think it is. But whatever. I don’t believe we live in a post-feminist, post-racial, or post-anything kind of world, anyway.

    I’m sure Grace is probably wanting to get back to regularly scheduled programming, so I’ll leave it at that.

  • Thank you so much for the post and all the wonderful comments. My dog loves to lick the shower (he’s a clean freak like me, apparently…) and I’ve become concerned about the cleaning products I use in the bathroom. I’d been wanting to try something like your recipe. I just made it up and used it and it smells fabulous and gets the job done. I think I’ll try a vinegar/lemon solution in the shower and see if that works, since it sounds like Chewie shouldn’t be eating tea tree oil either. I’m so excited to be on my way to “mystery chemical-free” cleaning! Thank you. :)

  • ashely, i was wondering how long this cleaning solution keeps? i’ve seen recipes before that advise you to make a new batch every two weeks. for those of us that, ahem, might not be cleaning every day, i worry about my cleaner going bad. any thoughts?

  • Wow so much info, so little time! Thanks for all the great and educational information! I really need to sudy all this and show myself approved! MOM

  • I have found that the site run by Environmental Working Group (safe cosmetics database mentioned above) is really fantastic if you’re concerned about chemicals. There are so many products I simply won’t get near anymore, including Method.

    Hand soap and dish soap in the house is Dr Bronners and Seventh Generation, I use Ecover soft scrub, but have to find a good replacement for Windex. Darn if I’m not addicted to Windex. I’m sure vinegar would go a long way.

    Salt in olive oil is a fantastic body scrub and you can make it in 15 seconds from your cupboard. There are some great non-toxic ideas.

    Also there was that guy from PBS who cleaned everything in the house with about 5 different things. As I recall his list was: baking soda, vinegar, cream of tartar, toothpaste, and ? …. Granted, he hung his onions in old stockings too. ;-)

  • Hydrogen peroxide is sold in a dark brown bottle because it will break down from sunlight. Therefore it’s a good idea to use a dark spray bottle for your cleaning concoction. Have you used it on your carpets and furniture for pet odors?

  • Is it ok to forgo the castile soap? I dont think i will be able to find it here.

    And also, i’m getting confused: do we mix the hp and vinegar or not as one reader commented earlier?

  • Great article Grace. Cleaning products made at home are great but you mention some products for people who don’t have the time and I thought I would highlight Norwex Products. Great chemical free products.

  • Grace–
    Is there a way to add a “print” function so that articles such as these can be printer-friendly? Simply hitting the print command doesn’t work…you don’t get the whole article (or the comments). I’d love to take this to the store with me.

    • susan

      we’re testing a few out now, but they don’t seem to work with our custom template. we’re trying to find something, i promise. in the meantime you can always copy the text with your mouse and cut and paste it into a doc :)


  • yes, i did do that and printed for safe keeping. thanks for your reply and working on the print function.

    i LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this topic and am so grateful for it! i just went to WF’s and bought some essential oils. thanks for all you do, Grace. i get so much inspiration from this site.

  • I have made this a couple of times and love it. BUT the so.ution has clogged two different spray bottles. Any suggestions on how to stop this happening?

  • Amazing!!! I didn’t have that much peroxide so I just poured a bit in and Seriously the best cleaner EVER!!! My Stove Top Was NASTY, usually would take me 10 mins to clean it off-But it took 30 sec with this!!! Thanks!!!!!

  • First of all I want to say great blog! I had a
    quick question that I’d like to ask if you don’t mind.
    I was curious to know how you center yourself and clear your thoughts before writing.
    I have had trouble clearing my thoughts
    in getting my ideas out. I do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally wasted just
    trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or tips?
    Appreciate it!

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