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Spring cleaning

Do you know what's in your bottle or jar of cleaning product-- and what it's doing to the environment and your health?
If you use most easily available commercial brands (even the one's advertised as "natural") you might want to check the ingredients labels for the following ingredients:

Chlorine: Most commonly found in bleach, toilet bowl cleansers, this chemical can cause your eyes, lungs and skin to burn. It's also terrible for the environment because once it goes down the drain, it reacts with other chemicals out there to form "dioxins" which are a known hormone disruptor. Chlorine by itself is also a source of air pollution.

Ammonia: Commonly found in toilet cleansers, window cleaners and all purpose spray cleaners, ammonia is a powerful lung irritant.

These compounds are what led to an epidemic of toxic blue-green algae in Quebec's lakes last summer. They're being phased out, but will still show up on shelves.

Sodium Hydroxide: This corrosive and highly poisonous chemical often shows up beside a skull and crossbones logo. That's no coincidence (and you don't want to be getting any of this goop on your skin!)

Carcinogenic compounds found in many perfumed products (and also in bottled water and food that's been microwaved in plastic containers)

Parabens: Compounds that are often found in breast tissue of cancer sufferers. Parabens have been the subject of raging controversy for years. Here's what you need to know: Scientists can't agree about whether they're safe. I reckon, if we're not sure and the consequence of being wrong is cancer, it's probably best to avoid them. No?

Sodium lauryl sulphate, sodium laureth sulphate:
Both these compounds have also been the subject of much debate. Some experts believe that SLS can cause flaking and premature aging of the skin, it can retard healing in children, cause cataracts with susceptible individuals and may end up absorbed in the body's internal organs due to its low molecular weight.

What's a neat freak to do? Don't worry, there are plenty of yummy smelling options out there. And we got us an expert to tell us all about them. Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to introduce Angela Mackenzie who runs her own home-made bath and body product line called HoneyFlower.

Watch the video here

So Angela, who's been making her own home cleaning (and body cleaning--but that's coming NEXT WEEK) products for years shared two of her favourite recipes with us.
They both smell incredible and are safe for use around kids and pets.


1 cup water
1 tbsp borax
1/4 cup vinegar (white or apple cider)
1 squirt natural liquid soap or castille soap (like Dr Bonner's)
5 drops orange essential oil

Mix the ingredients together in a spray bottle and shake before each


In a bowl, whisk together:
1 cup baking soda
½ cup liquid soap
2 tbsp vinegar
2-3 drops tea tree oil

Store in a recycled container, such as a mason jar or yogurt
container. Apply with a damp cloth or sponge to any surface.

So where do you buy stuff like borax? You'd be surprised. This stuff is everywhere. But here are some ideas:
Baking Soda, Vinegar, Borax: Any grocery store (often in the laundry section)
* I'm writing this in response to Mary's comment: I personally bought borax this weeked at Alfalfa in the Marche Jean Talon and I know that Frenco on St Laurent also stocks it.
Castile Soap (Dr. Bronners, natural dish soaps...): health food stores, some pharmacies.
Essential oils: health food stores, pharmacies. Essential oils will cost anywhere between $6.40 to $18 depending on the size and whether it's organic. If you can buy organic, great, but if not, just make sure you're buying stuff that's 100% pure and safe for use on skin. STAY AWAY from the dollar store essential oils--those are full of petroleum products and NOT safe for use.

So here's my question: What do you look for in a cleaning product? Are you a smell person? Texture? Cleaning power? And would you be willing to swap your bottle of Mr Clean for something you can cook up in your kitchen?

(Special thanks to Amy from the amazing Atelier Woodenapples in Parc Avenue for letting us shoot in her space!)

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Comments (10)



Hi Geeta,

Thanks for todays tips on making your own "green" cleaning products. We've been using natural cleaning products at home for about a year now. They're just as effective as chemical cleaners, but the products we use smell better, don't pose any health risks and, now that we'll be filling up our emptying bottles with the homemade cleansers and soaps you suggested, we'll be spending a fraction of what we used to.

Thank you!


Posted April 7, 2008 06:58 PM



I have a little book full of recipes like this but I don't use it very much because I have never been able to find Borax and I have really looked!

I end up using just baking soda and vinager or buying the eco-friendly stuff.

Thanks for reporting this. It is great that you are raising awareness about it.


Posted April 7, 2008 06:58 PM



Hi Geeta,
I have been using green cleaning products for quite some time but often they are expensive so an alternative, such as your recipes, which look easy and cheap to make are much appreciated.
Sometime ago , and edition of MOMS WITH THUMBS on LIVING MONTREAL gave a three thumbs up for a laundry detergent that they had made. I didn't take the recipe down then, and can't seem to find it on CBC's website so I'm wondering if you could track it down for me. I'm sure others would be keen to try it too.
I was living in England for many years until not too long ago and watched how the supermarkets expanded their green product lines quite extensively as demand increased and hope that the same will happen here.
I'm enjoying your show, but do miss your weather forecasting - Caroline

Posted April 7, 2008 08:13 PM



Hi Geeta,
Thank you for doing this story. I've been wanting to move away from commercially produced and chemically filled cleaners. The recipes are a big help, but like someone else posted, Borax is hard to find especially in the boonies. I'll keep looking. Could you do a story about the chemicals in hair dye? I've heard there are chemicals in there that may be cancer causing as well. Thanks!

Posted April 8, 2008 08:26 AM

elilla medina


With this home making cleaning products, do you think it will really help clean away "Grease" which usually splash to your walls in the kitchen.

I would greatly appreciate for your reply.

Thank you


Posted April 8, 2008 11:14 AM

caroline Kennedy


Hi. Great ideas from your show and I"m getting ready to start making my own cleaners. I just wanted to say borax is available at my local pharmacy (Uniprix) in Pointe Claire.
Thank you

Posted April 30, 2008 09:05 AM



I would like to use a non-chemical cleaner to disinfect my kitchen counters. Is borax safe for use around food?

Posted May 6, 2008 12:58 PM

Laurie Musgrave


I managed to find Borox after much searching but cannot find castile soap ...any suggestions for in the montreal area??

Posted May 16, 2008 12:50 PM

Andrea Vander Kooij


I actually bought Borax at Zellers just the other day. It was in the laundry detergent/cleaners section.

Posted May 23, 2008 10:07 PM

Concerned Chemist


Before you all go out and buy borax and castile soap, I suggest you take a look at the material safety data sheets or MSDS's of these products and see how dangerous to the environment and toxic they really are. They are not really environmentally safe and/or non-toxic. These are potentially dangerous chemicals you are bringing into your house that when misused can cause grave harm (even death)to you, your families and the environment.
Just as you would leave the pharmacopeia of your medications to your pharmacist, please leave the chemical formulation to the chemists!
If anything, research the meaning and implication of the industry terms and jargon (e.g. green, biodegradable, non-toxic, energy efficient, recyclable etc), set yourself a reasonable budget, and encourage the dwindling Canadian economy by supporting local businesses and all the PhD graduate researchers they employ.

Posted August 11, 2008 11:10 PM

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