Living with my roommate JaBitch a few years back, I did glean something besides an abiding fear of red heads in crappy Honda Preludes. In spite of all her condescension and lack of civility, the girl inadvertantly taught me about non-toxic house cleaning.
I've since tried to convert everyone. I've rhapsodized about vinegar here, and I'd like to introduce some more members of the green team.
This natural mineral compound is a disinfectant, deodorizer and mold inhibitor. You can use it to scrub toilets, tubs, sinks or mix a 1/4 cup with a 1/2 gallon of hot water to use as a general disinfectant/cleaner.
[Try this to avoid a potential carcinogen in Ajax or Comet—and possible bronchial and eye irritation]
Use 1/4 cup of vinegear and add a few drops of oil (plus a couple drops of essential oil if you like) for a wood furniture polish.
[Try this to avoid petroleum-based solvents in conventional furniture polish]
Tea Tree Oil
This essential oil has natural antiseptic qualities. Add to vinegar and use as a general disinfectant, or use this mixture as an insect deterrent. (When we had a small ant party in our kitchen, I cleaned up with this and didn't have a problem with ants afterward.)
[Try this to avoid the chlorine in beach products]
Don't forget baking soda, which I mentioned in my post about vinegar. These five "ingredients"—plus a basic, liquid soap (not detergent)—are about all you need to clean your home. Different blending permutations of ingredients yield mixtures suited for various household surfaces.
Often, being eco-friendly can hurt the pocketbook, but this is one area in which you will save money by going green. There's a growing number of eco-friendly cleaning products out there, and they can be enticing (as enticing as cleaning products can be). Of course, they are the superior option to conventional products, but using homemade cleaning solutions uses far less packaging, which is more positive for the environment.
If you still want to stick with buying individual products, Green Seal has a good report, in which it identifies environmentally responsible general purpose cleaners. It tells you want to look for—and avoid—when buying cleaners.
Also check out Care2.com, which is where I culled some of the info for this post. It has various "recipes" for non-toxic cleaning and tips.