Safe Alternatives to Household Toxics

Information and products described here are compiled from available literature.  No products listed here have been tested and listing in this guide should not be construed as a recommendation or endorsement.  Special thanks to www.StopWaste.Org for the following information.


For downloadable guides for less toxic solutions for pest and garden management, click here. 

Safe Alternatives

All-Purpose Cleaner

1 quart warm water

1 teaspoon liquid soap

1 teaspoon borax

1/4 cup undiluted white vinegar


Mix ingredients and store in a spray bottle. 

Use for cleaning countertops, floors, walls, carpets and upholstery.

Alternative Air Fresheners

Pour vanilla extract on a cotton ball in a saucer. Use in your car, home or refrigerator.

Set out a dish of vinegar, or boil 1 tablespoon white vinegar in 1 cup of water to eliminate unpleasant cooking odors.


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Aphid and Mite Control

Mix 1 tablespoon pure soap with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in 1 gallon of water. Spray on aphid- or mite-infested plant parts. Store unused portion in labeled container. Use pure soap only. Detergent can burn plants.

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Attract Nice Bugs

Introduce friendly insects such as ladybugs (natural enemies of aphids), ground beetles and praying mantises, to rid your garden of uninvited pests. Check with a nursery for plants that attract these insects.

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Black Spot & Powdery Mildew Spray

Mix 3 tablespoons baking soda with 2 teaspoons insecticidal soap or ultra-fine horticultural oil in 1 gallon of water. Spray on affected plant parts.

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Cat Smells

Cover the bottom of your cat's litter box with baking soda before adding litter. It eliminates odors for days.

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Use 1/2 cup of borax in one gallon of hot water.

To prevent mold or mildew from forming, don’t rinse off the borax solution.

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Pour 1/4 cup baking soda down the drain, followed by 2 ounces of vinegar. Cover the drain and let sit for 15 minutes. Rinse with 2 quarts of boiling water.

Use this treatment regularly to prevent clogged drains and keep them smelling fresh. Also, pour boiling water down drains on a weekly basis to prevent grime buildup.

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Fighting Silverfish

Make traps with mixture of 1 part molasses to 2 parts vinegar. Place near cracks or holes where pests live. Repel silverfish by applying a mixture of borax and sugar or honey to baseboards and cupboards.

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Freshen Up Your Garbage Disposal

To clean garbage disposals, grind used lemons in the disposal or pour in baking soda.

Glass Cleaner

1 quart warm water

1/4 cup white vinegar (or 2 tablespoons lemon juice)

Mix ingredients and store in a spray bottle.

Dip a wet sponge in baking soda to clean a glass oven door.

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Instead of Moth Balls

Store clean woolens in sealed plastic bags or air-tight containers. Place garments in the freezer for several days to kill adult moths and larvae.

Make Your Own Fertilizer

4 parts seedmeal or fishmeal

1 part agricultural lime or dolomite

1 part rock phosphate or 1/2 part bonemeal

1/2 part kelpmeal

Measure ingredients and place in a large container. Mix well. Use in garden or on lawn, as well as beneath seeds or as a side dressing for vegetables.


Oil-based Paint/Spray Paint

Use latex water-based paints and apply with a brush or roller whenever possible.

Oven Cleaner

1 quart warm water

2 teaspoons borax

2 tablespoons liquid soap

Spray on solutions, wait 20 minutes, then clean. You can also pour salt on spills as they occur and wipe while your oven is warm.

Paint Stripper

Use a scraper, rasp or abrasive block, heat gun or sandpaper to remove paint without chemicals.

Use water or alkali-based paint strippers rather than solvent-based products.

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Silver: Rub object gently with toothpaste on a soft cloth to avoid scratching. Rinse well with water.

Copper: Pour vinegar and salt over copper and rub.

Brass: Polish with Worcestershire sauce; or pour on ketchup, let sit, then wipe dry.

Chrome: Shine wet chrome fixtures by rubbing with newspaper; or rub with baby oil and a soft cloth. Test first on an inconspicuous area.


Preserving Indoor Wood

Try borax-based wood preservatives for indoor applications.

Removing Onion Odors

Add a few drops of vinegar to soapy water to remove onion odors from utensils, chopping blocks, or hands. Rubbing hands with the cut end of a celery stalk will also remove odor.

Slug Trap - or "Beer Garden"

Cut several 1-inch square openings in the sides of a clean covered cottage cheese container or margarine tub. Sink the container into the soil so the openings are just above the soil surface.

Remove the lid and pour in 1/2-inch of beer, or whip up a yeast mixture:

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon baker's yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

2 cups warm water

Replace the lid.

Slugs will be attracted to the trap, fall in and drown. Empty the container every few days and refill.

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Spice Up Your Home

Wrap cloves and cinnamon in cheesecloth and boil in water; or, leave herbal bouquets standing in open dishes for a fragrant smell.

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Stain Remover

1 part glycerin

1 part liquid dish washing detergent

8 parts water


Test on unexposed area of fabric. Apply to stain as soon as possible and blot with cloth. Store in a plastic squeeze bottle. Shake well before each use.

Stick to Glue

Use Elmer's-type white glue or yellow carpenter's glues for wood, china, paper and other porous materials. Use a glue stick or paste rather than rubber cement.

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Toilet Bowls

Put 1/4 cup borax in toilet bowl and let set overnight.

Next day, scrub - or scrub with a solution of 1/2 cup borax to 1 gallon of water.

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Tub and Tiles

Scrub surfaces with baking soda slightly moistened with water.

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Vinyl Floors

1 gallon warm water
1/2 cup white vinegar or 1/4 cup borax
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Weed Killer

To control weeds, hand-pick them and apply mulch from wood chips or grass clippings. This mulch also acts as a natural fertilizer. You can also pour boiling water on dandelions. Repeat over several days.

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Wood Floors

For unvarnished floors, damp mop with mild vegetable oil soap.

For no-wax floors (such as polyurethane or Swedish finishes), clean with 1 part vinegar to 10 parts water.

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