The Naturally Clean Home is a 224 page book that promises “150 super-easy herbal formulas for green cleaning”. (The version I reviewed is the 2008 revised edition.) Its author’s goal is to help readers be able to clean their homes, do their laundry, and keep their gardens healthy—all without toxic, chemical solutions. The key to almost all the recipes is to use essential oils or herbs.
The book is divided into eleven chapters. The first gives a solid foundation as to why you would want to clean with herbs or essential oils. Some of the chapters give recipes for the areas of the kitchen, bathroom, laundry, garage, and basement. The remaining chapters cover how to take care of wood furniture and flooring, cleaning metals (bronze, brass, silver, etc.), walls, carpeting, the garden, landscaping, and purifying the air inside the home (via potpourris, sachets, and herbal mists). At the end of the book, you will also find a list of resources (places to buy essential oils, herbs, and other products mentioned in the book) and an index. Both are helpful in implementing the solutions provided earlier in the book.
The first chapter (which is called “Why Clean with Herbs?”) is perhaps the most helpful. As someone who hasn’t used essential oils or herbs for cleaning before, I found it to give a thorough introduction to the use of both. Although it doesn’t present the information like a frequently asked questions page, it certainly answered all of the questions I had as I read the book. I found it to be very helpful to have it at the beginning of the book. Also very helpful is the chart listing specific herbs and their beneficial properties; that made it easy to figure out which herb would best meet my specific cleaning purposes. (For example, according to the chart, lavender and lemon seem to be interchangeable. If I prefer one scent over the other, I could conceivably switch the two herbs out in the cleaning solution I use.) There are lists of what to include in a basic cleaning solution kit and suggested equipment, too.
There are a total of 153 recipes in the book. In addition, there are several “helpful hints” in each chapter—a total of 155 helpful hints in the book. In my opinion, this book packs a lot of information in a small space.
I decided to start out small and try a laundry recipe. I used a cup of vinegar during the rinse cycle, as a fabric softener. It did soften my clothes, although not as much as a commercial one would have. Then again, I knew exactly what was in it and that the ingredient was all natural. I traded non-toxicity for softness—which was a good trade, if my family can accept less soft clothes. I’m not sure they can, but it is worth a try.
I also asked my husband (who works with computers) about the author’s suggestions for cleaning computers and their parts. I didn’t think it was a safe idea, but he affirmed that it was. That was encouraging.
There is a downside to the solutions presented in the book, but it is only for a minority of readers. I have a sensitive nose that can be easily overpowered, so recipes containing two, three, or four scents do not work for me. But this could be easily overcome by looking at the list of herbs and their beneficial properties in the first chapter. Just one scent could work as well as multiple scents, without overwhelming the senses.
Another issue that crossed my mind when reading the book is that of disinfecting. Some leading brand disinfecting wipes and sprays claim to “kill 99.9% of viruses and bacteria”, including such nasties as salmonella, Influenza A, and staph. I simply don’t have enough experience with essential oils to know if they can do the same. (In all fairness, the author does list the properties of each herb—many of which are antibacterial, antibiotic, antiviral, or antifungal.) This may not be an issue for readers, unless someone in their household is ill, but it is something to consider.
This book is filled, from cover to cover, with lots of tips and recipes for making your home healthier and cleaner, while not contributing detrimentally to the planet. It is a great resource to have in your arsenal of “how to” books, making being friendly towards the planet easy. I heartily recommend it for adult readers, although enterprising preteens and teens helping with chores could certainly also use it. (Parents should probably mix the recipes, though, until the child is comfortable with it.)