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Safer Non-toxic Cleaning Tips For The Office

Cleaning is essential to our everyday health and wellness, and just because you step into the office five days out of the week doesn’t mean that you can neglect it. When it comes to cleaning an office or workspace, it might seem obvious to use the strongest, most potent tools and detergents available. That way, the space is as clean as possible for the multitude of people passing through, right? However, commercial cleaners can be unexpectedly toxic and harmful to the very people it’s trying to sanitize for, leading to new, complicated problems.

Luckily, years and years of safe cleansing history provides a way to stay clean and safe. When it comes to non-toxic cleaners, you only need three accessible and harmless materials: vinegar, lemons, and water.


Mothers have been using these two pantry items for decades to effectively clean their homes, and for a good reason. Vinegar and lemons both contain a ton of acid: acetic acid in vinegar and citric acid in lemons. That high concentration of acid makes these two liquids excellent at combating more alkaline, or basic, buildup including soap scum, calcified brine, and glue stains. Over time or with pressure, the acid in vinegar and lemons breaks down buildup and makes them much easier to them wipe or scrub away.

Most kinds of vinegar can be used to clean, although white vinegar is the most potent due to it being made of laboratory-produced acetic acid and water. When using white vinegar be sure to dilute it in accordance with the surface you’re trying to clean. Otherwise, go for a milder apple cider vinegar.

When using white vinegar be sure to dilute it in accordance with the surface you're trying to clean. Otherwise, go for a milder apple cider vinegar.

Any kind of lemon can be used as well. Just don’t use the other members of the citrus family and expect the same results; it is lemon’s mouth-puckering concentration of citric acid that gives it its infamous reputation in the cleaning world.

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    Vinegar is a versatile and potent tool that won't destroy half the surfaces in the office. Unlike the lemon it can attack buildup and stains that are a little more potent with a little less volume, making it an affordable way to use non-toxic cleaners. Vinegar can be used to:

    Clean the coffeemaker. Just run the machine with equal parts of water and vinegar. Halfway through its cycle, turn it off and let it sit for an hour. (You might want to put up an In Repair sign to prevent your coworkers from taking a sip of extremely acidic coffee.) Then, finish the cycle. Run the machine one more time with just water to flush. 

     Unclog a drain. While vinegar can’t dissolve large solids (and if it could, it would no longer be a non-toxic cleaner!), it can be used for general weekly maintenance. Just put a half cup of vinegar and a half cup of baking soda down the drain. Let it sit for ten minutes before rinsing. 

    Remove stickers. Instead of fussing with Goo Gone for half an hour, rub down a stubborn label with vinegar and let it sit for 10 minutes. Come back and rub the paper away.

    Quickly fix carpet spills. If someone recently spilled something on the floor, first blot away as much liquid as possible. Then spray the carpet with a half water, half vinegar solution. Let that soak in for two minutes before finally blotting again.


    Lemons are cheap and edible, and if you like spiking your water with a little acidic brightness chances are there are already some lemons in the fridge. Use lemon when worried about the surface you're cleaning, such as with stone or other porous surfaces, as it is gentler than vinegar can be.

    Lemon can be used to:

    Clean laminate countertops. Squeeze the juice of a lemon onto the counter and rub it into any grime or buildup. Then rinse away with water. 

    Remove stains from food storage containers. Rub stains with lemon and a little baking soda. If the stain is persistent, let it sit overnight and rinse away when done. 

    Make the fridge or garbage disposal smell nice. If the fridge starts smelling funky, just place half a lemon inside. Use the other half of the lemon and then drop just the peel down the drain and let the disposal do its thing under running water. It should immediately release a fresh, citrusy scent in the kitchen.

    Create a natural air freshener. Stab some cloves into a lemon or orange, or even place an open lemon in a bowl on your desk. Then sit back and type away to the scent of a sunny spring day.

    Both Vinegar and Lemon

    Both vinegar and lemon can be used interchangeably as a glass surface cleaner. It is mostly up to preference or availability to use one or another. For vinegar, mix one tablespoon of vinegar into a quart of water. For lemon, add four tablespoons of lemon into half a gallon of water. Spray on windows or glass tabletops and wipe dry.

    Additionally, some might find the smell of vinegar unbearable, which is something to keep in mind when using it to clean a shared space. To dilute the scent, infuse your vinegar with lemon oils! Place lemon peels inside a bottle of vinegar solution and let the liquids mingle for two weeks. That way, you can still use the powerful vinegar while reducing its powerful stench.


    While serious sanitary issues should be dealt with accordingly serious chemical products, don’t be afraid to use non-toxic cleaners instead of a bottle of disinfectant! You might find yourself pleasantly surprised by the results: a clean office space, improved health, and the scent of lemons in the air.

    Vinegar and lemon are a power duo when it comes to cleaning shared spaces where allergens and chemicals are unknown and, thus, should be avoided.

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