Green Cleaning a Classroom (Video)

Never before I was a parent did I think the words, “Don’t lick that!” would come out of my mouth quite so regularly.  Kids don’t merely touch things – they like to have whole body experiences with them.

Fast forward to the first time I saw my preschooler helping clean his classroom with the “pink stuff” in the spray bottle.  “What’s in that?” I asked.  No one knew.  Mind you, this was the same kid whom I found sucking on a nozzle of Formula 409 (before my green conversion).  The guy at Poison Control didn’t know what was in that either.  Surprisingly, ingredients don’t have to be listed on cleaning product labels.  Nowadays with some searching, you can find Formula 409 ingredients on the Clorox website, but even more revealing is the analysis of it on the Environmental Working Group’s Healthy Cleaning Guide.

Even without on-label ingredients, the Hazard Statements on the back tell us plenty.  Formula 409, for example, recommends that if it gets on skin or clothes, wash for 15-20 minutes and call Poison Control.  What’s in it that makes that necessary?  It’s the manufacturers themselves who are raising the red flags over their own products.  And though I’ve picked on 409, the hazards of most conventional cleaners are just as high.  Plug the product in to the EWG Guide to do your own homework.

When it comes to cleaning schools, then, give me products whose ingredients are effective yet don’t carry threats to human health.  It’s human health we’re trying to protect here after all.

With non-toxic cleaners, kids can get involved in the cleaning too.  And it is good for them to be part of caring for their classroom.  It gives them a sense of pride, a sense of ownership.  Wouldn’t it be great to hear them say, “Hey! I just cleaned up this mess!”  At least one can hope.

Check out this quick tutorial of a few ways to clean a classroom – or anywhere else for that matter – “greenly”.

Recipes mentioned in the video:

All Purpose Cleaning Spray

Combine in a spray bottle:

1 tbsp. Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds OR 1/4 c. Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap

1 quart of water

20 drops Tea Tree Essential oil (optional)

Glass Cleaner

Combine in a spray bottle:

Half distilled white vinegar

Half water

GIY Wipes

1 1/2 c. filtered, distilled, or boiled then cooled water

1 tbsp. Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap or 1/2 tbsp. Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds

1/4 tsp. (20 drops) tea tree essential oil

Roll of Paper Towels (for disposable wipes)

Squares of old T-Shirts or Microfiber Cloths (for reusable wipes)

Put the paper towels or cloths in a container.  Mix up the solution ingredients and pour it over the wipes.  Let the wipes sit for 20 minutes to soak up the liquid.

7 thoughts on “Green Cleaning a Classroom (Video)

  1. for the tea tree oil, could one use a little of your tea tree soap in place of essential oil?

    • Hi Herb – You don’t want to add more soap into the dilution than the recipe calls for, but you most certainly can use the Tea Tree Castile Soap in the recipe for the added antibacterial boost.

    • Hi Karena- Good on you for being aware of this issue. The primary concern about microfiber is in our clothing. In particular, low-quality garments that shed fibers easily that contaminate the water supply and then the garments wind up in a landfill just a season or two after purchase. It is something we should all read up on and consider in the quality and longevity of the garments we purchase. Patagonia has taken a lead in examining microfiber’s effect on the environment and is conducting two studies (read about them here They’ve also developed the Guppy Friend washing bag to catch fibers shed by washing synthetic fabrics (, which I’m trying out. (Although I’m not sure where the fibers go once they are captured in the bag.) Of the various alternatives for cleaning rags, each has its ups and downs. Cotton does an okay job of cleaning, but it is also one of the most pesticide-thirsty and genetically engineered crops. An organic source for that would be key as well. Paper towels or other disposables contribute to our ever-increasing piles of waste. Every decision has its consequences. I would love to hear your thoughts about this and will continue to share mine as they develop.

  2. “Everyone” says that tea tree oil is anti-microbial, but in trying to verify this, I just keep finding internet links that go all over the place, but always only to other places that say the same thing – I haven’t found any original sources. Do you have links to any actual studies that demonstrate this?

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