Washroom, loo, powder room, toilet—whatever you call the bathroom, it's probably most people's least favorite room to clean. While scrubbing away soap scum and stains won't ever put a smile on our faces, we do enjoy using green products that won't harm our health or the environment.

For instance, conventional bathroom cleaners often rely on chlorine bleach, which is caustic to inhale or touch and turns into toxic organochlorines in our waterways. If combined with ammonia, which gives off acrid fumes and is highly poisonous if swallowed, chlorine produces toxic chloramine gas. Hey, accidents could happen in a cleaning frenzy, so best to avoid these ingredients.

Spring is the perfect time to buy greener cleaners or mix your own. Do remember, though, to ventilate well and wear gloves as you work.

Glass and surface cleaners (including windows, mirrors)

For quick grime removal and sparkle, we recommend this easy all-purpose recipe: Mix ¼ cup white vinegar and a few drops of plant-based liquid soap with a quart of warm water. Shake in spray bottle, spritz and wipe with a clean rag.

Porcelain and tile

For more persistent dirt, a good D.I.Y. soft scrub is baking soda moistened with liquid soap and white vinegar. To toughen, add washing soda, a natural mineral product found in supermarket laundry aisles. Or, dip half a lemon in Borax, another mineral-based laundry cleaner, and rub the encrusted lemon face on tubs and tiles. Scents your bath with natural fragrance, too!

To buy, the following powders and soft scrubs work well and are healthily free of ammonia, chlorine, and potentially hormone-disrupting petrochemicals such as alkyphenol ethoxylates (APEs), phthalates (added to synthetic fragrances) and glycol ethers.

We also like the following companies because they freely list their active ingredients even though they are not required to disclose these so-called "trade secrets" by law. The Velvet Hammer, Ecover, Seventh Generation, Naturally Yours, and Bon Ami all-mineral scouring powder or soft scrub, found in most household supply and drug stores.

Mildew busters

Spray with a slightly stronger vinegar mixture, say, up to 1 cup with a quart of water and some liquid soap. Leave on for at least two hours, and wipe clean. Add baking soda for extra scouring. This removed four years' worth of mildew on the "Honu" (green sea turtle) shower curtain with which our son will never part. Or use a vinegar-based product such as Eco Friendly Window Kleener, sold at drug and natural foods stores, or here.

The toilet bowl

Last but not least, the toilet can always benefit from a little brightening.  A green chemist we know recommends a “two-step method”: Use a toilet bowl cleaner and brush to scrub off stains and mineral deposits with baking soda or one of the commercial powders or soft scrubs above: spray toilet seat, rim and lid with a cleaner containing hydrogen peroxide, let stand for five minutes, and wipe off with a sponge. Hydrogen peroxide, which is registered by the EPA as an antimicrobial pesticide—really, see for yourself! 

That's if you're terribly worried about germs. In most cases, a wipedown with white vinegar should suffice for the lid and seat.

Now that your bathroom's green and clean, treat yourself: Be the first to enjoy the facilities!

This article originally appeared in Plenty in April 2008. The story was added to MNN.com.

Copyright Environ Press 2008

Don't throw money down the drain
Homemade bathroom cleaners are cheaper, effective and won't harm the environment like traditional products.