After tracking gook over your hardwood floor all winter, you're probably ready for a surface as shiny and smooth as the one Tom Cruise slid across in his skivvies in "Risky Business." It’s time to get rid of winter's greasy grime.

While doing so, of course, you don't want to add indoor air pollutants that can vaporize out of petroleum-based volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in wood and other cleaning products. Some of these chemicals, such as certain glycol ethers, alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs), nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), and phthalates, are toxins; others have been linked to cancer. But you won't necessarily find these listed on labels because cleaning product ingredients are protected as trade secrets.

Happily, there are several plant-based cleaners and conditioners for wood floors and furniture made by companies that willingly disclose their ingredients -- which do not include these VOCs. Having reached under the sink for last year's dusty bottle of our favorite all-purpose green cleaner, however, we were stopped by the warning: "Not recommended for use on wood floors." Yikes! Had we done damage?

No, we remembered with relief, the last time we mopped our wood floors (we won’t say how long ago) we had improvised our own formula, as follows:

* ¼ to ½ cup white vinegar

* A few drops of plant-based liquid soap a spritz of lemon or ½ cup peppermint or lavender tea for fragrance two gallons of warm water

It works swell.

If you prefer a readymade product, which can be especially useful in these transitional seasons when there's a lot of dirt to lift, the following pure vegetable cleaners are safe for your health and that of your woodwork and finished wood floors.

Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds is packaged in post-consumer-recycled plastic and bears the estimable Leaping Bunny seal, ensuring that it was not tested on animals. Vermont Soap Liquid Sunshine uses certified organic plant ingredients. Begley's Best All-Purpose Cleaner is certified as eco-friendly and least-toxic by independent arbiters Green Seal.

For finished wood furniture, a little bit of Caldrea's lavender and pine wood furniture cream removes dust and leaves a rich glow. Or D.I.Y. by mixing a few drops of lemon essential oil (available at natural foods stores) or white vinegar with a cup of warm water and wipe with a clean rag.

Clean and protect unfinished wood with a mixture of ½ cup olive or walnut oil to ½ cup lemon juice or white vinegar.

Mop a little floor, do a little dance, get down tonight.

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

Copyright Environ Press 2008

Hardwood heaven
Get your hardwoods squeaky clean and green.