Fels Naptha Laundry Bar (or Kirk's Castile, or Zote)
Dr. Bronner's Liquid Castile Soap
Tea Tree Essential Oil
A few notes on some of these ingredients:
Those wishing to be completely "green" in their cleaning should pass on borax. This chemical is toxic in large amounts, and actually can be used as a pesticide. It is included in laundry detergent to boost the whitening power. It can be included in other cleaners to help reduce hard water stains.
This is another ingredient that is not "green". I have quit using Fels, and use Kirk's Castile, or another low-fatted soap made locally by a soap maker. But for those who really need to pinch pennies, Fels Naptha can't be beat for price, and is usually available. I love the smell and consistency of Zote - a pink cintronella scented laundry bar usually found in Hispanic grocery stores.
If you want to keep things "green", use Heinz Vinegar, or another brand that lists grain as the ingredient. If the vinegar lists "vinegar" as the ingredient, it is actually made from petroleum by-products.
If you can't find this ingredient (used in dishwashing detergent), use packets of unsweetened lemon-lime koolaid. Citric Acid is the main ingredient in kool-aid.
Tea Tree Oil is the only oil that is a must for some of my recipes. There are a multitude of other oils that can add a pleasant scent to the recipes, and some have properties that can help with cleaning. Tea Tree Oil has antiseptic properties that I like for basic cleaning. Here are some of the other essential oils available:
From those basic ingredients, I can make everything that I use to clean my house. Washing Soda, Borax, Baking Soda, White Vinegar and Lemons can be found at most grocery stores. Many stores also carry the laundry bars. Dr. Bronner's and essential oils can usually be found at food co-ops or health food stores, although Walgreen's has it in our town. The only place I've found citric acid (a while crystalline powder) is in the bulk section of our local co-op. If you really live in the boonies - most of these ingredients are available on-line.
I have a well-used stash of old washclothes, diapers and t-shirts to use for rags. Other than the rags, a broom, a Dyson vacuum, scrub brush, and a couple of refillable spray bottles, I use these:
If you live in an area with hard water, a pumice stone is a MUST for cleaning toilets. I find Scotch Brite type scratcher sponges a necessity, too. The interesting looking contraption is an antique grinder. I use it to grind up the soap bars for laundry detergent. If you can't find one of these, a cheese grater will work.
Since laundry detergent is the solution I make the most frequently, I keep my borax and washing soda in candy store type dispensers, labeled for use:
I'll share the rest of my cleaning recipes during the month of January. Have fun finding the ingredients!