I'll be the first to tell you that I'm a clean freak. In the past, my cleaning cupboard always contained items like a scrubbing cleanser, a window cleaner, a grease cutter, floor cleaners, and fabric softener. These items are not only pricey but they often contain substances not even labelled on the product. We, as consumers, most often have no idea what we are inhaling or absorbing while we clean - not to mention the harsh affect they can have on our skin.

As I learned that my children suffer with food allergies and periodic asthma, I decided to search out healthier options for cleaning. I was beginning to read about the ill health effects of spraying commercial cleaners around the home and what I read was making sense. Why incorporate more toxins into your home than necessary? Cleaning can still happen – and be much less toxic.

If you were to peak into my cupboard now, you'd simply find 2 large bottles of vinegar, a box of baking soda and a bottle of lemon juice (actually kept in the fridge). I'm not fussy on the brand and usually buy what's on sale.

The following are the areas I clean most often and the method in which I do so:

Fabric Softener: Vinegar makes a wonderful fabric softener – and for pennies a load. It removes most of the remaining soap residue from your laundry and leaves it soft and fresh. An added bonus: over time you'll appreciate a cleaner, fresher washing machine as well. (Use 1/2 cup of white vinegar instead of fabric softener).

Window Cleaner: Vinegar makes a wonderful window cleaner. Say good-bye to streaks forever. If you have been using a commercial window cleaner it may take a few uses to remove any film left by the previous cleaner. Simply spray the window and wipe – a crisp cloth or papertowel work well. (Keep a spray bottle handy – containng 1/2 white vinegar, 1/2 water).

Household Cleaner: Vinegar makes a wonderful house hold cleaner. I use the same spray bottle mentioned above to clean my bathroom, walls, kitchen stove and countertops, and anywhere else you might need to "freshen up". Added bonus: removal of hard water residue in your shower (even if it's acrylic!).

Scrubbing Cleanser: Baking soda makes a wonderful cleanser. For added strength, sprinkle surface to be cleaned with baking soda and then top with a bit of white vinegar or lemon juice. Scrub as usual. (I put my baking soda in a cheese shaker I picked up at the dollar store which makes it easy to dispense).

Spills on carpet: Use your spray bottle and spray the spot in question. Do a small area if you are unsure of the colour "running" but I don't think this should be an issue. I've never had a problem. Rub briskly with a clean (preferably white) cloth. I've done this many times immediately following a spill with wonderful results.

Drains: Freshen drains when needed – I do mine monthly. Add 1 tbsp of baking soda to your drain. Top with 1 cup of white vinegar. Let sit. Rinse in 20 minutes or so.

Coffee Makers: add 1 cup of white vinegar. Fill the appliance with cold water. Turn on and circulate the water through the appliance. Shut off and wait 10 mintues. Be sure to use a filter to catch the residue that's released. Empty coffee pot and rinse the carafe. Run two cycles of fresh water through the coffee maker as a final rinse. (It's better to clean your coffee maker frequently to avoid buildup. I try and do this once per week as I have very hard water).

As you can see, vinegar can be extremely useful around the home – and a much healthier option when it comes to cleaning. Leave the toxins at the store.

Tips and Tricks: use dish soap to clean an acrylic bathroom fixture and periodically use the vinegar spray to remove any hard water deposits. Be sure not to use any cleaner containing acetone on your acrylic bathroom fixtures as this may damage your finish.