Green cleaning tips
Safe, non-toxic formulas, techniques and products for cleaning in your home.
1. Home made Substitutions
There are many inexpensive, easy-to-use natural alternatives that can safely be used in place of commercial household products. Here is a list of common, environmentally safe products that can be used alone or in combination for a wealth of household applications.
– cleans, deodorizes, softens water, scours.
– one of the strongest food-acids, effective against most household bacteria.
– (sodium borate) cleans, deodorizes, disinfects, softens water, cleans wallpaper, painted walls and floors.
– or SAL Soda is sodium carbonate decahydrate, a mineral. Washing soda cuts grease, removes stains, softens water, cleans wall, tiles, sinks and tubs. Use care, as washing soda can irritate mucous membranes. Do not use on aluminium.
– can be used to clean windows, polish furniture, shampoo carpets and rugs.
– unscented soap in liquid form, flakes, powders or bars is biodegradable and will clean just about anything. Avoid using soaps which contain petroleum distillates.
– cuts grease, removes mildew, ordors, some stains and wax build-up.
– is an excellent disinfectant. (It has been suggested to replace this with ethanol or 100 proof alcohol in solution with water. There is some indication that isopropyl alcohol build-up contributes to illness in the body. See http://drclark.ch/g)
– cleans paint brushes, oil and grease, some stains. (Citrus solvent may cause skin, lung or eye irritations for people with multiple chemical sensitivities.
Is Borax Safe? Borax is considered a mild skin irritant similar to baking soda. The MSDS lists borax as a health hazard of 1, similar to salt and baking soda. A health concern with borax is its potential to disrupt the reproductive system. Studies have not been done in humans regarding this; however, potential reproductive issues in mice are suspected from high levels of ingested borax. The use of borax for home cleaning formulas, where no borax is ingested, has not been shown to pose health hazards. Borax is a natural substance that is non-carcinogenic, does not accumulate in the body, or absorbs through the skin. It is not harmful to the environment.
Combinations of the above basic products can provide less harmful substitutions for many commercial home products. In most cases, they’re also less expensive. Here are some formulas for safe, alternative home care products:
Note: These formulas and substitutions are offered to help minimize the use of toxic substances in your home, and reduce the environmental harm caused by the manufacture, use, and disposal of toxics. Results may vary and cannot be guaranteed to be 100% safe and effective. Before applying any cleaning formulations, test in small hidden areas if possible. Always use caution with any new product in your home.
Make sure to keep all homemade formulas well-labeled, and out of the reach of children.
All-Purpose Cleaner: Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda (or 2 teaspoons borax) into 1/2 gallon (2 liters) of water. Store and keep. Use for removal of water deposit stains on shower stall panels, bathroom chrome fixtures, windows, bathroom mirrors, etc. Or use a citrus-based natural all-purpose cleaner.
Another alternative is microfibre cloths which lift off dirt, grease, and dust without the need for cleaning chemicals because they are formulated to penetrate and trap dirt. There are a number of different brands. A good quality cloth can last for several years.
• Baking soda or vinegar with lemon juice in small dishes absorbs odours around the house.
• Having houseplants helps reduce ordors in the home.
• Prevent cooking odours by simmering vinegar (1 tbsp in 1 cup water) on the stove while cooking. To get such smells as fish and onion off utensils and cutting boards, wipe them with vinegar and wash in soapy water.
• Keep fresh coffee grounds on the counter.
• Grind up a slice of lemon in the garbage disposal.
• Simmer water and cinnamon or other spices on stove.
• Place bowls of fragrant dried herbs and flowers in room.
For fresh grease spots, sprinkle corn starch onto spot and wait 15 - 30 minutes before vacuming.
For a heavy duty carpet cleaner, mix 1/4 cup each of salt, borax and vinegar. Rub paste into carpet and leave for a few hours. Vacuum.
• In-sink garbage disposal units - grind up lemon or orange peel in the unit
• Carpets - sprinkle baking soda several hours before vacuuming
• Garage, basements - set a sliced onion on a plate in center of room for 12 - 24 hours
Most floor surfaces can be easily cleaned using a solution of vinegar and water. For damp-mopping wood floors: mix equal amounts of white distilled vinegar and water. Add 15 drops of pure peppermint oil; shake to mix.
For unvarnished wood, mix two tsps each of olive oil and lemon juice and apply a small amount to a soft cotton cloth. Wring the cloth to spread the mixture further into the material and apply to the furniture using wide strokes. This helps distribute the oil evenly.
To remove lime scale on bathroom fixtures, squeeze lemon juice onto affected areas and let sit for several minutes before wiping clean with a wet cloth.
Homemade moth-repelling sachets can also be made with lavender, rosemary, vetiver and rose petals.
Dried lemon peels are also a natural moth deterrent - simply toss into clothes chest, or tie in cheesecloth and hang in the closet.
Fresh paint odours can be reduced by placing a small dish of white vinegar in the room.
Coffee and tea stains: Stains in cups can be removed by applying vinegar to a sponge and wiping. To clean a teakettle or coffee maker, add 2 cups water and 1/4 cup vinegar; bring to a boil. Let cool, wipe with a clean cloth and rinse thoroughly with water.
If you want to use a commercial dishwashing soap, try CitraDish or Nellie's All-Natural diswasher powder, which contain no bleach or phosphates.
To disinfect kitchen sponges, put them in the dishwasher when running a load.
A commercial alternative is to use CitraDrain Build-Up Remover which uses natural enzymes to safely eliminate grease, oil, soap residue and more to keep pipes flowing properly.
chrome: polish with baby oil, vinegar, or aluminium foil shiny side out.
3. Home made Substitutions
Many modern homes are so tight there’s little new air coming in. Open the windows from time to time or run any installed exhaust fans. In cold weather, the most efficient way to exchange room air is to open the room wide – windows and doors and let fresh air in quickly for about 5 minutes. The furnishings in the room, and the walls, act as ‘heat sinks’, and by exchanging air quickly, this heat is retained.
Remove clutter which collects dust, such as old newspapers and magazines. Try to initiate a ‘no-shoes-indoors’ policy. If you’re building or remodelling a home, consider a central vacuum system; this eliminates the fine dust which portable vacuum cleaners recirculate.
Most household sponges are made of polyester or plastic which are slow to break down in landfills, and many are treated with triclosan, a chemical that can produce chloroform (a suspected carcinogen) when it interacts with the chlorine found in tap water. Instead try cellulose sponges, available at natural foods stores, which are biodegradable and will soak up spills faster since they’re naturally more absorbent. For general household cleaning, try Skoy Eco-Cleaning Cloths. These cleaning cloths are non-toxic, extremely absorbent (15x paper towels), reusable, and biodegradable.
Most time at home is spent in the bedrooms. Keep pets out of these rooms, especially if they spend time outdoors.
Of the various commercial home cleaning products, drain cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners and oven cleaners are the most toxic. Use the formulas described above or purchase ‘green’ commercial alternatives. Avoid products containing ammonia or chlorine, or petroleum-based chemicals; these contribute to respiratory irritation, headaches and other complaints.
When house cleaning, save the floor or carpet for last. Clean window blinds and shelves first and then work downwards. Allow time for the dust to settle before vacuuming.
Expert Advice For Difficult Cleaning...
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Telephone: 0208 768 4102.