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Why Go Green?

Commercial home cleaning products are not just more expensive when compared to natural alternatives. They are full of toxins known to affect your skin, lungs, nervous system, and even your endocrine and reproductive systems.

These substances invade your body through the fumes they create or from direct contact with your skin. Reactions vary, depending on the person, but the following conditions have been linked to chemicals used in household cleaners:

  • Allergies, asthma and other respiratory problems
  • Irritation of the skin or eyes
  • Changes in mood or behavior in both children and adults
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism and attention-deficit disorders

The Solution is simple – make your own safe and inexpensive products:

Air Fresheners:  Unfortunately, commercially available air fresheners are full of synthetic substances. Even so-called “natural“ oils can add as much as 50% chemicals and still be labeled 100% pure. Look for quality essential oils, which are more concentrated and healthier.

Choose one of your favorite scents, like orange, lavender, or peppermint and mix a few drops with water into a spray bottle or add to your cleaning formulas. Because essential oils have aromatherapy benefits, just a few drops can boost your mood, energize your mind, spur creativity, and calm stress, depending on the type you choose.

Antibacterial Cleaners: AVOID THESE!  The FDA has found that antibacterial soaps and hand cleansers do not work better than regular soap and water, and should be avoided due to the risk of breeding “super germs.”

More effective and much safer is a hand spray you make yourself. Just combine isopropyl alcohol or vodka, water, and essential oils like lavender.

Carpet/Upholstery Stains:

Studies show that carpet is healthier than hard floors. The electrostatic charge in carpet attracts dust, pollen and chemicals that would otherwise circulate in the air. When vacuumed regularly (once or twice a week) and deep cleaned once a year, carpet acts as a natural air filter to minimize dust, pollen and chemicals in the air.

Avoid cleaning carpets with hot water extraction (steam cleaning) and toxic chemicals. With most steam cleaning systems – especially “do-it-yourself rental units,” it is impossible to remove all the water.  Damp carpets begin to mold in as little as 4 hours. In addition, the sticky, soapy cleaning product residue, even if natural, can attract dirt and cause old stains to “wick up” (resurface).  Choose a dry carpet cleaning process that uses plant-based, non-toxic cleaners instead.

To keep your carpets clean, adopt a “no-shoes” policy or use a good doormat. Treat stains as they occur with a small amount of club soda or water – blot until the stain is gone. Never scrub or use hot water as this will set the stain.

For a heavy-duty stain, combine ¼ cup each of Borax, salt, and vinegar and mix to form a paste. Rub into carpet with a soft brush or rag. Once dry, vacuum the spot thoroughly. Treat specific stains as follows:

Pet Urine: Dab area with a towel to absorb as much as possible. Wash the spot with a few drops of liquid dish detergent, and rinse with 1/2 cup vinegar diluted in 1 quart of warm water. Be careful not to saturate carpet with water. Lay towels over the spot and weight down to absorb excess moisture. Let stand 3 hours, remove towels, brush up nap, and allow to dry completely. Use an electric fan to speed drying so carpet will not mold.

Red wine: Fresh stains may be removed by rubbing in baking soda and vacuuming. You can also cover stain with salt while wet. Let dry completely before vacuuming.

Grease spots: First extract the liquid with a sponge, then rub a liberal amount of baking soda into the spot. Let it absorb overnight. Next day, remove the excess and vacuum the area.

Mud: Rub salt on the mud. Wait one hour before vacuuming.

Miscellaneous Stains: Mix warm water with white vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray the stain and let sit for several minutes before sponging with warm water and a drop or two of liquid soap.

Carpet Freshener: Sprinkle baking soda on carpet 15 minutes or more (even overnight) before vacuuming, breaking up any clumps that form. If you have a problem with fleas or other pests, you can use Borax, but keep pets and toddlers away.

Car Grease: To remove from concrete flooring, sprinkle kitty litter or sawdust over grease. After it has absorbed, you can sweep it up.

Car Soap: 1/4 cup vegetable oil based liquid soap (like Dr Bronner’s) to a pail of hot water. Wash your car on the lawn instead of your driveway to reduce runoff to the street or storm sewer.

Car Wax: 1 cup linseed oil, 4 tbsp. carnauba wax (available at automotive stores), 2 tbsp. beeswax, and 1/2 cup vinegar. Put ingredients in top half of a double boiler or saucepan. Heat slowly until wax has melted. Stir, and pour into a heat-resistant container. After wax has solidified, rub it on the car with a lint-free cloth. Saturate a corner of a cotton rag with vinegar and polish the wax to a deep shine.

Candles/Wax: Sponge with a piece of cotton dipped in rubbing alcohol.

Counter Stains: To remove coffee, tea, and other stains from cups or counters, rub with a baking soda and white vinegar paste. White wine also removes rings and stains while disinfecting and killing salmonella. Any dry, white wine or cooking wine will work.

Decals/Gummed Labels/Price Tag Remover: To remove stick-on hooks, price labels and decals from glass, wood, and china, and non-slip strips from bathtubs: Saturate the adhesive with hot vinegar for several minutes. (NOTE: Use these methods only on washable surfaces and washable paint).

Dishes, Pots & Pans:

  • Use liquid or powdered soap instead of detergents, which are petroleum-based. In dishwashers, use equal parts borax & washing soda.
  • Add 1 cup of white vinegar to the rinse compartment of your automatic dishwasher
  • Use Baking soda and liquid soap for hand washing dishes
  • Drinking glasses – occasionally soak them in a vinegar and water solution for extra clean and sparkle.
  • Crystal glassware – when a quick dip is needed, prepare a solution of baking soda in tepid-cool water (l level teaspoon to a quart) and brush with a soft toothbrush. Good for glass coffee makers and thermos jugs too.
  • Burned on foods or crusts – Soak or boil a solution of 2 tbsp baking soda per quart of water in pan. Let stand until particles loosen, then wash as usual. Use a mild or moderate abrasive if necessary.
  • Greasy pans – Add 1 or 2 teaspoons of baking soda to the water in which it is soaking.
  • Copper pan cleaner – Sprinkle surface of pans with coarse salt. Rub salt into stains with the cut half of a fresh lemon.
  • Non-Stick Cookware – Pour a solution of 1 cup water, 2 tbsp. baking soda (no vinegar) into a pan, simmer 10 minutes. Do not allow mixture to boil. Wash in hot soapy water, rinse and dry. Apply a light coating of cooking oil.
  • Baking Dishes – Enamel, Ceramic or Glass: Soak in hot soapy water with baking soda. Scour with salt and rinse thoroughly.

Drain Cleaner: For slow drains, use this drain cleaner once a week to keep drains fresh and clog-free. Pour ½ baking soda down drain/disposal, followed by 1 cup vinegar. Allow the mixture to foam for several minutes before flushing the drain with 1 gallon boiling water.

Furniture Polish and Scratch Covers:

  • Use 3 parts light mineral oil, 1 part olive oil, & a drop of lemon juice.
  • Hide wood scratches by rubbing with the meat of a walnut.
  • Use a soft cloth and wipe with a bit of mayonnaise.
  • Mix 2 parts olive oil with 1 part lemon juice. Apply mixture to furniture with a soft cloth and wipe it dry.
  • To remove water stains on wood furniture, dab white toothpaste on stain. Allow the paste to dry and then gently buff off with a soft cloth.

Floor Cleaners: Wash floors with a terry cloth towel, which will leave your floor cleaner than a mop. Most mops do not rinse clean, leaving behind layers of dirt. They can also easily mold.  A pencil eraser removes heel marks from a floor.

Linoleum Floors: Combine 1/8 cup distilled white vinegar, 1/8 cup vegetable oil based liquid soap, and 1 gallon water. For greasy floors, add washing soda.

Marble and wood floors: Dampen a towel using a solution of ¼ cup vinegar to 1 gallon of water. In areas with hard water, increase the vinegar to ½ cup. Wring all the moisture out of the towel until barely damp. Excess water from self-wringing mops works down between the boards eventually warping the boards at the edges. Towels are the only safe way to damp mop a hardwood floor.

Ceramic tile floors: Clean any spills immediately. The grout between tiles is difficult to clean once a stain has set. Soap leaves a film, so use ¼ cup of vinegar with 1 gallon of water. Clean the floor with a damp terry towel. Vinegar is safe for tile floors (but not wood). To clean stains in grout, fill a bottle with a 50/50 solution of hydrogen peroxide and water. Thoroughly spray the stain and leave it for 10 minutes. Grout is porous and may need retreating several times. After the third try, mix a paste using baking soda and peroxide and apply to the stain. After several hours,  spray with the peroxide and water solution.

Garbage Disposal: To eliminate garbage disposal odors and clean and sharpen blades, grind ice with used lemon and/or orange rinds until pulverized.

Glass Cleaners – windows and mirrors:

See which of the following ideas work best for you:

  • Undiluted white vinegar
  • Equal parts vinegar and water
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1 quart warm water
  • Straight rubbing alcohol

Wipe dry with crumpled newspaper; buff to a shine. Use crumpled newspaper instead of paper towels for lint-free results. Recycle newspaper when finished.

Grease Cutters:

  • Use lemon juice, vinegar, or borax. Scrub with a brush.
  • Mix 1/2 tsp. washing soda, 1/2 tsp vegetable oil-based liquid soap, 3 tbsp. vinegar, and 2 cups hot water in a spray bottle.

Gum and Wax: Freeze gum with an ice-cube. Remove when hardened. For wax from candles:

  • Freeze the wax with an ice-cube in a Ziploc plastic bag
  • Chip off as much as you can with the blunt side of a knife
  • Using a hair dryer and a plain white paper towel, heat the wax, blotting with the paper towel as it melts.

This works for carpets as well as fabrics. Remember to put plastic under a fabric so the wax doesn’t transfer to the other surface.

Kitchen Fire:

  • Fill a large coffee can with baking soda and keep it near the stove. If a greasy pan catches on fire, turn the heat off and try to cover the pan. Sprinkle the baking soda over the fire.
  • An oven fire is easily extinguished by closing the door and shutting off the heat.

Laundry Stains:

  • Treat stains immediately with a little soap to avoid the stain setting into the fabric. If soap doesn’t work, use foaming shaving cream and let it set for an hour.
  • Blot – don’t rub, then rinse. Never use hot water as it sets stains.
  • Bleach alternative for whites: Hydrogen peroxide ½ – 1 cup to washer full of water. Let clothes soak in this solution for 30 minutes if dingy.
  • Add borax and washing (or baking) soda to your wash to boost cleaning power (may discolor certain fabrics)
  • For Ink Stains: Dab rubbing alcohol or hair spray on the stain, leave it for 30 minutes, then blot dry.

Metal Cleaners:

To clean brass, mix equal parts salt and flour with a little vinegar, then rub.  For chrome, rub with undiluted vinegar. Copper cleans best with lemon juice and salt or hot vinegar and salt. For stainless steel, rub with a paste of baking soda and water. The following ideas are for cleaning silver:

  • Use toothpaste, warm water, and an old soft bristled toothbrush instead of toxic silver cleaner.
  • Rub silver with a paste of baking soda and water.
  • To magnetize tarnish away, soak silver in salted water in an aluminum container, then wipe clean.
  • Soak in boiling water, baking soda, salt, and a piece of aluminum foil
  • When a quick dip for silverware is needed, prepare a solution of baking soda in tepid-cool water (l level teaspoon to a quart) and brush with a soft toothbrush.

Mold and Mildew Remover:

  • Pour white vinegar into a spray bottle and spray on infected area.
  • For areas with persistent mold problems, use 2 drops of tea tree oil with one cup of water instead of vinegar. This is more expensive, but will kill most types of mold and help prevent new growth.
  • Dissolve ½ cup vinegar with ½ cup borax in warm water.
  • Hydrogen peroxide – spray on mold spots and dry with a fan

Oil or grease on fabrics:

  • Dab on a bit of a natural orange cleaner and let that set at least one hour before blotting with a clean cloth. It may take a treatment or two, but it will work. If you spill gasoline on your clothes or in your car, dispose of your clothing properly and replace the carpeting in your car. Gasoline and water don’t mix, making complete removal impossible. Gas can spontaneously combust, especially when the weather turns hot. Always put a container of gas inside a plastic tub when carrying it in your car. If the tank spills over, the tub keeps the gas contained.

Oven Cleaners:

To prevent difficult cleaning, try to remove spills as soon as possible.

  • While the oven is still warm, sprinkle salt or baking soda on the spill. If the spill is completely dry, wet the spill lightly before sprinkling on salt. When the oven cools, scrape away the spill and wash the area clean. If necessary, rub gently with a very fine steel wool pad. Rinse and wipe dry.
  • Cover with baking soda and leave overnight. Wipe off and apply liquid soap with a scouring pad. Rinse.
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil-based liquid soap
  • 2 tablespoons Borax: Mix the soap and borax in a spray bottle. Fill the bottle with hot water and shake well. Spray on oven and leave for 20 minutes before removing.

Paint Brushes:

Soften hard paintbrushes in hot vinegar for a few minutes. Then wash paintbrush in soap and warm water and let dry.

Plumbing Fixtures: To clean stainless steel, chrome, fiberglass, ceramic, porcelain or enamel fixtures, dissolve 2 tbsp baking soda in 1 quart of water. Wipe on fixtures, then rinse.

Porcelain Cleaner: Cream of Tartar. To clean porcelain surfaces, rub with cream of tartar sprinkled on a damp cloth.

Refrigerators & Appliances:

  • Exterior and interior walls – dissolve 2 tbsp baking soda in 1 quart warm water and wipe all surfaces. For stubborn spots, rub with baking soda paste. Rinse with a clean, wet cloth. This works well on other enamel-finished appliances as well.
  • Interior fixtures such as vegetable bins and shelves – wash in hot soapy water, rinse well and dry.
  • Stainless steel appliances – dampen a cloth with undiluted white vinegar and wipe.

Rust Remover:

  • To remove rust from tin-ware, rub with a peeled potato dipped in a mild abrasive such as baking soda or salt.
  • Briskly scrub rust spots on car bumpers with a piece of crumpled aluminum foil, shiny side up.

Hard Water Deposit (and rust) Remover: Apply full-strength vinegar or lemon juice and let stand until spot disappears, then rinse. Repeat if necessary.

Scouring Powders:

  • Use a non-chlorine scouring powder such as Bon Ami, baking soda or dry table salt (mild abrasives).
  • 1/4 cup Borax (non-abrasive). Mix with enough oil-based soap to form a creamy paste. Add lemon oil and blend.

Shower Heads:

  • Metal Shower Heads: To remove deposits which may be clogging your metal shower head, combine 1/2 cup white vinegar and one quart water. Completely submerge the shower head and boil 15 minutes
  • Plastic Shower Heads: Combine 1 pint white vinegar and 1 pint hot water.  Completely submerge the shower head and soak for about one hour.

Shoe Polish/Care:

  • Olive Oil, Walnut Oil, or Beeswax: Apply oil/wax to leather, then buff with a chamois cloth to a shine.
  • Lemon Juice. Good for black or tan leather shoes. Follow by buffing with a soft cloth.
  • Vinegar; Remove water stains on leather by rubbing with a cloth dipped in a vinegar and water solution.
  • Petroleum Jelly. A dab of petroleum jelly rubbed into patent leather gives a glistening shine and prevents cracking in the winter.

Tar RemoverFood grade linseed oil. Wet rag with linseed oil and rub hard.

Toilet Bowl Cleaners:

  • Baking Soda and Vinegar: Sprinkle baking soda into the bowl, then squirt with vinegar and scour with a toilet brush. Cleans and deodorizes.
  • Borax and Lemon Juice. For removing a stubborn stain, like toilet bowl ring, mix enough borax and lemon juice into a paste cover the ring. Flush toilet to wet the sides, then rub on paste. Let sit for 2 hours and scrub thoroughly. For less stubborn toilet bowl rings, sprinkle baking soda around the rim and scrub with a toilet brush.
  • 1 cup borax, 1/2 cup white vinegar. Flush to wet the sides of the bowl. Sprinkle the borax around the toilet bowl, then spray with vinegar. Leave for several hours or overnight before scrubbing with a toilet brush
  • Denture tablets are an excellent substitute for toilet cleaner. Drop two tablets into the bowl and clean as you would with toilet cleaner.

Tub and Tile Cleaners:

  • Baking Soda – sprinkle like you would scouring powder. Rub with a damp sponge. Rinse thoroughly
  • Vinegar and Baking Soda. To remove film buildup on bathtubs, apply vinegar full strength to a sponge and wipe. Next, use baking soda as you would scouring powder. Rub with a damp sponge and rinse thoroughly with clean water.
  • Vinegar removes most dirt without scrubbing and doesn’t leave a film. Use 1/4 cup (or more) vinegar to 1 gallon water.
  • Baking Soda. To clean grout, combine 3 cups baking soda with 1 cup warm water. Mix into a smooth paste and scrub into grout with a sponge or toothbrush. Rinse thoroughly.
  • Rub the area to be cleaned with half a lemon dipped in Borax. Rinse well, and dry with soft cloth.

Vinyl Cleaner: 1 tsp. to 1/4 cup washing soda, and 1 cup boiling water. Dissolve the washing soda in the boiling water. Apply with sponge, wipe off with a damp cloth.

Wallpaper Cleaner: Roll up a piece of white bread and use it to “erase” marks on wallpaper.

Windshield Wiper Frost Free Fluid: Mix 3 parts vinegar to 1 part water and coat the car windows with this solution. This vinegar and water combination will keep windshields ice and frost-free.

Wood Floor Cleaner: Don’t use water on unsealed wood floors. Instead, combine 2 cups of vinegar with 1 tbsp. of olive or jojoba oil in a bucket. Spread a thin coat over the floor with a mop or soft cloth. Let it soak in for 20 minutes and dry mop to absorb excess liquid.

For more information, read DIY Green Cleaning Products.


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