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Green Living Idea: Clean Naturally!
By Jen Fontaine
If you’ve been hoping to get rid of the potentially toxic cleaning substances in your cabinets, you are in luck; there are dozens of sources that can offer you ideas for safe, natural, non-toxic replacements. Many use common ingredients like baking soda, white vinegar and rubbing alcohol. The list below is not exhaustive, but gives a quick idea of the useful things these can do.
White vinegar seems to lead the list of natural cleaners. Sprayed on full strength and allowed to soak, white vinegar can disinfect and deodorize most surfaces in the bathroom and kitchen. Mixed with water, it provides a great cleaning fluid for windows and mirrors; combined with warm water and allowed to stand in a sink or tub, it can loosen hard-to-remove stains. Diluted with water, sprayed onto a shower curtain and left to soak, it can remove stains. One cup of vinegar in a gallon of warm water can be used to mop bare floors-and does not have to be rinsed, saving time over commercial cleaners. White vinegar is also said to work well on carpets.
Rubbing alcohol can be used to make handy disinfectant wipes; just add it to a pack of chemical-free baby wipes. It can also be used with a cloth or cotton swab to clean metal surfaces such as faucets. Baking soda mixed with water can be used to clean porcelain surfaces; use it to clean the toilet as well, by just sprinkling it into the bowl and scrubbing as usual a bit later. A fourth common ingredient in recipes for natural cleaning is essential lemon oil, which can be used, among other goals, to remove hard-water stains on metal surfaces.
In case you’ve already been using the simple ingredients above, we found a few tricks you may not have yet tried. For baked-on kitchen grime, for instance, try using a crumpled bit of aluminum foil; or actually, better yet, stock up on the practical and lovely scrubbies made by our own Craft Group at UUCNH. To clean sticky bits from pans, sprinkle with salt and scrub with half a lemon. Lemon juice features in at least one recipe for cleaning glass surfaces; as does witch hazel. Oh, and when you wash those windows, do use an old t-shirt or other clean rag, to save by not using paper towels. If you have a fireplace that’s gathered some soot and smoke smudges, try a paste of cream of tartar and water: apply, let dry, and scrub off.
To avoid using commercial furniture polishes, which contain petroleum-based ingredients, try mixing two parts olive oil with 1 part lemon juice; this will polish wood surfaces nicely, and smells much better than toxic store-bought polishes, which tend to contain petroleum-based ingredients. And speaking of smells, if you’re painting inside your house, try scattering small dishes of vinegar around the room; changed each day and left in the room for a few days after the painting is done, these can absorb the paint odor. Polishing tarnished metal? One concoction for this purpose uses salt, vinegar and flour in equal amounts to make a paste.
The second site listed below also suggests that we consider saving cleaning time by living in smaller homes. In 1970, new homes averaged 1,500 square feet; in 2001, the average was 2,300 square feet. If you’re planning a move, check out this figure for any prospective new home.
Thanks to Kristen Clarke for suggesting this topic, and for also sharing her plan to use natural cleaning substances in the UUCNH nursery.
You might also find fascinating information, for instance on specific products, at this link, first posted in a previous Green Tip: Consuming – Med – Help eliminate toxic, cancer causing, and endocrine disrupting chemicals from our products and food | Unitarian Universalist Church of the North Hills.
Share Your Idea: To share your own experiments in home or garden, or to send us any other green tips that have worked for you, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.