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.

Rubbing Alcohol instead of Chemical Products

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 another 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.

Avoid Furniture Polish Naturally

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.

Wonders of Vinegar over Chemical Products 

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.

There are more uses, which may be new to readers.  As a hair rinse that doesn’t leave a residue, use 2 tablespoons of vinegar and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice in 3 cups of water before rinsing with clear water.  To cure warts, use a daily-changed cotton ball dipped in vinegar and attached with a bandage.  To freshen breath, use 2 tablespoons of vinegar and 1 tablespoon of salt dissolved in 1 cup of water.

To soften those pesky hardened paintbrushes so many of us are troubled with: dip the bristles in vinegar for an hour or less, wash with warm water and soap, and let dry. To freshen wilted greens:  try soaking the leaves in a bath of 2 cups cold water, ½ teaspoon vinegar.  Add to boiling water to keep egg white from seeping into the cooking water. Try using a bath of pure vinegar to loosen rusted bolts or remove rust from tools.  One word of caution: some vinegar may be produced using synthetic ethanol made from petroleum; check the label or email the company to ensure that the ethanol used in your vinegar comes from safe food sources like grains.

Clean Drains without Chemical Products 

Not only are commercial drain cleaners toxic to groundwater, but they also corrode pipes, are bad for septic systems, and can damage the materials that your sink and tub are made of. Those are all pretty good reasons to try these ideas. 

1) Prevention: Try to avoid allowing food particles, grease, and hair from going down the drain. A small piece of wire mesh over your drains is helpful. Periodically, use these cleaning ideas before it clogs.

2) If it is likely clogged with hair, first remove any hair with any drain cleaning stick for around $6. It is simply a flexible plastic stick with short knobs. Or I have used a wire coat hanger, straightening it and making the hook on the end much smaller. Just stick it down the drain, spin it around and pull it out. You can get huge hairballs with this.  Flush with plenty of hot water.

3) If more is needed: Make a volcano erupt in your drain, just like you did for a school project. Put one cup of baking soda down the drain. I use the hair removal stick to push it down the drain. Then pour in one cup of vinegar. Let the intense foaming action continue until it resolves. Some people say to wait up to an hour for stubborn clogs. I haven’t tried this. Flush with very hot water. If it is still slow repeat. You can vary the amount of baking soda and vinegar as needed and use the drain cleaning stick to help dislodge anything still hanging on.

4) Sometimes boiling water alone will take care of the clog, if it is due to fats and oils that solidify in the pipe like bacon grease. Be sure to pour directly into the drain to avoid damaging plastics or cracking porcelain. 

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