Green Ways to Clean Your Home
Commercial cleaning products are expensive and can be bad for the environment. Not only that, they contain perfumes and fragrances that can be harmful to those prone to allergies, or may contain hazardous ingredients that may (or may not) be listed on the package. The fact is that it isn’t necessary to expose yourself, your family, or the environment to the possible harmful side effects of using such cleaning products. All of the products suggested below are naturally derived and good for Mother Earth—in other words, “green.” You can do most of your cleaning with green products you may already have on hand.
Basic Green Cleaning Supplies
Keep these supplies on hand and you’ll be ready to green clean just about anything:
- Baking soda. Truly the green jack-of-all-trades for cleaning the house.
- Borax (sodium borate). Be careful that you don’t inhale any borax when you sprinkle it. Although it is a naturally occurring compound, it can irritate your lungs and is mildly toxic if taken internally.
- Club soda.
- Hydrogen peroxide. Like borax, hydrogen peroxide shouldn’t be swallowed.
- Lemon juice.
- Vegetable oil.
- Vinegar (white or cider). Second only to baking soda, vinegar is your “go-to” green cleaning product. However full-strength vinegar can trigger migraines in some sensitive individuals, so it’s probably better to lean on the side of caution and avoid directly inhaling the fumes.
Although all of these products are green, always use caution when using any of these products; even a natural, green product can cause harm to humans when used carelessly.
Going Green in the Kitchen or Bath
Tough Stains: Use a mixture of equal parts borax, table salt, and baking soda for scouring tough stains clean on hard surfaces. Omit the borax if the surface is used for food preparation, or rinse thoroughly before use.
Stainless Steel: To polish stainless steel to a clean shine, make a paste from baking soda and water and rub gently on the surface.
Hard Water Stains: Vinegar works well on any hard water stains in the kitchen or bath and without any harmful chemicals. Pour it on, let sit for a few minutes, then scrub the white residue away with a sponge or brush. Be sure to rinse afterward.
The Toilet Bowl: Vinegar and baking soda work great as a green toilet bowl cleaner. Sprinkle the soda into the toilet water and then add a little vinegar. Use a toilet bowl brush to tackle tough stains. As with any toilet cleaner, protect your hand with gloves and flush after cleaning.
Naturally Clean “Green” Clothing
Mildew Stains: It happens to everyone sooner or later. Swim trunks are left in a duffel bag, or a damp towel gets thrown into a clothes hamper, and by the time you’re ready to do laundry you find that you have ugly, black mildew stains on some of your clothes. Stain remover isn’t green and won’t work; you need to kill the mildew. To do so, dampen each stain with lemon juice and sprinkle salt over it. Set the clothing in direct sunlight until the lemon juice dries. Launder as usual and, voilˆ! The stains will be gone and your laundry will be lemony clean.
Germs: Borax has natural germicidal properties. Add a ½ cup of borax to the wash cycle, especially if cleaning towels, socks, undergarments or other “germy” laundry.
Fabric Softener: Cotton doesn’t create static, so there’s no need to add a fabric softener to the wash when you launder clothing made from that fibre. For other fabrics, you can eliminate the need for fabric softeners by adding either a cup of vinegar or ¼ cup baking soda to the final rinse cycle.
When You Have to Clean the Windows
Recycle some of your newspapers by using them to polish the glass when you’re cleaning the windows. For some reason, this works really well with car windows. No cleaning liquid, green or otherwise, is needed!
If windows are especially dirty, wash them first with a soft cloth dipped in soapy water. (You’ll want to wring it out after you do the dipping.) Then follow the soapy water wash with a rinse using one part white vinegar to four parts water. The easiest way to do this is to put the vinegar and water mixture into a spray bottle. Squirt the windows and then buff them dry with crumpled newspaper. This works great on mirrors, too.
Tackling Sluggish Drains, Naturally
You can prevent drains from clogging by periodically flushing them. Assuming you don’t have water standing in the sink or tub, it’s easy to create your own “green” foaming drain cleaner by following these steps:
- Pour ¼ cup vinegar down the drain.
- Pour ¼ cup baking soda on top of the vinegar.
- Top it off with another ¼ cup vinegar.
- Allow the mixture to foam for 15 minutes.
- Pour a teakettle of boiling water down the drain.
- Run hot water down the drain.
Remember that when you use any drain cleaner, even a green one, there’s a chemical reaction going on. Never lean over the drain. Also, never pour vinegar into a drain in which there may be commercial, chemical drain cleaner residue; vinegar is an acid that could cause an adverse or explosive reaction.
Cleaning Vinyl or Linoleum Floors
Clean your floors with a green solution of one cup vinegar to one gallon of water. After you mop the floor clean, go over it again using club soda to polish it to a fine shine.
Baking soda can also be used to clean floors. Mix one cup of baking soda to one gallon of hot water. Rinse with water or club soda.
You can clean up nasty scuff marks by using a bit of toothpaste and rubbing it clean with a soft cloth.
Green Furniture Fixes
There’s no need for expensive furniture polish. Simply mix one part lemon juice to three parts vegetable oil. Apply to the surface of your wood furniture with a soft cloth, allow to sit for a few minutes, and then use a clean, dry, soft cloth to wipe away any excess and buff the furniture to a shine. Use only on furniture—never on wood floors.
Scratches on furniture are easy to mask, too. To do that, mix one part instant coffee with two parts water or vegetable oil to form a paste. Apply the coffee paste to the scratch using a cotton swab. (You can substitute milk for the liquid for lighter wood.) Use a small amount at a time, buffing the area with a soft cloth after each application. Another alternative is to dab the area with cold tea. Use whatever method will best match the wood you wish to repair. Test in an inconspicuous spot first.
Don’t Mask Odors, Banish Them!
Here are some easy ways to deal with unpleasant odors in your home:
- Simmer whole cloves in vinegar water; add orange peel and cinnamon if you want to add a spicy scent to the air.
- Get houseplants; they are the original, green air freshener!
- Steep fresh thyme or lavender in hot water, strain, and then use in a spray bottle for a green air spray or fabric refresher.
- Sprinkle baking soda on your carpets; if possible, leave it on for 30 minutes and then vacuum as usual.
- Use baking soda to absorb bad smells in the refrigerator. Simply place baking soda in a bowl or set an open box of baking soda on the shelf.
- Sprinkle baking soda in your cat’s litter to absorb odors there.
As you can see it is just as easy to clean with green products as those you purchase in a store, but keep in mind that the old adage is especially true when it comes to keeping your house clean: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Clean up spills when they occur. Flush your drains once a week. By keeping on top of your work, you won’t be tempted to resort to harmful chemical cleaners to tackle the job later. Enjoy your savings and your “green” clean house!