Pesticides and harsh cleaning chemicals are damaging to the environment, but they’re also dangerous to you and your family. Even though the products are safe to purchase, these chemicals have been known to cause breathing problems and skin irritations when used incorrectly or over a long period of time.
In 2013, the most common poisons for children under six years old were cosmetics and personal care products, with cleaners coming in second. These two categories account for 25 percent of the reported 16,655 exposures. Even if you have older children, daily exposure isn’t good for them. Here are some recipes and tips for cleaning more naturally when you’re ready to make the change to green living.
For the Indoors
- Cleaning Glass: For a glass cleaner, use one-quarter cup of white vinegar to a quart of water in a spray bottle. Wipe it off with a lint-free cloth that is reusable.
- All-Purpose Cleaner: If you’re looking for an all-purpose cleaner, use one part vinegar to one part water. Use this on floors, countertops, and mirrors for cleaning without chemicals.
- Removing Oil Stains: Sometimes, you need a soft scrub material to get oil or stains off your stove or counter. Mix two cups of baking soda with one-half cup of liquid castile soap. Four teaspoons of vegetable glycerin will act as a preservative, but if you plan to use it quickly, you don’t necessarily need this element. You could also add an antibacterial essential oil for a cleaner aroma.
- Furniture Polish: Although most people don’t use furniture polish too often, you can make your own. Use one-quarter cup each of olive oil and white vinegar, mixed with two teaspoons of lemon juice. Use a clean cloth that you dip in this solution and rub the wood in the direction of the grain. If you have an intricate design, work with a soft brush.
- Freshener: Baking soda is a great cleaner and freshener. Sprinkle your toilet brush with it to clean the bowl and keep the brush from smelling between cleanings. Use baking soda on your grill or on pans that have baked on residue.
- Rug Cleaning: You can freshen up your rugs with baking soda. Sprinkle the baking soda over the intended area, wait at least 15 minutes or so, then vacuum it up. For stronger odors, leave on overnight.
- Detergent: Use one cup of baking soda in your laundry with your liquid detergent to make your clothes cleaner.
- Freshening Cat Litter: Baking soda absorbs odors in your trash can or kitty litter box. Sprinkle the powder in the bottom of the container before filling it with the litter. This will keep the litter bin smelling fresher for longer.
- Cleaning the Dishwasher: You can clean your dishwasher by running an empty cycle with just baking soda.
- Drain Cleaner: Instead of drain cleaner, put one cup of baking soda and one cup of hot vinegar down the drain. Don’t panic when it bubbles up–this is supposed to happen. When the reaction stops, flush the mixture down the drain with plenty of hot water so that the acid doesn’t damage your pipes.
- Kill Mold and Mildew: White distilled vinegar is an excellent antiseptic for mold and mildew instead of bleach.
- Fresh Aroma: Use essential oils to provide nice aromas to your home. Put a few drops on a cotton ball and set it in a small glass bowl in the room.
- Disinfectant: For a disinfectant spray, mix two teaspoons of borax with four tablespoons of vinegar. Add three cups of hot water. Place this mixture in a spray bottle.
- Reusable Sponges: For green living, don’t use disposable cleaning rags. Get sponges that are made of recycled material. Find reusable and washable cleaning cloths made of natural fibers. Keep them on hand in every room for quick clean-ups. Wash them often.
- Absorb Stains: Corn meal acts on carpet spills to absorb wet stains.
- Polisher: Everyone knows that club soda makes a great stain remover on clothes, but you can also use club soda to polish stainless steel.
- Grease Remover: If you need to cut through grease on your stove or countertop quickly, a bit of lemon juice will do the trick. Lemon juice also is a stain remover on countertops.
- Bathroom Cleaner: Tea tree oil is another natural disinfectant. Mix two teaspoons tea tree oil with one pint of water for a powerful cleaner for toilets and bathtubs. For a multipurpose cleaner, use one quart of water with 15 drops.
- Kill Ants: Soapy water sprayed on ants or house flies will kill them. This is more effective with small infestations. Alternatively, a spray of white vinegar and water will kill the ants’ scent trails, making them unable to find their way. You can also use the drain cleaning solution of baking soda and vinegar on ant hills to destroy them.
- Avoid Maggots: If you have maggots on your trash cans, hot water will kill them just as effectively as a pesticide.
- Protect Plants: If you have mites or mealybugs on your plants, make a solution of one tablespoon of oil, a few drops of liquid soap, and one quart of water. Spray this solution on the leaves to smother the bugs.
- Prevent Mites: Small infestations of mites can be eliminated with rubbing alcohol. Dab on with a cotton ball.
- Deter Slugs: Dealing with slugs and snails in your garden is problematic. Keep them out with a barrier of crushed eggshells, hair (dog or human), or seaweed. They won’t travel over these things to get into your flowers and vegetables. Seaweed is a great fertilizer, too.
- Compost: Instead of using commercial fertilizer, start a compost pile. It reduces your carbon footprint in other ways, because instead of putting vegetable peels or coffee grounds in your garbage can, they get recycled in your garden.
If you do have to purchase household cleaners, be sure to look for non-toxic products that are biodegradable or natural. There are a number of new products that are eco-friendly, but you may have to read the labels to find them.
For the Outdoors
You can use the same type of natural cleaning products outside on your sidewalk and in your garden. There are a number of items that you have in your kitchen to keep away insects and rodents without using harmful pesticides and chemicals that not only get on your grass and flowers, but also get into the groundwater. Keep your pets, children and the environment safe with these tips for your garden: