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Green Cleaning Tips and Articles


Published: July 17, 2014

Why choose green, natural homemade cleaning products that you make yourself?  Commercial home cleaning products are not just more expensive when compared with natural alternatives. They are full of toxins known to affect your skin, lungs, nervous system, and even your endocrine and reproductive systems. These dangerous toxins invade your body either through the fumes they create, or through contact with your skin.

In addition, toxins from home cleaning products eventually find their way from your home drains or garbage cans to your soil, your drinking water, and the air you breathe, affecting all humans, animals, and plants.  Following are natural alternatives to expensive and possibly carcinogenic household cleaning and other products. These green cleaning products will save you money and you can make them yourself.

Air Fresheners:  Unfortunately, commercially available air fresheners are full of synthetic substances. Even so-called “natural“ oils are allowed to add as much as 50% chemicals and still call them 100% pure. Look for organic essential oils. 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. The best news? Because essential oils have aromatherapy benefits, they can boost your mood, energize your mind, spur creativity, and calm stress, depending on the type you choose. With essential oils, you only need a few drops to get the benefits, so a little goes a long way!

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. They also add to the risk of breeding "super germs," bacteria that survive the chemical onslaught and have resistant offspring.

Carpet/Upholstery Stains: The best way to keep your carpet and upholstery clean is to leave the toxins at the door.  Imagine what’s on your shoes (and clothes) at the end of the day.  Bringing that oil, animal waste, pollution, pollen, and who knows what else into the house is not good for your floors or your health.  This is especially true for kids and pets that spend time on floor level.  Use a good doormat or a shoeless house policy.  Less dirt also means less sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming. When it is time to clean your carpets, avoid hot water extraction or steam. It is impossible to remove all of the water and 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 cleaner longer, treat stains immediately by soaking the spot 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. Follow by vacuuming the spot thoroughly. Treat specific stains as follows:  Pet Urine: Dab area with toweling to absorb as much as possible, wash spot with a few drops of liquid dish detergent, and rinse (do not saturate carpet) with 1/2 cup vinegar diluted in 1 quart of warm water. Lay towels over the spot and weight down to absorb excess moisture. Let stand 3 hours, then remove toweling, brush up nap and allow to dry completely. Use an electric fan to speed drying so carpet will not mold. Red wine: Stains may be removed by rubbing baking soda in and vacuuming. Or cover stain with salt while wet. Let dry completely, then vacuum. Grease spots: First sop up 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 onto carpet before vacuuming. To add a pleasant scent, combine 4 cups baking soda or cornstarch with 30 drops of Lavender or another essential oil. Break up any clumps that form, stir until well mixed. Before vacuuming, sprinkle powder and let it sit on the carpet for 15 minutes or more, then vacuum.

Car Grease: To remove grease from concrete flooring, sprinkle kitty litter over grease. Allow it to absorb the grease, then sweep up.

Car Soap: 1/4 cup vegetable oil based liquid soap, and hot water. Mix in pail. 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. caranuba 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 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: (1) Use liquid or powdered soap instead of detergents, which are petroleum-based. In dishwashers, use equal parts borax & washing soda. (2) Add 1 cup of white vinegar to the rinse compartment of your automatic dishwasher. (3) Use Baking soda and liquid soap for hand washing dishes (4) For clean, sparkling drinking glasses, occasionally soak them in a solution of vinegar and water. (5) When a quick dip for crystal glassware 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. (6) Burned on foods or crusts; Soak or boil a solution of 2 tbs. baking soda per quart of water in pan. Let stand until particles are loosened, then wash as usual. Use a mild or moderate abrasive if necessary. (7) Greasy pans: Add 1 or 2 teaspoons of baking soda to the water in which it is soaking. (8) Copper pan cleaner: Sprinkle surface of pans with coarse salt. Rub salt into stains with the cut half of a fresh lemon. (9) Non-Stick Cookware: Pour a solution of 1 cup water, 2 tbs. baking soda into a pan, simmer 10 minutes. Do not allow mixture to boil or to boil over the side of the pan. Wash in hot soapy water, rinse and dry. Apply a light coating of cooking oil. (10) 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: (1) Use 3 parts light mineral oil, 1 part olive oil, & a drop of lemon juice. (2) Hide wood scratches by rubbing with the meat of a walnut. (3) Use a soft cloth and wipe with a bit of mayonnaise. (4) Mix 2 parts olive oil with 1 part lemon juice. Apply mixture to furniture with a soft cloth and wipe it dry. (5) To remove water stains on wood furniture, dab white toothpaste onto 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 just 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. Let that set on the stain several hours, re- spraying with the peroxide and water solution. Vacuum the baking soda.

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

Glass Cleaners: Windows and Mirrors (1) Use undiluted white vinegar in a spray bottle (2) Equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle (3) 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1 quart warm water Pour into spray bottle and spray on. Wipe dry with crumpled news-paper; buff to a shine. (Use crumpled newspaper instead of paper towels for lint-free results. Recycle newspaper when finished). (4) Rubbing alcohol is effective in place of glass cleaner, but keep out of reach of children.

Grease Cutters: (1) Use lemon juice, vinegar, or sprinkle with borax and scrub with scrub brush. (2) Mix in a spray bottle: 1/2 tsp. washing soda, 1/2 tsp. vegetable oil-based liquid soap, 3 tbsp. vinegar, and 2 cups hot water. Spray and scrub, wipe clean.

Gum and Wax: Freeze gum with an ice cube. Ice hardens it making removal easy. For wax from candles, first freeze the wax with an ice cube in a Ziploc plastic bag. Then 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 just fine 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: (1) Emergency fire extinguisher: 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.(2) An oven fire is easily extinguished by closing the door and shutting off the heat.

Laundry Stains: (1) Treat stains immediately with a little soap to avoid the stain setting into the fabric.  (2) If soap doesn’t work, use foaming shaving cream and let it set for an hour. (3) Blot - don’t rub, then rinse. Never use hot water as it sets stains. (4) 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. (5) Add borax and washing/baking soda to boost cleaning power. (6) Ink Stains: Dab rubbing alcohol on the stain, leave it for 30 minutes, then blot dry.

Metal Cleaners: Silver: (1) Use toothpaste, warm water, and an old soft bristled toothbrush instead of toxic silver cleaner. (2) Rub silver with a paste of baking soda and water. (3) To magnetize tarnish away, soak silver in salted water in an aluminum container; then wipe clean. (4) Soak in boiling water, baking soda, salt, and a piece of aluminum foil.5) 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. Brass: Mix equal parts salt and flour with a little vinegar, then rub. Chrome: Rub with undiluted vinegar. Copper: Rub with lemon juice and salt, or hot vinegar and salt. Stainless Steel: 1) Rub with a paste of baking soda and water.

Mold and Mildew Remover: (1) Pour white vinegar into a spray bottle and spray on infected area. (2) 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. (3) Dissolve ½ cup vinegar with ½ cup borax in warm water.

Moths: Use cedar chips, shredded newspapers, lavender flowers.

Mice: (1) Buy a "Have-a-Heart" mouse trap to catch mice alive and unharmed; set free away from homes. (2) Adopt a cat from the Humane Society (3) Clean your floors with Borax to deter them.

Oil or grease on fabrics: Dab on a bit of a natural orange cleaner and let that set at least an hour. Then blot 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 spontaneously combusts, 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 saving your carpet.

Oven Cleaners: (1) To prevent difficult cleaning, try to remove spills as soon as possible. (2) 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. (3) Cover with baking soda and leave overnight. Wipe off and apply liquid soap with a scouring pad. Rinse. (4) 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. Scrub off. (5) LAST RESORT ONLY (Still better than commercial oven cleaners): Fill a small glass bowl with 1/2 cup full-strength ammonia, place in oven and close. Let stand overnight, then wipe loosened dirt with paper towels or newspapers. If necessary, rub surfaces with an abrasive, such as fine steel wool, then wash with warm soapy water and rinse. Repeat process if necessary. Provide plenty of fresh air and wear gloves. Keep ammonia out of the reach of children and pets.

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: (1) 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.

Rust Remover: (1) To remove rust from tin-ware, rub with a peeled potato dipped in a mild abrasive such as baking soda or salt. (2) Briskly scrub rust spots on car bumpers with a piece of crumpled aluminum foil, shiny side up.

Refrigerators & Appliances: (1) To clean exterior and interior walls, dissolve 2 tbs. 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. (2) To clean interior fixtures, such as vegetable bins and shelves, wash in hot soapy water, rinse well and dry. (3)To clean stainless steel appliances, dampen a cloth with undiluted white vinegar and wipe.

Roaches & Ants: Mix equal parts boric acid with flour, cornmeal, Diatomaceous Earth, or sugar (ants like cornmeal and sugar) and sprinkle around cracks and crevices. Certain ants prefer bacon grease if the sugar and cornmeal don’t work. Cockroaches carry the mixture back to their nests. Remember: Boric Acid and Borax can be toxic to small children and pets, keep well out of their reach.

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

Scouring Powders: (1) Use a non-chlorine scouring powder such as Bon Ami (2) Baking Soda or dry table salt (mild abrasives). (3) 1/4 cup borax (non-abrasive). Mix with enough oil-based soap to form a creamy paste. Add lemon oil and blend.

Shower Heads: (1) Metal Shower Heads: To remove deposits which may be clogging your metal shower head, combine 1/2 cup white vinegar and one quart water. Then completely submerge the shower head and boil 15 minutes. (2) 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: (1) Olive Oil, Walnut Oil, or Beeswax: Apply oil/wax to leather, then buff with a chamois cloth to a shine. (2) Lemon Juice. Good for black or tan leather shoes. Follow by buffing with a soft cloth. (3) Vinegar; Remove water stains on leather by rubbing with a cloth dipped in a vinegar and water solution. (4) Petroleum Jelly. A dab of petroleum jelly rubbed into patent leather gives a glistening shine and prevents cracking in the winter.

Tar Remover: Food grade linseed oil. Wet rag with linseed oil and rub hard.

Toilet Bowl Cleaners: (1) Baking Soda and Vinegar: Sprinkle baking soda into the bowl, then squirt with vinegar and scour with a toilet brush. Cleans and deodorizes. (2) 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. (3)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. (4) 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: (1) Baking Soda. Sprinkle baking soda like you would scouring powder. Rub with a damp sponge. Rinse thoroughly. (2) 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. (3) Vinegar. Vinegar removes most dirt without scrubbing and doesn't leave a film. Use 1/4 cup (or more) vinegar to 1 gallon water. (4) 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. (5) 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: 1) 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.

What’s in commercial cleaners and why are they harmful?  Alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs), common in detergents and disinfectants, are suspected hormone disruptors. Ammonia is poisonous when swallowed, extremely irritating to respiratory passages when inhaled and can burn the skin on contact. Antibacterial cleansers containing triclosan may be contributing to the rise of antibiotic resistant germs. Butyl cellosolve (aka butyl glycol, ethylene glycol monobutyl) is poisonous when swallowed and a lung-tissue irritant. Chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite), an all-purpose whitening agent, can irritate the lungs and eyes and in waterways can become toxic organochlorines. Diethanolamine (DEA) can combine with nitrosomes (often-undisclosed preservatives) to produce carcinogenic nitrosamines that penetrate skin. Fragrance frequently contains phthalates, chemicals linked to reproductive abnormalities and liver cancer in lab animals and to asthma in children. Phosphates soften water for detergents but contribute to algae blooms in our waterways, which can kill off fish populations. Sodium hydroxide, found in drain, metal and oven cleaners, is extremely irritating to eyes, nose and throat and can burn those tissues on contact. Sodium lauryl sulfate, a common sudsing agent, can penetrate the skin and cause contact dermatitis.

Whether you want to save money or your health, using natural household cleaning products is a wise decision!  For household cleaning recipes from natural ingredients, click here.

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