Monday, 14 April 2014

TIPS FOR LOW-COST, NON-TOXIC SPRING CLEANING

I find it ironic that the very things meant to clean our homes are in fact polluting them. Most commercial cleaners contain dangerous toxins that are harmful, not only to the environment but also to our health. They are believed to be a contributing factor in many of today's diseases, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, ADHD, autism, and more. I decided I didn't want to bring these things into our house any longer so  I've replaced most of them (not all, I'm still working on that) with four readily available products that are low-cost and non-toxic - baking soda, vinegar and lemon/lemon juice.

Don't buy into the 'green', 'natural', 'sustainable' hype - when you check the wording on products it becomes obvious those terms are often meaningless. Simple Green, the maker of Simple Green Cleaning Products state "they are the leader in high-quality, environmentally safer cleaning products"
What exactly does that mean - safer than what? To me it reads that they still do harm, but not as much as the other guy. Sorry folks, I don't think that's good enough.

Baking soda is an all-purpose, non-toxic cleaning product that works, yet is much gentler than commercial cleaners. It doesn't scratch anything, naturally deodorizes and, combined with vinegar, does a superior job of keeping toilet bowls and drains clean and odour free.

Baking soda as an All-Purpose Cleaner - Dissolve 1/4 to 1/2 cup baking soda in 4 cups warm water - this solution can be used:
  1. To damp mop ceilings and walls throughout the house to get rid of those allergy aggravating nasties;
  2. To clean the inside and exterior of the stove, refrigerator, freezer, and dishwasher; 
  3. To wipe inside and outside of the kitchen and bathroom drawers and cabinets;
  4. To clean kitchen counter (not granite, stone or marble) and sink;
  5. To wipe dresser drawers, interior closet walls and closet shelves;
  6. To wipe  woodwork, doors and handles, including cabinet handles;
  7. To clean the air conditioner filter, first remove it from the unit, spray with the cleaner, leave it for a little while, then rinse off, let dry and replace in the air conditioner. 
Nifty baking soda shaker purchased at Dollar Store
Baking soda as an non-scratch Abrasive - Sprinkle baking soda directly onto hard surface, cloth or sponge:
  1. For stains on walls, countertops, etc. sprinkle some baking soda on a damp cloth or sponge and rub the stain; 
  2. For extra cleaning power for sinks or other surfaces, sprinkle baking soda on the damp surface, let sit for a few minutes, scrub with a brush, then rinse with clear water.
. Baking soda as a Deodorizing Cleaner - as below :
  1. Sprinkle baking soda on carpets, rugs, upholstered furniture - leave for a couple of hours, then vacuum well. For an added touch, add an equal amount of dried rosemary or a lemon herb to the baking soda;
  2. Put decorative cushions in a pillow case - add 1/4 to 1/2 cup baking soda, grab the top closed and twirl it all around - let sit for a while, remove the cushions and brush or shake off till all the baking soda is gone. The pillow case can be emptied down the toilet, down the drain or into the washer;
  3. Put a tablespoon or so of baking soda into a cone type coffee filter, seal with tape or fold the package over and secure with a rubber band. Place these packages inside stored sneakers, shoes, boots, empty purses, suitcases, storage tubs, etc., anywhere odours build up.
Baking soda as a Paste - Mix baking soda with enough water to make a non-runny paste:
  1. Sometimes stubborn stains need some extra treatment - in that case a paste made  of baking soda and water and applied with a spatula or brush works well, both  on hard surface stains and fabric (test first in an inconspicuous spot);
  2. This paste can also be applied to tile grout or used as an oven cleaner. Just apply, leave overnight. For grout, use an old toothbrush to clean, for the oven, wipe up any loose gunk with an old newspaper, then clean with a stiff brush and give a final wipe with a damp cloth.
Glass Cleaner on Left, All-Purpose on Right
Vinegar is great for cleaning glass, floors, bathroom fixtures and deters mold and mildew. When lemon juice is added, it gives the vinegar some extra cleaning oomph.

For an All-Purpose Cleaner mix together 1 1/2 cup vinegar, 1/2 cup lemon juice and 1 1/2 cup water - pour into spray bottle; 
For a Tile/Vinyl Floor Cleaner, mix 3 cups vinegar, 1 cup lemon juice and 8-10 cups warm water; 
For a Glass Cleaner, mix 1 cup vinegar to 4 cups water.
  1. Vinegar is best to use to damp mop the walls in the bathroom as it deters mold and mildew, both of which thrive in damp areas.
  2. Use the vinegar solution to clean the bathroom fixtures - tub, shower, sink, countertop. (toilet gets separate treatment)
  3. Do not use vinegar on granite, stone or marble - for those surfaces, use equal parts vodka and water;
  4. Vinegar works well on tile or vinyl floors - do not use on wood or laminate;
  5. Vinegar does an amazing job of polishing up glass or chrome. For mirrors and windows, spray on, then wipe clean with old newspapers - for chrome, spray or wipe on, then wipe off with a soft cloth;
  6. Lay drapes that can't be washed on a flat surface, dampen a brush (shake out well so that is barely damp) with the lemon vinegar solution and brush the drapes from top to bottom. If possible, hang them outside on a clothesline - if that's not possible just hang anywhere to dry - this really freshens them right up;
  7. To clean the microwave, pour 1/4 cup vinegar into a small dish, stir in 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, and run the microwave on medium for 2 minutes. Let it sit for a few minutes so the fumes can reach all sides; then open the unit and wipe with a soft cloth. Clean as a whistle.
Lemon or Lemon Juice:
  1. A cut lemon can be used to clean cutting boards - just use it as a sponge, wiping the entire board - let sit for a little while, then rinse under the tap, using warm water. Wipe dry;
  2. Soak lemon peel in vinegar for a couple of weeks, strain, then pour the strained vinegar into a spray bottle and use to wipe down the tub surround, shower stall or outside of the toilet, including seat;
  3. Freeze lemon juice in ice cube trays - once a week throw a couple of these cubes down the garbage disposal and grind - cleans the blades and leaves a nice smell.
Cleaning the toilet:
Flush the toilet, then sprinkle baking soda all around the bowl. Close the lid while the rest of the bathroom is cleaned. Then pour vinegar around the bowl and watch it fizz. Using the toilet brush, swipe the whole thing down, paying special attention to below the rim and the down-drain, then flush. Clean the outside with the lemon vinegar and that's it. I do this twice a week and after six years my toilet still looks like new.

Other uses:
Vinegar can be used for cleaning coffee pots, tea pots, kettles, etc.
A dish of baking soda set in the fridge or freezer absorbs odours.
Baking soda kept near the stove will douse minor grease fires.
A tbsp. of baking soda poured in the bottom of the dishwasher keeps the dishwasher clean.
Some baking soda poured into the bottom of garbage cans, before putting the bag in, keeps them odour free. 
1/2 cup of baking soda added to the presoak cycle removes dirt and odours from heavy-duty work clothes.

And a bonus - I just found out that our local Co-Op sells baking soda in bulk - 25kg (55 lb) for $18.00. I now pay $1.00 for one pound = $55.00 for 25kg. At first that sounded like a lot of baking soda, but when I figured it out I realized that I would use that much in about four months and, during that time I could save $37.00 - do that three times a year and the savings would be more than $100.00. Works for me - I know what I'm going to buy next time I'm at the Co-Op.

Now all I have to do is find a bulk vinegar supplier and grow a lemon tree (organically, of course).

If you enjoy these posts, please share them with your social media friends.

Talk to you again next week,

      Lenie

'Green World Concept' - Image courtesy of Kittisak / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

28 comments :

  1. Great tips! You're right that it is odd that we clean our houses using toxic products. Too bad I don't live in coastal California anymore where it was a snap to grow lemon trees.

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  2. okay Lennie; I am usually impressed with your posts, but this one is especially good. Did you think of most of these yourself, did you get them from family, or did you spend hours googling it so we wouldn't have to. I was reminded of an ad from years back where a computer company said they had realized using lemon juice was actually the best way to clean the gunk they used to hold computer components in place while they were being assembled. The ad went on to say that when adding water to clean the lemon juice they just had to add sugar for some refreshing lemon aide. I doubt that was the case, but it was a good story. and yes green is no more reliable a term than all natural in the grocery store. thanks again and keep up the great work, Max

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  3. Wow Lenie,

    I could never think of Baking Soda doing such a great job of cleaning :-) Thank you for these wonderful tips and the words of caution when we go out shopping for "green" products.

    Have a great new week!

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  4. Excellent tips Lenie, and the best thing is that they are so inexpensive to use along with being nice to the environment. I found that using baking soda on my stainless steel appliances is a great way to get rid of those dreaded water marks and cleans up so much better. After I use some olive oil to give it a nice shine.

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  5. Lenie,

    Your post reminds me of my parents. My father was a strong lobbyist for the many uses for baking soda. Thanks for reminding us all to use natural products for the health of our families.

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  6. All the ways you listed for using baking soda reminds me of Bubba in Forrest Gump and how he lists all the ways of cooking shrimp. A timely post as I'm getting ready to clean my house.

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  7. These are great tips! I've started buying those huge jugs of vinegar lately, now that I've started cleaning with it. I used to think it smelled bad, but now I see it as a clean smell (which dissipates quickly) and I'm suspicious of all the other "clean" smells, like air fresheners.

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  8. I've been wanting to make the move toward more natural cleaning products for such a long time. Thanks for all the great ideas.

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  9. We have been using baking soda in our house for so many things; and for quite a while. You are so correct with your warning regarding the green movement. People still have to read the small print.

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  10. You are right! No matter how green the claim to be, certain products always does some harm! I am sure your tips will help a number of people!

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  11. Great analysis. I have never thought about how some of the cleaning agents are pollutants themselves. Now that is a thought.

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  12. Great suggestions, Lenie. It's crucial to stay away from toxic products. Imagine the damage they do to our bodies:-)

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  13. Hi Aunt Lenie,

    While I think 'home made' products are very admirable, I don't find them practical. I did use them for a while when my children were tots. I love your tip on deodorizing though, and am going to try it. Nothing bums me out more than being greeted by stinky shoes when walking in the front door.
    I clean on average 5-6 homes a week. Some of my clients are adamant about using "green" products but there are just some things that require a bleach product, in my opinion, hydrogen peroxide does not do the same job. I use to work at a retirement home in the housekeeping dept. They had an excellent non-toxic product they used for cleaning the bathroom. I so wish it was available to use non-commercial users.

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  14. Lenie- I started using vinegar and baking soda for cleaning products years ago. Baking soda is also great for cleaning your teeth. I know that has nothing to do with cleaning your house, but there are so many uses for baking soda.

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  15. Wow! I use baking soda for baking and to keep the odors down in my cat littler boxes, but I didn't realize it would do all of this! I'll bet baking soda and vinegar are cheaper than commercial cleaners in the long run, too, as well as being better for you.

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  16. Hi Lenie. Agree 100% and thanks for spreading the word. Natural products that cost less than toxins are a Win Win. Even most Green or Organic cleaners are easily replicated at less cost.

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  17. Lenie, thanks for the heads up the toxic cleaners. I would have never thought of that before. Baking soda is awesome because you make anything out of it. =)

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  18. I didn't know that you could do all that with vinegar. I am about to make the switch.

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  19. Lots of great ideas here, thank you Lenie! I use baking soda and vinegar quite frequently and often add a drop pr two of lemon or thyme esseantal oils to make it smell nicer and benefit from the antimicrobial properties of these oils. Love the coffee filter into the stinky sneakers idea... will try this one out TODAY! And the pillow case idea for cushions is brilliant as well.
    Thanks for sharing and happy spring cleaning!

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  20. This is great stuff. Vinegar seems like a miracle product. Thanks

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  21. Hi Lenie,
    It's hard to beat the combination of non-toxic and economical. Vinegar also reduces blood sugar, so it's great for those with diabetic concerns.

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  22. Great minds think alike! We were both in the spring cleaning mood :) I actually use the vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice to clean. There are the things my mother used when we were growing up. I continued to use them and they were great if you had small kinds in the house because you do not have to worry about chemical poisoning. Thanks for sharing.

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  23. This is great information for everyone but especially for families with small children and pets. More people need to pay attention to the stuff that they bring in their house. I always here stories of small children getting into the cabinet with the cleaning supplies and having to be rushed to the hospital. Thanks for sharing

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  24. My mother always go for such low cost tips for cleaning , I knew about baking soda , lemon and vinegar as good cleaners ,even I saw my mother rubbing tomatoes and salt on some stains. While cleaning we can add baking soda , it helps in cleaning. But many tips are new for me I have book marked your post , I will post it and keep this in my diary to take help when ever I need. thank you for a nice post with tips to stay-safe and healthy.
    I do not know how you managed to get so much of tips but it is great to know all such uses of lemon , soda etc.

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  25. I would be lost with out vinegar. It is my go to item in the kitchen when I need to clean my counters and especially stainless steel pots. it really works wonders on glass, windows and mirrors. Yeah for vinegar. :-)

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  26. Great cleaning tips! I love using baking soda to scrub my stove. Works like a charm.

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  27. Excellent list! I've pinned it for future reference. I'm gearing up for the big spring cleaning.

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I want this blog to be interesting, informative and current. Your comments let me know if I'm on track, so comments are greatly appreciated.
Thanks - Lenie