Healthy Home Cleaning Habits
Exchange Indoor Air:
Many modern homes are so tight there's little new air coming in. Open the windows from time to time or run any installed exhaust fans. In cold weather, the most efficient way to exchange room air is to open the room wide - windows and doors, and let fresh air in quickly for about 5 minutes. The furnishings in the room, and the walls, act as 'heat sinks', and by exchanging air quickly, this heat is retained.
Remove clutter which collects dust, such as old newspapers and magazines. Try to initiate a "no-shoes-indoors" policy. If you're building or remodelling a home, consider a central vacuum system; this eliminates the fine dust which portable vacuum cleaners recirculate.
Keep Bedrooms Clean:
Most time is spent in the bedrooms. Keep pets out of these rooms, especially if they spend time outdoors.
Use Gentle Cleaning Products:
Of the various commercial home cleaning products, drain cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners and oven cleaners are the most toxic. Use the formulas described above or purchase 'green' commercial alternatives. Avoid products containing ammonia or chlorine, or petroleum-based chemicals; these contribute to respiratory irritation, headaches and other complaints.
Clean from the Top Down:
When house cleaning, save the floor or carpet for last. Allow time for the dust to settle before vacuuming.
Get a jump on spring cleaning with these natural solutions to cleaning problems.
When choosing to switch from store-bought cleaners to environmentally friendly natural cleaners, there are several basic ingredients that can be used.
Baking soda this can be used for cleaning, deodorizing, softening fabrics, removing stains and cleaning drains. It can be used on vinyl, plastic, carpeting, furniture, silver, stainless steel and can even be used in refrigerators and down drains.
Vinegar can remove mildew, stains and wax buildup. It can also be used to clean coffeepots, glass, paintbrushes, grout, windows and fireplaces. It is also a mild disinfectant that can cut through grease and get rid of stains on mirrors.
Borax (sodium borate) cleans wallpaper, floors and painted walls. It can deodorize and remove stains. It also boosts the effectiveness of other cleaning products.
Lemon juice cuts through grease and stains on mirrors, dishes and pots.
Table salt can be used as a disinfector or a gentle power scrubber
(Don't use) Ammonia! Cleans carpets, linoleum, copper, enamel and most appliances. It is a very hard working liquid, but can also irritate the skin and the eyes. Be sure to wear gloves when using and also DO NOT mix with chlorine bleach. This combination produces a POISONOUS gas.
Washing soda cuts grease, cleans petroleum oil, can remove wax, lipstick and can also neutralize odors. Do not sure on fiberglass, aluminum or waxed floors. Be sure to wear gloves when using washing soda as well because it can irritate the skin.
Here are several recipes to use, instead of buying harsh, store bought cleaning supplies.
All purpose cleaner
1/2 cup ammonia
1/3 cup washing soda
16 cups of warm water
All purpose cleaner (#2)
1/4 cup baking soda
1 cup ammonia
1/2 cup white vinegar
16 cups of warm water
Heavy duty polish for floors and furniture
1 tbsp carnauba wax
2 cups mineral oil
Heat in a double boiler, cool, and then apply with a soft rag.
Note: Carnauba wax can be found at auto-supply stores or hobby shops.
2 tbsp olive oil
1tbsp white vinegar
4 cups warm water
Mix ingredients and then put into a spray bottle. This polish works best when warm. You can heat it up by letting the spray bottle float in hot water. After applying to furniture, rub the surface dry with a warm cloth.
2 cups grated hard bar soap or soap flakes
16 cups water
Rub salad oil on the grater before grating the bar soap, it is much easier to clean after. Place the soap in a pot, add water and stir. Heat over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool.
Note: This mixture is not for use in automatic dishwashers.
Instead of bleach, try this
1 part hydrogen peroxide
8 parts water
Soak clothing in this solution, then rinse.
1 cup baking soda
1 cup salt
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 kettle of boiling water
Pour the baking soda, salt and vinegar down the drain and leave for 15 minutes. Then pour the boiling water down.
Toilet Bowl Cleaner
1 tsp household ammonia
1 cup hydrogen peroxide
8 cups water
Mix ingredients in a bucket and pour the mixture into your toilet. Let stand for 30 minutes and then scrub toilet bowl and flush away. This cleaner can also be left in the toilet for several hours if you need to remove harsh stains.
Lightly sprinkle cornstarch or baking soda over the carpet and rub it in. Leave for one hour and then vacuum.
* Baking Soda - cleans, deodorizes, softens water, scours.
* Soap - unscented soap in liquid form, flakes, powders or bars is biodegradable and will clean just about anything. Avoid using soaps which contain petroleum distillates.
* Lemon - one of the strongest food-acids, effective against most household bacteria.
* Borax - (sodium borate) cleans, deodorizes, disinfects, softens water, cleans wallpaper, painted walls and floors.
* White Vinegar - cuts grease, removes mildew, odors, some stains and wax build-up.
* Washing Soda - or SAL Soda is sodium carbonate decahydrate, a mineral. Washing soda cuts grease, removes stains, softens water, cleans wall, tiles, sinks and tubs. Use care, as washing soda can irritate mucous membranes. Do not use on aluminum.
* Isopropyl Alcohol - is an excellent disinfectant. (It has been suggested to replace this with ethanol or 100 proof alcohol in solution with water. There is some indication that isopropyl alcohol buildup contributes to illness in the body. See http://drclark.ch/g)
* Cornstarch - can be used to clean windows, polish furniture, shampoo carpets and rugs.
* Citrus Solvent - cleans paint brushes, oil and grease, some stains. (Citrus solvent may cause skin, lung or eye irritations for people with multiple chemical sensitivities.)
* Trisodium phosphate (TSP) - a mixture of soda ash and phosphoric acid. TSP is toxic if swallowed, but it can be used on many jobs, such as cleaning drains or removing old paint, that would normally require much more caustic and poisonous chemicals, and it does not create any fumes.
Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda (or 2 teaspoons borax) into 1/2 gallon (2 liters) water.
Store and keep. Use for removal of water deposit stains on shower stall panels, bathroom chrome fixtures, windows, bathroom mirrors, etc.
Another alternative is microfiber cloths which lift off dirt, grease and dust without the need for cleaning chemicals, because they are formulated to penetrate and trap dirt. There are a number of different brands. A good quality cloth can last for several years.
Bathroom mold: Mold in bathroom tile grout is a common problem and can be a health concern. Mix one part hydrogen peroxide (3%) with two parts water in a spray bottle and spray on areas with mold. Wait at least one hour before rinsing or using shower.
Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle.
Spray directly on stain, let sit for several minutes, and clean with a brush or sponge using warm soapy water.
For a heavy duty carpet cleaner, mix 1/4 cup each of salt, borax and vinegar. Rub paste into carpet and leave for a few hours. Vacuum.
Chopping block cleaner:
Rub a slice of lemon across a chopping block to disinfect the surface. For tougher stains, squeeze some of the lemon juice onto the spot and let sit for 10 minutes, then wipe.
Coffee and tea stains:
Stains in cups can be removed by applying vinegar to a sponge and wiping. To clean a teakettle or coffee maker, add 2 cups water and 1/4 cup vinegar; bring to a boil. Let cool, wipe with a clean cloth and rinse thoroughly with water.
* Plastic food storage containers - soak overnight in warm water and baking soda
* In-sink garbage disposal units - grind up lemon or orange peel in the unit
* Carpets - sprinkle baking soda several hours before vacuuming
* Garage, basements - set a sliced onion on a plate in center of room for 12 - 24 hours
Mix equal parts of borax and washing soda, but increase the washing soda if your water is hard.
If you want to use a commercial dishwashing soap, try Ecover Ecological or Trader Joe's powders, which contain no bleach or phosphates.
Commercial low-phosphate detergents are not themselves harmful, but phosphates nourish algae which use up oxygen in waterways. A detergent substitution is to use liquid soap. Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of vinegar to the warm, soapy water for tough jobs.
Mix 2 teaspoons borax, 4 tablespoons vinegar and 3 cups hot water. For stronger cleaning power add 1/4 teaspoon liquid castile soap.
Wipe on with dampened cloth or use non-aerosol spray bottle. (This is not an antibacterial formula. The average kitchen or bathroom does not require antibacterial cleaners.)
To disinfect kitchen sponges, put them in the dishwasher when running a load.
For light drain cleaning, mix 1/2 cup salt in 4 liters water, heat (but not to a boil) and pour down the drain. For stronger cleaning, pour about 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain, then 1/2 cup vinegar.
The resulting chemical reaction can break fatty acids down into soap and glycerine, allowing the clog to wash down the drain. After 15 minutes, pour in boiling water to clear residue. Caution: only use this method with metal plumbing. Plastic pipes can melt if excess boiling water is used.
Also, do not use this method after trying a commercial drain opener--the vinegar can react with the drain opener to create dangerous fumes.
Floor Cleaner and Polish:
vinyl and linoleum: mix 1 cup vinegar and a few drops of baby oil in 1 gallon warm water. For tough jobs, add 1/4 cup borox. Use sparingly on lineoleum.
wood: apply a thin coat of 1:1 vegetable oil and vinegar and rub in well.
painted wood: mix 1 teaspoon washing soda into 1 gallon (4L) hot water.
brick and stone tiles: mix 1 cup white vinegar in 1 gallon (4L) water; rinse with clear water.
Most floor surfaces can be easily cleaned using a solution of vinegar and water. For damp-mopping wood floors: mix equal amounts of white distilled vinegar and water. Add 15 drops of pure peppermint oil; shake to mix.
For varnished wood, add a few drops of lemon oil into a 1/2 cup warm water.
Mix well and spray onto a soft cotton cloth. Cloth should only be slightly damp. Wipe furniture with the cloth, and finish by wiping once more using a dry soft cotton cloth.
For unvarnished wood, mix two tsps each of olive oil and lemon juice and apply a small amount to a soft cotton cloth. Wring the cloth to spread the mixture further into the material and apply to the furniture using wide strokes. This helps distribute the oil evenly.
Mix 1 cup Ivory soap (or Fels Naptha soap), 1/2 cup washing soda and 1/2 cup borax. Use 1 tbsp for light loads; 2 tbsp for heavy loads.
You can reduce lime deposits in your teakettle by putting in 1/2 cup (125ml) white vinegar and 2 cups water, and gently boiling for a few minutes. Rinse well with fresh water while kettle is still warm.
Marks on walls and painted surfaces:
Many ink spots, pencil, crayon or marker spots can be cleaned from painted surfaces using baking soda applied to a damp sponge. Rub gently, then wipe and rinse.
Metal Cleaners and Polishes:
aluminum: using a soft cloth, clean with a solution of cream of tartar and water.
brass or bronze: polish with a soft cloth dipped in lemon and baking-soda solution, or vinegar and salt solution.
chrome: polish with baby oil, vinegar, or aluminum foil shiny side out.
copper: soak a cotton rag in a pot of boiling water with 1 tablespoon salt and 1 cup white vinegar. Apply to copper while hot; let cool, then wipe clean. For tougher jobs, sprinkle baking soda or lemon juice on a soft cloth, then wipe. For copper cookware, sprinkle a lemon wedge with salt, then scrub.
gold: clean with toothpaste, or a paste of salt, vinegar, and flour.
silver: line a pan with aluminum foil and fill with water; add a teaspoon each of baking soda and salt. Bring to a boil and immerse silver. Polish with soft cloth.
stainless steel: clean with a cloth dampened with undiluted white vinegar, or olive oil. For stainless cookware, mix 4 tbs baking soda in 1 qt water, and apply using a soft cloth. Wipe dry using a clean cloth.
Mold and Mildew:
Use white vinegar or lemon juice full strength. Apply with a sponge or scrubby.
The common mothball is made of paradichlorobenzene, which is harmful to liver and kidneys. Cedar chips in a cheesecloth square, or cedar oil in an absorbant cloth will repel moths. The cedar should be 'aromatic cedar', also referred to as juniper in some areas. Cedar chips are available at many craft supply stores, or make your own using a plane and a block of cedar from the lumberyard.
Homemade moth-repelling sachets can also be made with lavender, rosemary, vetiver and rose petals.
Dried lemon peels are also a natural moth deterrent - simply toss into clothes chest, or tie in cheesecloth and hang in the closet.
Oil and Grease Spots:
For small spills on the garage floor, add baking soda and scrub with wet brush.
Moisten oven surfaces with sponge and water. Use 3/4cup baking soda, 1/4cup salt and 1/4cup water to make a thick paste, and spread throughout oven interior. (avoid bare metal and any openings).
Let sit overnight. Remove with spatula and wipe clean. Rub gently with fine steel wool for tough spots. Or use Arm & Hammer Oven Cleaner, declared nontoxic by Consumers Union.
Paint Brush Cleaner:
on-toxic, citrus oil based solvents are now available commercially under several brand names. Citra-Solve is one brand. This works well for cleaning brushes of oil-based paints. Paint brushes and rollers used for an on-going project can be saved overnight, or even up to a week, without cleaning at all. Simply wrap the brush or roller snugly in a plastic bag, such as a used bread or produce bag. Squeeze out air pockets and store away from light. The paint won't dry because air can't get to it. Simply unwrap the brush or roller the next day and continue with the job.
Fresh paint odors can be reduced by placing a small dish of white vinegar in the room.
Sprinkle a little salt on the rust, squeeze a lime over the salt until it is well soaked. Leave the mixture on for 2 - 3 hours. Use leftover rind to scrub residue.
For top of stove, refrigerator and other such surfaces that should not be scratched, use baking soda. Apply baking soda directly with a damp sponge.
Olive oil with a few drops of lemon juice can be applied to shoes with a thick cotton or terry rag. Leave for a few minutes; wipe and buff with a clean, dry rag.
Stickers on walls:
Our children covered the inside of their room doors with stickers. Now they are grown, but the stickers remained. To remove, sponge vinegar over them several times, and wait 15 minutes, then rub off the stickers. This also works for price tags (stickers) on tools, etc.
Toilet Bowl Cleaner:
Mix 1/4 cup baking soda and 1 cup vinegar, pour into basin and let it set for a few minutes. Scrub with brush and rinse. A mixture of borax (2 parts) and lemon juice (one part) will also work.
Tub and Tile Cleaner:
For simple cleaning, rub in baking soda with a damp sponge and rinse with fresh water. For tougher jobs, wipe surfaces with vinegar first and follow with baking soda as a scouring powder. (Vinegar can break down tile grout, so use sparingly.)
Mix equal parts of white vinegar and hot water, apply with sponge over the old wallpaper to soften the adhesive. Open room windows or use a fan to dissipate the pungent vinegar smell.
Water Rings on Wood:
Water rings on a wooden table or counter are the result of moisture that is trapped under the topcoat, but not the finish. Try applying toothpaste or mayonnaise to a damp cloth and rub into the ring. Once the ring is removed, buff the entire wood surface.
Mix 2 teaspoons of white vinegar with 1 liter (qt) warm water. Use crumpled newspaper or cotton cloth to clean. Don't clean windows if the sun is on them, or if they are warm, or streaks will show on drying. The All-Purpose Cleaner (above) also works well on windows. Be sure to follow the recipe, because using too strong a solution of vinegar will etch the glass and eventually cloud it.