Some commonly used household cleaning products may contain hazardous ingredients such as organic solvents and petroleum-based chemicals. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that these chemicals may contaminate our ground water and present a problem to waste water treatment facilities. Also, hazardous products are often not disposed of properly and are landfilled or incinerated where they release their toxins to the environment.
As a result of these concerns, many Americans are rediscovering the safer and just-as-effective natural household cleaning solutions that their mothers and grandmothers used. Natural cleansers are quite simple to put together and can be made in large quantities. You can store the batches in gallon water jugs; just don't forget to label them!
For the budget-conscious, you’ll be happy to note that making your own cleansers from natural sources is going to lower your household bills by quite a few pennies as well. The ingredients are items you probably already have around the house for other uses but even if you don't have them handy, they are inexpensive and readily available in your supermarket or in any drug store.
Safety Tip: Just because these cleansers are natural doesn't mean you shouldn't protect your skin. Please slip on some rubber gloves—the kind you use when doing the dishes—before you clean anything.
Mix 1/4-cup baking soda (or two teaspoons of Borax) with 1/2-cup white vinegar. The baking soda deodorizes, cleans, scours, and softens hard water. The white vinegar cuts grease, stains, and wax buildup and cleans mildew (see below). This solution works great for water deposit stains.
You can also use straight Borax instead of the baking soda and white vinegar. In addition to cleaning, scouring, and deodorizing, Borax disinfects.
According to the EPA, mold can literally destroy whatever the spores are growing on and damp conditions of any kind will allow growth to increase indefinitely. Mold spores in the air are also bad for your health, causing allergy-like symptoms, and potentially exacerbating asthma.
To eradicate mold, mix one part hydrogen peroxide with two parts water in a spray bottle. Use the three percent hydrogen peroxide that is available for a few dollars at any drug store or supermarket. Spray this on one the moldy areas and leave it to dry for an hour. Rinse the solution off and dry the location thoroughly to prevent future problems.
Avoid using a soap containing phthalates, parabens, synthetics, or petroleum distillates by checking the label. If you like to use solid bar soap, go for a clear soap without perfumes. If you prefer liquid soap, most health food stores carry liquid castille soaps made with organic oils and mentha arvensis (the plant from which mint oil is extracted). Adding two squirts of this soap to two gallons of hot water will provide ample cleansing power for you to use.
When it's time to give your carpet an overall "fluffing up" that only comes from fibers that are thoroughly shampooed, use cornstarch. Sprinkle liberally on your carpet or rug, wait 20 minutes, and then vacuum it up.
Carpet Stain Removal
Mix equal parts white vinegar with water in a spray bottle. Spray directly onto the stain for a minute or so to remove stains and let it dry for about an hour. Follow up by wiping the spot with a sudsy sponge, using the natural soaps mentioned above.
Clearing Away Lime Deposits
White vinegar will also wipe away any lime deposits in your tea kettle. Lime deposits are scales and encrustations of calcium or magnesium compounds ground into powder. To get rid of them, add ½-cup white vinegar and two cups of water to the kettle. Gently boil the solution for a few minutes and then give it some time to cool down a bit. While the kettle is still warm, rinse it with fresh water.
Add a few drops of natural lemon oil to a few cups of warm water and pour the solution into a spray bottle. Mix well and spray onto a soft cotton cloth that you've dampened slightly. Do not leave the cloth sopping wet; it must be merely damp or you could damage your furniture’s finish. Wipe your furniture surfaces with the cloth. Wait a few minutes and wipe again with a completely dry cotton cloth.
Mildew is a mold-like microorganism that can grow on leather, clothing, the ceiling, or even paper. And, like mold, it often grows in consistently damp areas like bathrooms. However, you can safely remove mildew by using undiluted white vinegar. Use a sponge to apply it and don't wipe after—let it sit.
Polishing Vinyl and Linoleum Floors
To polish these types of flooring materials safely and with noticeable results, pour a capful of baby oil into your cleaning water (most floor surfaces can be cleaned with a part white vinegar, part water solution).
Sprinkle some salt directly onto the rust. Then, squeeze a lime over the spot until it is well soaked. Leave the mixture on for about three minutes and scrub off the residue with a piece of lime rind.
Toilet Bowl Cleanser
Pour 1/4-cup baking soda and one cup white vinegar into the toilet bowl. Let the mixture set for a few minutes, and then scrub with a toilet brush and rinse. You can also use two parts Borax and one part lemon juice to do the job.
If you have a basin that really needs scrubbing, you may use straight bleach, although bleach should never be mixed with any other solution except water.
If your lovely wood furniture is sporting spots, these rings have seeped into the layer underneath the topcoat, but not the finish. Use either mayonnaise or toothpaste applied to a damp cloth; any brand will do. Once you've removed the water rings, buff the entire surface with a soft dry cloth.
These solutions should take care of many of your day-to-day household cleaning needs, while keeping your home free of unnecessary chemicals. For more environmentally-friendly cleaning solutions, check out our Green Spring Cleaning Guide.