Most of the cleaning products we buy at the store contain harsh chemicals. Many have handling warnings and cautions: wear gloves, don’t inhale. Those warning are there for a reason. They really can harm us through contact while we clean. When rinsed down the drain they go back to the water or sewer plant ending up in our drinking water and the lake harming aquatic life. Our cupboards are stuffed with cans and bottles for every different chore. The cost adds up.
There has to be a better way to clean. There is. We can help our wallet, our health, and the environment by using less harmful ingredients. We can do what grandma did. She didn’t have those products and her house was clean. Grandma made her own cleaners.
Some of the best cleaners are soap and water, vinegar, baking soda, borax, hydrogen peroxide and lemons used alone or in combinations. There is no need for harmful antibiotic soaps or bleach. Vinegar, hydrogen peroxide and alcohol are mild disinfectants. Your best general tool is a spray bottle of 50% water and 50% vinegar. Use it to clean and disinfect any project (except wood furniture and floors.) Spray fruit and vegetables to clean and then rinse. For tough jobs, mix ¼-cup vinegar and ¼-cup baking soda into a paste. (If possible, sprinkle baking soda directly on the problem and then the vinegar to take advantage of their effervescent action.) Scrub off after 10 minutes. Lemons can remove coffee and wine stains on the countertops. Reduce a foul smell in garbage cans with a small amount of vinegar followed by a sprinkle of baking soda.
Ax the Ajax
If you have a bathtub and shower combination, you can clean the tub without any products. After your shower, turn off the water and stay in there. Use a flat plastic scrubber to rub the sides and bottom of the tub. It will be sparkling clean. To remove tough soap scum, spray surface with an equal combination hot vinegar and liquid dish soap. Let sit 2 hours or overnight. Wipe off with warm water and sponge or a plastic scrubber. You can remove mold and mildew by spraying on a mix of 80% hydrogenperoxide with 20% water. Rinse after one hour. To clean the toilet without bleach, pour in ¼-cup baking soda and then ½-cup vinegar. Add ¼-cup of borax for rust stains. Let sit for a half-hour, then scrub and flush.
Ditch the Drano
In the kitchen – prevent clogs by disposing of grease and food bits into the garbage. If there is standing water, use the plunger or snake. If slow draining pour ¼-cup baking soda followed by ½-cup vinegar. Let sit for ½ hour and follow with boiling water. Repeat as needed. In the bathroom - remove the stopper in the bathroom sink if not needed and drop in a hair trap.
Ease out Easy-Off
Use aluminum foil in the oven to catch drips. Clean any spills immediately after use. For baked on grease and foods, combine ¼-cup baking soda, 2 tbsp salt and enough hot water to make a paste. Let sit for 20 minutes, wipe off. You can also spray oven surfaces with a mix of 2 tbsp of liquid soap and 2 tsp borax in 1 quart of warm water. Wait 20 minutes then clean. You may need to scrub with fine steel wool and baking soda.
You can now find good alternatives to harsh cleaners at many supermarkets and health food stores. Seventh Generation dish soap and detergents are readily available. Look for plant-based products with low or no phosphates. However, you will save money by making your own cleaners. The library and internet are good sources of information on green cleaning. For more ideas and information on Green Cleaning workshops contact cuyahogaswcd.org, 216-524-6480x76.