Ah, it's that time of year again. A time for giving, a time for mistletoe... and for many of us, a time for opening up our homes to others, whether for a Christmas party or for relatives from out of state. And while that can spell fun for some of us, getting the house in order for guests can be overwhelming. The last thing I want to do before having family and friends over is to fill my house with toxic cleaning chemicals. Green cleaning has become (almost) second nature to me over the years, but I'm still finding new ways to tackle the mess without resorting to toxic cleaners or expensive "green" alternatives. Today's guest post offers a ton of helpful (and economical) ways to clean your house the natural way!
Green Cleaning and Lifestyle Solutions for a Healthy Home
By Marie Stegner, Consumer Health Advocate for Maid Brigade, Mom of three healthy children, Chief Home Operator
Winter, and the holidays in particular, bring many of us indoors. As we gravitate inside, becoming knowledgeable about green cleaning practices and natural home products that will keep our loved ones safe and healthy is an important step towards enjoying the season’s special times.
Consider this: cleaning chemicals, air fresheners and disinfectants contain chemicals that are proving to cause health problems, including asthma and allergies, behavioral and developmental disorders, and damage to blood, organs and central nervous systems, according to recent medical research.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that indoor air can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air. One of the main contributors to poor indoor air quality is VOCs emitted from toxic chemicals in common cleaning products.
One way to create a healthier, more nourished home is to use natural, homemade cleaning solutions. This includes things like vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and borax that do a better job than chemical infused cleaning products and without the hazards to your family’s health.
Here are a few common home cleaning and maintenance tasks you can accomplish using natural ingredients and green approaches:
In the Kitchen
Baking soda and water: Clean counters by sprinkling with baking soda, then scrubbing with a damp cloth or sponge. If you have stains, knead the baking soda and water into a paste and let set for a while before you remove. This method also works great for stainless steel sinks, cutting boards, containers, refrigerators, oven tops and more.
Kosher salt and water: If you need a tougher abrasive, sprinkle on kosher salt and scrub with a wet cloth or sponge.
Natural disinfectant: To kill germs, mix 2 cups of water, 3 tablespoons of liquid soap and 20 to 30 drops of tea tree oil. Spray on countertops and other kitchen surfaces.
Ovens: Oven cleaners are loaded with toxic ingredients, like ethers, ethylene glycol, lye (sodium and potassium hydroxide), methylene chloride and petroleum distillates. The products are harmful to skin and eyes, and the fumes are unhealthy. Use baking soda and water instead. Coat the inside of the oven with a paste made from water and baking soda. Let stand overnight. Wipe off grime with a moist cloth.
Sink Clogs: Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda into the drain, followed by 2 cups of boiling water. If the drain is still clogged, pour a 1/2 cup of vinegar and cover tightly, allowing the vigorous fizzing of the chemical reaction to occur. Flush with one gallon of boiling water.
Mopping: Why not clean your floors with the same type of mop being used by hospitals. Hospitals love microfiber mops because they clean well, get washed in between uses, and prevent cross contamination. By using a microfiber mop you can avoid using heavy, toxic cleaners since the microfiber does the work.
Silver Polish: Try using an old fashioned way to clean your silver. Place a piece of aluminum foil in the bottom of your kitchen sink and fill it with 2-3” of boiling water. Add a tablespoon of baking soda and a tablespoon of salt. Place your silver in the sink so each piece of silver touches the foil. The tarnish will disappear off the silver and onto the foil. If you prefer to rub your silver with a paste, use toothpaste to make it sparkle.
- Beat rugs. Take any removable rugs outside and beat the dust and hair out with a broom.
- Club soda. Club soda works well on carpet stains if you attack the mess right away. Lift off any solids, pour on club soda and blot with a rag. The soda's carbonation brings the spill to the surface, and the salts in the soda thwart staining.
- Cornmeal. For big spills, dump cornmeal on the mess, wait 5 to 15 minutes, and vacuum.
- Spot cleaner. Mix 1/4 cup liquid soap or detergent in a blender, with 1/3 cup water. Mix until foamy. Spray on, and then rinse with vinegar.
- Deodorize. Sprinkle baking soda or cornstarch on the carpet, using about 1 cup per medium-sized room. Vacuum after 30 minutes.
Hardwood: Whip up a solution of 1/4 cup white vinegar and 30 ounces of warm water. Put in a recycled spray bottle, and then spray on a cotton rag or towel until lightly damp. Mop.
Around the House
Dusting: Instead of using a typical dusting product, try using a light dusting spray made from 2 tea bags, lemon juice and three cups of water. Boil the water, add the tea bags and leave them in the water until it cools completely. Put the tea mixture in a spray bottle with a teaspoon of lemon juice. Lightly spray the mixture on a microfiber cloth and dust. Put your curtains in the dryer for a few minutes to remove dust and also kill dust mites. This is faster than trying to wash, dry and iron your curtains and they will look just as fresh and clean.
Windows: Mix 2 tablespoons of white vinegar with a gallon of water. Spray, then scrub with newspaper, not paper towels. Paper towels cause streaking. If you don't like the smell of vinegar, you can substitute undiluted lemon juice or club soda.
Laundry: Launder your tablecloths, napkins, and dish towels that you will be using for dinner in a homemade laundry soap using items like soap flakes, borax, washing soda or baking soda. You can find these items at your local grocery store. Your linens will be clean and fresh without any lingering fragrance from a detergent.
A Few More Tips
The safest way to disinfect involves no chemicals at all. Where available, dry steam vapor treatments, such as VapurClean® Advantage provided by Maid Brigade, penetrates deep within surface pores where germs hide and multiply and kills them on contact. Dry steam vapor is proven effective against MRSA, avian and swine flus, salmonella, e.Coli, staph and other infectious diseases.
Remember that when cleaning to eliminate germs, spraying and wiping isn’t enough—the disinfectant needs to remain on the surface being cleaned for up to 10 minutes to effectively kill lingering germs and bacteria.
Also, just because a product is “non-toxic” doesn’t mean it can’t harm your health. You can learn more about healthy cleaning products from the Household Products Database by visiting www.householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov.
When all else fails and you run out of time, green cleaning expert Maid Brigade cares about the health of you and your family. For more information on healthy green living and green cleaning visit www.greencleancertified.com or www.maidbrigade.com. For more information on your home’s toxicity watch the Maid Brigade video: “Is Your Home Toxic?”
Do you have any time tested green cleaning tips or formulas? I personally love vinegar water for cleaning practically everything. I add a few drops of lavendar or citrus essential oil to make the house smell fantastic without using chemical fragrances. If you have any green cleaning tips, please feel free to share in the comments below!
This post is part of Real Food Wednesday hosted by Kelly the Kitchen Kop.