Getting toxic cleaning products out of your home is one of the smartest, easiest and most practical ways to create a healthier, more eco-friendly home. Many of the chemicals used in conventional cleaning products are bad for human health, and using them actually pollutes the air inside our homes. These cleaners are also a health hazard for children and pets. When we rinse out rags and pour dirty cleaning water or excess cleaners down the drain, those chemicals also go into our waterways, where they are, at best, expensively filtered out at water-treatment facilities and, at worst, leach into area bodies of water, harming wildlife and potentially contaminating drinking water.
These chemical cleaners are simply not necessary. Safe, simple products such as vinegar and baking soda clean and disinfect plenty to create a clean and healthy home, without putting our families’ health and the environment at risk.
Along with being very effective, many natural cleaning products are also incredibly versatile and inexpensive, so your green cleaning arsenal can save you loads of money over the many specialized commercial cleaners on the market. Our web editor Susan Melgren recently put together a few blogs highlighting the verstality of three of the best and most multifunctional items in any green cleaning arsenal: vinegar, baking soda and lemons. Check out some of my favorite uses for these items below, and see how a small group of key items can clean just about every area of your home!
Disinfect surfaces. Vinegar is your go-to natural disinfectant. Mix 1 part vinegar with four parts water for an all-purpose cleaning solution that will disinfect anything from countertops to doorknobs.
Clean glass. Combine 2 cups water, ¼ cup vinegar and ½ teaspoon of liquid dish soap in a spray bottle to create a natural window cleaner. For a streak-free clean, use newspapers to wipe away grime.
Clean the toilet. Vinegar naturally deodorizes and kills germs. Pour 1 cup of vinegar into the toilet and let sit. Add a few tablespoons of baking soda for extra whitening power. Use a toilet brush to remove rings, then flush.
Clean tile grout. Spray a solution of 1 part water and 1 part vinegar onto grout and scrub with an old toothbrush.
Clear drains. Pour ½ cup of baking soda down a clogged drain then follow with a ½ cup of vinegar. Cover the drain to keep fizzing action inside. After the fizzing subsides, follow with a liter or two of boiling water. For very clogged drains, you may need to follow the boiling water by “snaking” the drain with a piece of wire or a straightened wire hanger. If you don’t achieve success the first time, repeat the entire process.
Polish furniture. Combine ¼ cup of olive oil, 4 tablespoons of vinegar and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice for a homemade furniture polish that will leave wood tables and chairs gleaming.
Remove stains from clothing. Combine ½ cup white vinegar, ¼ cup baking soda and 3 cups water in a spray bottle for a pre-wash natural laundry stain remover. Spray the solution on stained clothing then wash as normal.
Soften laundry. Add a ½ cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle. Vinegar naturally breaks down and dissolves laundry detergent to make clothes, sheets and towels softer.
2. BAKING SODA
Deodorize. Baking soda is your No. 1 tool to absorb household odors: Pour a dusting of baking soda into each new garbage can lining; sprinkle baking soda on carpet odors, wait 10 minute, then vacuum. Or leave dishes of baking soda in strategize spots to absorb odors.
Whiten. Baking soda’s other most useful aspect is its ability to whiten. To bring back shine to porcelain sinks, cover the entire sink in a thin layer of baking soda and let sit for 10 minutes or more. Mix with a small amount of water to create a paste and scrub porcelain. To clean bathtubs, sprinkle the entire tub with baking soda, then with a layer of coarse salt, then scrub. The baking soda gives whitening power while the salt lends scrubbing power.
Polish silverware. Line a glass baking pan with aluminum foil, then add silverware. Sprinkle silverware with ½ cup baking soda, then pour boiling water into the pan until the silverware is completely immersed. Soak for five minutes; rinse and dry silverware.
Remove scuff marks from the floor. Sprinkle the marks with baking soda and wipe clean with a warm, damp cloth.
Remove caked-on food from pots and pans. Sprinkle dirty dishes with baking soda, add water and let them soak for a few hours. The baking soda will loosen the caked-on food.
Remove dirt and grease from clothes. Add ½ cup of baking soda to the wash cycle.
Kill mildew. Combine baking soda with vinegar or hydrogen peroxide to create a paste; apply to bathroom grout, let stand for 30 minutes, then scrub.
Put out grease fires. Small fire in the kitchen? Douse it with a box of baking soda.
Cut grease. An enzyme in the citric acid of lemon juice cuts through grease as effectively as any commercial cleaner. Combine the juice from two lemons with ½ cup of vinegar to create a powerful grease-fighting cleaner.
Banish odors. Nothing says clean like the fresh scent of lemon. And lemons don’t just cover up bad smells, they actually remove the offending odor.
Dissolve soap scum and hard water deposits. Pour undiluted lemon juice on deposits, or rub a cut lemon over trouble spots.
Clean cutting boards. Disinfect and freshen wooden cutting boards by rubbing a cut lemon over the surface. Let the lemon juice sit for a while before wiping clean.
Refresh your garbage disposal. Strong odors and bacteria can buildup in your garbage disposal over time. To clean this hard-to-reach area, cut a lemon up into chunks, place in the garbage disposal and turn it on.
Remove stubborn stains from countertops. Rub half a cut lemon over the surface, let the juices sit, then wipe clean.
Brighten copper. Make a paste from a quarter cup of table salt and lemon juice. Apply the paste to copper or brass pots and pans, let sit for five to 10 minutes, then rinse with warm water. Buff dry with a soft cloth.
Naturally brighten whites. Want whiter whites? Skip the bleach and add ½ cup of lemon juice, which has natural bleaching properties, to the rinse cycle. (The lingering scent of fresh citrus isn’t a bad effect either.)
Prevent pests. Strong odors are a deterrent to household pests such as ants, spiders and fleas. To keep them away, rub lemon juice or leave lemon peels in bug-prone areas such as along baseboards, in the cracks of windowsills, in the backs of cabinets or cupboards and other areas where pest might enter your home.