Save Money By Making Your Own Cleaners
Take just a few minutes to learn the basics of less toxic cleaning, and you'll have a lifetime of cleaner indoor air. Some people like to switch to using natural cleaners all at one time; others stop restocking toxic cleaners as they run out, learning about alternatives as they go along.
Assess what's under your kitchen sink.The federal government requires labels on household products to contain signal words such as danger/poison, warning, caution, extremely flammable/combustible, corrosive or a strong sensitizer.
- Danger/poison indicates a product that is very toxic, and in some cases just a drop of it could kill you.
- Warning means a teaspoon or more can be fatal.
- Caution specifies a product that is less toxic but can still be fatal if more than two tablespoons is ingested.
- Corrosive products can cause skin damage.
- Strong sensitizer means it can increase allergies.
You may want to discard any product that has a signal label other than caution. Call your community recycling center to receive a list of products eligible for their household hazardous waste collections.
Five Essential Ingredients for Natural Cleaning
Using the following ingredients, you'll be able to clean everything in the house. If you want to buy ready-made products, choose "green" brands that have become increasingly popular and widely available at many stores.
Baking soda: This mineral, sodium bicarbonate, is slightly alkaline, with a pH of around 8.1. It neutralizes acidic odors and is slightly abrasive.
Washing soda: Sodium carbonate is a chemical neighbor to baking soda but has a pH of around 11. It is available in the laundry section of the supermarket, and is the best substitute for solvents. Wear gloves when using.
Vinegar: An acid, vinegar neutralizes alkaline substances such as baking soda and scale. Use white distilled vinegar for cleaning.
Soap or detergent: Detergents are synthetic materials that are designed for hard (high mineral content) water washing because they don't react with minerals to form soap scum. Soaps are purer, but work best if you have soft water. Choose a brand that is dye- and fragrance-free.
Tea tree oil: This essential oil from the melaleuca tree is available in health-food stores. It is powerfully antifungal and has a strong odor that dissipates after a few days.
Uses For At-Home Cleaning Products
Some simple formulas:
- Scouring powder: Use straight baking soda.
- Soft scrubber: Combine 1/4 cup of baking soda or washing soda with enough liquid detergent to make a texture like frosting. Use with a sponge.
- Window cleaner: Place 1/4 cup of vinegar, 2 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon of liquid detergent in a spray bottle.
- Oven cleaner: Cover the bottom of the oven with about 1/4 inch of baking soda. Sprinkle or spray water over the baking soda to keep it moist, and let it set for six hours or so, or overnight. Scoop the goop out with a sponge, and then rinse well.
- Furniture cleaner: Place 1/4 cup of vinegar in a bowl, and add a few drops of vegetable oil.
- Drain cleaner: Pour 1 cup of baking soda down the drain and follow with 3 cups of boiling water.
- All-purpose cleaner: Combine 1/2 teaspoon washing soda with 2 cups of hot water in a spray bottle.
- Antifungal/antibacterial spray: Combine 2 teaspoons of tea tree oil with 2 cups of water in a spray bottle.
Homemade Cleaners Have a Long Shelf Life
Even though the products you mix up yourself will be less toxic than most, make sure to keep them out of the reach of children, and to label all bottles. These homemade products' shelf life is indefinite, so you can easily premix all but the soft scrubber (it will dry out). It will take you no more time to grab a bottle of your homemade, less-toxic formula than it would a commercial cleaner.
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