It feels great to air out what’s stale and spruce up your nest. But could dusting and polishing with harsh chemicals be doing you more harm than good? Luckily, you can keep it clean while keeping it green. Read on to learn more about getting a spick-and-span domicile without sacrificing safety.
The Centers for Disease Control warns that average citizens come into contact with harmful chemicals every day through eating, drinking, breathing, and transdermal (through the skin) contact. “Many cleaning products give off fumes that you should not breathe in,” according to the CDC. “Some can burn or irritate your skin and eyes. Most are poisonous if swallowed.” To reduce your exposure, they suggest using natural cleaning products such as vinegar to remove mildew and grease; lemon juice as a stain remover, glass cleaner, and deodorizer; baking soda mixed with water as an all-purpose cleaner; and olive oil to polish your furniture.
Some toxic cleaning products can even harm your pets. Dogster.com cautions that when it comes to chemicals in household cleaners, those measuring high in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) pose a particularly high risk to small household critters. Additionally, when it comes to cleaning compounds, “pets are particularly at risk for things such as cancer, anemia, liver and kidney damage.”
So what’s a neatnik who cares about a healthy home environment to do? Follow our tips for some DIY tools and techniques for safe scrubbing.
Clean Your Commode with Care
For a simple, all-natural toilet-bowl cleaner, you only need three ingredients: baking soda, white vinegar in a spray bottle, and tea tree oil combined with water in another spray bottle. First, sprinkle the baking soda around the bowl to remove gunk and stains. It’s naturally alkaline, while toilet stains are often acidic, and the grit helps scrub away scum. Next, spray vinegar on top for a mild bleaching action. Combine 4 or 5 drops of tea tree oil (which studies have proven to be antiviral and antimicrobial) with 2 cups of water, and spray on top of the vinegar to disinfect. Let the brew rest for 30 minutes to an hour, then scrub with a toilet brush.
Freshen Your Carpets Naturally
Baking soda not only zaps foul odors from your freezer and fridge, it’ll pull pet odors and stinky smells from your carpet. Just sprinkle it on, and let it rest to absorb funky stench. Vacuum it up, and you’ll be left with perfectly fresh-smelling carpets.
Add Pleasing Aromas Without a Spray
Have a problem area that could use a little odor-busting? No need to spray commercial air freshener that may contain harmful compounds like xylene and formaldehyde. Instead, use something you’ve probably got lying around in your cupboard—coffee! Some clever flight attendants hang sachets of it in airplane bathrooms to turn the air from foul to fragrant. It’s as simple as placing a dish of coffee in areas where there’s a moldy, musty, or stale smell. Or if you’re crafty, tie coffee grounds up in a fluted coffee filter or the toe of a clean stocking, and hang it in a closet or locker. You can even recycle used grounds for this purpose—just let them dry thoroughly before using them.
Polish Your Furniture with Mother Nature’s Blessing
We like our homes to be dust-free because it feels tidy, but regular dusting may be more important than you think. Did you know ordinary dust can contain toxic substances like allergens, plastics, flame-retardants, pesticides, and lead? Unfortunately, in some cases, the solution can be as bad as the problem: many store-bought furniture polishes are loaded with the same poisons and carcinogens. Make your own instead using our recipe. Combine 12 drops of pure lemon oil (easily sourced at health-food stores or on the web), two tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice, and 2 to 4 drops of olive or canola oil. Dip a soft cloth in the mixture (flannel works great!) and show the dust who’s boss… the gentle way.
De-Crud Your Microwave
Our method is not only all-natural, it cuts down on the elbow grease, making cleaning out the microwave a breeze. In a Pyrex measuring cup, combine 3/4 cup of white or apple cider vinegar with 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice. Microwave the concoction on high for 2 minutes, and allow it to sit for another 2 minutes. Open up, and scrub the surfaces down with a rough cloth soaked in warm water. Done and done.
De-Grease Your Cast-Iron Skillets or Stainless Steel Pots
Pour in enough kosher salt to cover the bottom of your pot or pan, and scrub vigorously using either paper towels or a soft, washable cloth. There is no need to use soap and water. If the pan doesn’t come clean the first time, discard the salt, and do a second round using fresh towels or a clean cloth.
Soften and Scent Your Laundry
There’s nothing like the smell and feel of freshly laundered sheets and towels, but those of us with sensitive skin need to skip the chemicals in commercial laundry products. Here’s a simple solution from your kitchen. Grab a one-gallon jug of white vinegar, and add 20 drops of lavender oil. Use half a cup for each load of laundry, and your linens will come out soft and smelling like summer.
Scrub Your Tub
Grab a grapefruit and a cup of kosher salt, and get ready to de-scum the tub. Cut the grapefruit in half, and coat the first half generously with the salt. Use it as a scrub brush on your tub and tiles. The acid in the citrus juice helps remove lime scale, soap scum, and water stains, and is safe to use on chrome and porcelain. It also leaves a fresh scent. The salt acts as a mild abrasive, whisking away residue. When your first half wears out, repeat with the second, then rinse thoroughly with clean water.
Ready to get cleaning? With these all-natural, chemical-free house cleaning methods, you’re on your way to a clean and healthy home.