Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day: Green Cleaning

It’s time to get rid of the unhealthy cleaning products in the house and use such natural items as borax, distilled white vinegar, baking soda, salt, washing soda (sodium carbonate), also known as soda ash, and lemons. Note that most of these products are readily available. We had trouble finding Borax for a while. I went to seven supermarkets over a period of weeks, looking for Borax but was met by blank looks by the 20-somethings.

I did find one manager who knew what I was talking about but said that Borax, like other products, such as Brillo and Spic-and-Span, had pretty much disappeared. (Stop and Shop, in particular, seems determined to reduce the number products it offers).

Then, suddenly, Borax reappeared on the shelves of the Waldbaum’s store near me, so I’ve been scooping up the boxes as I can.

If it’s not available in your nearest store, try Soaps Gone Buy, which offers Twenty Mule Team Borax, Fels Naptha and other seemingly lost products.

If you need convincing that shifting to these products is a good idea, study the labels of your commercial soaps. One day, when I had an especially ugly, sticky spill on my kitchen floor, I used bleach and a little dish soap and immediately felt sickened by the fumes. It turned out that the dish soap contained ammonia, and mixing it with bleach is a terrible idea.

I was further surprised to discover ammonia in some shampoo! So read those labels or just switch; it’s easy.

Here are some uses:

Lemon juice: We’ve also used lemon to clean the inside of the car. I frequently found myself coughing hard in the car, especially when the heat came on. Just spraying the air didn’t help; we keep a lot of papers and clothing in the car for different reasons and so the air is frequently dusty from those items. So applying some lemon to clean off the dashboard, reaching into the air vents and sprinkling some baking soda and then vacuuming it up helped the air quality a lot.

It also can dissolve soap scum. We have hard water in our neighborhood and soap scum remains on the bathtub. It works well to remove it, especially if mixed with vinegar or baking soda. You can also let it soak in the kitchen sink and pour it down the drain to remove odors. It also works to clean the kitchen floor.

Borax: all kinds of cleaning: countertops, laundry, floors. Boosts cleaning of clothes—will definitely brighten your clothes. We didn’t realize how dingy our bed covers had gotten from the dog—we washed the covers, of course, and they looked fine. Then we used Borax to supplement laundry soap and things looked much, much better, almost new.

Baking soda: Use about a half cup of baking soda, followed by a half cup of vinegar, as a drain cleaner. Those over-the-counter drain cleaners are about as toxic as you can get in a household product. It’s far less abrasive than commercial products.

Hydrogen peroxide: mix with water, spray on grout and areas subject to mold; let sit for an hour and then wash off with water. Kills mold and germs.

Vinegar: We use this for all kinds of projects: we use a bit to clean the dishwasher to kill germs, to kill mold or mildew, as a fabric softener (add a little during the rinse cycle), countertops, kitchen and bathroom floors. There may be a strong smell when first used but it dries and the scent disappears very quickly. And the temporary smell is nothing compared to the odor of bleach or ammonia, and there’s no harm remaining from using it.

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