March 10, 2011

Cleaning Green

Swapping out expensive, smelly, chemical-laden cleaning products for cheap, non-toxic, earth-friendly solutions you can make right at home is probably one of the quickest and easiest ways to start being green. With a few simple products, like vinegar, baking soda, and peroxide, you can get your house just as clean as with traditional cleaning products or those pricey green products. You’ll save money on cleaning supplies, keep the plastic bottles they come in out of our landfills, and avoid harsh chemicals that can cause eye, skin, and respiratory irritations.

The two workhorses of the green cleaning arsenal are distilled white vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide. You can clean and disinfect most of your house with these two easy-to-find and inexpensive products.

Thanks to its acidity, distilled white vinegar is effective at killing most mold, bacteria, and viruses. Put full strength vinegar in a spray bottle to create an all-purpose cleaner you can use on glass, mirrors, doorknobs, sinks, appliances, and countertops (just avoid using it on marble). In place of harsh bathroom cleaning products use undiluted vinegar on toilets, bathtubs, and showers (add a little baking soda for extra scrubbing power). For stubborn soap residue in the bathroom or grease stains in the kitchen let the vinegar penetrate for 10 to 15 minutes before wiping clean. To get rid of the residue on a showerhead mix 1 part baking soda with two parts vinegar in a bag and wrap it around the showerhead. Let it sit there for at least an hour. Then, remove the bag, give the showerhead and quick wipe, and run the water. To keep your dishwasher clean and odor-free, once a month put white vinegar in the soap dispenser and run it empty for a cycle. Mix a cup of vinegar with a gallon of water to clean vinyl and linoleum floors.

Hydrogen peroxide (the 3% solution you can pick up at pharmacies and grocery stores) is a nontoxic antibacterial that kills viruses, mold, and mildew. You can think of it as an all-natural bleach. Anything you typically clean with bleach can be cleaned with peroxide. This includes countertops, sinks, cutting boards, bathtubs, showers, toilets, and garbage pails. Just spray it on, allow the bubbles to subside (hydrogen peroxide needs time to disinfect) and wipe. To clean and disinfect those vinyl and linoleum floors mix equal parts peroxide and water to mop. No rinsing necessary. For laundry you can replace bleach with one cup of hydrogen peroxide. You can also soak items, like toothbrushes, sponges, cleaning cloths, retainers, thermometers, and loofahs, in hydrogen peroxide to disinfect them.

Using vinegar and peroxide together (spray with undiluted vinegar and then 3% hydrogen peroxide) creates a one-two punch that is as effective as bleach at killing bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella, but is safe enough to use on produce without so much as an aftertaste.

As for wood furniture, the best way to dust is with nothing more than a damp cloth. Commercial wood polishes can contain harsh chemicals and leave a very hard-to-remove residue. For an all natural polish mix two parts olive oil with one part lemon juice and apply it to your wood furniture using a soft cloth.

Use these all-natural cleaning solutions with rags you make out of old towels and t-shirts (saving money on paper towels and reducing waste) and you’re ready to clean green!


Want more green cleaning tips? Check out Cleaning Green Supplement: Lemon and Baking Soda.

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