Recycling Tips & Eco-Friendly Advice - Environmentally safe clean-up
Recycling Tips & Eco-Friendly Advice

Environmentally safe clean-up

Non-Toxic Environmentally Safe Cleaning: With these few items you can do all your cleaning naturally and safely without any chemicals. Flake soap / Bar soap (Ivory), Washing / Baking soda, Borax, Vinegar, Salt, Lemon.

All Purpose Cleaner
Use hot water, soap and borax, or use 1/2 cup "washing soda" per bucket of water. Problem: avoid ammonia, which attacks your lungs, and chlorine which forms cancer causing compounds when released into the environment.

Dishwashing Liquid
Use liquid soap such as castille or rub a damp dishtowel over a bar of soap. Look for naturally derived or glycerin based soaps. Problem: most dishwashing liquids are detergents (not soap) which are derived from scarce petroleum, they are non-biodegradable and contain artificial fragrances and colors.

Laundry products
Use soap products which boast "washing soda." It brightens all fabrics and costs less. 1/2 cup vinegar in rinse water will soften laundry and cut soap use. Using soap flakes is a non-toxic and bio-degradable substitute for detergent. (You might have problems with this if you have "hard water," that is to say your water supply has a high mineral content and/or you use a cold wash. This is mostly a rural issue, and anyway the worst that's likely to happen is that the soap might stick to your clothes and have to be washed out with detergent. If in doubt, try a test load first.) Add 1/3 cup of washing soda (sodium carbonate) to help remove stains and grease. Or use Borax. Problem: most products are non-biodegradable. Even phosphate free biodegradable detergents contribute to water pollution.

Glass Cleaner
Use alcohol to remove residue commercial glass cleaner. Then a mixture of 50% white vinegar and 50% water. Problem: glass cleaner emits ammonia mist, which you breathe. Ammonia is a poison that usually has no warning label.

Use 1/2 cup Borax in 1 gallon hot water. This meets germicidal state requirements. Problem: most disinfectants are filled with toxic chemicals including phenol, formaldehyde and ammonia, some of the fumes can even escape through tightly closed containers.

Drain Cleaners
Always use a drain basket to maintain clean drains. Use 1 cup baking soda, 1 cup of salt and 1/4 cup cream of tartar. Pour 1/4 of this mixture down drain and follow with boiling water. Clean clogs with 1/4 cup baking soda followed by 1/2 cup vinegar. Cover till fizzing stops, then flush with boiling water. Use this treatment regularly to prevent clogs.

Paints / Paint Thinners
Use non-toxic, vegetable based paints, stains and lacquers. Finish woods naturally with wax. Use a heat gun, sandpaper and scrapers to remove finishes from wood. Natural dyes and paints were used for centuries before the onslaught of chemical paints. Problem: up to 300 toxic substances, including solvents and fungicides have been found in commercial oil and latex paint. Harmful vapors remain for months after paint dries. Permanent markers have harmful solvents such as toluene, xylene and ethanol. Waterbased markers are preferable and safer. There is a book called "Artists Beware" which gives info on protection methods to reduce risks associated with various art supplies.

Rug and Upholstery Cleaners
Sprinkle cornstarch and baking soda on rugs and furniture. Let sit and then vacuum. You can also mix in some good smelling herbs. Problem: rentable cleaners often have dry cleaning agents.

Flea and Tick Treatment
Use Brewers Yeast (and garlic) with pet food, starting with less than a tea-spoon and increasing daily. Safe pet dips made from citrus extracts are available. Pyrethin powder made from chrysanthemums sprinkled on carpets and then vacuumed off will prevent further infestation. House sprays (made from Citrus Oil) and collars made from organic materials are available through health food stores. You can make your own with orange or grapefruit skins. Put them in a blender and simmer in water - when dried, brush through fur. Bio-degradable non-toxic insecticidal soaps are available through garden supply companies. Problem: Commercial pesticides have dangerous carcinogens which can be bad for the pet as well as people.

Specific Problems

  • Coffee cup stains: moist salt
  • Coffee pot stains: vinegar
  • Grease removal: Borax and damp cloth
  • Pet odor removal: vinegar
  • Roach repellent: chopped bay leaves, cucumber skins or boric acid.
  • Residual odor in containers: baking soda and water
  • Surfaces: vinegar, salt and water
  • Basic cleaning: vinegar and water
  • Cleaning burned pans:
    1. Remove cooked food and boil water.
    2. Sprinkle with baking soda and soak for a few hours.
    3. Remove stains from non-stick surfaces by boiling 2 tablespoons of baking soda to a cup of water.
    4. Wipe with cooking oil before using again.
  • "Spritz" starch can be made from 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and 1 part cold water. Shake well and spray.
  • For a more abrasive cleaner use 1/2 lemon dipped in borax.
  • For soapy buildup on chrome bathroom fixtures, use undiluted vinegar. Let sit for 5 minutes, then rinse.
  • Substitute baking soda for scouring powder to clean kitchen appliances, counters and sinks. It cleans and deodorizes at the same time.
  • Handwashing dishes: Add 1/2 cup vinegar to keep grease from clinging to pans and dishes.
  • To make rooms smell good - use vinegar, cloves and cinnamon in a glass jar, heat and place where needed. This will absorb odors rather than cover them, like commercial products.
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