Have you ever wondered how safe and eco-friendly those "green" cleaning products are on the store shelves? Green cleaning products are flooding the market and with over 80,000 chemical compounds approved for commercial purposes, it’s become harder to tell if they are truly safer. In the U.S., companies are only required to warn of a product’s toxicity. Buzz words on green products such as “nontoxic,” “biodegradable,” and “all natural” can also be misleading. It can simply mean products are made from organic materials, but still contain potentially harmful chemicals.
All of this is particularly alarming since long-term exposure to certain chemicals found in household cleaners has been linked to serious health problems including: pregnancy complications, infertility, breast cancer, birth defects, asthma and allergic reactions. These chemicals are inhaled by breathing indoor air and some can even be absorbed through the skin.
Many are opting to avoid the maze of green cleaning products entirely and instead create their own cleaning products using common items around the house such as vinegar, salt, lemon juice, and baking soda. Do-it-yourself cleaning solutions are just as effective and not only easy to make, but also easier on you and the environment.
Here are a few recipes that you mind find useful:
Glass and mirrors: 4 tablespoons of lemon juice mixed with a 1/2 gallon of water. Rubbing alcohol and witch hazel are also effective. Use a soft, lint-free cloth to dry.
Wood furniture: 2 parts olive oil mixed with 1 part lemon juice. Apply it and polish furniture using a soft cloth.
Bare floors (ceramic tile, linoleum, vinyl, or wood): Mix 1 cup vinegar with 1 gallon of warm water. Check out our blog post on "DIY" Green Floor Cleaners at http://www.nchh.org/Resources/Blog/DIYGreenFloorCleaners.aspx for more details.
Drains: Prevent clogged drains by using hair and food traps. To degrease and sweeten sink and tub drains, pour 1/2 cup baking soda down drain, followed by 1 cup vinegar. Let "bubble" for 15 minutes; rinse with hot water. You might have to repeat the whole procedure more than once or leave the baking soda and vinegar to "cook" overnight.
Good all-purpose disinfectant: Mix 2 teaspoons borax, 4 tablespoons vinegar, and 3 to 4 cups hot water in a spray bottle. For extra cleaning power, add 1/4 teaspoon liquid soap to the mixture.
KITCHEN—This is one place where disinfecting is recommended for other select items like utensils and countertops. Please see "Alternatives to Antibacterials & Disinfectants: Safer Ways to Keep Germs at Bay" for more information.
Kitchen countertops: For a "soft scrub," mix together baking soda and liquid soap until you get a consistency you like. The amounts don't have to be equal - or perfect. Make only as much as you need, as it dries up quickly.
Ovens: To clean extra-greasy ovens, combine 1 cup baking soda and 1/4 cup washing soda. Add enough water to make a paste. Mix well, apply it to oven surfaces, and let it soak overnight. The next morning, lift off soda mixture and grime; rinse surfaces well.
Microwave ovens: Clean with a paste of 3 to 4 tablespoons of baking soda mixed with water. Scrub on with a sponge and rinse well.
Cutting Boards: Disinfect by spraying with vinegar and then with 3% hydrogen peroxide (available in drugstores). Keep the liquids in separate spray bottles and use them one at a time. It doesn't matter which one you use first, but both together are much more effective than either one alone.
Tub and tile cleaner: Mix 1-2/3 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup liquid soap, and 1/2 cup water. Then, as the last step, add 2 tablespoons vinegar (NOTE: if you add the vinegar too early, it will react with the baking soda). Immediately apply, wipe and scrub.
Toilet bowl: Pour 1 cup of borax into the toilet bowl before going to bed. In the morning, scrub and flush. For an extra-strength cleaner, add 1/4 cup vinegar to the borax.