Going Green, Part 4 – Household Cleaning

Household Cleaning

Household cleaning is one area that offers a lot of opportunities to save money while also living a little greener. Our society has grown accustomed to using harsh household chemicals, but these expensive – not to mention dangerous – cleaners are not the only choice.

 

In the Bathroom

Let’s start with the room that receives the harshest cleaning chemicals, the bathroom. Most American households use caustic cleaners in the toilet, bleach-based cleaners on the sink and shower, and still more chemicals on the floor and mirrors. Yikes!

 

Instead of using expensive harsh chemicals in your toilet, try mixing ¼ cup of baking soda with 1 cup of white vinegar. Pour into the toilet, let sit for a few minutes, then scrub. (Vinegar is antibacterial in nature.) Additionally, consider swishing the toilet with a toilet brush as part of your morning or evening routine. You’ll find that a quick swish every day keeps the toilet from getting too disgusting.

 

For the sink and shower, apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar) does a fine job of removing soap scum and hard-water deposits, as well as killing the bacteria that thrives in the humid environment of the bathroom.

 

If scrubbing is needed, try using baking soda. It’s mildly abrasive, but won’t scratch. If more abrasion is needed, a good scouring stone (pumice, available at hardware stores) will usually do the trick. Keep the stone wet and gently rub.)

 

For mold, spray on a solution of diluted hydrogen peroxide (available at pharmacies). Let sit for several minutes (15 or so) before scrubbing or rinsing.

In the Kitchen

Many families these days prefer to wash their produce with a special fruit and veggie wash meant to safely clean the produce better than simply rinsing them with water. A homemade alternative is to soak the produce in diluted vinegar – try ¼ cup of vinegar for a sinkful of water. Soak the produce for 15 minutes, then rinse and dry.

 

For oven cleaning, use your oven’s self-cleaning cycle, if it has one. Not only does this save labor, but there are no chemicals involved! If your oven is not self-cleaning, or if you have baked-on spills that need special attention, try dampening the interior of the oven with plain water (using a spray bottle), then sprinkling on a few layers of baking soda. Let the whole thing sit for a few hours, then scrub with a rag. Use steel wool for really tough spots.

 

For clogged sinks, pour a cup of baking soda down the drain and follow with a cup of vinegar. The chemical reaction that follows will help break down greasy clogs. Let this sit for a few minutes before pouring a panful of boiling water down the drain to help clear the clog.

The Whole House

For general cleaning – de-smudging, polishing, dusting, and wiping – consider purchasing some microfiber cleaning cloths. These cloths make clean-up a snap, and do a fine job of cleaning up without any chemicals at all. You can use them dry, or with plain water.

 

For hard-surface floors, you can’t beat the old-fashioned broom and dustpan, or the more modern Swiffer. (For an economical, nondisposable alternative to swiffer cloths, consider Sweet Sweepers.) Follow up with a mop and some hot, soapy water – just use plain old dish soap, no need for speciality floor cleaners.

 

There are a lot of good resources out there for economical, environmentally-friendly household cleaning. My favorite is a book called Clean House, Clean Planet.

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About sarahtar

Our Family lives in central Iowa. We are Christians, conservatives, and crunchy granola heads. We love the outdoors, photography, and lindy hop. Turn ons are people who are polite, honesty, and really good root beer. Turn offs are mean people and people who make my life more difficult.

Posted on March 27, 2007, in Information, Natural Living. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Hi,
    I clean for a living and I liked most of your suggestions. However, I would like to add a few thoughts about microfiber clothes. They are expensive and the require special care. You can not put them in the dryer or use bleach on them. I only use them on windows were they are very effective… Thanks

  2. Thanks for commenting!

    You actually can put microfiber in the dryer, though it does last longer (and is more effective) when not dried. But I’ve found that a) drying is not a huge deal and b) not drying is not a huge deal since they dry so fast on top of the washer.

    What does bleach do to them? I’ve never used bleach with microfiber (or any cloth, for that matter). I think my bleach use is limited to bleaching out the sink every three months or so, and don’t actually scrub, but just let the bleach do its work diluted in a sinkful of water.

  3. I am a supplier of house keeping products to corporates and hotels in Mumbai (India). I am looking forward to getting more knowledge to part with my cusomers and shall feel oblige if you can help me find formulation so as to make me able to make and add more products to my line of supply.

  4. Great article. I found it to be very helpful. Thnx!

  5. Microfiber is great for cleaning, as you so helpfully pointed out. What makes me RAVE is that I’ve been using a set of 10 microfiber towels for more than 4 years now. Each towel gets washed at least every-other day. *ONE* towel has recently started to show wear. The rest are a bit stained in spots, but structurally perfect! I will be getting more of them….eventually.

    A thought or two on the ‘too much trouble’ because they don’t absorb well if you use fabric softener on them. I’ll ignore the drying part of that comment as I’ve dried mine at least a thousand times in the dryer with no trouble at all.

    First, laundry always needs a bit of ‘managing. You separate lights/darks. You separate extremely dirty clothes from normal ones. You pull out bra’s, nylons (if you wear ’em) and synthetic undies before the dryer. They last MUCH longer that way, aren’t as likely to get tangled or lost, and dry very quickly.

    In my own efforts to reduce household chemicals, I found that once I started religiously pulling out the synthetics, nothing else had major static problems. When synthetics hang to dry, THEY don’t static-up either. We like our cotton towels without the softener as we find they absorb better that way–so do cloth diapers. I’ve had the same box of softener on my laundry shelf for more than 2 years now. YMMV (and your opinions, of course.)

    Best wishes,
    Akaren

    PS: Thanks for sharing your experiences and pointers with us, Sarahtar.

  6. Thanks for your thoughts!

    I think what bugs me the absolute most about microfiber towels (which I don’t use for cleaning much any more for this very reason) is that they are the only synthetic fiber my family owns/launders. And I cannot stand the way they feel. ick ick ick.

    My own microfiber towels are either dried or hung out, depending on what the rest of the laundry is doing – honestly, I lack the time or desire to do laundry “management’ beyond sorting by tone (darks and lights) when the dirties go into the hamper. They are very NONabsorbent after four years of fairly regular drying. Pretty much all of the fabric mills that produce the microfiber terry will tell you it’s not to be dried.

  7. I should also note that another thing that bugs me about the towels, and why I haven’t gotten rid of them, is that when I do discard them, they will largely stay in their current form until the end of time. Polyester doesn’t degrade. The cotton rags do. I’ve actually added a few to the compost pile, lol, and their lint from the dryer is used as firestarter.

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