Going Green, Part 4 – 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.