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Green Cleaning: Safe Cleaning Supplies for You and Our Blue Planet


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Aqualog, Spring 2007

Tips and advice on how to identify environmentally safe cleaning supplies. Includes recipes for numerous home-made cleaning products. Sidebar highlights the three ingredients that should always be avoided: chlorine, ammonia and antibacterial products.

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Green Cleaning: Safe Cleaning Supplies for You and Our Blue Planet

  1. 1. Aqualog Inside: Green Cleaning: Which Cleaning Products Are Earth Friendly? Plus...More Animal Rescue Stories
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  3. 3. Safe Cleaning Supplies for You and Our Blue Planet —by Cristina Santiestevan Essential green April showers must mean it’s time for spring cleaning. But, before you grab cleaning supplies that mop and bucket, consider what First, you will need products you will be using to clean to stock up on a few your home. supplies. You probably Many of today’s most popular have most of these cleaners contain chemical irritants items in your home already, and anything and toxins that are bad for you and you need to buy will the environment, especially when be inexpensive and they are disposed of improperly. And you’ll save paper by residue at the bottom of easy to find. avoiding the paper towels. your oven. Moisten baking To make matters more confusing, soda with enough water Spray bottles commercial cleaners are not well Newspaper to form a thick paste, You will need several regulated, which makes it difficult Old, crumpled newspapers and spread it all over spray bottles for your are the secret to absorb- to identify safe, natural cleaners. the bottom of your oven. homemade cleaning ing spills and getting Phrases like biodegradable, Let sit overnight and solutions. Look for ones streak-free windows. Save non-toxic, hypoallergenic and use a sponge to wipe it with measurements along a stack of newspapers for all away in the morning. fragrance free don’t mean much their sides—this will make window-washing day, or it much easier to mix the because companies are not required Hydrogen peroxide for unexpected messes. solutions. Avoid the to prove these statements or list Hydrogen peroxide should Baking soda temptation to reuse be in everyone’s home their ingredients. spray bottles from Left in an open con- cleaning kit. It’s a disinfec- Several companies recognize commercial tainer, baking soda tant, antiseptic and a nat- that people are becoming increas- cleaners—the makes a fine air fresh- ural, non-chlorine bleach. ingly more aware of their impact on chemicals ener or refrigerator Spot treat your clothes may linger even deodorizer. Add a the environment and now offer safe, with hydrogen peroxide after a washing half-cup to your natural cleaning products. Some to remove all manner of with soap and washing machine stains—including blood of these companies include Ecover water. to eliminate odors stains—or add up to a (, Seventh on clothing, or cup to your laundry as a Cloth towels Generation (www.seventh sprinkle it on natural bleach. Since or rags and method your carpet as this is a bleaching agent, You can buy a deodorizer. ( But if you be careful with colors. special cleaning Baking soda can really want peace of mind, try mixing cloths, but rags Lemon juice also be used your own cleaning solutions at home. made from old as a non-abrasive Try using fresh lemons t-shirts, sweatshirts It’s quick and easy, better for you cleanser, and or bottled lemon juice to and socks will and the planet, and will save you works wonders at cut through grease, clean work just as well. money. Don’t be daunted—you’ll removing baked-on windows, polish brass be green cleaning in no time. 9
  4. 4. and copper, or as a in vinegar for a few odors. For stubborn if you are worried about natural bleach. Lemon hours or overnight. smells, simmer water color loss. juice can also be added Freshen up your trash- with cinnamon or other Furniture polish to cleaning solutions for can by spraying the spices on the stove. Lemon juice mixed in a lemony-fresh scent. inside of it with straight Open windows and fresh equal parts with olive Add a half-cup of lemon vinegar and letting it breezes work wonders oil works wonders for juice to the rinse cycle evaporate. for clearing away old, unvarnished wood. For to brighten clothes. stale smells. House- varnished wood, dilute Recipes & plants naturally remove the solution with water. odors and small solutions Use a soft cloth to particles from the air. spread. Now that you have Floor cleaner your supplies, it is time Drain cleaner and polish to get cleaning! Pour about a half-cup All floors are all easily of baking soda down All-purpose and effectively cleaned the drain, followed by spray cleaner with an equal mix of a half-cup of vinegar. Mix one part vinegar white vinegar and warm The resulting reaction with four parts water and water. Add lemon juice (foaming) will break a splash of lemon juice for a fresh citrus scent. Opt for plain soap and down accumulated soap in a plastic spray bottle. To preserve and polish water to wash your scum, which often clogs This is the first bottle to linoleum or vinyl floors, hands—skip the drains. reach for when cleaning add a splash of baby oil antibacterial products. After 15 minutes, just about any mess. It to the cleaning solution. pour hot or boiling water works on kitchen coun- Polish freshly cleaned Liquid soap down the drain to clear ters, sinks, windows, wood floors with a thin Use a natural, vegetable any remaining residue. sticky messes on dining coat of equal parts oil based soap—also If you have plastic pipes, room tables, spills on vinegar and baby oil. known as castile soap— skip the boiling water. stoves and much more. to scrub away dirt and Mold remover Caution: Do not use For stubborn stains, stains. Dr. Bronner’s is Mix one part hydrogen this method if you have allow the solution to sit a popular brand. You peroxide with three parts already tried a chemical for a few minutes before will find this in most water in a plastic spray drain clearer. The vine- wiping it up. Use news- grocery or natural food bottle. Spray over the gar may react with the papers to dry your stores. entire affected area, and drain clearer, releasing windows, and cloth rags let sit for at least one toxic fumes. for everything else. White vinegar hour before rinsing. This multi-use Metal polishes Safe scrub Straight vinegar will also ingredient cuts grease, Mix baking soda with Silver: Line a saucepan kill many types of mold. removes dirt and tar- liquid soap to make a with aluminum foil and As with the hydrogen nish, dissolves solids gentle scrub for minor fill with water. Add a peroxide mix, let the and absorbs odors. clean-up jobs. For teaspoon of salt and vinegar sit for at least Straight vinegar will tougher jobs, combine baking soda, and bring an hour before rinsing. kill more than equal parts baking soda to a boil. Once boiling, 80% of mold Clothing stain fighter and coarse salt with add your silver for a spores and Mix equal parts enough water to form minute or two. Remove, germs, hydrogen peroxide and a thick paste. Spread and dry with a soft cloth. and liquid soap in a small the scrub using a brush, Brass and copper: Use nearly bowl or plastic spray sponge or rag. Either a soft cloth soaked in a 100% bottle. Lightly cover scrub will clean bath- solution of lemon juice of all the stained area, and tubs, sinks, toilets, tile, and baking soda bacteria. let sit. Gently rinse the ovens and anything else. or vinegar and salt. Add a solution away after For tough stains, allow quarter- Gold: Clean with a 15-45 minutes. Repeat the paste to sit for cup of paste of salt, vinegar as necessary. This may several minutes vinegar to the and flour. take several applica- to several hours. rinse cycle to soften Stainless steel and tions, but keep with it— fabrics and eliminate Air freshener chrome: Clean with a it can even remove red static cling. Use vinegar An open container of cloth soaked in vinegar. wine stains. Caution: to remove lingering baking soda or vinegar Hydrogen peroxide is a odors from food storage with lemon juice will bleaching agent. Test containers and more— do an excellent job this solution on a small simply soak the item removing most airborne section of the garment 10
  5. 5. What to avoid There are a few especially nasty products out there that deserve special mention. The top three to avoid are chlorine bleach, ammonia and anything labeled antibacterial. All three are linked with known health risks and/or environmental consequences, and none are necessary for standard cleaning chores. infection, absorb Chlorine bleach Ammonia Antibacterial products calcium and other Chlorine bleach can Low levels of ammonia These products seem minerals and produce burn skin and eyes, occur naturally, and will like a great idea— essential vitamins. This cause respiratory not cause any health antibacterial soaps means antibacterial problems, lead to liver problems. However, and disinfectants are products could be or kidney damage concentrated ammonia advertised as the making us sicker, not and interfere with the used in many household essential ingredient for healthier, because we immune system. The cleaners can cause eye, every clean home. But kill essential beneficial fumes can interfere with throat or nose irritation, the advertisements are bacteria every time we fetal development, and headache, nausea and misleading. Most bacte- use them. the liquid can be fatal vomiting. High concen- ria are not bad for us. Most frightening, if swallowed. Chlorine trations can lead to Antibacterial products the overuse of antibi- bleach may combine serious burns or eye are no more effective otics and antibacterial with natural substances damage. Repeated or than vinegar at control- products may be leading or commercial products prolonged exposure to ling bacteria and do to the development of to create toxic gases ammonia fumes may not kill viruses—which antibiotic-resistant or known carcinogens. slowly damage the eyes, cause the common cold super-bacteria. While Liquid chlorine bleach liver, kidneys and lungs, and flu—and cannot antibacterial products is the most common and may led to bronchi- prevent the spread of kill many bacteria, a few cleaner accidentally tis. Children and people contagious diseases. always survive. These swallowed by children. with asthma or emphyse- Antibacterial soaps work survivors are stronger Chlorine may ma are most sensitive no better than regular and more resistant. lurk in all manner of to ammonia. soap, and are generally Already, doctors and commercial home- Ammonia is most harsher and more drying scientists have noticed cleaning products, commonly used in glass, to our skin. Also, ingredi- that certain strains of including laundry window, metal and ents in antibacterial bacteria—which can detergent and bleach, oven cleaners. Cigarette soaps have been shown cause infections—are disinfectants, scouring smoke and many to last through waste- able to resist antibiotic powders and toilet chemical-based water treatment and treatments that once bowl cleaners. Luckily, fertilizers also contain accumulate in municipal worked to control them. alternatives are ammonia. As with sludge, which is later Many worry that some available. Hydrogen chlorine bleach, safe used as fertilizer for bacteria will eventually peroxide is a safe and effective alterna- crops. So essentially, we be able to resist every non-chlorine bleach. tives exist. Vinegar and wash this stuff down the known antibiotic treat- Vinegar is an excellent lemon juice clean glass drain, it doesn’t go away ment, resulting in uncon- disinfectant. Baking and most metals even after the water is trollable super-bacteria. soda mixed with coarse extremely well, and a treated, and then we For all of these salt is an effective paste of baking soda eat a portion of it in our reasons, it is best to scouring solution and salt will remove produce. avoid any product and will work wonders baked-on messes on Antibacterial labeled antibacterial. cleaning your toilet your stove or in your ingredients are common These products should and bathtub. oven. in soaps, disinfectants only be used in special and cleaners, and are circumstances, such now becoming available as in hospitals and in trash bags, sponges, doctor’s offices. Plain plastic wrap, disposable soap and warm water cutting boards and is still the best way to more. As unlikely as wash your hands and it sounds, we need clean up—even after bacteria. Beneficial working with raw meat bacteria help us digest in the kitchen. • our food, fight off 11