Non-toxic Cleaning & Household Products
The "Green" Solutions:
The following are basic items in a "natural cleaning cabinet":
- Soap (not detergent), vinegar, baking soda, washing soda, salt, ammonia, borax, alcohol, cornstarch, lemon juice, Trisodium phosphate (TSP), steel wool, and mineral oil are great for keeping the house clean (click on each item to find what it is used for)
- Simple cosmetic preparations, such as coconut oil, wheat oil, grapeseed oil, even olive oil, eggs, clay, vinegar and herbs, keep your hair shiny and your and skin smooth.
- Absorbs odor and deodorizes
- Cleans without scratching and polishes aluminum, chrome, jewelry, plastic, porcelain, silver, stainless steel, and tin.
- It can be used as a deodorizer in the refrigerator, on carpets, on upholstery and on vinyl. It can help deodorize drains.
- Extinguishes grease fires.
- Softens fabrics and removes certain stains.
- Softens hard water and makes a relaxing bath time soak.
- It is an effective underarm deodorant and toothpaste. Important: For personal care products only use aluminum-free baking soda (such as Bob's Red Mill Baking Soda).
- For pet bird owners - it's a great scrubbing and scouring agent for cages.
- Borax is often recommended as a relatively "non-toxic" cleaning product or pesticide. However, even though it is effective, there are serious concerns about this product. Borax [sodium borate] can cause serious health problems, including death. People who work with Borax are instructed to wear protective clothing, such as gloves, and in some instances surgical masks to protect workers from inhaling Borax. Borax is an acute eye and respiratory tract irritant, and is quite toxic when ingested. If using Borax for cleaning or pest control, it's important to remove all traces. ... This being said, below are the applications of Borax.
- It disinfects and inhibits the growth of mildew and mold
- It boosts the cleaning power of soap or detergent
- It removes stains and deodorizes
- It can be used with attractants such as sugar to kill insects, such as ants or cockroaches.
- Pet bird owners use it as a scouring agent for cages.
- Borax is toxic to pets (especially to cats who lick it off their coats - less so to dogs). It's best not to use it around them.
- Metal polisher – Beer is an excellent metal polisher without tainting or staining the metal. Moisten a soft cloth with beer and rub the cloth on your metal decor and copper pots and pans until they shine.
- Stain remover – Blot with a white paper towel to remove as much of the stain as possible then neutralize with the white vinegar solution. Saturate spot, using a spray bottle and blot to remove excess moisture. After neutralizing, mix one-third cup of white household vinegar with two-thirds cup of water and apply to stain. Blot with white towels.
- Cleans windows
- Polishes furniture
- Shampoos carpets and rugs
- Starches clothes.
- Excellent disinfectant and cleaning agent but it must be used in a well-ventilated space with adequate protection for the hands and skin.
- Cleans mineral bild-up, tarnish and grease
- A natural disinfectant
- Can be used to clean glass
- Remove stains from aluminum, clothes, and porcelain.
- It is a mild lightener or bleach, if used with sunlight.
- An ingredient in several furniture polish and floor wax recipes.
- Non-scratching abrasive cleaner.
- Combine with lemon to clean copper pans.
- Also see "Epsom Salt"
Soap (NOT detergent):
- Look for vegetable-oil-based liquid soaps.
- Castille soap can be used as a shampoo or as a body soap.
- Olive-oil based soap is gentlest to the skin.
- An all-purpose liquid soap can be made by simple dissolving the old ends of bar soap (or grated slivers of bar soap) in warm water.
- Anti-bacterial soaps
- Removes rust and stubborn food residues. Used to scour cook / bake ware and barbeque grills.
TSP (trisodium phosphate):
- TSP is a mixture of soda ash and phosphoric acid. TSP is toxic if swallowed, but it can be used on many jobs, such as cleaning drains or removing old paint, that would normally require much more caustic and poisonous chemicals and it does not create any fumes.
- Add to your steam cleaner to clean and get rid of pet stains and smells.
- Dissolves mineral deposits and grease.
- Removes traces of soap, removes mildew or wax buildup.
- Polishes some metals and deodorizes.
- Cleans brick or stone
- Cleans out the metallic taste in coffeepots and to shine windows without streaking.
- Ingredient in some natural carpet cleaning recipes.
- Vinegar is normally used in a solution with water, but it can be used straight.
Washing Soda or SAL Soda:
- Cuts stubborn grease on grills, broiler pans, and ovens.
- It can be used with soda instead of laundry detergent
- Softens hard water.
For common household tasks, try these nontoxic strategies using the above ingredients:
Fruits / Vegetable Wash:
Mix 3 parts water and 1 part vinegar and rinse the fruits and vegetables with the solution..
Oven & Stove Cleaning:
Make a soupy paste of baking soda and water. Smear it over the oven or on any dirty spot in the or on the stove and wait about 5-10 minutes. Wipe off with a sponge. Small spots only require a paper towel. This is a very effective, safe and "green" method of cleaning.
White vinegar added to your steam cleaner is a natural and effective way to clean urine stains and neutralize odor. If you don't have a steam cleaner, mix one part each of rubbing alcohol and white vinegar. Test the solution on a small hidden area of carpet first to make sure that it doesn't stain your carpet. Spray and soak the affected area of carpet and let it stand for ten minutes. Then blot up the liquid with a towel folded into four layers. If you can still smell the urine, give it another treatment.
- Thoroughly mix 1/8 cup borax with 1 qt. hot water. You may put a portion inside a spray bottle. Wipe surface clean, always test a small area of a surface.
- Can be made from a vinegar and salt mixture or from 4 tablespoons baking soda dissolved in 1 quart warm water.
- If you don't like the smell of vinegar and prefer to use fragrance-rich Essential oils, mix 2 cups of water with the following essential oils: 4 drops each of brier rosehip, geranium, lavender, lemongrass and peppermint.. Combine ingredients in a spray bottle and shake before use.
Sanitizing / Disinfectant:
A combination of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide make a cheap, effective and non-toxic disinfectant agent and is said to be more effective at killing pathogens than bleach. . As it is non-toxic, you can use it to disinfect fruits and vegetables, as well as pet toys, equipment and cages. In tests run at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, pairing Vinegar and Hydrogen Peroxide mists, kills virtually all Salmonella, Shigella, or E. coli bacteria on heavily contaminated food and surfaces.
- You need TWO spray bottles. DO NOT MIX the solutions together. Put straight vinegar in one and straight hydrogen peroxide in the other spray bottle. NOTE: Light destroys peroxide rather quickly. It's best to leave it in its original bottle and screw in a spray head.
- DO NOT DILUTE THEM.
- Remember for any sanitizer to work properly, the surface has to be clean before you use it.
- When you want to sanitize a surface (vegetables, cutting board, counters, sink, cages, toys. toilets, floors, etc.), spray one (it doesn't matter which one you use first) on the surface, then you spray on the other. When they mix, for a brief time the chemical action of the two make a very powerful sanitizer. You can rinse off the surface afterwards, if you want, but the result is non-toxic.
- Fortunately it is cheap. BTW, we use it in the bathroom to sanitize the counters, toilets, floors, etc.
Sanitizing Drinking Water
- Try a plunger first, though not after using any commercial drain opener.
- To open clogs, pour 1/2 cup baking soda down drain, add 1/2 cup white vinegar, and cover the drain.
- The resulting chemical reaction can break fatty acids down into the soap and glycerin, allowing the clog to wash down the drain.
- Do not use this method after trying a commercial drain opener--the vinegar can react with the drain opener to create dangerous fumes.
Dish Washing Liquid:
- 2 Cups Distilled Water
- 2 tsp dried, powdered soapwort (roots, leaves and stems)
- 4 drops alfalfa, carrot and rosehip extracts
- 3 drops mullein and lemongrass extracts
- 2 drops lavender extract
Bring water to a boil; cover and simmer 20 minutes. Remove from heat, add soapwort and mix; let cool, then mix in remaining ingredients. Bottle and store.
Floor cleaner and polish:
- A few drops of vinegar in the cleaning water will do the job just fine.
- For vinyl or linoleum, add a capful of baby oil to the water to preserve and polish.
- For wood floors, apply a thin coat of 1:1 oil and vinegar and rub in well.
- For painted wooden floors, mix 2 teaspoon washing soda into 1 bucket of hot water.
- For brick and stone tiles, use 1 cup white vinegar in 1 bucket water and rinse with clear water.
- Spray the grout with white vinegar, leave wet for about 15 minutes then steam clean and wipe down with a towel as needed.
Lime Cleaning Solution:
- Mix 2 cups of hot water, 1 tablespoon borax, 2 tablespoons white vinegar and 6 drops of lime essential oil.
- Place ingredients in spray bottle and use for general cleaning.
- Shake well before each use.
- Please note that the essential oil may cause streaks if used on glass.
Metal cleaners and polishes are different for each metal -- just as in commercial cleaners.
- Metal polisher – Beer is an excellent metal polisher without tainting or staining the metal in any way. Moisten a soft cloth with beer and rub the cloth on your metal decor and copper pots and pans until they shine.
- Clean aluminum with a solution of cream of tartar and water.
- Brass may be polished with a soft cloth dipped in lemon-and baking-soda solution, or vinegar- and-salt solution.
- Polish chrome with baby oil, vinegar, or aluminum foil shiny side out.
- Clean tarnished copper by boiling the article in a pot of water with 1 tablespoon salt and 1 cup white vinegar, or try differing mixtures of salt, vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, and cream of tartar.
- Clean gold with toothpaste.
- Clean pewter with a paste of salt, vinegar, and flour. Silver can be polished by boiling it in a pan lined with aluminum foil and filled with water to which a teaspoon each of baking soda and salt have been added.
- Stainless steel can be cleaned with undiluted white vinegar.
- Rust needs to be removed as it is toxic to birds. To remove rust stains, choose one of the following instructions, per your preference and applicability:
- Tea Bags: To remove rust from steel parts (whether it be cages or toy parts, the secret are ordinary tea bags. Boil about 1/2 liter of water and add about 4 or 5 tea bags. It should be a strong mix of tea. Stir well and let this brew for about 5 minutes and remove the bags. If you used tea leaves, strain the liquid. Let it cool down and then add the rusty steel parts fully submerging them in the liquid. The rust should come off after about 1 to 8 hours - depending on the amount of rust. Keep an eye on them and remove once the rust has dissolved. You will find that the steel parts have taken on a blue-greyish color after the soaking. It is easily rubbed off with very fine wire wool and oil. After this procedure, clean using your usual procedure. You will find that this procedure will not harm the item in any way; it doesn't affect brass and it actually delays further rusting.
- Wire Brillo Pad: Scrubbing the rust lightly with a wire brush or a wire brillo pad. Scrub hard enough to remove any rust flakes, but be careful not to scratch the paint (unless the rust is so bad that you'll have to repaint the cage). Dipping the pad or brush in white vinegar might make this process easier.
- Rusted Joints: If rust has developed in the cage joints, you may find it easier to disassemble the cage and work with smaller pieces.
- Toxic Method that Work: The following tips work well, but care should be taken around birds! This is toxic stuff. It should be applied away from any pets or even family members and cleaned off carefully afterwards, before allowing yours pets anywhere near it:
- Lysol toilet bowl cleaner removes rust oftentimes on contact. All you need to do is wipe it off with a wet rag.
- Kerosene: If you see rust stains but no flakes, dip a very fine steel-wool pad into kerosene, and brush out the stains. Wear safety glasses and rubber gloves when handling kerosene, and work well away from open flames.
- Severe rust problems can be treated with naval jelly, which dissolves rust. Some products convert the rust into a primer so the metal can be painted later.
- To remove rust from carpets or other like material, use rubbing alcohol and a clean paper towel. Mix 1 part alcohol with 3 parts water. Put in a spray bottle. Spray the area and blot with paper towels. Repeat until the rust is gone.
Oven cleaner: Sprinkle baking soda on moist surface and scrub with steel wool.
Ingredients for a great scouring powder:
- 1 cup of baking soda
- 1 cup of salt and
- 1 cup of borax together
Mix the ingredients together and then store in a closed container. Use as you would any powdered cleanser.
Hard Surfaces: Hydrogen Peroxide is the best stain lifter if used fairly soon - although blood stains as old as 2 days have been successfully lifted with Hydrogen Peroxide. For blood stains use Hydrogen Peroxide and cold water on the wound. Peroxide will actually foam and lift the stain prior to the object being washed.
Carpet / Furnishings / Clothes:
Substances such as Scotchguard, other stain repellants, new carpets and furniture, and dryer sheets/fabric softeners continue to release fumes into the environment for a long time - several months. First measure would be to tr to clean the stain with simple water. Never use soapy water - as it is difficult to wash off and will attract dirt. If water alone doesn't work or you would rather be prepared and have commercial products available, below are safer alternatives:
- Non-toxic Carpet Cleaning Tips
- Bi-O-Kleen brand "Bac-Out" Stain and Odor Remover - Removes the toughest organic stains & odors; excellent for pet/laundry/carpet stains & odors, cloth diapers; no harsh fumes, etc.
- Bi-0-Kleen also makes a hydrogen peroxide powdered bleach (non-chlorine): Mix in water to get stains out of white cloth, vertical blinds etc. Also white vinegar and water works well in a pinch.
Stopped Up Toilet: Just squirt some liquid dish detergent into the towel bowl, wait 15 minutes, and you are good to go.
Toilet bowl cleaner: Baking soda and vinegar or borax and lemon juice.
Tub and Tile Cleaner: Rub in baking soda with a damp sponge and rinsing, or wipe with vinegar first and follow with baking soda as a scouring powder.
Window and Glass Cleaner:
- To avoid streaks, don't wash windows when the sun is shining.
- Glass Cleaner:
- Mix 1/4 cup white vinegar or 1 tablespoon lemon juice with 2+ cups water, or use a cornstarch-vinegar-and-water solution. Fill a clean spray bottle with water and either white vinegar or lemon juice. Wipe glass surfaces with an old newspaper.
Safe Alternatives for Laundry Products:
An effective and less toxic / environmentally damaging alternative to detergents is soap. Soap is an effective cleaner for natural fabrics, leaving such items as diapers softer than detergent can. For cotton and linen, use soap to soften water. A cup of vinegar added to the wash can help keep colors bright (but DO NOT use vinegar if you are using bleach -- the resulting fumes are hazardous). One-half to three-quarters of a cup of baking soda will leave clothes soft and fresh smelling. Silks and wools may be hand washed with mild soap or a protein shampoo, down or feathers with mild soap or baking soda.
For synthetic fabrics or blends (including most no-iron fabrics), there are biodegradable detergents on the market that do not contain phosphates, fragrances, or harsh chemicals. They are often imported from Europe and are generally available at health food stores or by mail order.
For safer detergents and softeners, use fragrance-free versions from companies such as Seventh Generation, Ecos and Mountain Green; or try the Oxy Ball or 1/2 cup of baking soda per load instead of detergents.
For BIG savings try reusable laundry / dryer balls. They work, don't harm the environment and save you money!
Add 8 ounces of 3% hydrogen peroxide to your wash in place of bleaches.
Herbal laundry soap:
- 2 Cups Distilled Water
- 2 tsp dried, powdered soapwort (roots, leaves and stems)
- 4 drops alfalfa, carrot, rosehip, lavender and lemongrass extracts
- Bring water to a boil; cover and simmer 20 minutes. Remove from heat, add soapwort and mix; let cool, then mix in remaining ingredients. Bottle and store. Use 1-2 oz per load instead of laundry detergent.
Instead of dryer sheets ...
- ... use an aluminum foil ball in the dryer; 1/2 to 1 cp of vinegar in the rinse cycle, or separate your synthetics and cottons when drying.
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