Non-Toxic Cleaners

For a fraction of the cost of commercial cleaning products, you can use non-toxic alternatives that will provide similar results.

If you take a trip down the cleaning supplies aisle at the grocery store, you'll notice a wide variety of chemicals available for nearly every purpose known to man: liquids, powders, sprays, gels, and bubbling foams to make our homes sparkling and sanitary. But not only are these products expensive, they also introduce toxic substances into our environment and create health risks in the home. For a fraction of the cost, you can use non-toxic alternatives that will provide similar results.

You may already have the basics for non-toxic household cleaners in your house. Vinegar, baking soda, borax (washing soda), citrus peels, salt, lemon juice, toothpaste, ketchup, and any number of ordinary household items can be used in place of expensive chemicals. These alternatives may require a bit more "elbow grease" than commercial products, but the lowered risk and expense is well worth the effort; plus, these products work very well. Here are some room-by-room solutions.

Bathroom

Fill an empty spray bottle with half vinegar, half water. Use this spray to clean sinks, counters, toilets, shower doors, and to freshen shower curtains. The scent may be offensive at first, but it disperses quickly. Vinegar kills mold and bacteria, reduces odors, and removes soap scum. Sprinkle baking soda in your bathtub for a no-scratch cleanser that also absorbs grease and odors. Clean the toilet bowl by pouring baking soda and vinegar in it and then scrubbing as usual.



Kitchen

Clean your counters, appliances, and other surfaces with the vinegar spray. Use baking soda to scrub the kitchen sink, and sprinkle it in the drain to fight odors. If your drain is clogged, pour in ¼ cup of baking soda followed by ½ cup of vinegar. Let it sit and foam for a few minutes and then rinse it out with boiling water. Garbage disposal odors can be eliminated by grinding citrus peels or ice cubes. Polish silver with a paste of baking soda and water. To mop the kitchen floor, dissolve ¼ cup of borax in a bucket of hot water.

Living Spaces

Who needs lemon-scented sprays to polish furniture? Make your own with a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice. Neutralize odors in upholstered furniture or carpeting by sprinkling with baking soda and then vacuuming. Did your puppy have an accident on the carpet? Blot as much of the liquid as possible. Scrub the spot with a mild dishwashing liquid, blot that dry, and then spray with the vinegar/water solution. The spray bottle filled with vinegar and water also works great for washing windows; use it anywhere you'd use a commercial window cleaner. Clean fingerprints or crayon from the walls with a paste of baking soda and water.

Laundry Room

Instead of buying fabric softener, fill the dispenser with vinegar or add it to the final rinse cycle. Blood stains will come out of fabric when you pre-treat with hydrogen peroxide. Try hair spray or cream of tartar for removing ink stains from clothing. For non-greasy stains, dissolve borax in a basin of hot water and soak the garment for a couple of hours before washing. If you have greasy stains, pre-treat with dishwashing soap. Soak cloth diapers in vinegar to remove urine odors. Hang them in the sun to further bleach and sanitize. This works in cold weather as well; even if they don't dry, they'll still benefit from the sun's rays. Vinegar and sunlight work wonders on any white fabric that has turned yellow or grayish.

Kids' Areas

Young children are notorious for creating cleaning dilemmas. If Junior has scribbled on the walls with crayons, remove the marks with a paste of baking soda and water. This method works on almost any solid surface: vinyl or wood floors, wallpaper, plastic, appliances, and blackboards. If you have a "washable" marker stain, wipe with water and try removing the rest of it with rubbing alcohol. How do you remove play-dough from the carpet? Remove as much of it as you can before it dries; then after the rest of it is completely solid, scrub it with dishwashing soap. Sanitize toys by soaking in a basin of vinegar and water for a couple of hours; then rinse and let air-dry. If they can't be soaked, spray them with the vinegar/water bottle and wipe. Baby wipes make terrific all-purpose cleaners as well; they're great for removing food stains from carpets or upholstery and for spot-cleaning clothing.

Miscellaneous

Don't buy jewelry cleaner! Polish your silver, gold, and gems to perfection with toothpaste and an old toothbrush. Rinse in water, blot with a lint-free cloth (cloth diapers work well) and let air-dry. Do you have stains on your porcelain fixtures? Make a paste of cream of tartar and lemon juice and scrub till the stain disappears. Here's an automotive tip: if your battery connections have corroded, pour cola (the soft drink) on the terminals. Let it sit for a few minutes and then scrub with a wire brush.

Many books have been written about the unconventional uses for ordinary household products. If you need additional information, go to the library or bookstore and read these books. Don't be fooled by slick marketing campaigns: many of the products on sale for cleaning our homes are unnecessary, and some are downright dangerous. By using non-toxic alternatives, you'll not only save money and protect the environment, but you'll also solve the problem of storing chemicals out of children's reach.

© High Speed Ventures 2011