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Environmental ways to clean the house

August 17, 2009 - Updated: August 1, 2013

Thank you for visiting www.GreatMortgageAdvice.com By Cecilia Ramos

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Here is an article from the Toronto Star that I found very helpful last during our last spring cleaning season.

A little digging in the kitchen cupboards is all that's needed to round up enough supplies to polish, clean and disinfect every room in the home.

Not only effective, these few items  lemons, distilled white vinegar, baking soda and olive oil are inexpensive. Additionally, they are ingestible and non-toxic. Store brands generally are not.

Somewhere during the past few decades, we forgot this.

"At some point in our collective history, we bought into (the notion) that we need Pine Sol and bleach to clean our homes," said Jennifer Taggart, an environmental lawyer and author of Smart Mama's Green Guide: Simple Steps to Reduce Your Child's Toxic Chemical Exposure (Center Street, 2009).

Taggart attributes dependency on single-use cleaners to fear and good marketing by the companies that tout these products.

"We seem to be terrified of germs," she said. "We think if we make our own (cleaning supplies), they won't clean as well."

And that, according to Taggart, 40, is simply untrue. Homemade cleaners do exactly what packaged cleaners do: They pick up and carry away germs.

Lemons make excellent deodorizers. And because they're acidic and have antibacterial properties, they can clean certain surfaces, such as cutting boards, according to Anne-Marie O'Neill, deputy editor at Real Simple magazine.

Distilled white vinegar also is acidic and performs as a gentle cleanser on most surfaces, including wood floors. (Do not use vinegar to clean limestone or marble surfaces.) O'Neill recommends adding 50 mL (1/4 cup) of distilled white vinegar to laundry to neutralize strong odours. Add it to the final rinse in lieu of a fabric softener.

Baking soda is gritty, so cleans a little harder than white vinegar, according to O'Neill, and it deodorizes. Make a paste with water, and use baking soda to scrub away grease and grime, to gently polish silver or to brush your teeth.

Olive oil can be used to polish wood furniture and leathers, says O'Neill, but she advises doing a test spot first. She says it's excellent at removing scuff marks from leather shoes.

"You would think that it would be sticky, but it is not," O'Neill said. "It's such a light oil."

Additionally, Taggart touts plain soap and water for many household cleaning chores. It's as effective as the costlier antibacterial cleaners, and in the long run, soap and water may be healthier to use because they don't over-clean. Antibacterial cleaners only clean bacteria, not viruses, and their use may encourage the growth of antibacterial-resistant superbugs.

Taggart would like to see more families turning to natural, non-toxic cleansers to improve the quality of their indoor air.

"Conventional household cleaners are believed to contribute to the elevated levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) found indoors," she says in her book. The potential health effects vary depending on the product and its usage, so Taggart suggests reading product labels to steer clear of the most harmful chemicals.

"If the label is marked 'danger' or 'poison,' look for a safer product," she said. The same goes for items that require wearing protective gloves or eyewear.

She also warns about buying products marked "non-toxic," because that word, in itself, doesn't say much.

"Basically, 'non-toxic' means there's no information to suggest toxicity in the regulatory realm," Taggart said. "Non-toxic means 'nothing that we know of right now."'

Lemons, vinegar, baking soda, olive oil: Mix some green household cleaners

These recipes were adapted from Smart Mama's Green Guide (Center Street, 2009):

All-purpose cleaner: Combine 500 mL (2 cups) distilled white vinegar with 500 mL (2 cups) water in a spray bottle. Add a few drops of essential oil if desired. (Do not use on limestone or marble.)

Another all-purpose cleaner: Dissolve 45 mL (3 tbsp) of baking soda in 1 l (4 cups) of warm water. Transfer to a spray bottle to use.

All-purpose disinfectant and deodorizer: Mix 125 mL (1/2 cup) Borax with 4 l (1 gallon) hot water.

Carpet deodorizer: Sprinkle with baking soda (or cornstarch), let sit 30 minutes and vacuum.

Kitchen cleaner: Use baking soda on non-scratch surfaces and a vinegar-water mixture on other surfaces. Apply to rag or directly to countertop for cleaning. (Do not use vinegar to clean limestone or marble surfaces.)

Microwave cleaner: Place lemon slices in a microwave-safe dish and at least 250 mL (1 cup) of water. Heat on high for 3 minutes. Let sit for 3 minutes without opening microwave door, then open the door and wipe down the insides.

Oven cleaner: Make a paste of baking soda, salt and hot water.

Garbage disposal cleaner: Add citrus peel to eliminate odours. Or freeze vinegar in ice cube trays (250 mL/1 cup of vinegar per tray, then filled with water) and drop a few down the disposal. The ice will sharpen the blades, too.

Wood floor cleaner: Apply a thin coat of 1:1 olive oil and vinegar and rub well.

Tile and tub cleaner: Mix 400 mL (1 2/3 cups) baking soda, 125 ml (1/2 cup) liquid soap and 125 mL (1/2 cup) water, then add 30 mL (2 tbsp) vinegar (add last or it will react to the baking soda).

Toilet bowl cleaner: Sprinkle in some baking soda, let sit, then clean with toilet brush.

Window cleaner: 45 mL (3 tbsp) vinegar per 1 l (4 cups) water in a spray bottle.

Some tips for how to shop for non-toxic cleaning supplies

Some guidelines for shopping for non-toxic household cleaning products; avoid falling victim to "greenwashing" – the marketing of conventional items as eco-friendly. For more information, see Smart Mama's Green Guide by Jennifer Taggart (Center Street, 2009).

– Read ingredient lists. Avoid petroleum-based solvents, chlorine, ammonia and phosphates.

– Avoid products that have "danger," "poison" or "warning" on the label.

– Choose products that list all ingredients.

– Look for products that make specific claims regarding biodegradability, e.g., such as within 14 days.

– If a product is marketed as "natural," read the label more closely (petroleum, too, is "natural").

– Avoid products with synthetic fragrances. If you need a scented product, choose one that uses essential oils.

– Buy in bulk or concentrated form (there's no reason to pay for added water).

– Choose products that have the least packaging.

– Try castile soap, a mild, liquid, vegetable-based soap traditionally made from olive oil

For all of your Real Estate and Mortgage Needs please feel free to contact me anytime.  As always the referral of your family and friends is always appreciated.

Thank you,

Cecilia Ramos  
Mortgage Agent M08002669
Argentum Mortgage & Finance Corp
Tel  (416)757-9957
Fax (416)757-9937
Cell (416)728-1562
cecilia.ramos@rogers.com

www.GreatMortgageAdvice.com

 


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