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Green Cleaning -- Some Basics

Note:  See also More Recipes and Labels.
1. Excerpt from North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service bulletin,
North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C.
Mixing your own.  
While the ingredients in homemade cleaners are safer, they are not all 
non-toxic. Keep these guidelines in mind:
1. Be careful what chemicals you mix. Some chemicals, such as chlorine bleach 
and ammonia, produce a very toxic gas if they are mixed together.
2. Do not mix more than a month's supply at a time. The chemicals may lose their 
effectiveness.
3. Mix solutions in a well-ventilated area.
4. Store all cleaning solutions out of reach of children.
5. Store solutions in unused, store-bought containers. Use permanent storage 
containers which are kept in a permanent location. Never put them in old food 
containers. They may interact with residue from the original contents, or they 
may be mistaken for food or beverage.
6. Label containers carefully. This is especially important if other people in 
your home clean or have access to the cleaners.  

 

2.  Condensed from Consumers' Research, 1985 
Some things never grow old. Stronger chemicals like oxalic acid crystals or phosphoric acid
preparations like Limeaway can be used for deeper stains in porcelain, but they are poisonous and
can etch ceramic tiles and corrode plumbing if used too often. 
detergent
pine oil
an abrasive cleaner (Bon Ami) or baking soda
plain ammonia
chlorine bleach
white vinegar
Ammonia: cuts grease
 Keep a pump spray with one part ammonia and 3 parts water on hand for: 
1.   Windows, mirrors, and other smooth surfaces that attract grease.  Spray directly on
     surface.  Add more ammonia to strip wax from linoleum floors.
2.   Appliances, TV, microwave, stereos.  Spray on a lint-free cloth first--NEVER directly on
     the appliance.
3.   Place full-strength ammonia in a saucer in oven overnight to loosen grease.  Spray more
     on a cloth to wipe off the grease.
Vinegar and Bleach: Both acidic, they will remove rust, mildew and other stubborn stains.
1.   Ring around the toilet and sinks: pour in 1/2 cup full-strength bleach, let stand a few
     minutes and rinse.
2.   Use vinegar to remove scum and mildew from shower curtains, lime and corrosion on
     shower heads and faucets, and clean laminated counters. 
3.   Add enough salt to vinegar to make a paste and use to scour tarnish from copper, brass,
     and pewter.  Use old toothbrush or vegetable brush to apply.
4.   To remove film from glassware, shake vinegar with dry rice inside glasses.  Add a cupful
     of vinegar on the bottom rack of a dishware occasionally.
5.   Use a teaspoon each of white vinegar and mild dish detergent to remove stains on woolen
     fabrics caused by blood, coffee, egg, fruits, mustard, tea, soft drinks, urine, and ink. 
     (Recommended by the Wool Bureau  assume the cleaner is applied directly to the stain.)
Pine Oil: disinfects and deodorizes
Use at full strength to wipe very dirty surfaces, then rinse.  Can be used to clean walls, diapers,
garbage pails and whitewall tires.
Baking Soda: Substitute for scrubbing powders and other cleansers (including chlorine!) that 
erode porcelain fixtures
1.   Remove soil with pine oil from kitchen and bath fixtures, porcelain, fiberglass, and
     cultured marble.   
2.   Pour some on a damp cloth and use to clean and polish silver.
3.   Sprinkle on carpets to deodorize.  
4.   Use to remove stains from refrigerators, coffee pots, thermos bottles, diaper pails, and kitt
     litter boxes.

 

3.  Excerpts from : (1)Nontoxic cleaning recipes from Clean House, Clean Planet: by Karen Logan, Pocket Books, 1997 (2) Household Wastes, Prepared by Dr. Wilma Hammett, Extension Housing Specialist, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C

Furniture Polish:
Use one part white distilled vinegar and three parts olive oil. Add a little natural lemon oil (not the synthetic kind) if available.

Removing Price Tags/Glue/Wax

Martha Stewart recommends swabbing the tag with a cotton ball doused with vegetable oil for glue.  (You can try this tactic with candleholders before inserting the candle, too.)  For wax drippings, she offers several approaches.  The heat approach for tables calls for drying with a hair drying before scraping off with a credit card, or for tablecloths, pour boiling water over the stain.  The cold approach for fabric:   freeze it first, then use a solvent or mineral spirits to remove residue. 

Deodorize carpets:
Sprinkle with baking soda then vacuum.

Glass Cleaner:
Most commercial glass cleaners are 95 percent water! You won't believe it, but you can actually use plain club soda for a great glass cleaner.

Film on glassware:
Shake vinegar with dry rice inside glasses. Add a cupful of vinegar on the bottom rack of a dishware occasionally.

Rust Remover:
Sprinkle a little bit of salt on the rust, squeeze a lime over the salt until it is nicely soaked in lime juice. Leave the mixture on for 2-3 hours. Use the leftover rind as a handy scrubber, or an old toothbrush.

Drains:
Pour 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain. Add 1/2 cup white vinegar and cover the drain, if possible. Let set for 5 minutes. Then pour a kettle of boiling water down the drain. Do not use this method if you have used a commercial drain opener and it may still be present in the drain.

Aluminum Pots:
Combine 2 tablespoons cream of tartar with 1 quart of water in cookware. Bring solution to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Wash and dry as usual.

Brass, Copper, and Pewter:
Combine lemon juice or vinegar and baking soda, cream of tartar, or salt. Make a paste about the consistency of toothpaste. Rub with a soft cloth. If using cream of tartar, leave paste on for 5 minutes. Rinse with warm water and dry with soft cloth.

Chrome and Stainless Steel:
Soak a clean cloth with some white vinegar and clean.

Oven Cleaner:
Sprinkle water on oven surface. Apply baking soda. Rub using very fine steel wool. Wipe off scum with a damp sponge. Rinse well and dry. Or, while oven is still warm, sprinkle water on the spill, then sprinkle salt on it. When the oven cools down, scrape the spill away and wash the area. You can also leave a saucer of full-strength ammonia in the oven overnight and remove grease next day
with a cloth.

Sterling Silver

Martha Stewart recommends placing silver in an aluminum pan and sprinkle with 1/2 to one cup of baking soda and some boiling water.  (The aluminum in the pan breaks down the chemicals causing the tarnish to disappear.)

Toilet Bowl Cleaners:
Mix lemon juice and borax to make a paste about the consistency of toothpaste. Flush toilet to wet sides. Rub paste on toilet bowl ring. Let sit for 2 hours and then scrub thoroughly. (Borax is a toxic ingredient. Handle it with care and store it safely.) Or, sprinkle some baking soda into the toilet bowl, add vinegar, and scour with a toilet brush. Or, pour 1/2 cup of bleach into the bowl and let stand for 30-45 minutes before scrubbing. (Use chlorine sparingly in septic systems; it kills bacteria needed to break down solids.)

Windows, mirrors, stripping wax from floors, appliances, TV, stereo, microwave, and ovens:
Use one part ammonia to three parts water and spray on a lint-free cloth--not directly on appliance.

Stains on refrigerators, coffee pots, thermos bottles, diaper pails, and kitty litter boxes:
Sprinkle some baking soda on damp cloth and scrub item.

Scum and mildew on shower curtains, lime and corrosion on shower heads and faucets, laminated counters:
Rub white vinegar on product and rinse.

Woolen Fabrics:
Use a teaspoon each of white vinegar and mild dish detergent to remove stains on woolen fabrics caused by blood, coffee, egg, fruits, mustard, tea, soft drinks, urine, and ink. (Recommended by the Wool Bureau; assume the cleaner is applied directly to the stain.)