Saturday, September 5, 2009

How to Clean & Be Green

I hope you enjoy this great guest post on Green Cleaning from our friends at Vacuum Home:

Take a peek at what's inside your own very cabinet. Chances are, many of your baking ingredients can serve as natural ways to clean your own very home! Not only would these ingredients serve two purposes, but also to help preserve the Earth and keep it at a much better state. Natural cleansers do not promote a chemical imbalance and can be easy on your hands and skin. Feel free to toss those rubber gloves away and green your clean!

Bad Toxic Cleaning
Landfills can easily contaminate groundwater, leaving populations with unsanitary, unsuitable water sources. Usually, man-made substances such as chemical cleansers are not properly disposed and seep into the Earth. Remember to properly dispose of your chemicals. Many recycling centers accept chemicals in bottles and will dispose of them for you, and even other centers will accept and sell your half-used bottles for a fraction of the price!

Household Ingredients for Cleaning
  • Baking powder
    The most popular ingredient for neutralizing odors also works as a cleanser for counter tops, sinks, bathtubs, ovens, and fiberglass. You can also sprinkle it over carpet as a carpet deodorizer.

  • Cornstarch
    Not only great with stews and baking, but also for cleaning! Corn starch can be mixed with water to clean windows, polish furniture, and shampoo carpets and rugs.
    Essential oils - These natural derivatives can be bought and used throughout your home in various situations as a natural fragrance. Lavender oil has calming properties and rosewater is both natural and sweet to the nose. Mix some in a cleanser and keep your home looking fresh and and smelling fresh, too!

  • Lemon juice
    This citrus favorite not only flavors baking goods and meats, but also works well as a silver polish. It also eats away at gummy build-up in your bathtub.

  • Liquid soap
    Biodegradable and versatile, you can never go wrong with good ol' soap. However, avoid soaps with petroleum distillates since petroleum is essentially a fossil fuel and not renewable.

  • Washing soda
    With no harmful fumes, you can use washing soda to wash out your walls, stovetops, and flat surfaces. But it's not intended for use on fiberglass or aluminum.

  • White vinegar
    Not just for your food, but also for cleaning! You can apply this on wood surfaces to remove dirt as well as neutralize grease on your stovetop.

Which Products?
If you do not have the exact supplies or the time to make your own home cleaning solutions, consider buying toxic-free, natural cleaning products. These products are usually derived from natural ingredients and do not have any chemicals that can harm or poison you if ingested. Remember to check the labels for any suspicious ingredients. Look for "phosphate-free", "chlorine-free", as well as certifications from Cradle to Cradle, Green Seal, or the EPA's Design for the Environment Program.

Tools of the Trade
When looking for the right tools to green your clean, remember two words: sustainable and biodegradable. These two words will ensure that your product will properly break down and return to the Earth when thrown away. Sustainable products can be replaced several times within a lifetime and biodegradable products will naturally decompose under the right conditions. There are many products like bamboo brushes and sponge loofahs that can act equally well than name brand, synthetic brushes.

If you are looking for a green cleaning appliance, consider investing in a steam vacuum or steam mop. Although some appliances require a specially formulated chemical solution, most steam vacuums only require good ol' water to do the trick. Steam both disinfects and cleans out areas that some chemicals simply cannot. You can also create your own solution to give a nice personal kick to your cleaning, just make sure that the manufacturer agrees! For example, instead of using pure water in your hand steamer, consider mixing a few drops of rosewater to give it a fresh rose scent.

Several reputable brands of steam vacuums include Hoover, Bissell, Reliable, Shark, and many others. Bissell vacuum cleaners, in particular, offer affordable yet efficient vacuum cleaners to help you with your cleaning green project.

No Fragrances
Although natural fragrances are great, beware of the ingredient label if "fragrance" is listed. Unfortunately, according to national standards like the FDA, the ingredient "fragrance" is highly ambiguous. You may have a soap with the ingredient "fragrance", but at most it is like adding "mystery meat" to your lunch menu. The fragrance industry is not regulated or required to list their ingredients, mainly to protect their products from knock-offs.

However, there is imminent danger through all this. With "fragrances", you may be wearing musk and further endangering an animal species, or endangering a plant species like sandalwood. You could also be wearing and using synthetic, chemical fragrances that may otherwise cause adverse reactions to the body.

To avoid this dilemma, try to actively purchase products that do not have the "perfume" or "fragrance" ingredient. This ensures that whatever is listed on the label is pure and simple, without any complications or mystery.

But what if your home is really smelly? There are several solutions you can consider. Baking powder is great on carpets and wiping vinegar on cutting boards and utensils usually neutralizes smells away. Try simmering a few spices like nutmeg and cinnamon in water to air out any unpleasant odors, or grind a lemon rind into your garbage.

Potpourri is also an excellent, crafty way to infuse your own personal scent and have it last for several weeks. However, be aware that most packaged potpourris are typically scented with fragrances and other chemicals. If collecting and drying up flowers doesn't interest you, you can create your own diffusers using essential oils and reeds.

You can add to the seasonal festivities with making or buying your own cinnamon or pumpkin-spice broom, which makes an excellent decorative piece for the chilly fall and winter months. During the springtime and summer, you can always arrange a bouquet of fragrant flowers like irises, violets, sweet peas, roses, lilacs, peonies, and lavender to name a few.

Laundry Fresh
Although your clothes may smell fresh, the fact that many laundry detergents list "fragrance" in their ingredients may be cause for concern. These chemicals may irritate your skin or cause adverse reactions, so remember to purchase a detergent with natural, sustainable, and biodegradable ingredients. Try to run your washer on cold to save energy.

You could also omit using dryer sheets by misting a damp washcloth with a bit of liquid fabric softener. This way, you are using less resources and keeping your landfills free from chemical dryer sheets.

But by hand-washing delicate items and hang-drying it in the sun, you will save a lot of energy. Practicing these old-fashioned methods also promotes a healthier lifestyle. The sun's rays kills bacteria and other micro-organisms that would otherwise survive within the intense heat of a dryer. Take the weekend morning to hand-wash and hang out your clothes and save a few bucks while doing it!

Judy Nguyen is a copy editor from Vacuum Home, an online site that specializes in vacuum cleaners and vacuuming systems. She is currently involved in environmental communities and hopes to make a better world with one eco-conscious thought at a time.

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