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Clean Up Your Cleanup

A lesson on household chemicals and a few of our favorite homemade versions.

Spraying, scrubbing, swiping—it takes a lot of effort and chemicals to keep your living space clean. 

And the chemicals you use to do it are toxic. More than 83,000 of them are identified in the Toxic Chemical Substance Act, a 1976 law that imposes restrictions related to chemical cleaners. The average household contains between 3 and 10 gallons of toxic materials, mostly in the form of cleaning product, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

So take charge! For example, in the laundry room you can substitute hydrogen peroxide for bleach.

Educate yourself on product ingredients, try out a few of our favorite homemade versions, and pass 'em along. Don’t forget to label the products you make, and never mix homemade products with commercial products! Always clean in well-ventilated areas.

Before you get started, you'll need to have these handy: Olive oil, hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, white vinegar, lemon, water, salt and aluminum foil.

Glass Cleaner

INGREDIENTS

1 cup white vinegar

2 cups water

DIRECTIONS

Fill a clean spray bottle with water and white vinegar. Spritz onto glass and wipe away with a rag or old newspaper. Add just a couple drops of your own essential oil to customize (available at ).

Drain Deodorizer

INGREDIENTS

1 cup baking soda

1 cup vinegar

DIRECTIONS

Add soda and vinegar to pot of boiled water. Pour mix down the drain.

Furniture Polish

INGREDIENTS

1 cup white vinegar

1 tsp olive oil

DIRECTIONS

Mix vinegar and olive oil. Dip clean rag into mix and apply to wood surfaces for a quick dust and polish. Reduce olive oil if furniture looks oily.

Cleaner for Non-Marble Countertops

INGREDIENTS

1 lemon halved

½ cup baking soda

DIRECTIONS

Dip the face of the lemon half into the baking soda. Use the lemon as your scrubber. You’ll want to follow up with a few sprays of glass cleaner or water.

Silverware Polish

INGREDIENTS

Aluminum foil

Pinch of salt

1 cup baking soda

Boiling water

DIRECTIONS

Line a bucket or container large enough to hold silverware with aluminum foil.  Place tarnished silver inside. Pour boiling water into the container, along with baking soda and salt. Let sit for a few minutes. Remove pieces and dry.

For more information, visit householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov/index.htm

Franke Santos June 23, 2011 at 09:33 PM
With regard to the silverware polish, I've actually found that using a foil pan filled with water softener and warm water is pretty effective. I think water softener is chemically similar to baking soda.
The Ecology Center June 23, 2011 at 09:41 PM
Thanks Franke! I will try that!
Clint Worthington June 23, 2011 at 11:29 PM
Thank you for the column. However, what is most ironic, is that the Ecology Center is the one who painted the asphalt with a blue line on public property. The Ecology Center is also the same place that painted the storm drain blue with large eyes defacing public property. All of those flakes of paint go directly into that storm drain that leads to the ocean. And....it was the Ecology Center who painted it.

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