Green Household Cleaners: Clean Homes Naturally

Stop using harsh chemical cleaning products in your house and replace them with these natural cleaning recipes that use common household ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, borax and ammonia.

| July/August 1990

  • Green Detergent and Flower
    The indiscriminate use of toxic chemicals in commercial cleaning products has negative effects on both our personal health and the health of the environment.
    PHOTO: FOTOLIA/PIXELOT

  • Green Detergent and Flower

When I decided to stop using harsh chemical cleaning products in my house and to find environmentally safe alternatives, I didn't have to look far. I just called my mother. People who have been cleaning since before synthetic formulas became widely available (after World War II) know what works.

My town's library proved to be a big help too: An entire section is devoted to household hints and advice, much of it from before the '50s ushered in "better living through modern chemistry."

But I also knew that many of the old-time cleaning recipes I'd found were never intended for use with today's synthetic materials and household appliances. Over the past 50 years we've opened our homes to the likes of polyester, Formica, vinyl and myriad other forms of plastic, and we've enlisted the aid of dishwashers and automatic washing machines and dryers.

So, with help from my mother, the library, various environmental groups and some recent, ecologically conscious household-hints books, I experimented. I adapted. I experimented some more. And eventually I came up with my own arsenal of formulas for modern-day green household cleaners.



Seven Natural Cleaning Essentials

Believe it or not, you can handle all your day-to-day cleaning with just seven easily available, inexpensive, environmentally benign substances. Baking soda, washing soda, soap flakes, oil soap, vinegar, borax and ammonia will take care of just about any mess. (Ammonia is, of course, dangerous in its concentrated form, when skin contact or breathing the fumes can cause injury. But it's an extremely effective cleaner, and it is not harmful to the environment. Just store it in a safe place well out of the reach of children and use it with care and a clean conscience.)

Cleaning Sinks, Faucets, and Drains

The first commercial cleaning product I replaced was scouring powder. I use baking soda instead, applied just as you would any of the store-bought products, dampened with a little water. Many commercial scouring powders contain both bleach and phosphates. Bleach, whether chlorine or non-chlorine, contains halogen compounds, which are persistent and toxic in the environment. The stuff may kill germs in the toilet bowl, but it also kills the bacteria that sewage and septic systems need to work properly. Phosphates create foaming in lakes and streams and stimulate algae growth that chokes out other aquatic life.

violetbird
12/14/2018 9:07:00 PM

I have read conflicting information about Borax- but it can irritate skin and cause respiratory issues if inhaled and at least in the past was linked to potentially causing cancer - I do use it in a small - lid like container with such as powdered sugar to kill ants ((keep those containers away from small children and pets)) but stopped using it to wash clothes due to potential to inhale it and also was concerned that any residue could remain on clothes. Also to all NEVER mix bleach with anything it can off gas a toxic/lethal gas such as chlorine gas- Household chemicals you should never mix - abc13.com abc13.com/health/household-chemicals-you-should... "If you mix bleach with acid, it can form a chlorine gas which is a green and very noxious gas that can cause respiratory problems. It is very poisonous to breathe in." Some homeowners like to go ... A Deadly Mix of Household Cleansers : Poisonings Result When ... articles.latimes.com/1986-02-04/news/vw-4307_1_household... The second potentially disastrous reaction involves mixing bleach with acid-based toilet bowl cleaners--of any brand containing the chemical sodium bisulfate. When those two are mixed, yet another chemical reaction in which chlorine gas--somewhat different from but just as lethal as chloramine--is released. What Can I Add to Clorox When Mopping the Floor? | eHow www.ehow.com › … › Home Maintenance Other cleaners or compounds that can cause a chemical reaction can result in toxic fumes released from the Clorox, namely chlorine gas. This gas was a chemical warfare agent in World War II. Ammonia is the most notorious compound. Mixing the two can be fatal. You should never mix Clorox, or any other chlorine bleach, with an ammonia-based product.


Atara Horowitz
3/28/2013 3:16:29 AM

Borax is poisonous to plants and therefore to ground water. it is either banned or very much limited from cleaning products in Israel.


talathiel
3/27/2013 10:08:31 PM

my favorite - Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap, for all and every purpose. We use it on ourselves the dog, the counters, the floors, and the laundry.







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