You can make your own non-toxic mixtures from common household ingredients to help you accomplish certain tasks. Here are just a few ideas to get you started. For more ideas Annie Berthold-Bond's book, The Green Kitchen Handbook Practical Advice, References, and Sources for Transforming the Center of Your Home into a Healthful, Livable Place, is a great resource.
| Although the suggested mixtures have fewer hazardous ingredients than many commercial cleaners and pesticides, they should be used and stored with similar caution. |
DO NOT mix anything with a commercial cleaning agent.
If you do store a homemade mixture, make sure it is properly labeled and do not store it in a container that could be mistaken for food or beverage.
When preparing alternatives, mix only what is needed for the job at hand and mix them in clean, reusable containers.
If you use sponges to clean any part of your home, make sure they are pure cellulose sponges that are not treated with a synthetic disinfectant. Most sponges sold in U.S. supermarkets these days are impregnated with triclosan or other synthetic disinfectants and are easy to distinguish by their packaging which claims "kills odors" or "resists odors."
In reality, a disinfectant-laden sponge is ineffective at sterilizing countertops or other surfaces, the disinfectant simply gives you a "germ-free" sponge. This, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. Sponges by nature are perfect breeding grounds for germs since they are a moist, warm habitat and come into close and frequent contact with bacteria when wiping up spills, meat juices, etc. However, the disinfectants used in these sponges may help contribute to the evolution of drug-resistant "super" germs.
It is easy to keep a pure cellulose sponge germ-free by boiling them in a pot of water for 3-5 minutes, tossing them in the top rack of the dishwasher with your next load of dishes, or even microwaving them on high for a minute. Pure cellulose sponges can be found in natural food stores and hardware stores.
Cleaning the Oven
Baking soda and water are excellent for cleaning the oven. Sprinkle a cup or more of baking soda over the bottom of the oven, then cover the baking soda with enough water to make a thick paste. Let the mixture set overnight. The next morning the grease will be easy to wipe up because the grime will have loosened. When you have cleaned up the worst of the mess, dab a bit of liquid detergent or soap on a sponge, and wash the remaining residue from the oven.
Products for un-clogging drains are some of the most dangerous ones found in the typical home. You're better off with an ounce of prevention: Use a drain catch or screen to keep hair and food from clogging pipes, and periodically pour boiling water down the drain. If you do get a clog, pour 1/2 - 1 cup of baking soda down the drain, then slowly pour 1/2 - 1 cup of vinegar in after it. Cover the drain and let it sit for 15 minutes. It might bubble like a volcano but that just means it's working. Then flush with a gallon of boiling water. For tougher clogs use a plumber's snake.
Mix 1 teaspoon of lemon juice in 1 pint of vegetable oil. Apply a small amount to a clean cotton cloth and wipe wooden parts of furniture.
Deodorize dry carpets by sprinkling liberally with baking soda. Wait at least 15 minutes and vacuum. Repeat if necessary.
Boil 2-3 inches of water in a shallow pan with 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, and a sheet of aluminum foil. Totally submerge silver and boil for 2-3 minutes more. Remove silver from the pan and wipe away tarnish with a clean cotton cloth. Repeat if necessary. (Do not use this method with antique silver knives. The blade may separate from the handle.) Another alternative is to use non-abrasive toothpaste.
In a bowl, mix one cup borax, one cup sugar, and three cups water. Place a loose wad of toilet paper into four different screw-top jars that are about the size of shallow marinated artichoke jars. Pour the mixture into the jars until it is about one inch from the top. Screw the lids on the jars, and with a hammer and nail, make four to eight holes in the lid. Place the jars in areas where you have ants, and watch them line up in rows and march in. Keep away from children.
To rid your plants of many common pests, gently wipe leaves with a solution of mild soap and water. Or mix the solution in a spray bottle and spray leaves and stems.
Use cedar chips or a sachet with any or all of the following: lavender flowers, rosemary, mint, white peppercorns.
Fleas and Ticks
Put brewer's yeast or garlic in your pet's food; sprinkle fennel, rue, rosemary, or eucalyptus seeds or leaves around animal's sleeping areas.
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