60 Ways to Green Clean With Household Products
Take a peek into the average American's cleaning cupboard and you'll find a forest of expensive cleaning agents. Even when you buy the pricey, supposedly green products, it's hard to tell if they're totally green.
Happily for our wallets and the planet, you can replace many of these toxic and costly solutions with items you already own. Next time you run out of a cleaning agent, consider substituting one of these inexpensive household items.
1. Aluminum Foil
Make sure you first thoroughly wash used aluminum foil to remove all debris.
- Barbecue grills: Line the BBQ or gas-grill rack with aluminum foil, close lid and heat for 15 minutes after the grill begins to smoke. Remove foil, crumble into a ball and scrub rack to remove white residue. Rinse in plain water.
- Silverware and jewelry: Place foil in the bottom of a bowl, add warm water and three tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda. Place silver items on the foil and soak for 10 minutes. Remove, rinse and buff with a soft cloth. This method should not be used on jewelry with stones or diamonds. Don’t leave silver in the solution for too long or it will turn black. If blackening does occur, wash the item in warm soapy water and start all over again
2. Baking Soda
Baking soda is a great odor neutralizer and absorbs odors, rather than mask them.
- Cat litter box: Mix in baking soda when you change the kitty litter.
- Fabrics: Sprinkle on carpets, pillows and seat cushions. Vacuum after 30 minutes.
- Plastic storage containers: Soak containers overnight in a solution of warm water and baking soda.
- Toilets: Pour a cup of vinegar into the toilet bowl and let sit for one hour. Dip the toilet brush into the bowl, sprinkle with one-half cup baking soda and scrub until clean. This method is both cheaper than commercial toilet cleaners and you won't flush toxic chemicals into the water system.
Also known as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate or disodium tetraborate, borax usually is sold as a white powder of soft colorless crystals that dissolve easily in hot water. The alkaline component of borax makes it useful for far more than laundry duty. It fights odors around the house, kills molds and fungus and softens water. (Keep borax away from children and pets as borax is poisonous when digested.)
- Baseboards, walls and counter tops: Dissolve one-half cup borax into one-gallon of hot water. Pour into a spray bottle and spritz generously. Wipe with a damp cloth and air dry.
- China: Soak china in a dishpan filled with warm water and one-half cup borax, then rinse well.
- Dishwasher: Eliminate odors by sprinkling borax in the bottom of the dishwasher and allowing it to soak overnight. Wipe down with a damp sponge and run the next load.
- Pots and pans: Rub into cookware with a damp sponge and rinse well.
- Toilet: Remove rust and other stains by pouring into the bowl and letting it sit overnight. Swish a few times in the morning with a toilet brush then flush.
4. Cooking Oils
A few drops of cooking oils will polish everything from furniture to your favorite leather pumps. Such plant-based oils as olive and sunflower oils dislodge dirt, diminish scratches and imperfections, and hydrate wood aged or dried by sun exposure.
- Cast-iron pots and pans: After cleaning, sprinkle several drops on the bottom of the cookware and rub in with a paper towel. This will keep the cast iron from rusting and prep the surface for the next time you cook. This method will ensure your cast-iron cookware will last for generations.
- Cookware stains: Make a paste of oil and coarse salt and rub the stained area. Wash in warm, soapy water.
- Leather shoes: Gently wipe away scuff marks, dirt, and grime by rubbing with a cloth or sponge containing several drops of oil. Buff with a soft cloth until the shoe shines.
- Rattan and wicker furniture: Brush surfaces with warmed oil (for easier spreading). Rub oil in with a soft clean cloth.
- Stainless-steel surfaces: Apply a few drops of oil to a cloth, wipe the surface and buff.
- Wood furniture: Polish wood furniture with a mixture of two-cups oil and the juice of one lemon mixed in a spray bottle. Use as you would any wood furniture cleanser. A mixture of equal-parts oil and lemon juice helps smooth out surface scratches in light-colored wood.
5. Ketchup and Mustard
Ketchup and mustard are handy because they don’t require elbow grease. Just smear on the condiment and leave it to do the work.
- Cooper/brass cookware: Remove tarnish by squeezing ketchup onto a cloth and rubbing it in well. Rinse with warm water and dry. As with all shiny metals, polishing should be done gently with the softest of clothes and sponges or you can damage the surface.
- Glass storage containers: Remove odors by soaking containers overnight in a quart of warm water and a teaspoon of powdered mustard.
Lemon contains acids that make a great cleaning alternative.
- Counter-tops: Soak stain for several minutes in lemon juice and scrub with baking soda.
- Bathrooms: Mix equal amounts of lemon juice and water in a spray bottle and use to clean all surfaces without smudges.
- Dishwashing: Cut grease by adding a teaspoon of lemon juice to your dishwater.
- Garbage disposals: Eliminate odors by dropping lemon peels down the drain and running the disposal.
- Lime deposits: Rub half a lemon into lime deposits on sinks and taps. Rinse with water.
- White clothes: Dab some lemon juice onto white clothing stains and dry it in the sun.
The cost of oatmeal has risen in the last year, but generic brands are just as useful for cleaning as the name brands.
- Facial scrub: Deep clean skin by mixing ground oats, aloe vera, lemon juice and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Stir until the oatmeal scrub has an even and smooth consistency then massage the mixture into damp skin and rinse.
- Hands: Oatmeal's abrasive properties clean without drying out your skin. Make a thick paste with oatmeal and water, scrub and rinse well.
Onions make us cry and give us bad breath when eaten raw, but these stinkers also have a couple cleaning properties. (Tip: Cool onions in refrigerator before chopping to reduce eye irritation.)
- Basements: Eliminate mold and mildew smells in a basement by cutting an onion in half and leaving overnight. The onion smell will dissipate after awhile and leave your basement smelling fresh.
- Outdoor grills: Heat grill to highest temperature and burn off crud. Spear half an onion on a fork and scrub the still-warm grill.
Rice has a gritty texture and a neutral odor, making it a good choice for cleaning some objects.
- Coffee grinders: Grind a handful of rice the same way you would coffee beans. The rice absorbs stale orders and cleans out residual grounds and oils.
- Silk flowers: Place bouquet and one-half cup white rice in a plastic shopping bag. Twist the bag closed and shake for about 60 seconds. The rice in the plastic bag will get statically charged and attach dust to the rice.
- Vases: Clean the inside of a vase or thin-necked bottle by filling three-quarters of the container with a mixture of warm water and a tablespoon of uncooked rice. Cover the opening with your hand, shake vigorously and rinse.
Use an inexpensive paste (not gels, tartar controllers or whiteners) as a mild abrasive, stain fighter and mild antibacterial agent.
- Piano keys: Rub each key gently with a damp, cotton swab smeared with a dab of paste. Wipe dry and buff with a clean cloth.
- Scuffed linoleum: Scrub scuff marks with toothpaste and a dry cloth until no residue remains.
- Steam irons: Apply a dab of toothpaste and work into the iron's plate. Remove residue with a clean cloth.
11. Table Salt
Salt's granular texture makes it a good scouring agemt. Kosher salt is more expensive but it's grittier texture works well when table salt isn't sufficient.
- Cast-iron cookware: Sprinkle salt in bottom of cookware and wipe clean to maintain the surface's non-stick capabilities.
- Cookware: Absorb excess grease by sprinkling salt onto pots and pans. Wash with soap and water.
- Glassware: Salt removes stubborn stains without scratching. Sprinkle salt on a sponge and gently scrub.
- Oven spills: Mix salt with a little water and apply to overflow stains while the surface is hot. Wipe off when the oven cools with a damp sponge.
- Wood counters and tables: Salt absorbs grease on wood much the same as on cookware. Sprinkle salt over the entire stain, wait an hour then brush it away.
Most of us toss old tea into compost piles to speed up decomposition or we mix into planting dirt. However, tea also makes an excellent cleaning agent.
- Cookware: Soak caked-on pots and pans overnight with a couple of tea bags then clean in the morning.
- Deodorizer: Dry green tea leaves after use and use as a deodorizer in litter boxes or on fabrics. Sprinkle fabrics with the dried leaves, let sit for five to 10 minutes and vacuum.
- Garden tools: Brew strong black tea, cool and pour into a bucket. Soak the tools for several hours and wipe each one down with a cloth. Wear rubber gloves while drying to avoid staining your hands.
- Mirrors: Make mirrors sparkle by cleaning with a soft cloth dipped in tea.
13. Vanilla Extract
Vanilla removes odors from hard surface. If your not a vanilla fan, try almond extract.
- Freezers: Freshen up your freezer and eliminate odors by wiping interior surfaces with a cloth containing several drops of vanilla extract.
- Household odors: Soak a cotton ball in vanilla extract overnight, then place on a jar lid in the affected area. This should not only help neutralize the smell but also act as a green air freshener.
- Sticky residue: Vanilla extract's high alcohol content makes it useful for removing residue left from price stickers on hard surfaces. Don't use on clothes, however, as it will stain.
The acid in vinegar removes soap scum, mineral deposits, tarnish and more.
- Coffeemakers: Fill reservoir with equal parts vinegar and water and run through a brew cycle. Run a second cycle with clear water to rinse.
- Dishwashers: Pour one-half cup of vinegar into reservoir and run empty dishwasher through a full cycle. If vinegar odor lingers, run through a second cycle and use less vinegar next time.
- Drains: Remove odors by pouring one cup into sink drain and flush with cold water after 30 minutes.
- Floors: Add one-quarter cup of vinegar to a bucket of warm water and use to clean all floors except marble or wood.
- Glassware: Eliminate spots and make glass sparkle by adding one cup of vinegar to rinse water.
- Laundry: For a natural fabric softener, add one-half cup vinegar during the rinse cycle. Vinegar also helps remove excess detergent. Vinegar softens the water, which helps detergents work better to whiten fabrics and reduce lint.
- Moldy walls: Fill a spray bottle with a solution of three-fourths vinegar and one-fourth water. Spray on walls and wipe down with damp cloth after 15 minutes.
- Paint brushes: Soak stiffened paint brushes for two hours in a heavy-bottomed pot (not used for cooking) containing 2-3 cups of vinegar. Simmer on medium heat for 10 to 20 minutes and rinse with cool water.
- Steam iron: Fill iron with equal parts vinegar and water; press steam button; turn off and let cool. Empty and rinse.
- Windows: Fill a spray bottle with one-fourth cup vinegar, two-cups water and a squirt of liquid Castile soap. Spray on windows and rub clean with newspaper.
- Showerheads: Remove mineral deposits by pouring vinegar into a plastic grocery bag and knotting handles over the neck of showerhead. Fasten in place with rubber bands. Soak overnight and rinse with water.
15. White Bread
Make sure you test a small area of oil painting or wallpaper before cleaning to make sure the color doesn't come off on the bread.
- Oil paintings: Remove dirt and grime by gently dabbing a slice of white bread over the surface.
- Wallpaper: Wad up a piece of white sandwich bread and wipe small smudges off delicate, unwashable wallpaper.