to protect your environment and learn how you can have a very clean
house with just three things, a box of baking soda, a jug of vinegar,
and just plain old soap. If this sounds old fashioned – it
is. You need to protect yourself to prevent further environmental
Baking Soda | Vinegar |
The Five Basics for Non-toxic Cleaning
A commonly available mineral full of many cleaning attributes, baking
soda is made from soda ash, and is slightly alkaline (it’s
pH is around 8.1; 7 is neutral). It neutralizes acid-based odours
in water, and adsorbs odours from the air. Sprinkled on a damp sponge
or cloth, baking soda can be used as a gentle nonabrasive cleanser
for kitchen counter tops, sinks, bathtubs, ovens, and fibreglass.
It will eliminate perspiration odours and even neutralize the smell
of many chemicals if you add up to a cup per load to the laundry.
It is a useful air freshener, and a fine carpet deodorizer.
A chemical neighbour of baking soda, washing soda (sodium carbonate)
is much more strongly alkaline, with a pH around 11. It releases
no harmful fumes and is far safer than a commercial solvent formula,
but you should wear gloves when using it because it is caustic.
Washing soda cuts grease, cleans petroleum oil, removes wax or lipstick,
and neutralizes odours in the same way that baking soda does. Don’t
use it on fibreglass, aluminium or waxed floors—unless you
intend to remove the wax.
White Vinegar and Lemon Juice
White vinegar and lemon juice are acidic—they neutralize alkaline
substances such as scale from hard water. Acids dissolve gummy build-up,
eat away tarnish, and remove dirt from wood surfaces.
Liquid Soaps and Detergent
Liquid soaps and detergents are necessary for
cutting grease, and they are not the same thing. Soap is made from
fats and lye. Detergents are synthetic materials discovered and
synthesized early in this century. Unlike soap, detergents are designed
specifically so that they don’t react with hard water minerals
and cause soap scum. If you have hard water buy a biodegradable
detergent without perfumes; if you have soft water you can use liquid
soap (both are available in health food stores).
Mould Killers and Disinfectants
There are many essential oils, such as lavender, clove, and tea
tree oil (an excellent natural fungicide), that are very antiseptic,
as is grapefruit seed extract, even though they aren’t registered
as such. Use one teaspoon of essential oil to 2 cups of water in
a spray bottle (make sure to avoid eyes). A grapefruit seed extract
spray can be made by adding 20 drops of extract to a quart of water.
Caution: Make sure to keep all home-made
formulas well-labelled, and out of the reach of children.
The baking soda can be used for scouring all
sorts of surfaces. When you need to scour a cup or a counter top,
you just sprinkle some on and rub. A tough spot when mopping floor
will yield to its low abrasion. It also is a water softener in hard
water areas. Just put a bit in your wash water.
Another use for baking soda is as a carpet freshener. You just sprinkle
it on and leave overnight. The next day vacuum as usual.
Baking Soda cleans down to the shine without scratching. Shake on
baking soda, gently rub as needed to clean the surface, rinse, and
then wipe off with a damp cloth. It is safe for most surfaces.
A. Counter tops
B. Cutting boards
C. Inside microwaves
D. Refrigerators - inside and out
E. Ceramic cook tops
G. Coffeepots/teapots (Tip: just a shake removes coffee/tea stains
on dishware and china too!)
H. Drain boards
J. Pots and pans (Tip: for baked-on, dried-on foods, shake on a
generous amount of Baking Soda, add hot water and soak for 15 minutes
before washing. Less scrubbing!)
Baking Soda won't scratch delicate porcelain surfaces. Shake on,
gently rub as needed to clean the surface, rinse, and then wipe
off with a damp cloth or sponge.
A. Face (Tip: to make an invigorating yet gentle facial scrub, make
a paste of 3 parts Baking Soda to 1 part water and apply in a circular
motion to clean face.)
B. Skin (Tip: shake Baking Soda - about 1/2 cup - into warm bath
water to soothe and condition skin.)
C. Hair (Tip: shake a small amount of Baking Soda to your palm with
your favourite shampoo when you wash your hair. This removes residue
that styling products leave on hair.)
D. Teeth (Tip: clean mouth guards, retainers or dentures by shaking
about 2 teaspoons of Baking Soda into a bowl of water, then soak.)
Using a staple from your pantry shelf vinegar is economical, always
at hand, ready to serve in a variety of ways. One bottle of white
distilled vinegar contains a whole shelf’s worth of specialized
To disinfect surfaces and clean glass a solution of half vinegar
and water will work just fine. Disinfect by just spray and wipe
counters and sinks. To clean glass spray and then wipe with paper
for a streak free shine. Disinfect floors with a solution of ten
percent vinegar in your rinse water. To soften clothes, throw a
cup of vinegar in the laundry rinse water to cut the soap scum that
causes harsh clothing. Spray vinegar on the shower walls after a
shower or bath to rinse off soap scum from the tiles.
Removing Stains: An equal mixture of
salt and white vinegar will clean coffee and tea stains from china
Loosen tough stains: To loosen hard-to-clean
stains in glass, aluminium or porcelain pots or pans, boil 1/4-cup
of white vinegar with 2 cups of water. Wash in hot, soapy water.
Brighter stainless steel: Spots on
your stainless steel kitchen equipment can be removed by rubbing
the spots with a cloth dampened with white vinegar.
Soaking pots and pans: Soak normal
food-stained pots and pans in full strength white vinegar for 30
minutes. Rinse in hot, soapy water.
No cooking odours: Boil a teaspoon
of white vinegar mixed in a cup of water to eliminate unpleasant
When handling onions: A little white
vinegar rubbed on your fingers before and after slicing onions will
remove the odour of onions quickly.
Removing fruit stains: To remove fruit
stains from your hands, rub them with a little white vinegar and
wipe with a cloth.
Painting strategy: Absorb odour of
fresh paint by putting a small dish of white vinegar in the room.
Oven tip: Dampen your cleaning rag in
white vinegar and water and use it to wipe out your oven.
Clean tea kettles: If you get lime
deposits in your tea kettle, gently boil 1/2-cup of white vinegar
to a pot of water. Then rinse well.
Soft fluffy blankets: 2 cups of white
vinegar added to a washer tub of water will make a good rinse for
both cotton and wool blankets - leaves them free of soap odour and
their nap is soft and fluffy as new.
Scorch marks: Lightly rub white vinegar
on fabric that has been slightly scorched. Wipe with a clean cloth.
Deodorant stains: To get rid of stains
left by deodorants and antiperspirants on washables, lightly rub
with white vinegar and then launder as usual.
Sharper creases: For a sharper crease
in knit slacks, dampen them with a cloth wrung out from a solution
of one-third white vinegar and two-thirds water. Place a brown paper
bag over the crease and press.
Setting colours: When you are colour
dyeing, add about a cup full of white vinegar to the last rinse
water to help set the colour.
After alterations: When you remove a
hem or seam and have holes from thread showing, dampen a cloth with
white vinegar, put it under the material and press.
Vinegar as a Cleaner and Sanitizer
Vinegar is well recognized as a cleaning and sanitizing agent. It
is especially effective in removing inorganic soils and mineral
deposits such as hard water films. As a sanitizer, it is effective
against a broad range of bacteria, yeasts and moulds, destroying
or reducing these organisms to acceptable levels.
Vinegar's chemical properties make it a cleaner and sanitizer with
several important advantages:
• Biodegradable - a mild organic acid
• Easy to dispense and control
• Safe for stainless steel used by the food industry
• Relatively non-toxic and stable - safer for handlers
• Less likely to leave harmful residues
• Pleasant "clean" odour
Where environmental compatibility and toxicity are especially important,
vinegar has been used:
• To reduce micro organisms in slaughterhouses and poultry
• To reduce mineral and lime deposits in lavatory pipes
• To prevent milk stone build-up in tanks used by the milk
• To clean vehicles and equipment used in the construction
• To wash and rinse walls and ceilings in restaurants and
Plain old soap ( not detergent bars) will make a fine mopping solution
in your bucket. Just grate a bar of plain soap in a gallon of hot
water stirring occasionally and let it gel. You can add baking soda
or Epsom salts for a water softener if you like. Use this "soft
soap" in your mop water to scrub up most floors. Rinse with
Remove Laundry Stains
The key to preventing a spot from becoming a permanent stain is
treating it before it dries. Also, remember:
* Check your clothes for stains before washing them.
* Double-check before drying.
* When in doubt, soak spots in cold water.
The Soap Method
Use an almost-neutral pH soap that doesn't contain moisturizers,
deodorants, and other unnecessary additives. For stain removal,
plain old soap works wonders.
1. Wet the stained garment with cold
2. Rub a bar of soap directly into the
stain, then rinse.
3. If that doesn't remove the stain,
rub soap on the stain again, and then soak the fabric for 30 minutes
or so in cold water with a bit of powdered detergent dissolved in
it. (If you forget and leave stuff soaking longer, it doesn't really
matter; you won't hurt the fabric.) Rinse.
4. If that still doesn't work, rub more
bar soap into the stain, scrub it with a scrubbing brush (taking
care not to damage the fabric), and rinse.
5. If a second scrubbing attempt doesn't
remove the stain, blot it gently with some colour-safe bleach (oxygen-bleach,
not chlorine bleach) diluted with water (wear a mask and do it in
a well ventilated area), then rinse with clean water to remove all
of the bleach.
6. If all else fails, be prepared to
live with the stain.
Exceptions To The Rule
Like most rules, there are exceptions. Certain stains require different
methods of attack.
Coffee: isn't hard to get out if you
get to it with soap and water right away.
Fruit: Put lemon on the stain first.
If that doesn't work, then use bar soap.
Mildew: Wash the garment in warm or
hot water with oxygen bleach, depending on the fabric, and line
dry or dry flat in direct sunlight.
Oil and Grease: Sprinkle some cornstarch
or baking soda on the stain, then place the garment, stain side
down, on a large rag on top of an ironing board. Iron with a hot
iron on the wrong side of the stain --most oil and grease stains
will come right out. (This trick works only for oil and grease,
which need heat to dissolve.)
Rust: Soak fabric spotted with brown
rust stains (which sometimes come from hard water) in a solution
of 1 part lemon juice and 1 part water for at least 30 minutes.
Do not use chlorine bleach on rust stains.
Tea stains: These are hard to get out,
but try soaking tea stains in cool water and applying bar soap anyway.
Sweat stains: Line-dry the shirts outside.
The combination of sunlight's natural bleaching properties and drying
at lower temperatures keeps sweat stains from turning yellow.