Join the Green Cleaning Scene

If you pay attention to the news, you've probably noticed a lot of commentary concerning the environment and ways to live a more earth- friendly life. Some recent green news articles include the Clorox's purchase of the earth-friendly Burt's Bees, and the United Kingdom's plans to say goodbye to traditional light bulbs by 2011 by replacing them with energy saving bulbs. With more than six billion people living on the earth, companies, governments, and people are trying to find ways to become more earth friendly.

There are a vast number of ways to lead a more earth-friendly life, and you may feel overwhelmed and are not sure where to start. A good place to begin is with green cleaning. Not only does green cleaning help the environment, but it also helps you and your family avoid dangerous chemicals in your daily life. Many cleaning products found on the market contain harsh and toxic chemicals that can burn skin or eyes or cause injury when used in an area that is not properly ventilated. They also put dangerous and sometimes fatal chemicals into our environment inside and outside the home. In contrast, green cleaning products are biodegradable (which helps the earth) and non-toxic (which helps your family and the earth).

So how can you start using green cleaning products in your home? Many national and local retailers have started carrying environmentally friendly cleaning products. Instead of choosing cleaning products labeled Caution, Danger or Warning, use cleaning products with the words Biodegradable and Non-toxic on their labels. In the Fredericksburg area, you can find earth-friendly cleaning supplies at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, Bloom, Healthway Natural Foods, Home Depot, and Target.

You can also make your own cleaning solutions with common household items. The top items that every green home should contain are:

Baking Soda: use this to clean acidic substances such as grease and animal messes, for scouring, and as a natural deodorizer

Borax: a naturally occurring mineral that is a great laundry booster, works as a deodorizer, and can be mixed with water to help disinfect. Although borax is a natural substance, it can cause eye irritation and if swallowed, can be toxic. Please keep it in a safe place—out of reach of children and pets.

Castile Soap: Made with olive oil or a vegetable based soap, such as Murphy's Oil Soap, it has a neutral pH and cleans by attaching to soil at the molecular level, so soil can be rinsed away with water

Plain Distilled White Vinegar: use vinegar to dissolve scale, inhibit mold, and remove soap scum and stains, such as coffee, rust, and tea

Here are a few recipes to get you started:

All-Purpose Cleaner Recipe 1

½ cup borax
1 gallon hot water

Mix water and borax in the bucket until borax is thoroughly dissolved. Use in areas that need general cleaning and wipe clean with a sponge or rag. For everyday use, reduce the recipe so it will fit in a spray bottle.

All-Purpose Cleaner Recipe 2

2 tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon borax
2 cups hot water
¼ cup castile soap (liquid)

Mix everything but the soap in a spray bottle and shake. Add 1/4 cup liquid soap last. Mix gently. Apply and wipe clean. Good for counters, wood work, appliances, etc.

Disinfectant Recipe

¼ cup eucalyptus oil
4 cups water

Mix the eucalyptus oil and water in a spray bottle (remember to shake the mixture before using to disperse the oil)

Disinfectant Recipe 2

2 teaspoons borax
4 tablespoons vinegar
3 to 4 cups hot water

Combine in a spray bottle. For extra cleaning power, add 1/4 teaspoon liquid soap to the mixture.

Tub & Tile Cleaner

2 cups water
¼ cup castile soap
¼ cup baking soda
2 tablespoons vinegar A few drops of essential oil (optional)

Add soap to water and let dissolve. Stir in baking soda, then add vinegar. Store in a squirt bottle and shake before using. Rinse thoroughly to avoid leaving a residue.

Window Cleaner

2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
4 cups warm water
Spray bottle

Mix all ingredients well. Spritz on windows and use a soft cloth to clean.

In addition to using earth-friendly cleaners, you can help the environment by using earth-friendly cleaning supplies. For cleaning around the house, use washable rags, such as old t-shirts or organic towels, rather than paper towels, which can create a lot of excess waste. However, for cleaning jobs that require paper towels, make sure that you purchase recycled paper towels made without chlorine bleach. This type of paper towel does not contain harsh chemicals and uses less energy in the production process.

Another way to clean greener is to purchase a green mop. Rather than cleaning the floors first with a dry mop and then a wet mop that both use one-time, disposable cloths, buy a mop that uses either compostable, corn-based disposable dry cloths and a washable, microfiber cloth for wet mopping. Finally, old toothbrushes, with a little bit of baking soda and lemon juice, are great for scouring. When you're finished cleaning with the toothbrush, let it soak in vinegar to remove all of the bacteria.

Now that you have some of the essentials of green cleaning, here are some resources in the library to further help you in your pursuit of a clean home:

Clean, Naturally: Recipes for Body, Home, and Spirit by Sandy Maine
Maine's work contains a chapter dealing with green cleaning called "Products for the Herbal Home." The chapter contains aromatic recipes for cleaning and laundry.

Easy Green Living: The Ultimate Guide to Simple, Eco-Friendly Choices for You and Your Home by Renee Loux
Host of Fine Living TV’s Easy Being Green has come out with a new book that applies her whole-foods philosophy to living. Loux shows that living a green life, including deciding to use non-toxic, biodegradable household cleaners, is easy and affordable!

Green Clean: The Environmentally Sound Guide to Cleaning Your Home by Linda Mason Hunter and Mikki Halpin This water and stain resistant book (very useful if you have it out while cleaning) gives a step-by-step guide on how to begin the process of green cleaning. It provides information on which household cleaning products can be harmful and what to use as a substitute. The book also provides nice, easy to use checklists that you can follow in your daily, weekly, and monthly cleaning routine.

Green This! Volume One: Greening Your Cleaning by Deirdre Imus
This book focuses primarily on how to avoid using toxic chemicals in your cleaning routine and everyday life. It provides a lot of information what chemicals to avoid and why.

Organic Housekeeping in Which the Nontoxic Avenger Shows You How to Improve Your Health and That of Your Family While You Save Time, Money, and Perhaps Your Sanity by Ellen Sandbeck
This is a very thorough guide that covers how to maintain a healthy home inside and out while remaining environmentally friendly. It includes a great index for quick references.

Squeaky Green: The Method Guide to Detoxing Your Home by Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry
The founders of the Method brand of non-toxic, biodegradable cleaning products have written a book full of wonderful advice on how to detox your home and improve your indoor air quality. While the book contains pictures of their Method home products, the book is not one large advertisement for their products, but rather provides a lot of useful advice on how to make your home and life more healthy room-by-room.

And here are some resources available on the Web:

Alternative Recipes
A long list of green cleaning recipes with a list of essential ingredients. This Web site also provides a section on why you should choose alternative, non-toxic cleaning supplies. From the Windham Solid Waste Management District in Vermont.

Basic Recipes for Green Cleaning
This Web site from Greenpeace provides simple cleaning recipes that you can make at home.

Healthy Child, Healthy World
A great Web site for leading a green life. It provides checklists, tips, and natural cleaning recipes on how to create a healthy home environment.

Green Cleaning Network
"A nonprofit clearinghouse dedicated to sharing information, stimulating discussion and educating the marketplace in order to accelerate the adoption of Green Cleaning for the benefit of human health and the environment."