Spring Greening: Make Your Own Eco-friendly Cleaners

If you’re still under the illusion that you’re “cleaning” your house with popular, off-the-shelf products, you may have inhaled too many toxic fumes. In truth, these chemical cocktails contaminate your home, your body, and your planet by emitting volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can have short and long term adverse health effects. According to the EPA, concentrations of many VOCs are consistently (up to ten times) higher indoors than outdoors. This spring, satisfy your seasonal urge to purge by ditching your chemi-laden cleaners for these homemade solutions pure enough to eat. They’re lighter on the planet and your wallet!

I Can See Clearly Now Glass/Hard Surface Cleaner
For streak-free mirrors, cloudless windows and added shine on other hard surfaces (like appliances or countertops), fill a spray bottle with 2 teaspoons of white vinegar and 1 quart warm water, spray surface with solution, and wipe clean with an old t-shirt or pillowcase. The vinegar odor vanishes when dry.

Bleach Within Reach
While you’re probably familiar with the unpleasant side effects of chlorine bleach such as eye and skin irritation, you might not know that mixing bleach with cleaners containing ammonia or using it to clean up urine can be deadly. These combos can create toxic gases and an explosive called nitrogen trichloride — an ingredient in teargas. To clean and deodorize your toilet bowl, sprinkle baking soda into the bowl and drizzle with vinegar, then scrub with a toilet brush and flush. For soiled fabrics, simply blot spots with lemon juice and allow them to dry in the sun.

Better Leather Shoe Shine
Before you toss that banana peel into the compost pile, use it to polish your leather shoes. Simply rub shoes with the inside of the peel, then buff with an old sock.

Mr. Green Floor Cleaner
For a less-fluorescent-green cleaner for tile or linoleum floors, fill your bucket with 1 cup vinegar mixed with 2 gallons hot water.

Unplugged Air Purifiers
Combat indoor air pollution by installing houseplants that breathe in harmful toxins and exhale oxygen. The Boston fern absorbs formaldehyde — a common indoor air pollutant off-gassed by furniture, building materials and carpeting. Moving several spider plants into a freshly painted room decreases levels of benzene, and the lady palm filters more ammonia than any other houseplant. Other effective leafy air filters include peace lilies, mums, daisies and English Ivy.

Raid Your Spice Rack Ant Repeller
Keep your home pest and pesticide free by roadblocking ant-traffic with a line of cayenne pepper or cinnamon.

Citrus-Ice Garbage Disposal Freshener
Feed your garbage disposal a few ice-cubes and a lemon or orange peel to freshen its breath and sharpen its blades.

Woody-Protection Furniture Polish
Environmental Health Perspectives reports prenatal exposure to phthalates (found in furniture polish) can adversely affect male reproductive development in humans. Protect your family and your hardwood furniture by choosing a phthalate-free solution: 1 cup olive oil combined with 1/2 cup lemon juice.

Fresh Air Fresheners
Conventional “air fresheners” don’t actually “freshen” indoor air; they simply block your ability to smell by coating your nose-ways with an oily film or by releasing a nerve-deadening agent. If you want to overlap odious odors, use essential oils in a candle-lit oil warmer or terracotta light ring, light an aromatic soy candle, or place a sachet filled with dried lavender in the room.

— Jolia Sidona Allen

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