Greening Your Cleaning

By Mary Alice Hartsock

Sustainability might sound complicated, but you can take small steps to conserve natural resources and minimize your family’s environmental footprint.

Some household cleaning products contain ingredients that can potentially threaten our health and pollute our air and water. Common cleaners for bathrooms, kitchens, windows, and floors may evaporate into our indoor air or transfer onto our bodies, causing possible irritation to our lungs, eyes, and skin.

We often wash cleaning products into drains as we scrub our bathrooms and kitchens. These products eventually flow back into our waterways, where ingredients that remain after the treatment process can impact many aspects of an ecosystem, including aquatic wildlife, and cause unsafe blooms of algae.

Buying “green” household products can help, but do your research and read ingredient labels to be sure products are really “natural,” “organic,” or “sustainable.” These words have many different meanings, and some claims are not federally regulated. The Environmental Working Group and GoodGuide provide additional information and product ratings for effective cleaners.

An even better solution is to make your own cleaning products. You’ll have peace of mind knowing the ingredients are safe for your family and our planet.

Ingredients for Household Cleaning

Alone or in combination, these ingredients can do wonders for your home. Be sure to read product packaging for household safety information.

  • Baking soda*:removes odors and cleans a variety of surfaces
  • Lemon juice: kills odors, lightens stains, cuts grease
  • White vinegar*: removes soap buildup and odors, loosens stains, cuts grease
  • Isopropyl alcohol: aids in disinfection
  • Salt: helps remove grease, stains, and odors
  • Essential oils, such as tea tree and eucalyptus: some oils can be used to control odors and germs

* Avoid combining baking soda and vinegar in a closed container. Do not use vinegar on linoleum, marble, or waxed surfaces.

All-purpose Cleaner

  • 8 cups water
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup baking soda

Combine white vinegar and water. Then add baking soda to vinegar/water solution.

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