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The Cleaning Power of Mother Nature

September 22, 2014

While discussing green cleaning options with people, I sometimes hear rebuttals such as “aren’t eco-friendly products expensive?” or “I don’t believe that a lemon can clean a bathtub.”

Consumer  environmental awareness has brought a wider selection of plant-based, biodegradable green cleaning products to today’s market, and most really don’t cost much more than the commercial cleaners chock full of artificial colors and fake scents. Yet things commonly found right in the average kitchen can handle basic cleaning tasks and leave the house smelling great for just pennies. And the best part? No toxic yuck going down the drain and into the waterways.

1) Baking soda: I buy baking soda by the five-pound box, that’s how much I use this stuff. Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, has been used in its natural deposit form of natron as a cleanser for centuries. Treat counter stains from tea bags, spilled juice, or wine with a paste of baking soda and water. Let the paste sit for about an hour, and scrub. Voilà – stain gone.

  • Keep a coffeemaker clean by brewing one quart of warm water and three tablespoons of baking soda.
  • Clean and refresh carpets by sprinkling baking soda on the surface, let sit for several hours and then vacuum.
  • Add a couple of tablespoons of baking soda to a bowl of warm water to make a wash for       fruits and vegetables.
  • For stubborn grime in tubs, I shake baking soda into the tub and then pour vinegar over the baking soda. Those two agents combined make a great all-purpose cleaner, plus I still think it’s fun to watch the volcanic fizz that they produce when mixed together. (I was one of those kids who loved doing household science experiments.)

2) Speaking of vinegar, one cup of plain white vinegar added to a gallon of water makes a good cleaner for no-wax flooring (you can add a couple of drops of orange or lavender essential oil for a pleasant scent). I also clean kitchen counters and appliances with undiluted vinegar and a soft rag.

3) And my favorite – lemons! A slice of lemon rubbed on a cutting board will deodorize it (a blessing if you’ve just chopped onions or garlic). Let the lemon juice dry and wipe clean with warm water.

  • After a hard day’s work in the yard, rub a lemon slice under fingernails to remove dirt.
  • A lemon cut in half and sprinkled with salt can effectively scrub tubs and sinks. For discoloration in tubs (like my old claw foot tub) smear the lemon juice and pulp over the discolored area and let it sit for several hours before washing with soap and water. Lemon juice is a natural whitener.

Other green cleaning tips:

  • On warm or mild days, take advantage of nature’s dryer and hang wet laundry on a line in the yard to dry.
  • Instead of dyer sheets, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to an old, clean washcloth and toss into the dryer with the laundry load.
  • Cut back on paper towels and use rags for spills. Newspaper can clean windows more effectively than paper towels (and be sure to use a vinegar and water solution on your windows instead of blue commercial window cleaners).

Sheila Julson is a Milwaukee-area freelance writer and contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine. 

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